Thursday, June 9, 2011

Christchurch - Leaping leopards lead recovery of quality service

Tranzwatching in earthquake recovery response in Christchurch

As editor in Chief, chief sub-editor, proof reader (ha ha), feature writer and boy reporter of that esteemed underground publication, NZ in Tranzit, it s not possible to be everywhere at once. So I do not know for how long Leopard, the local bus operator responsible for supplying The Orbiter service, has been running older boxy shaped Man SL 202 buses, freshly repainted in the same distinctive bright lime livery as conventional Orbiter buses, except with the signage "Orbiter Assist". I do know that about three weeks ago I waited (and timed, out of curiosity) 34 minutes, from 5.12pm to 5.46pm, for a Northbound Orbiter at Eastgate one night after work (it is meant to be a ten minute frequency service!). A week or two previous to that I'd posted Space Travel on the Orbiter so I was doing a quality check on my own claims, perhaps I'd exaggerated the delays. Alas not

I do know felt a real rush to see that "Orbiter Assist".  After all the delays and dismal strategies that have made most journeys around Christchurch by bus an absolute leap into the unknown (I tell friends, "I might be one hour, I might be two, who knows withe current service"),  at last someone in Metro or onne the contracted companies has rolled up their sleeves and said here is a major problem, let's deal to it.

The astute reader might also recognise in the specifically defined "Assist" bus, are the beginnings of the same concept as "support services" raised in my advocacy of Light Bus Network - that specifically recognisable buses be used to cut in or out of service, on any route, to maintain timetables or frequency patterns for all routes around the city. The idea of having a specific identity - as in Leopard painting the word "Assist" alongside The Orbiter logo - is to create a culture of understanding amongst regular patrons that buses painted or identified in this manner are there to help at specific points or sections of route. Therefore therefore the ultimate destination shown on the front, may or may not conform to normal buses on that route.  In this manner "buses can leap across congestion", start from a point after major congestion, departing on time, whilst the service proper struggles along behind, though with much more chance of catching up if an Assist running ahead is scooping up most of the passenger load in advance. Also it helps passengers if just missing a bus marked "Assist" to realise all is not necessarily lost,  there may still be the timetable service coming up behind running late.

When I saw The Orbiter Assist going rocketing past I thought "At last". Indeed to use one of the common expressions of times gone by "I was over the moon!"

Also kudos for Redbbus for increasing evening frequency of the Metrostar and at least putting some late buses back in service   - indeed later than ever - from the Airport via 10 and 29 routes. What a boost  to the morale of those who can use such services. Why doesn't Metro give more prominence to these later services, so that people wanting an evening out or those returning from trips away can at least know they can get back into the central area late. Everyone else reliant on buses has been given a sort of childish curfew to leave to head home before 9.30pm  (much earlier if transfers are needed!!) or pay up large for a taxi!!

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