Monday, August 29, 2011

Christchurch Light Rail Link could cost the city commuter rail

click on images to enlarge

If the city is going to build rail infra-structure into the hundreds of millions, blogster David Welch argues that money would be better spent on creating a Western Rail Corridor creating a circular route with several spurs.

Building a rail link between Styx and Islington via the Airport would create a commuter rail loop, by linking up the existing single track northern line [blue above] with an added grade separated (no level crossings) double track from Styx [red above] across to the Airport industrial zone continuing south and rejoining the main trunk line with a similar three way junction at Islington.

This adds circa 10 km to those services, feight or passenger entering the city (from either direction, north or south) using the "Via Airport" route but would save much shunting time and complications, link many industrial areas, and put tens of thousands of people within relatively fast rail access of thousands of jobs, even far from home, such as at Rangiora or Rolleston. The lack of level crossings (the rail always passes over or under roads) on this new link would allow both freight and commuter trains relatively fast access, despite the added city access distance,  whilst offering an important and valuable chance to keep passenger and freight (which move at different speeds and in different movement patterns) running separately even in peak hours. 

Much of the cost of the cost of this extra 10 km track - if found viable by profesional investigation  - would presumably be met by Government/KiwiRail as part of the planned "Auckland-Christchurch rail freight corridor",  not for the most part out of local rates. This would bring Christchurch into line with Government investment in Wellington and Auckland.

The map above - the grey areas are still fields, undeveloped yet designated future housing zones; the boxed in bold area to the left already a partly developed industrial zone, make it clear UNLESS THE FOCUS OF THIS CITY is on planning and setting aside land for this corridor NOW whilst the Government is developing and funding the Auckland-Christchurch rail corridor, opportunity will be lost or built out. Many advantages of the present situation could be very difficult to retrospectively regain. Indeed even in the scenario above,  land best for a rail corridor beside or near Johns Road industrial area may be already partly foreclosed by large new factories and warehouses etc.

Anyone with a good familiarity with Christchurch will recognise the design below as hugely resilient (system itself can not close due to derailment on any one line etc) and one that can advance various spurs (or not) according to future growth (or not) as long as land corridors are identified early and protected. 

This pattern below is hugely multi-faceted in its value and service potential not least it could cushion and protect many of the city and metropolitan  area's outer growth zones, existing or planned,  against loss in property values/greatly increased  travel costs in the event of expected future oil price increases. Having a work force that can easily and rapidly access (in relative comfort) diverse work places, from Rangiora to Rolleston to City and Woolston and everywhere between, maintains quality of life; it also allows businesses to access appropriate personnel, and suitably skilled or experienced staff more easily, a core foundation of prosperity.

Click on image to enlarge

\With spurs to Rolleston (and Ashburton/Timaru); a spur to Ensors Road (peak hours to Woolston industrial area); and the existing main line to Kaiapoi, Rangiora  this would create a hugely versatile circular route that could be grown and expanded over time. This includes possibly a spur across from Belfast through East Belfast the top of a major new subdivision proposed, Highfield, then into the heart of Prestons. Or  and perhaps one day a loop from Sefton incorporating Woodend/Pegasus and back to Kaiapoi;  or  a spur to Halswell. Perhaps even 50 years hence - commuter services tofro a busy town of Darfield grown to Ashburton size. The "ring of steel rail" at the centre, acts as "round-about" to which growth can be attached and services can run in multiple patterns; equally it echoes Christchurch's most successful bus route (albeit further west) The Orbiter.
I believe hundreds of millions of long term potential cost-benefit returns in freight and passenger services could be lost if the city continues to live in the vague and fluffy rail dreams typical of the last decade and does not do the hard miles of research and strategic planning.

Presumably regardless of what happens Christchurch will grow and this includes rail freight - eventually leading to the inescapable need to double track the current (and only) single main line from Belfast through Bryndwr and Fendalton to Christchurch station. Without added options such as the western rail corridor this may become a necessity, even if still years away. Then again rapid growth in bulk wine exports, milk or milk products, timber etc or other yet unforseen factors could force this need  ahead of natural incremental growth. The current line, as is, offers no future proofing of rapid unimpeded freight (or passenger) movements.

Double tracking and increased freight on the Belfast-Addington line  is likely to will be hugely disruptive and politically costly, provoking great resident resistence (not least possible decline in property values as the line gets busier). It will also destroy a much used marvellous bike and pedestrian "highway", Addington to Northcote. In contrast, in conjunction with building a double track western link, this line becomes one of three lines accessing Christchurch or Canterbury beyond, maximum flexibility and security. And the line least likely to be used for heavy night freight!

The suggested Islington Junction, indicative only [it is impossible for me to calculate rail curvatures needed]  incorporating access to new housing areas around Hei Hei and Masham and the huge new Islington Park industrial area (which could benefit from or compromise the possibility of future rail). In this map - Hornby (in green) reflects how large this area is, how effective rail could be in offering city residents easy access to this workzone.

Further west - to the left off the map above - Rolleston's IZone, the largest industrial estate in NZ is being created. Also of course Rolleston town building towards circa 15,000 residents.

In general rail services running direct to the city centre and Woolston, with others looping around through Airport and Northern industrial areas, would ensure wide coverage tofro multiple employment zones in a city, where even pre-quake (PQ) less than a third of the work force was employed in the CBD. One of the great modern criticisms levelled at public transport; it is still too tied to the central city commuter and not versatile enough to serve multiple dispersed workzones (including commercial hubs and suburban malls) - hugely answered in the strategy employed in this proposa. 


Other major associated infrastructure possible includes building an Airport station in an underground trench (Under Orchard Road) as with the $160 million New Lynne Rail/Bus centre in Auckland [photo of trench being built below]. In this case twin tunnels would ensure freight segregation (during commuter rail operation) and and a 10 minute shuttle bus service linked to each commuter train arrival would link tofro Dakota Park, the airport terminal entrances, the Antarctic Centre, Orchard Road and Sheffield Park industrial areas.

Building the New Lynne rail trench in 2010              Photo NZ in Tranzit

Further infrastructure might include a sensible cut and cover tunnel under the present rail station in Addington with escalators and lifts to rail platforms. This would involve redeveloping Clarence Street in Addington (Woods Mill) to increase width perhaps with three or four storey live work type apartment buildings. Buses, taxis, cyclists, pedestrians only would be able to travel under the railway line, completely bypassing the congestion associated with Whiteleigh Avenue and the rail crossing. Segregated lanes through the Tower Junction area (as below) and priority bus signsls for northbound buses exiting this scentre would guarantee continuous flow and reliable journey times.

Green = exclusive bus lanes with signal priority (including Orbiter route and services from city to Riccarton and University) on bus subway near current station.  Pink = station platforms possible.

This would not only serve the booming office parks (and likely intensified housing) around Addington and the Woods Mill site, particularly the huge triangle of land, empty sites or with derelict buildings or older single unit housing now in L3 zone and ripe for redevelopment between the railway, Whiteleigh Avenue and Lincoln Road.

The railway link could also serve a sports and events centre - a virtual recreational city as suggested by Architectural designer Ken Taylor in The Press this morning,  on the other side of Whiteleigh Avenue. This concept builds on an established tradition including sports venues already well established on the site of the former showgrounds. This area includes the CCC owned rugby league grounds, race course and the CBS Events stadium. Huge crowds from across the whole province could be brought in and out of this area by rail - with all the carparks in the outer suburbs. Possibly a "new Lancaster Park" could be created here  - it would be an excellent synthesis of infrastructure - the more or less continuous events at the race course, sports ground and events centre (indoor sports, concerts and expos etc) and would boost weekend and evening rail use considerably, lifting the patronage closer to that needed to support rail.

A further useful move would be widening Lincoln Road opposite Clarence Road, creating traffic signals and a suitable centre lane turning bay for buses (including articulated buses) from the city while allowing cars and bike lanes up the inside. The opportunity for this post quake is huge due to earthquake demolitions [see photo below] - in a years time the few extra metres needed to achieve such a widening may be taken by a four storey office/shop complex built to the existing boundary! Transport corridors must be identified and secured, even years ahead of project implementation - effective linear corridors only need one or two blocks to be rendered useless.

Upgrading Addington Station with a bus (etc) subway could also allow it to be used a temporary station in an embryonic commuter rail for the city until a larger more adequate rail centre is built in the city area proper.


This Addington station could also be linked to a "bus mall" utilising roading on Maxwell Street near Rotheram street behind Westfield - a vastly superior bus station/corridor to bus laning/or light railing  central Riccarton. With current wide ornamental berms and wide streets open to redesign this has huge potential for for a high density bus through-road and interchange, closely linked to Malls and future high density housing areas.

This "bus mall" or might not include purchasing properties to run a continuous bus link from Mandeville Street to Rattray Street, in both cases with better street management and bus priority measures (segegated lanes or lights) exiting and re-entering Riccarton Road, having avoided much of the worst current traffic bottleneck.

Click on images to enlarge

Permanent bus lanes shown in green (road widening to allow added queue jumper bus lanes at Moorhouse Avenue and Hagley Avenue [proposed five storey building set back five metres]; again at  Barrington St (and Lincoln Road) and again at Whiteleigh Ave (and Blenheim Road). When will politicians in Christchurch begin to realise there is little point in spending almost $60 million a year running buses and then plonking them in traffic jams or easily invaded lanes,  so they are twice as slow as private car travel!

Maxwell Street, Riccarton - with adequate protection for houses from noise and pollution (houses anyway situated opposite a busy car-park) huge potential to create an attractive bus station and free flow bus services through Riccarton at all times rather than have buses sitting in slow moving congested traffic queues on Riccarton Road, only a block north.

Rotheram Street, Riccarton viewed from close to the best site for a Riccarton bus interchange, 100 metres from a Westfield Mall entrance, adjacent to a popular bar and cafe zone and only 300 metres (2-3 minutes walk)  from Riccarton  Road (note bus in distance). Why congest Riccarton Rd further ? 

In the bottom left hand corner of the map above another long term bus infrastructure project, previously mooted by this blog, a direct southwest area (SWAP area) link, by-passing much congestion, via a busway utilising Annex Road and travelling under the motorway and rail yards to the University, Burnside, Sheffield Park and Airport

However the MAIN commuter rail and long distance rail and bus centre for Christchurch might be better built near the heart of the city utilising the land (and possibly retrofitting) of the former goods sheds between Durham Street and Colombo Street

Photos shown there is ample area here to create (if needed) multiple platforms for commuter and regional and intercity rail whilst keeping separate and clear-run the very important through rail to Lyttelton (12 coaltrains return each day, quite apart from any other freight). Suggestions of running commuter rail to Lyttelton I see as ridiculous, the tiny populations falling so far outside any known cost-benefit ratio, as well as tying up expensive vehicles for 50 minutes per return trip and adding to the current rail tunnel bottleneck problems. However some peak hour trips might run to a station in the Woolston industrial area or terminate (and park up) at Ensors Road rail yards opposite CPIT Sullivan Avenue Campus.

Potential for higher density housing (to four or five stories) or purpose built subdivisions (including walkway access to stations) in various adjacent areas to the rail loop and the suggested spur lines would allow residents easy rail access to workplaces as diverse as Woolston; Middleton, Hornby, Islington, Rolleston, Belfast and Papanui-Belfast or even Rangiora and Kaiapoi.

Heavy freight tofro Picton-Rolleston-Ashburton etc or from northern timber and dairy industries to Lyttelton, can, respectively, completely by-pass the city OR enter the city and head straight into Lyttelton without need for switching locomotives. Not least the Western rail Corridor in association with the current North line offers three lines and two different ways of accessing the city and links multiple residential areas (built or possible) to almost all major industrial areas - a huge protection of mobility whatever the oil price and solid support system for our future economic growth and prosperity.

In Summary

The current light rail proposal appears to lack any great depth of analysis, overlaps many existing functions already well served (in most cases better served)  by current through bus routes. I don't believe it offers even a small portion of  the huge environmental, social and economic levels of return of spending the same amount of focus, human energy and finance on the projects above, where much of the infrastructure (land use, zoning, roading) is not built yet and can be pre-planned to maximum effectiveness in advance.

There is is only so much money in the public kitty - even under a very generous Labour Government public transport policy and in more prosperous times Wellington has  received "only" about $500 million towards public tranport. Auckland, sizewise, a roughly equivalent amount $2 billion (including rail and busways).

It is unlikely Christchurch can extract more than $500 million in funding from the Government.  Even in the better small city systems in comparable countries (Cananda, Australia, NZ and USA) it is rare for public transport to win more tham 15% of all journeys, including kids and seniors, which means limited "poltical clout".

Any funding that can be obtained from Government, ratepayers or earthquake recovery sources and fares needs to be most judiciously allocated to create real and significant economic benefits for years ahead. And politically and democratically needs to benefit ALL of the city in reducing or holding level car usage in peak hour whilst offering direct access benefits to a significant portion of residents and businesses

This blogster believes it would be EXTREMELY foolish to pour $400 million in to a 7.5 km  light rail corridor benefitting probably less than 15% of the city population. In contrast commuter rail as suggested here - though  shooting high for such a small city - could  benefit a huge portion of greater Christchurch, stretching from Rangiora to Rolleston and much of the northwestern suburbs.

It follows if light rail as planned  goes ahead it will in all  likehood to cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars more than $406 million estimated in lost opportunity. Light rail will absorb most of the likely funding or ratepayer contribution into one sparse line, and much of the energy focus of the city, while not even addressing the wider transport needs of greater Christchurch .

These needs specifically include reducing longer car journeys (the ones that cause - and suffer - the greatest time waste, add the most to congestion (at multiple intersections) and generate the most pollution, and keeping the central facilities easily accessible by public transport from all corners of the city.

Nor can a single light weight rail system along congested Riccarton Road tie together the city together in an effective city wide public transport network, a system built on the primary and dynamic world-wide trend of modern public transport, uncontested road or rail space and priority signal systems for public transport vehicles.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ecan - Metro announces service changes in Christchurch

Tranzwatching in Christchurch, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand

Long suffering bus passengers around Christchurch have been waiting to see what Metro will do to restore mobility lost since the February 22nd earthquake which devastated many parts of the city, most notably the central city and eastern and coastal areas.

Environment Canterbury web-site has published the following notice

All three main bus contractors (GoBus, Leopard and Red Bus) have had input to the process to date. Consultation has also included Black Cat Ferries, Ritchies Bus Services and the NZ Transport Agency.

“We have to make changes so we can restore confidence in the Metro service and to ensure it remains financially viable. It’s essential agencies and companies involved in public transport work together constructively to boost public transport as the city rebuilds.” says David Stenhouse, Environment Canterbury’s acting manager passenger services.

Metro services are being changed to provide a better service to the new centres of employment created by the disruption caused to central Christchurch by the 22 February earthquake. These improvements are part of wider changes to the way public transport services are contracted.

“The changes will enable us to service the newly emerged employment hubs, restore public transport services to levels similar to those before the February 22 earthquake, and give us the flexibility to make changes to contracts and routes as parts of the central city open up in coming years,” says Mr Stenhouse.

The new routes will include the Sheffield Crescent business hub in Burnside and the Nazareth Ave/Wrights Rd commercial area in Addington/Middleton.*

Since the 22 February earthquake public transport use in Greater Christchurch has dropped by around 50 per cent on the same time last year. This has put huge pressure on Environment Canterbury’s public transport reserve funds and reduced the share paid by bus users to the cost of running the bus network.

Mr Stenhouse said the contracting changes provide more certainty to operators in what was a very uncertain environment. “Longer term contracts will result in efficient pricing, greater stability, and reduced subsidy over time. The contracts will also be more flexible to drive greater service improvement across the city.”

* For a full list of route changes see council agenda, Annex A, August 25.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pressure to degrade Northern Busway

NZ in Tranzit - Respecting the importance of empty space

I see there is renewed pressure to degrade the bus only segregated busway on Auckland's Northshore by allowing HOV (High Occupancy Vehicles) to use these lanes. 

Most people seem chronically incapable of understanding empty space is as much a part of public transport as it is most businesses or public enterprises. Shop counters or aisles are empty much of the time with often only 10% of the floor space in occupation; school rooms sit empty night after night; people only drive their cars on average 70 minutes a day but to maintain that we have to spend billions on roading and "free" (somebody pays!) parking space.  Most the dump trucks and some of the general freight trucks we see on the road run are actual running empty at least half of the time, after dropping off their load. An even more ridiculous waste is having country roads - goodness sake they are being used by ten cars an hour!!

Perhaps the most gross waste in New Zealand is on the railways, tracks sitting empty for hours at a time and - this is an appalling waste of money and I intend to organise a campaign about it - every day 12 empty trains, not a single kilogram of freight, not a single passenger, travel from Lyttelton to the West Coast.

All this is so taken for grated no body gives a moments thought to it. BUT. See an empty bus or half empty bus or see a bus lane without a bus in it!!! Phew what an outcry.  So few people ever seem  to stop and think that the economy and effectiveness of buses or trains - as with stores, country roads, trucking firms or coal trains, etc and ad infinitum,  is not based filling every space, every moment.

Indeed public transport has a huge tidal component - in towards the major central areas and business facilities mornings, return evenings. A second factor is the simple logic that even a full bus or train discharges passengers as it goes along and typically averaged out across its journey length travels at half capacity. A third factor is "ghost riders" - a person who doesn't own a car may only use three or four times a week outside working hours, evenings and weekends, but catches a bus tofro work each day - circa 500 trips a year.  The fact a bus service is available across all waking hours is the reason he or she does not buy a car or a family a second car and maintains that annual patronage figure 500 plus trips patronage.  Even when he or she is not on the bus in the evening for example, in another sense they are on the bus.

In similar vein most routes get special events or have certain facilities in their area which cause full buses, or at least heavier loading, if only for two or three trips a year, or bolster certain trips every week. A bus that goes past with five passengers on may seem hardly worth running but add a couple of ghosts and spread patronage spikes across the service period and it may be seven or eight. Actually even empty buses carry much more....

In Christchurch every bus carries [or did pre-earthquake] around 15 passengers a trip**, regardless of whether empty or full....because that is the average across all trips. And that is how public transport - or the local freight carrying firm or corner dairy also figures out their relative success -  by averages. This sort of average seems to fairly common, or better than many,  in public transport outside central areas of very large cities.  Moving it up to 16 per trip would be a huge achievement - but when talking in millions of trips moving any average is a big task. In general,  an half fill or even nearly empty bus is not necessarily and unsuccessful bus. It is just part of the nature of the system. All transport modes including private cars operate with unused capacity much of the time.

Many naive people talk about using smaller buses, but this will usually mean buses too small in the peak hours or unable to accommodate a sudden rush of passengers, even in off peak hours because of some big event in the city or on the route itself.  These events or public response are not always predictable; operating smaller buses is less cost effective - it will mean leaving behind passengers at busy moments (and lowering the average across the year) and it also means two sets of buses and complicated and costly switching off vehicles three times a day, shifting between peak hours and off peak. As most of the cost of operating buses or trains is in labour (direct or indirect), fuel, capital costs and loan repayments, administration and marketing of information it will be seen a small bus will probably save only 5-10% of total costs, but could lose 10% of patronage measured across a year.
The average modern diesel bus I believe has an engine about three times the size and fuel consumption of a car, having lots of empty seats off peak looks weird and can be - but is not necessarily - some indicator of a failed bus system. Indeed for passengers it is more pleasant to not sit on crowded buses, especially in leisure time, but rather choose a seat and location within the bus that is comfortable - a certain amount of spatial option costs nothing extra (in one sense) but adds immensely to the quality of journey.

Many people also talk of the "higher capacity" of light rail - of course a $5 million 64 seater tram carries exactly the same amount of seated people as a $500,000 64 seater bus. By higher capacity is meant the greater strength of trams allows a bigger standing load - though the supposed greater capacity is debatable - 200 and 300 passenger capacity buses (designed for standing mostly) are in operation around the world.  I am silly enough to think quality transport should NOT be based on standing passengers if that can possibly be avoided; and the easiest way to avoid that in a small city like Christchurch is to buy several top quality buses (even double decker or articulated) rather than a single tram/light rail vehicle.

The much vaunted lower labour costs for multiple unit trams/light rail is only relevant if heavy loadings operate across all hours, unlikely in all but very busy or dense cities. When adding the spread capital costs (such as the $406 million in Christchurch) and dividing by standard 25 years infrastructure cost evaluation, and add labour costs, and operating costs etc it is very doubtful the saving in labour costs in a small sparsely used system [by Eurpoean or Asian standards] will recover enough to counterbalance the real capital cost per trip. Extra bus drivers are usually only employed (on split shifts) at high demand periods and most bus companies keep the over-all capital cost recovery ratio lower by doing a high portion of school trips to manual centres, sports events etc between the peak hours, something that can not be achieved by a fixed route system.

The relative success or not of public transport in any mode can not be determined by empty space but by averaged uses and effectiveness of delivery times.  And if those lines or lanes are compromised by other uses, in any way, this will push down the average. The Auckland Transport authorities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars  (mostly taxpayers) to speed up access to the Auckland CBD for the maximum number of people possible.  The only way to to continue to increase these averages is to have no delays and this is largely contingent on no other traffic using these lanes. Ditto for bus lanes in Christchurch.

It takes an unimpeded bus traveling at 50k-70km an hour probably less than 15 seconds to appear in view, whizz pass and disappear from view.

An empty bus lane is in many ways a successful bus lane!

** This a ballpark figure only, based on a submission by the Bus and Coach Association of NZ to a Christchurch hearing in 2003 - it has probably risen and declined again since!
This week the Bus and Coach Association (BCA) told the council's sustainable transport and utilities (STU) committee that introducing dedicated bus lanes on Riccarton Road would shave 15 minutes off bus journey times during peak hours.  Riccarton Road carries 630 buses -- about 9700 passengers -- daily.  "The Press" June 14 2003 pg A4


Friday, August 26, 2011

Sydney's lower North Shore moves towards Bus rapid Transit option

 Tranzwatching in Sydney's northern suburbs
Sydney's lower North Shore, close to the city is served by commuter rail but this does not reach all corners of the area,  home to about 200,000 people or about half the population of greater Christchurch.

Local authorities are now discussing bus rapid transit as an effective solution for commuters to access downtown Sydney.

SHOROC, the regional body representing Mosman, Manly, Pittwater and Warringah councils, last year created a strategic plan for the northern region entitled Shaping Our Future. The state government endorsed this year a feasibility study into the bus rapid transit system.

“The bus rapid transit system is ... a practical solution that can be built and fully operational at a realistic cost and in a short-term time frame,” SHOROC president and Pittwater Mayor Harvey Rose said.

According to a report in the Mosman Daily the plan outlines an idea to create both a north-south and east-west bus rapid transit system, linking the Northern Beaches to the city via Mosman and from Dee Why to Chatswood.  A system sometimes used in light rail is proposed,  running buses along a central median busway of multi-laned roads until entering existing bus lanes crossing the Harbour Bridge.

As is the case with Auckland's Northern busway the bus rapid transit system will offer departures as every three minutes apart in peak hours and use the advantage offered by segregated lanes to reduce the journey time to city by half.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

All Day Service Nightly

NZ in Tranzit - looking at wee small hours mobility

The headline in the Edmonton Journal is "All Day Service Proposed"; it must be a subtle difference in language twixt kiwis and Canadians. I know technically a "day" is 24 hours, still I can't imagine that newspapers here would refer to proposals to run buses right through the night as an "all day" service.

That minor and totally relevant observation aside, this article makes for interesting reading, comparing the round the clock services or close down time offered in other cities in Canada, all far larger than Christchurch.

But the shift work argument is still true. According to the NZ census 23% of workers are part-time (less than 29 hours a week) and this means most will start or finish outside normal peak hours (eg 9am-1pm). What percentage work or start or finish outside normal work hours (eg evenings or weekends) I have not found recorded anywhere. But I imagine it is fairly high, especially amongst high school or tertiary students in after school and weekend mall jobs, and amongst those working in the hospitality trade, the hospital and retirement home sector and in cleaning.

It also seems that these people are more likely than most to be be on a restricted budget - either supplementing a benefit, or unable to get a full time job or choosing a reduced income lifestyle (for instance just before retirement). Or perhaps with a spouse working but one partner (most often the woman)working around kid raising to gain extra money, therefore more open than most to catching buses to save money.

There doesn't seem too much strategy in ECan or any other transit authority to try to develop marketing and services (as far as possible) to meet these sector groups, more likely to catch buses than most.

A few years ago I ran all the Saturday and Sunday services heading into Northlands Mall from the North through a filter-chart and found of about 5 routes only one arrived at Northlands at an [almost] reasonable work-start time before "the hour" [the usual start time] - at 0.38 minutes past the hour. The return journeys after the hour were not much better.

Obviously you can't please every one scheduling but it seemed to me rather foolish not to create as far as possible good arrive/depart times at busy weekend shopping hubs employing hundreds if not a thousand or more. A higher proportion of part-time workers are also, I imagine, more likely to work closer to home than full-time - few people want to bus an hour each way for a three hour shift!

The Edmonton Journal article also notes that services sometimes operate in some cities only directly between suburban transit stations, not attempting to thread deeply into neighbourhoods. This allows people to get across town into their general home area and then catch a much less expensive cab ride or stride it out for a brisk (or weary) ten or twenty minutes walk.

I can relate to this totally. For many years, a night owl, I often got back into the city from Lyttelton or other night spots after the last outward buses had departed. Luckily I could walk home up a busy road that never sleeps - even at 5am continuous cabs - in less than half an hour. The sort of people working shifts or out on the town after midnight tend to be younger, fitter and even if they are not, let's face it there is a huge difference between paying $6-10 for a last leg home cab and having to pay $20-40 for a taxi the whole way across town.

The implication for me is that whilst it is unlikely Christchurch is big enough to support much in the way of "all day" services, once suburban stations are brought into existence, some sort of pattern based on research could see the Orbiter operating to 1 am, with one or two main routes reaching furtherest areas (but designed to link with the Orbiter pattern) also running to 1 am....the idea to drop people into their immediate area, with well-lit camera monitored safe zone stop, cab rank, or kiss and ride (ride home) park there too.

Overall my general theory of public transport planning is to particularly foster services for "the marginals", sectors of people most likely not to own a car, or not to use a car, slowly widening and extending public transport use by these groups. I am thinking secondary and tertiary students, those retired or approaching retirement; out of town visitors; the aged and disabled etc  It might also include a focus on working couples finding it expensive to run two cars or wishing to save for a house. I believe there is a huge amount NOT done to support or foster these "car less" lifestyles.

Along with bus stations and transfers nodes, as part of these stops or separate, one or two drop zones (identified spots where you can get off a bus, feel reasonably safe - say near an all night service station - and parents, spouses, taxis know that is where to pick you up and even have the late night arrival times on a card in their car etc). These might apply in outer areas served by major routes in selected spots - say not close to a rowdy bar, for a starter.

And seeing its after midnight, with work tomorrow, time for my drop zone! zzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bus operators unhappy with Te Manawa bus station requirements

Naked Bus driver phones the missus (we hope)- (just kiddin') - while long distance traveling passengers take a refreshment break inside at the Transport Centre in Hamilton - another city that has made an effort to integrate local, regional,  inter-city services and taxi services through the same quality hub point.  Click on photo to enlarge (shoddy quality photo by NZ in Tranzit. 2010)

Tranzwatching in Northland, Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand

Whangarei, New Zealand's northern most city, has built an attractive bus depot/information centre/art museum project, called "Te Manawa - The Hub". However Naked Bus and InterCity Coachlines subsidiary SKD (which runs the Northliner)  - the two largest regional and inter-city operators - may not even use the $1.4 million bus station according to this story in The Northern Advocate.

The Hub is intended to be the drop-off and pick-up point for tourists passing through Whangarei, three weeks out from opening date the companies are uncertain and unhappy about conditons imposed with using Te Manawa facility.

Whangarei, a city of 52,000, is also served by a modest local bus system operated under contract by NZ Bus, the country's biggest bus company responsible for operating a high portion of Wellington and Auckland bus services

Not going the full Yardley with research.

NZ inTranzit - Opinion

In a rather naieve way Mayor Bob Parker has come to realise university students form a significant section of public transport users and is using this rather limited scoping as a hook to hang the light rail hat upon, talking of the $406 million light rail line "hard-wiring" the university of Canterbury (4kms from CBD) to the city.

I realise there will be a cost-benefit ratio type study of the whole project, but it is nonetheless sad to see public transport directions being formulated not on an in-depth and comprehensive research and strategic plans, criteria and goals for the whole city, but on a some sort of fashionable attraction.

It is as silly as the Mayor advocating buying larger wharf cranes or using less cement on the Otira viaduct - public transport is a field of engineering with accumulated knowledge, standards and known parameters and principles, acquired qualifications. In Christchurch it is currently being degraded and treated as if any clown can get the twenty or so governing factors of effective public transport right just by guesswork and wishful thinking.

What sensible well informed group of people, knowing the huge world-wide development in bus lanes and segregated bus ways, rapid transit corridors, platform level stations, centralised control and priority flow systems, other new technical systems etc would consider spending only $44 million on our 200 plus km of bus routes, all with long overdue infrastructure needs,  and spending $406 million on 5km on a single light rail line when 80-90% of the city will still need to rely upon buses? For goodness sake is this city being organised by kids?

Mike Yardley, newstalk broadcaster and columnist in The Press (Saturday Agust 20 2011 page C12 - sorry no link available) - was closer to the bone when he pointed out that 80% of students live within 2 kms of the university; there is no evidence any huge demand for students to live in the CBD; there is no suggestion any developers are rushing to build low cost student apartments (ie rabbit hutches) in the CBD.

I see ugly budget characterless buildings, minimal enough to meet student incomes being a result of this strategy!

It seems to me, there is a huge danger in this pink fluffy cloud of feel good populism, arising from the "Share and idea" post quake scheme, that cunning people who have existing agendas may push through very expensive (in one way or other) changes, which have not been put to the real democratic test of elections or referendum. Feedback surveys of any sort are hugely biased and typically unreliable.

This very very fast (!!) consultation process voids the more open debate and the hard light of closer examination including hearing the voices of varying experts in each field of redevelopment.

As my mother's generation used to say "Marry in haste and regret in leisure". Yeah well rebuilding may force unusual pace.

However there is certainly no urgency for a light rail given the need to rebuild the deplorably run down bus system for the whole city first.

Riding the Tide - new light rail opens in the USA

Tranzwatching in Norfolk, Virginia, USA 

America's latest new light rail system, a single line corridor in Norfolk, Virgnia, USA opened this weekend with over 30,000 people taking advantage of a chance to have a free ride. **

The light rail system "The Tide", will be the first light rail system in the State of Virginia. The initial line is slightly under 12 km in length, is ultimately expected to carry 7,000 -11,000 passengers per day (opening year bemnchmark is a more modest 2,900)  at an operating cost of only $6.2 million.

There has been a lot of local consternation at costs over-runs, the project ran $86 million over estimates and saw the replacement of project head part way through. Despite this - at $27 million per kilometre this appears to be a very modest set up cost - significantly below costs per kilometre for most other new light rail systems recently constructed or planned in North America or Australasia or the $85-90 million per kilometre expected in Christchurch's proposal. In any event only $50 million is paid by residents of Norfolk city itself , the balance coming from State and Federal grants.

Norfolk city has 243,000 residents, but as usual in the USA this figure is misleading - it is actually the core of the Hampton Roads metropolitan urban area which has about 1.7 million residents. The Norfolk area is home to the world's largest naval base (the expression "Roads" is related to the old naval term "roadstead" for safe shipping anchorage close to land) near the entrance to the largest inlet on the US Atlantic coastline, Chesapeake Bay. The naval and associated military bases bases are served by express buses on HOV lanes - the light rail running between the University and downtown Norfolk to terminate at a major hospital.

Buses removed

Only a few weeks before the opening officials of the transit authority - Hampton Roads Transit - announced they are removing two free shuttle services previously operating in areas over-lapped by the light rail system.(Editor Note; This seems to be a common pattern with light rail projects, authorities removing any bus services that might compete in any way. To what extent it is legitimate and to what extent it is a bit of gerrymandering to prop up rail usage, is impossible to tell in most situations (at least from this distance).  What buses could afford to do for free light rail can not, and passengers will now be charged $1.50 per trip

A spokesman for Hampton Roads Transit told news media "HRT and the city agreed that the NET could no longer be free because it would compete with the $338 million rail line that leaders worked for more than a decade to bring to Norfolk. So government officials worked to expand the reach of the NET as a paid service."

Excluding the odd hertage/tourist tram there is no  American city with a metropop (and tax funding) base as small as Christchurch (400,000; national pop.4.3 million) that operates light rail. The nearest in comparable size is Tacoma, State of Washington, which has a short line in the CBD of a transit system serving an urban sprawl of over 600,000 residents (Pierce County). This 3.6 km light rail carries about the same amount of passengers as the iconic yellow hybrid shuttle buses did in Christchurch (circa 1 million per year) but, at $80 million set-up, with three cars, costing 40 times the capital cost to implement.

**( link includes You Tubes, including a very interesting one, mixed in with other local news, that matches a 1996 newsreel against current situation.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Appalling treatment of car less people by City and ECan; grossly inadequate earthquake response causes nearly 50% patronage drop

                                                                                                             Photo D. Welch

When earthquakes ruptured streets in Christchurch several routes were abandoned entirely; neither Council nor ECan, or Government appears to have made any attempt to create a substitute or partial access service by contracting operators to use small weight vehicles similar to the large minibus above.  This has left thousands of carless people (about 8% of the population do not have access to cars)  without mobility. Many are amongst the most vulnerable -  from the elderly to the blind, those with heart conditions,  to mental handicaps, or low incomes etc - with no easily accessible bus services including supermarket access. Instead they are confronted with difficult dusty journeys to make on foot, and longer waits for reduced services on remaining routes. Some people on limited incomes are having to catch taxis to the nearest bus stop.  How NOT to manage a disaster??    

NZ in Tranzit -  ashamed of our city's incompetence!

The Mainland Press, a give-way community newspaper of high quality and readable, researched articles, has made the first murmur from the city's news-media (other than blogs like this) about the virtual failure of the Parker/Marryat administration and the Bazley led Environment Canterbury to sustain an adequate post quake bus service.

In the latest issue (No 22) it finds elderly people in Avondale in the eastern suburbs, already suffering the extra stresses, financial burdens and complications of earthquakes have been forced to pay money to catch a taxi to the nearest bus stop on Wainoni Road to do their shopping.

The eastern suburbs south of the Avon lost most of their bus routes after the February earthquakes caused massive damage.  Only 40 Wainoni and 5 Southshore (both 15 minute services) were able to continue running in the large residential bock south of the Avon and east of Linwood Avenue.

The response of Ecan, was quick and effective. It cut back services frequencies to 30 minutes and deciding to make no attempt to run some sort of lightweight small bus or shuttles into those areas with damaged streets.

Large sectors of bus using public were just abandoned, as if people who depend upon buses for supermarket or doctor access, or friendship and dignity of independent living just stopped moving for six months! No alternative has been put in place, even where it is clearly possible.

Nor was attempt made to provide timetables with some indicative en route times or arrival times in the city nor even a listing of departure times for all routes from the city. This ensured not only did people in the east have to walk long distances to bus services (40 was the only route for supermarket access for many) but they could not be sure if a bus was coming. Also so helpful to stressed people if they missed it  would have to wait another 30 minutes, 15 minutes longer than usual, on the incredibly dusty streets; also if they had to travel to work across the city they had no way of knowing the arrival time of the buses in the city and only a clumsy on-line listing of various alternative departures, each on a separate page. No attempt was made to provide even crude or indicative timetables on bus stops themselves, leaving large numbers of people without computer access dependent upon clumsy hard to scan dial up timetables if they indeed had phone access. 

It was a brilliant strategy sure to make people feel Ecan was there for them (!),  only matched by the City Council's refusal to commandeer both sides of Hagley Avenue or Deans Avenue near the saleyards to ensure a bus system based on through routes could continue to function. The limited space offered by the two separated exchanges without a regular enough linkage and the clumsy transfers  ensured many 15 minute services could not operate, further aggravating the time lost through clumsy transfers and creating endless missed connections. This effected not only people transferring tr traveling through the city area but also of course drastically cut services and frequency and therefore  transfer fluency and options in places as diverse as Hornby or the Airport or Ferrymead or ferry passengers from Lyttelton.

Result; many people treated in this shabby and careless manner had to spent as much as three hours a day just getting tofro work or study. Weekend workers suffered even greater losses. Evening services have been stopped at 10pm in many cases, meaning one often has to leave an evening event about 8pm or 8.30pm if making transfers (in other words short of forking out $15-20 for a taxi each time, an evening curfew).

Did the Council or Ecan put staff on the spot to monitor and upgrade this deplorable loss of service, marketing staff to try to analyse and improve the next to useless timetables?  No, no - the same Mickey Mouse system introduced (understandably) as an emergency measure immediately after February 22nd's devastatingly violent earthquake is still in operation today, with only minor adjustments. The distain for passengers - we'll have a workable exchange in a month - says it all.

Christchurch bus users - about 28,000 people every working day before the quakes (and over 24,000 people city wide without access to a car (according to NZ Census)   - have been treated despicably by both councils and no excuses about earthquakes can disguise the fact there is little commitment to passengers or competence at higher political levels in Christchurch public transport matters. 

Result - a gross absurdity - a 50% drop in patronage!!  Shame. Shame on those elected or paid to serve the city and provide public transport.

Past postings on this issue include;

The shambles at the shabby temporary Bus Exchanges

Restoring full services on Wainoni Route 40 needed

Is Deans Avenue a better site for a single temporary Bus Exchange?

The sort of advice given by phone or social media is enough to make one ashamed to call Metro a city bus service

Staycations helping create huge rise in UK regional passenger rail

NZ in Tranzit  on regional public transport patterns  - from UK to Ashburton

The Canterbury wide public transport network, with a regional commuter orientated service between Timaru, Ashburton and Christchurch, linking up intermediate settlements, and Geraldine and Methven could be described as  "outstanding in its field". 

This is an old rural term. It means if your looking to catch a bus to work, study or appointments, in Ashburton or Christchurch or catch a morning flight from CIAL you may as well stand in a paddock whistling till the cows come home, because there is no coach quality coach service that leaves Timaru northbound before 10 am.

Nor is there any comprehensive mid day pattern of services, allowing older residents in particular, to stay living in smaller settlements and keep their independence and access to resources even without using a car.  A regular coach service both directions would void the need of aging residents to drive on the unpleasantly busy state highway when travelling to Timaru, Ashburton or Christchurch.

It is a pity that the South Canterbury councils lack the nous to try to expand commuter links and create an across the day coverage in both directions (and between all settlements) because there seems to be a major upswing in regional and inter-city travel by public transport occurring in the UK and USA and Canada and (these patterns usually cross borders) I suspect around New Zealand. Even Tasmania appears to be running rings around Canterbury with regional commuter growth

InterCity Coachlines for example boast 23 services a day between Auckland and the Waikato, and Waikato itself has a region wide network supported by Environment Waikato (regional council) that makes Canterbury's lack of regional links look particularly pathetic. (When I suggested that the ECan/Metro website have timetable and contact links to all bus services in the region in a submission to the Regional Land Transport strategy in 2006 I was told the complications of maintaining an upto date website was beyond their capacity!! ).

Not long ago NZ in Tranzit reported the rapid growth of discount bus lines in North eastern USA -also booming is the US inter-city rail service which has had  record-breaking patronage in its last financial year. The BBC now reports phenomenal growth in the United Kingdom of regional rail services, with ridership [US term but a goodie!] doubling or almost doubling to some seaside resort towns.

A major factor is seen as the "staycation" - the increasing oil costs leading more people to vacation closer to home. Although the real effect of higher oil price rises has been disguised in New Zealand by the high New Zealand dollar, the long term prognosis for oil costs suggests a more localised tourism is likely to grow in NZ too. Indeed greater local tourism may be needed to compensate for declines in overseas tourism that higher oil prices could bring (more through falling wealth in tourist home countries than actual airline fares).

Adding value and activities and marketing to regional tourism, including enhanced public transport access, is a good way economies such as Timaru might bring growth to their city even in a time of rising oil costs.

Friday, August 19, 2011

When light rail doesn't get on the right track

Tranzwatching in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

An important part of major transit infrastructure - such as bus rapid transit corridors or light rail lines - is getting the relationship with suburban re-development right.

The massive car-parks needed to foster patronage can be counter-productive to fostering the intimate scale and amenities required of higher density living, a lesson learnt in Edmonton Canada in the last 40 years.  
As the general manager of the city's transportation department has said (quoted in a Transport Politic posting on proposed changes in the city's strategic goals )  “The LRT is not just about moving people. It’s about building a city.”

Edmonton (1.1 million metropop) was the first city in North America to build light rail (a new system from scratch) opening a single 6.9 km line in 1978, and extending this slowly, bit by bit,  across the last 40 years to its current 20 km length. The line mostly runs on its own right of way and includes sections underground.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Light rail, a heavy load for Ottawa, a huge one for Christchurch. No Light Rail without a referendum.

NZ in Tranzit - flicking between greater Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and greater Christchurch, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand on light rail and transit costs

Back in 2009 Ontario's premier expressed concerned about the inflating costs of Ottawa's new transit system.   "In fairness, I think costs have escalated rather dramatically in terms of estimates. I think what we need to do now is to sit down in a very sober-minded way, talk this through and decide what it is that we can all afford," Premier Dalton McGuinty said.

The cost for the first phase of the city's new light rail transit plan has soared to $2.1 billion, up from an earlier estimate of $1.4 billion. The plan includes light rail lines from Blair Road to Tunney's Pasture, with a downtown tunnel designed to get rid of traffic congestion in the city's core. At the same time as McGuinty spoke out the Ontario municipal affairs minister said he had serious doubts that the city can afford to build the entire transit system, which has a cost that is now pegged at more than $6 billion.
A couple of weeks ago, in July 2011, The Ottawa Citizen featured a report on how the huge costs of light rail specifically and transit in general, are to be funded.   According to the report in the Citizen  "One way or another, people buying new homes in Ottawa over the next several decades are going to foot a very big share of the city's transit construction costs, according to the city's treasurer.

The long-term plan calls or the city's transit budget o bring in $4.3 billion from charges on new construction n the city between now and 2048. That's to cover about a fifth of the total bill for the new light-rail system and all its eventual add-ons, plus busways running into Ottawa's suburbs, and it'll mean charging a lot more for new construction than the city does now.

At the outside, the plan from treasurer Marian Simulik would see the charge the city puts on most new houses to cover transit costs rise from $3,431 today to $13,180 in 23 years. A bit less than half of that would just be to account for inflation, but the real increase would still be thousands of dollars on one house" more 
that is, building up towards $10,000 per house purchased needs to be funnelled towards public transport and the hugely expensive light rail (and not counting the much larger charge for roading in general). It should also be note that in Ontario there is 14.5 cent tax on petrol and diesel which goes direct to funding public transport - most recently a further $32 million to OC Transpo, Ottawa's Transit authority. 

 ...but where will much smaller and poorer (by GDP per capita) Christchurch find $4 billion?? And where will adequate funding come for our outdated, way behind the eight ball, bus infrastructure, the $44 million (barely 10% of the tram cost) so far mentioned being far too minimal to build an adequate modern sophisticated bus system, one that 80% of public of Christchurch will have to rely upon, even if a light rail line is built. 
Ironically "greater Ottawa" area (including Gatineau immediately across the Ottawa River) with a collective metropop 1.3 million has the most successful public transport system of any city under 2 million metropop in (roughly comparable countries) North America or Australasia in terms of patronage per capita, percentage of peak hour commuters using public transport, and trips per capita.
Between Gatineau's STO, with 19.1 million passengers and Ottawa's OC Transpo, with 99 million passengers these transit carried 118 million passengers a year - apart from less than 3 million on a short line diesel train - all carried on buses. Many via Ottawa's  35 kilometres of totally segregated bus only lanes and 16 km of on-street bus lanes - passengers loading in outer suburbs run virtually without stopping (under other roads etc) until the central city.

Not only does Ottawa itself have an exceptionally high number of passengers but the percentage of people using public transport to get to work at 19.4% is the third highest in Canada (behind Toronto and Montreal, ahead of Vancouver) and apart from New York considerably higher than any city in the USA - San Francisco, Seattle and Portland included (cities over 2 million visited by Christchurch  Mayor Bob Parker in 2009)

Another unusual figure - unquestionably due to the speed and directness of busways and restrictions on all day parking charges is that bus patronage as a percentage of all forms of commuting is greatest in outer areas (as high as 30%) and is most attractive to younger commuters

Ottawa was a pioneer in segregated busways (unfortunately at a time when there was a world-wide decrease in public transit during the 1980s and early 1990s) but because of this down turn transit lacked the political clout to achieve adequate bus loading areas in the central city to allow for growth, today the system is a victim of its own success and the city turns to a light rail option (partly underground) to transport the heaviest sector of its patrons. There is nothing wrong with that, that is the city's decision. However other cities such as Istanbul (550,000 passengers a day), Jakarta or closer to home, Brisbane with better planned busways carry huge numbers on busways with out encountering the chaotic situation in central Ottawa.Bus rapid transit seems a far more appropriate system for the public transport needs of a low density city like Christchurch, serving the whole city not just 20%!

Clearly no serious study of whether light rail is appropriate in Christchurch should exclude studying a public transport system that has punched far above its weight and size, suceeded better than most. The idea that our hospital equipment or wharf cranes are chosen by feedback suggestions, including those from minors, may be very cosy but would be ludicrous! And so it is with light rail - a huge expenditure on a system which almost nobody knows anything about, a specialised technology of public transport appropriate in some circumstances and not in others, absorbing a huge portion of the total public transport, can not be implemented on the basis of "fashionable choice" or (for most people) a groovy image.  

NZ in Tranzit says no decision on light rail without a professional independent cost-benefit study; and without a comparable cost-benefit study of bus rapit transit corridors (and dare I say it Light Bus Network!) ; and without a comparable study of building a commuter rail network between Rangiora and the city (via the airport) and Rolleston and the city.

Most of all - no decision committing ratepayers to $406 million light rail project
without it being put to voters at a referendum

**Société de transport de l'Outaouais (Gatineau is in the predominantly French speaking Province of Quebec)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Smart Transport Conference for Wellington this weekend

Tranzwatching in Wellington, Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand

Every action causes a reaction and the absurd "let's build more motorways, hop in our cars and pretend violent climate change and peak oil price rises" will never effect New Zealand attitude of Stephen Joyce and John Key has invoked increasing resistance and increasing unity amongst those trying to live in a country governed by intelligent transport choices.

Even as massive typhoons (ie hurricanes by their Pacific name) rip into various Asian countries - part of the many fold increase in violent storms in the last decade as sea levels heat - and millions of dollars of production are lost to (almost literally) "a polar blast" delivering enough snow to close down New Zealand, the boy racer government pushes ahead with its dream of building new roads to economic oblivion.

One part of the oppposition forming in the Wellington area takes the form of a Smart Transport for New Zealand Conference, jointly organised (it appears) by the Labour Party and Green Party. An overseas guest speaker is long time public transport researcher and advocate, Dr Paul Mees, Senior Lecturer in Transport Planning at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and author of  many reasearch papers and books on transport and public transport, notably in New Zealand and Australia - his latest book Transport for Suburbia;Beyond the Automobile Age

Details of the conference  here; smart_transport_for_new_zealand_-_agenda.pdf - 295.13 KB

Wellington new bus lanes, including 24 hour lanes proposed by City Council

All gone - Colombo Street north of The Square, Christchurch in 1960s

NZ in Tranzit believes the time when it was possible to run effective bus services without
buses having a segregated lane structure in congested areas is also gone.

Tranzwatching in Wellington, Te Ika a Maui [Despite the above photo]

Wellington City Council will vote this week on whether to create 24-hour bus lanes down the full length of Courtenay Place.  The council's strategy and policy committee will also decide whether to create peak hour bus lanes along Kent and Cambridge terraces and Adelaide Rd. The decision will be open to publ;ic consultation

Courtenay Place is a virtual bus exchange anyway - isn't it bizarre that transit systems carrying tens of thousands of passengers a week should only now be debating whether to beg a teeny-weeny percentile of total roading surface specifically for buses at all times, or even in peak hours.

One day City Councils and ilk are going to wake up that pouring tens of millions into bus systems that have to fight other traffic, queue with lines of cars, have no priority at traffic signals, etc is an absolute waste of money. If you want to cut congestion, green house gases, roading costs, vulnerability of citizens to oil prices, and get people out of cars, buses must be given primary status and what probably amounts to 10% of all road surface in CBD and key congested areas specifically for their own uncontested use- most of it full-time (locked off at night).

When buses have priority or are routed away from congestion queues (around a nearby bus only access  back street, or via bus only free turns into segregated  bus lanes or underpasses under busy roads etc) and when buses are very fast and smooth and rarely stop except to load or drop off passages (many anyway pre-paid at busy station points) only then buses will begin to attract the great patronage and develop the frequency and reliability that lifts them into a completely different dimension of public transport.

If a bus can run same time every time (within 5 minutes of shown departure time) it also means routes running at 15 minute frequency can be woven into core patterns passing through key transfer points at 7.5 minutes of each other - a system that per se runs in every direction. If each bus route is thought of as a "de facto railway line" and separation of running area is maximised at every point possible location, and greater centralised monitoring and control allows constant fine tuning, the whole status and power and effectiveness of buses will alter. The technology is already there....the political will is not.

Public transport fascination used as step to greater social skills

Tranzwatching in NewYork, New York, USA

A recent edition of The New York Times carries an interesting article on the fascination for public transport being particularly common amongst those with autistic conditions.

Says the article; "The link between trains and autism is well documented. Autism refers to a spectrum of disorders that typically includes impairment in social interaction and sometimes includes stereotyped interests, like trains. People with autism have difficulty processing and making sense of the world, so they are drawn to predictable patterns, which, of course, trains run by".

Care workers and  local transit museum employeees are using this interest to help autistic children develop abilities and greater comfort with social skills.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Editorial: LRT plan needs outside review

Tranzwatching light rail debate in Victoria, BC, Canada

The Times-Colonist, premier newspaper of Victoria, British Colombia in Canada (a city very similar in population size and tourism figures to Christchurch) wants to see a lot more research, and research into all options, before backing a proposal for a light rail line.

The Editorial says that under present funding system (federal, provincial and city Government split) residents of Victoria could expect to pay increased property taxes [ie rates] of $265 per household and business ten times that amount per year to help fund the $950 million light rail corridor.

BYD Fully Electric Bus Maker wastes no time in establishing North American footprint

Transzwatching in Victoria, BC, Canada

Chinese bus maker BYD has wasted no time in expanding out across the USA and Canada following its establishment of a Headquarters in Los Angeles and a bus factory in Windsor, Canada, ironically immediately across the river and border from Detroit. Currently BYD is demonstrating an electric bus in Victoria, Canada (the Alexander Dennis double decker, with reclining seats,  sounds interesting too)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rebuilding the Central City (in the suburbs!) - access to Christchurch centre seen as key issue

NZ in Tranzit - advocacy

Probably the most important facet of rebuilding a strong and vibrant central city in Christchurch will not be found in the CBD but will be found in the suburbs - quality public transport access, busways with large sections of segregated bus only corridor..

Rather than wasting too much on a basically meaningless tram system around the centre city, most funding should go to direct express busways. In general these would  by pass congestion, mostly around malls (better served by existing bus routes) and run directly from outer areas straight into the heart of the city. Once established corridors involving a mix of segregated sections, on road bus lanes (often curbed/islanded off) bus priority signals and other technology  and other needed infrastucture (subways, over-passes, cut throughs between existing streets, would link all corners of the city into the centre in less than 20 minutes, often much less as in the case below, which would need about 12 minutes from Belfast even in rush hour.

In this system of direct acces, each corridor/route would have its own dedicated, full-time, branded 15 or 10 minute headway "all stops" service,  but also peak hour expresses, and (as in Brisbane; Northshore Auckland) other outer suburban routes would operating peak hour express buses using the same corridors, but not stopping at all, or only at the key stations. This creates a network of rapid transit tying the town together in one cohesive sense of collective identity, in general but particularly in peak hours and for big events in the central area, all  helping keep the central city pulsating as the business, commercial and cultural heart. Who would bother bringing a car into the city much of the time?

As it currently stands with so much cheap parking - lots of vacant sites and reduced business activity - it seems to me the CBD will be strangled by intensified use of cars to seeking to get into the central area - but congesting hopelessly around the four aves. The present outdated approach, minimum onstreet lanes without segregation operating only at peak times gives conventional bus services little hope of cracking that all day and early evening pressure.

Overseas conventional bus services are being increasing superceded by busway systems using exclusive bus lanes and having the same quality infrastructure funding as rail. Here, in the map below (slightly out of date), buses pass under a subway at QEII Drive and then ramped onto a bus overpass at Cranford Street**, curving around the floodplain area on a ramp area. A ramped bus area is landscaped off from an extended park and cycleway between Grassmere and Rutland St, before cutting into and down Rutland Street. Then [not shown] travelling on an attractive landscaped busway through a redesigned housing area (much of it currently Council owned) between St Albans St to the top of Caledonia Road. This would involve purchasing less properties than half a block of Brougham Street, but set in place for all time - possibly future light rail - a clear run unimped transit corridor. Then down Caledonia Rd and down Durham Street/Cambridge Terrace (alongside The Avon)  into the city and the Bus Exchange on Lichfield.

Maximum access, maximum speed (80km ph in parts), maximum frequency and minimum impact on city streets, businesses or retailing areas. Unlike trains or light rail buses can enter or leave such corridors, offering multiple routes, but still get the benefits of such a dedicated corridor such as top quality articulated buses, or even bi-articulated buses, if given special dispensation for specific busway use.

Northern busways suggested in Christchurch (part) ** underpass at Cranford St through swampy land and better as ramp and overpass I now suspect