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

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