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

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