Monday, August 22, 2011

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.


  1. Right from the get-go, almost all the advertising for Share an Idea had light-rail in it as a "possibility". Bob has been pushing for it for years despite, if I am not mistaken, a cost-benefit analysis into light rail a few years back showing it was not economic.

  2. Thanks Paul - I had a mate attend those "Share an Idea" sessions, who came back and said to me they has some sort of poster or questionaire (or something) saying something like "How do you see rail playing a part in Christchurch recovery?". I asked if he could send a note to to this effect to my blog, giving the details, but alas he didn't. But what a shonky set up - as if rail was the only possibility amongst the many many public transport options for Christchurch!