Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Green Party document puts Christchurch light rail proposal in wider perspective

Saturday morning traffic on Hagley Avenue queues at Moorhouse Avenue, - the Green Party campaigns  to have continuous bus lanes set aside  and access way for public transport protected (see case study below)

NZ in Tranzit - opinion, mine and others

I recently received a copy of the submission the Aoraki branch of the Green Party made to the Draft Christchurch Central City plan. The submission paints a very much fuller picture than the casual comments I made about the Greens last week.

These comments suggested that the Green Party (which has announced it will support 60% Government funding for light rail in both Wellington and Christchurch) was jumping on the band wagon, so to speak, backing light rail on knee-jerk and mythology, rather than careful research.

This submission to the Central City earth-quake recovery plan makes it very clear the Aoraki Green Party is by no means blindly supporting light rail. Rather the party is very keen to see this option much more carefully and professionally investigated, wants to see all processes in this decision making being very much more transparent, and wants more effective support for bus systems, including full length bus lanes and separate busways, to be identified in the central city plan.

The Green Party also raises a big question mark (one I very much share) over having four bus stations in central city rather than one  "The reasons why street stations are favoured over a central bus interchange are not clear"  It is very unclear to me what modelling in overseas cities exists to show that this is added complexity is more effective, and if so, how well the overseas factors translate to Christchurch.

Having a single interchange point has always been one of Christchurch's great strengths and one of the factors that for several decades gave the city the reputation of having the best bus system in New Zealand.

In contrast the current "two exchange" policy. originally implemented as an emergency measure but still operative many months later, has been a profound disaster for many Christchurch bus users, greatly wasting time and helping drop patronage post-quake by an astounding 55%.  This is a drastic impact far beyond any immediate earthquake effect (after all 95% of people still have to travel to work, study etc somewhere) that seems to be nowhere evaluated, modified or addressed  month after month,  raising very serious questions about the city's commitment to bus users and indeed, actual competence to operate public transport infrastructure.

This certainly does not bode well for multiple city exchange points!

It could prove very silly to abandon what works well, particularly as the proposed "Katmandu" site of the single exchange planned between Lichfield Street and Tuam Street by virtue of its location will allow buses to serve the central city with far less intrusive routing than has previously been the case.

Unlike many other political statements about public transport, which talk in generalities, the Green party submission identifies very specific needs and trends. Although I am not a member and consider myself independent on public transport matters, I reprint the section on public transport here in full (with the party permission).....

Green Party Submission to Draft Central City recovery plan
       - transport sections dealing with public transport and cycling reprinted in full

P89 People on public transport

Light rail Any feasibility study for light rail should examine how any new lines can best be integrated with the existing heavy rail infrastructure with its links to Rolleston, Rangiora and Lyttelton.

Greater transparency is needed around the “early outline investigations” and other light rail studies which the CCC has commissioned. These should be publicly available to encourage informed public debate. More information is needed on the costs and feasibility of light rail, its economic benefits, how it compares with other options such as improved bus services, and possible rail routes. Feasibility studies and investigation work should be done now.

Cities with light rail are fed by a bus network. In Christchurch they could also be fed by a cycle network. Given Christchurch’s suitability for cycling, Stage One in improving the connection between the central city, university and airport should be creating an off road cycleway, before any capital expenditure on a light rail link.

Change requested: Undertake feasibility and other investigations for light rail between 2011 and 2015. Over the next four to five years capital expenditure should give priority to improving facilities for active transport and bus infrastructure and services.

P91 Buses and street stations

A more strategic and energetic approach to public transport provision across the city is needed which identifies, designates and protects public transport corridors for busways and light rail in the Plan and in CERA’s Recovery Strategy. Land use planning should follow public transport corridors.

The City Plan and Recovery Strategy should identify public transport corridors for busways and potentially future light rail and control development in these corridors which would compromise their function, and ensure new development is close to these corridors. The Plan rules in Volume 2 do not appear to do this for the central city.

Bus patronage in Christchurch has slumped. Improving bus patronage is an immediate priority and needs greater attention than it receives in the draft Plan. Bus systems are flexible and the rolling stock already exists. Increased investment in bus infrastructure now can enhance a future light rail network by providing well patronised and operated feeder services.

The current bus lanes on Colombo St and Papanui Road are not continuous which reduces their effectiveness. Continuous busways are an immediate priority. Creating more dedicated busways will reduce travel times and is likely to increase bus patronage.

The reasons why street stations are favoured over a central bus interchange are not clear.

Improved bus services require stronger co-ordination between the CCC, Environment Canterbury and district councils and additional travel demand management studies and planning.

Changes requested:  Commit to establishing more dedicated busways.

Establish a joint working group of council and ECan and NZTA under CERA’s oversight tasked with preparing a transport recovery plan as part of the Recovery Strategy with public input by June 2012.

P93-96 Streets for people and streets for cycling

The Green Party seeks a city where it’s easy and safe to walk and ride. Getting out of our cars and walking and cycling more keeps us healthy by increasing levels of physical activity. It encourages social interaction. It reduces our reliance on imported oil and benefits the planet by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The lack of strong commitment to cycling is opposed. At present less than 1% of the City Council’s transport expenditure goes on active transport. The estimated spending noted for plan projects suggests there will be no significant increase. The City Plan and the LTCCP should be amended to redirect at least 10% of roading expenditure in greater Christchurch into facilities for active transport if plan targets and vision statements are to be achieved.

The City Council, ECan, CERA and NZ Transport Agency need to prioritise investment in off road cycleways and walkways through and around the central city and suburbs. These routes can connect public spaces and existing community facilities and existing and new public spaces.

The redevelopment of main streets to provide separated cycle lanes is supported. Infrastructure Design Standards across the city need to be amended to ensure continuous, off road or kerbside cycleways are part of all new roading and reconstruction projects for collector, arterial and local roads.

New outdoor lighting should be “smart lighting” which adapts to natural lighting conditions, reduces glare, avoids light spill and saves energy.

Change requested: Amend Policy 7.93 (Vol 2) to read:

“Actively encourage cycling as a transport mode including by:

a) providing a safe cycle network of continuous, connected cycle lanes separated from traffic in the Central City including on all distributor streets, the full length of the Avon River Park and on streets identified as “ways”.

b) providing conveniently located cycle parking facilities.”

Allocate capital expenditure to achieve this from 2012.


Protecting our public transport corridors - not!

NZ in Tranzit offers a sample case of how talk is rarely matched with actions when it comes to creating quality bus services, unimpeded and able to maintain schedule

Years of prattling on about protecting public transport corridors by public authority has borne remarkably small fruit in Christchurch. Despite the momentary hiatus of Saturday traffic in this photo, this is the approach to one of the most congested areas of Christchurch  - Moorhouse-Addington (where four office park developments alone expect to create workspace for 6000 more jobs and massive future redevelopment of this rapidly regenerating area is clearly on the cards). This is already a busy intersection and obviously it will become more so. Clearly bus lanes can not built here without taking up the main straight through lane for all traffic.

Photo shows two of the three older houses on the eastside of Hagley Avenue which have been purchased by a company that has applied to build a five storey office block with ground level car parking at its rear on this site. Clearly now and increasingly more so with every decade as Christchurch grows, traffic is likely to increase in this area and along this corridor and by virtue of this demand for public transport. Indeed there is every potential for a very effective bus lane to be built from Tuam Street, giving buses a virtually non-stop run from the city to the start of Lincoln Road, including a sympathetic intelligent traffic adjustable signal phasing at Moorhouse Avenue.

Logic would suggest Council negotiate with the company to purchase an extra 3 or 4 metres of frontage of this building site at the approaches to this congested intersection. This would allow an added straight through "queue jumper"  bus and cycle lane, with a left turning lane for cars on the inside of this. Car parking at the rear could be altered, or might even go to a second level, possibly even with Council funding support- cars can park anywhere but bus or light rail must have specific land corridors.

This is just one of many instances that safe, fast, reliable lanes are NOT being identified and protected. It goes without saying, that once large buildings or new buildings compromise public transport and cycle advantage options they will be extremely difficult and expensive to try to reclaim later.

Is this future corridor being protected? It does not appear so to me.

When I hear phrases "a high quality, efficient, reliable and affordable public passenger transport system" (this one from the Draft Central City Plan page 91) I know this is just another great load of bunkum. It is the same nonsense that was talked repeatedly in past reports ten and fifteen years ago, in 2006 and more recently by Ecan's Transport appointee Rex Williams setting a goal of 30 million passengers per year by 2020!!

These sort of achievements take strategy, committment, funding, grunt and attitude not fatuous fine words.

Spelling it out is simple (if ironic) - if you want quality bus services you spell BUS without a Q in front!

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