Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Early Studies"

NZ in Tranzit on comparing apples and bananas

"Early Studies"

As part of the Draft Central City Plan's development, early outline investigations have been taken city-wide into the system form and function, constructional and system operational implications,and economic viability of introducing a next generation light rail system at the nucleus of the city's new public transport network.

Appropriate comparisons have been sought with cties around the world of a similar size to Christchurch, including some with broadly shared objectives to stimulate economic growth and regeneration, as well as introduce fully integrated transportation systems in central cities for a host of wider social benefits."

Draft Christchurch City Council Central City Plan section on Transport p90

This sounds very fluffy to me!!

What is an "early outline investigation" pray tell?    What city does not seek "to stimulate economic growth and regeneration" ? Most of all, for me, why is the city investigating  "introducing new generation light rail " rather than investigating the public transport needs of the city as a whole as is surely the required task of council?

If this latter investigation - fair to all residents - was the case surely it would reveal a spectrum of needs and this would be expressed in a raft of policies rather than singling out one mode that covers a mere 7.5km of the city's approximate 250km of public transport routes.

"Appropriate comparisons have been sought

Why is this being done in secret and what criteria are being used? In a project that is expected to cost $406 million surely ratepayers have a right to know, now at an early stage, not least when public feedback is being invited, what these appropriate comparisons are.

Comparing one city and another is extremely difficult to do with any great precision. The best one could do,  I would imagine to achieve "appropriate comparisons" would be to work to a set a few benchmarks of comparison, to try to bring things back to a shared currency. 

By this I mean some standard factors that typically effect public transport planning and patronage might be evaluated for each city studied in turn, in most cases probably on the basis that the factor analysed is not greater than 100% more than the same factor in Christchurch.

These would include the metropolitan population of any city studied was not more than 100% that of greater Christchurch (= not more than 800,000); the population density was not more than roughly 100% that of urban greater Christchurch (= not more than 1,800 per hectare); the tourist-visitor numbers per capita were not greater than 100% than those in Christchurch each year (not mote than 18 million p.a.); the immediate funding base of ratepayer/local taxpayers was not more than 100% bigger than Christchurch; that car ownership was within range of that in New Zealand (not less than 500 cars per capita as obviously dramatically increases daily patronage from non-car owning commuters); the parking costs will be within range of those applying in Christchurch - the higher cost of central city parking has been identified as a stimulant to public transport in cities as diverse as Wellington, Melbourne and Ottawa; the income sources beyond fares provided by Governments are proportional to those in NZ  and/or are met from a similar size national or regional/national tax base -in USA and France for instance fares are only expected to meet 20% of the full service operating cost and nothing of the spread fixed costs.  Traditionally NZ cities have been much higher and in the three largest centres the current National Government policy seeks a minimum 50% farebox recovery on operating costs.

As far as I know the only cities with light rail that have referenced by any Christchurch city official, elected or in paid employment, were San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver.  Council CEO Marryat prepared a sort of journalistic overview of some urban renewal and light rail projects after the Mayor, Marryat and a city planner spent a few days in each. This was presented to the City Council meeting on June 24 2010. [search "Portland, Oregon" on the Christchurch City Council website,  Meetings, agendas and Minutes - unfortunately the appendix - a full colored report of about 20 pages itself may not open on all computers] As interesting as it is - especially the appendix - it had almost no cross referencing and certainly no comparative figures to Christchurch in areas concerned with public transport. 

All of these four cities has a metropolitan population in excess of 2 million or - roughly 5-10 times more potential light rail users per kilometre. Also as transit is funded by sales tax or fuel tax or payroll taxes across whole urban areas, as well as by grants from the State Government and national level this would suggest light rail will be provided at a hugely smaller cost per capita per kilometre. Population density (in public transport terms "how many people per bus/tram stop") in broad terms ranges from almost twice that of Christchurch (Portland) to eight times that of Christchurch (Vancouver).

This suggests light rail in our small low density city will get far less than half the patronage of these larger centres per kilometre;  receive considerably less Government funding per kilometre; and cost the taxpayer and local property taxpayer (in NZ jargon "ratepayer") several dollars more per capita per kilometre to build and operate.

Obviously where the council talks about "appropriate comparisons" they have some other study up their sleeve!

1 comment:

  1. The lack of an integrated transport plan for Christchurch is astonishing - it all seems project based (with an unstated assumption that the private car will continue to dominate transport options). The "hurried-up" urban plan released today (under the CERA) reinforces car dominance, with only lip service to other modes