Saturday, November 19, 2011

Environment Canterbury Failing Eastern Suburbs

Yeah Right.

I photographed this crudely attached poster on a Metro timetable stand at New Brighton Library.

I realise the promotion may be stimulated by Eastgate Mall management, which is giving away shopping vouchers to those who use a Metrocard or Supergold card in an effort to boost their re-opening.  

This may have encouraged Metro's marketing to go beyond saying the decent thing -"a greatly reduced Metro service is now in place, however many eastern areas can now directly access Eastgate again".

Instead they have wandered in to the world of tasteless, offensive hype, duplicity and a degree of double-speak that would do Russia's Stalin proud.

The Government imposed Environment Canterbury junta lead by Dame Margaret Bazley (at an absurd $1400 payment per meeting, other members $900 per meeting) appears to be making the most drastic bus cuts in its history and hocking these off as "new and improved services".

I can find no trace of improved services in eastern areas nor of any new service other than a planned and grossly belated minimal service to compensate for massive reductions in earthquake areas.

I challenge anyone to prove otherwise !

The only sense the current services could be termed  "improved" is in the sense of a used car salesman who has repaired a puncture on one of his cars trying to cream customers with his guarantee that "Yes this is an improved model!!"

In reality the eastern suburbs have suffered the biggest cut backs in service levels that I can recall in the last thirty years.  Whole areas have had services removed, truncated or reduced in spread of hours and frequency of service.

Some of this is because three routes are suspended - 83, 84 and 51 because roading or sewerage is severely earthquake damaged, and in many cases resident numbers have dropped as thousands of houses have been rendered unliveable. Yet thousands - the majority in all except worst hit streets-  remain.

Fair enough, in those cases a different strategy is needed - it turns the stomach to realise that the words "is needed" means Environment Canterbury has left the thousands of people who remain living along these routes with no alternative service for nine months!! 

Indeed as was revealed in NZ in Tranzit in April the only bus service still operative through the Avondale-Wainoni-northside of Aranui block - route 40 had it's service frequency cut in half

The Ministry of Transport made restoration of transport in Christchurch one of its five key goals for the year, setting aside $400 million.

Clearly the bulk of this will go to roading and bridge restoration but with - at minimum - about 10% of the population solely dependent or highly dependent on public transport even Minister Joyce, no friend of public transport, could hardly argue this sector of taxpayers have no right to a few million towards avoiding transport poverty.

Despite this potential funding and the great surplus of buses, bus drivers and disrupted and under-employed cabbies (with no central city to work from) Environment Canterbury could do not even achieve the obvious thing of chartering taxi vans to provide a skeleton service from these areas - even from just key locations in these areas - to bus routes and hubs, for morning workers and mid day shoppers, many elderly widows and mothers with younger children included. Fitting a metrocard reader to these vans could have seen a reasonable farebox return at normal fares, plus a top up from Metro funding.

Would Leopard, Redbus, Go Bus have opposed this (which anyway delivered more passengers to the surviving routes) because it over-rode existing contracts?  Hardly, and anyway CERA could have stepped in. For hell's teeth it is a disaster already without Metro adding to the stresses by inaction.

The complete collapse of bus services through certain areas have left hundreds of distressed residents without access to supermarkets other than by spending precious money from limited incomes.  

In Lyttelton it was reported in The Mainland Press (september 14)  former Sight Seeing operator Don Ross stepped in with his 14 seater bus and ran two trips a week with eight to ten mainly elderly passengers a time - all expenses out of his own pocket - from Lyttelton to Barrington Mall.  Said The Mainland Press " Mr Ross started the service as soon as the Lyttelton Road Tunnel opened again after the quake and never expected it to keep going as long as it had.  "Once the metro buses came back on I stopped the Lyttelton service but then I got a request to continue because the red busses were not going near shopping centres." [my accent]

Indeed this appears to be a major area of disaster mismanagement, worthy of study by other cities in NZ or overseas authorities wishing to learn how "not to do it" in the face of a major disaster. Metro and Environment Canterbury officers appear to have made no attempt to analyse which areas no longer had access to a supermarket and consequently no attempt to reconnect the dots as fast as possible to ensure that people already suffering huge losses and stresses, difficulties getting to work or school,  were not also cut off from buyin| food and in some cases clean water.

Also in The Mainland Press, a few weeks previous (August 17th) the headline "Elderly take taxis to bus stops" drew attention to the older residents for whom a one to two kilometre walk to get to a bus stop [my note- with reduced frequency service] to wait for a bus to on of the few  eastern supermarkets still open was virtually impossible.

According to this article, "Local resident Joan Marshall, 84, felt like she had lost her independence as now she had to pay $11 to take a taxi to her nearest bus stop in Wainoni Road." Mainland Press approached Avondale Resident's Association president Adrienne Lingard who said many elderly residents were totally reliant on public transport and she would like to see council action on the matter. "We've been coping for six months without buses. It just makes it so hard for older people to get out and about. Just going shopping is now a huge ordeal for them and not everyone can afford the taxi fares to get to other bus stops".

Is help at hand in the new improved services refferred to in the poster above? Certainly it was promised back in in October, according to Pegasus Post , the long standing eastern suburbs giveaway newspaper;

"Ecan is proposing routes which would run from Avonside through Dallington to the Palms shopping area and Avondale through Aranui to the Eastgate Shopping Centre. They are planned to run every for every two hours.  The proposed small buses will have a limit of 12 passengers due to the damaged roads and Dallington Bridge, which has a weight restriction of 35000kg. "

However.....don't hold your breath, they have only had nine months.....continues the Pegasus Post  "the plans are not yet finalised and services will depend upon patronage."

" But for some the good news comes a little too late. Dallington Resident's Association vice chairman Lionel Clarke could not understand why a bus service wasn't in place earlier. "This is what I pay my rates for. Everybody in Dallington is still paying their rates."

A summary of "improved" and "new"  eastside services to Eastgate is listed below

5 Southshore Hornby
- back to normal high frequency (every 15 minutes or more) except for Southshore leg where road damage may be disguising plans to sneakin a future permanent reduction to evety 30 minutes only

40 Wainoni (- Middleton)
15 minute service applies only in peak hours, with 30 minutes at other times. Removal of 84, 51 and (prior to the earthquake) 49 route from large sections of the 40 route mean services cut by over 50% on this corridor, despite a threefoold increase in catchment area served by this solitary service. 

35 Heathcote (to Lytelton via Eastgate ) route - this link to city for Bromley and Woolston  area residents cut completely; evening services removed; frequency of day services cut 50%; no connection to Diamond Ferry despite ratio of population 3000 in Lyttelton; 1500 in Diamond Harbour - neither area with supermarkets. Repackaged as 535 "new route".

21 Mount Pleasant via Eastgate and 23 Bromley appear to be restored to normal levels

Service reductions of 66% in North Linwood - Amergh -Gloucester area (loss of 84 and 83) and The Tuam Street - Harrow Street  corridor of Philipstown of about 30% (reduced 40 Wainoni day services, deletion of 35 route section)

NO CURRENT SERVICE (2 hourly shoppers shuttle to Eastgate only proposed!! ) No peak hour connections appear to work commute buses appear to be included). No evening services appear proposed.   100% work/school services cut ;100 % evening services cut - Avonside, Dallington  Avondale; Aranui, and South Breezes Bexley area (no previous service ever implemented!). 75% cut in in week day service levels to most of these areas to Eastgate, 100% cut in direct access to city area

Absolutely pathetic Environment Canterbury - do the decent thing and refund eastside transport rates!! Or - funny idea this one - do the job the city pays you to do, run an effective bus service

Despite the large apron of wharf area for buses, enough for several to manoevre at once as shown here,  no attempt is made to link up 535 route with its direct link to supermarkets to the Diamond Harbour Ferry - another waste of resources from the supposed "Environment" Canterbury; throwing away a chance to foster freater ferry use;  another exposure of all the grand bullshit offered year after year about building an "integrated" transport system from an organisation that can't even tie its own shoelaces properly!

1 comment:

  1. This is quite an eye opener. I was unaware there had already been these cuts to eastern services, only that 51 was dropped and 35 changed also the route of the Orbiter changed away from Dallington. Where was the public consultation on these changes?