Monday, November 28, 2011

New Brighton super market access far from super service


The other day I caught a Metrostar from New Brighton. I was pretty pissed off because a long queue in the supermarket meant by the time I was served I only had 2 minutes to get to the stop. It was a case of fast walking and huff and puffing and cursing under my breath because the Metrostar bus stops in this neck of the woods are about three quarters of a kilometre apart - around in Oram Ave or way up by the School on Hawke Street. 

I can understand residential stops being broadly spaced to maintain pace across the suburbs but in a built up retail area??  Most of the action in New Brighton is towards the beach end - the beach itself of course, the very popular and busy library and spectacular pier, the supermarket and larger shops and the New Brighton Club. It makes little sense having buses drive past the place people most want to go.

However in the circumstances, this time, it didn't really matter. Either my clock was wrong or the bus was very late because no bus arrived for another 15 minutes or so. What did arrive was the elderly gentleman in the photo above. I saw him emerge down by the supermarket and try to hurry as best as he could.  It took him several minutes. Old age, as they say,  is no fun.  It is no easy matter when the legs are painful or frail. However he certainly had his wits about him.  When he finally got to the bus stop he cursed the bus system that  that  goes straight past the supermarket entrance without stopping yet made him walk almost 400 metres to catch the bus. He said to me, I have asked for a better bus stop  but they don't do anything about it.  I said I had complained about it  too [and also wrote this previous blog]  

My  understanding is there are real complications with the land on the north side of the shops at New Brighton - what appears to be one big carpark is actually owned by multiple owners. It is very hard for the council to come up with a common scheme in these circumstances, I guess all the owners want to keep their options open in case they ever want to expand and build out. This said the motley area - which is a potential sun trap that could have shelter elements built against the nor-easter  does New Brighton a disservice. And this multiple owners, multiple exits may make it difficult to create a better unified system of  vehicle access for cars - one whereby a bus stop and  road narrowing/crossing zone can be built at the rear of the club (not such a problem) and  an outbound stop (and shelter!) immediately near the supermarket entrance.

My suggestion in the interim is all these car owners be asked to park in Hawke Street west of the Shaw Avenue roundabout, up by the school, where the bus stop in this photo is situated. This means that car owners only have to walk 400 metres to get back to the supermarket. It is a well known fact that when people go to the supermarket their first preference is to park almost half a kilometre away. Indeed, it was trying to make bus services as attractive as car use that led to the decision not to put a bus stop close to the supermarket and other high use facilities. Moving all car parking further west would leave the car park area or the road outside free for a bus stop for all those elderly people (and others) who don't have a car. These are those deemed "transport disadvantaged"  people, alas not entitled to enjoy the longer walks of car owners.

Yeah right.

As long as the city administrators, elected representatives and bus operating authorities are prepared to treat bus passengers like second class citizens we will have a second class bus system. 

Bus routes inadequately scheduled or not integrated in patterns with other bus services to the same area or which are poorly routed and have bus stops in places that are not optimized to serve patrons cost just as much to operate but attract less patrons and recover lower amounts in fares. What is the point of NOT getting it right?

A baseline standard of route planning should be location of bus stops on passing routes close to supermarkets, and the orientation of every general bus route to include at least one supermarket (with a convenient stop) within each 6 km or so length of route. 

If this policy was applied consistently - a bus stop outside every supermarket on a route to the city (as well as any other services, such as cross town buses like the Metrostar) there is also a very useful synergy. Looking for a bus in an unfamiliar area? Spot the supermarket! Kids want a ride to town, drop them by the supermarket.   Indeed it would do no harm for these to be identified on bus route maps.

As well as transporting commuters to work buses also play a secondary but just as important social role, helping those who are carless (for many different possible reasons) maintain their independent mobility and dignity of life.

Given current Ecan budget shortages perhaps Metro could ask a non-profit group working with aging or mobility handicap people to do an audit of every route and its stop location and bus stop facilities (with specific relationship to carry supermarket bags/ supermarket trolleys etc)  as relates to independent access to supermarket facilities and work to remove the bugs.

I said to the bloke do you mind if I photograph your back getting on the bus ? He shrugged in a why not way. Perhaps more publicity will help this man and and many others find some relief from this unfortunate set up. At least the driver* recognised the fellow's struggle with his aging legs and slowed to a gentle stop right beside where he was standing, rather than being small minded (as the odd one or two drivers unfortunately are) and insisting on holding all passengers up just to meet the rules.

Despite his difficulties the gentleman still still had his legs to stand on; in my opinion a policy that allows this sort of unnecessary stress and humiliation of the old, infirm or disabled - or indeed any bus passenger - does not have a leg to stand upon.

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