Friday, March 23, 2012

UC lecture: Does rail have a place in a rebuilt Christchurch?

Public Notice

International sustainability transport expert Professor Peter Newman from Curtin University in Perth will give a public lecture on this topic as the inaugural New Zealand Geographical Society Canterbury Branch Visiting Fellow on 29 March from 7pm-8pm in the Undercroft (bottom of the James Hight Building) at the University of Canterbury.


This should be interesting, Professor Newman is one of the major figures of public transport thinking in Australia, often quoted in studies and news media. And few cities and states anywhere have made such an impressive commitment to public transport as Perth and Western Australia.

This said it may pay to keep in mind (I hope the professor does) that the population of Western Australian is only half that of New Zealand but the GDP per capita appears to about two and half  times that of our own country.  WA is one of the world's richest political entities.

30% Bus increase

Last year the State Transport Minister (he with the most marvelous of names - Troy Buswell) boosted Perth bus services by a staggering 30%.
“Through this Budget, the Liberal-National Government is boosting Transperth’s annual bus service kilometres - a measure of the distance for which timetabled bus travel is funded - by an initial 3.3 million kilometres next year and a total of 15.2million kilometres per year by 2015-16,” Mr Buswell said. This roughly equates to a 30 per cent increase on current services." said Buswell in a news media release.

This must be set against Christchurch' situation, where 17% reductions in in public transport expenditure  costs are - I have been told  - already in process. 

A Government that did not respond to Ecan requests for assistance to buy or lease two or three large van size buses to serve quake stricken areas with badly ruptured roads is a Government that hardly going to step in and give Christchurch the much needed extra funding help to refocus its public transport system to a new reality, bus or rail.**

$5.4 billion funding increase!!

The increase in bus funding in Western Australia was part of a larger $5.4 billion package, announced in May 2011, to expand Western Australia public transport in general, including $134 million for increasing bus coverage and $40 million for new buses (on top of the existing ongoing fleet replacement budget); $249 million for the completion of an underground bus station in 2015 of ; a substantial upgrade $5.5 million for Mirrabooka bus station the northern suburbs transfer point in Perth. Minister Buswell also noted that Buswell says the acquisition of bus depot facilities in Bunbury, Busselton and Dunsborough will enable improved operation of regional town bus services. 

To give some context $5.4 billion is more than the entire amount spent on public transport vehicles and rail, busway and bus infrastructure for the whole of New Zealand over the last decade!!

As for Christchurch, it does not have a single proper suburban bus station  - Council and Ecan only really got going with the public transport revival mid 1990s and projects as simple as this take time. Decades in fact. 

 And despite a big tourist base Environment Canterbury is committed to avoiding at all cost operating, coordinating, networking with or advertising any regional services, preferring instead for Canterbury taxpayers to send all their transport dollars to fund regional services in other provinces (including pro rata, about $4 million of Wellington region's Wairarapa line). 

Buswell added a traditional political jab to his $5.4 billion media release  “The State Government is investing in new buses and trains as well as improving the road network across WA and addressing the projects ignored by the previous Labor government.”

Yes. Amazing. Yes. All done by the Tories!!! Where as in New Zealand the conservatives in Government are only prepared to pour billions into motorways but only a few tens of millions into  Wellington and Auckland commuter rail,  whilst cutting funding to Christchurch public transport, even cutting bus lane funds and cycleway funding (well before the earthquakes).

Indeed the National Government has become something of a laughing stock, with its 1950s attitudes of "more motorways"virtually extinct in any other part of the world and a disaster in the USA.  Not so funny for Christchurch locals though really,  as the multi-million dollar expansion of the Southern Motorway gets ready to dump thousands more cars into the already bottle-necked Riccarton-Tower Junction-Addington and Moorhouse areas as well as Brougham Street.

So rail may be on the books, a way Christchurch or even Government could move.

Interesting indeed to here what Professor Newton might say. How to do public transport on a minuscule budget?

**I am presuming that Ecan moved to make such request

Related stories NZ in Tranzit advocates commuter rail to complement a vastly improved bus service

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