Monday, April 16, 2012

When a deviant star needs a Minister's support?

Road Sign from Singapore (Wikimedia Commons)

Lately the enormous post earthquake sewer replacement works in Edgeware Road St Albans, and now further major works in Keyes Road New Brighton, have sent the Metrostar crashing off the straight and narrow, taking the bumpy road of life around some alternative streets.

Two major deviations - In St Albans Edgeware Road East of the shopping centre diverts via Sherborne Street, Canon Street and back onto Barbadoes Street; in North New Brighton beach bound buses from Keyes Road/Bowhill roundabout onwards divert via Baker Street and New Brighton Road to New Brighton.

What a marvellous improvement to the Metrostar route this would be, once these same new roads are repaired, if these became the standard Metrostar route!

Let's face it, the previous (proper) route is a bit "effete" - all very polite and squeaky clean, zooting nicely along, - that is  along the side of rivers, wetlands, QEII vast lawn area, golf courses - one side-dead-side catchments mostly and low density housing between the green-spaces  - looks nice but but not picking up great numbers, not really doing a job of work!

Not really "getting down" bro, mucking in (as an earlier generation would say), not really running where the people are or where a cross-town route would be truly useful.

This blogster thinks these two temporary deviations offer huge potential to create a far better and more popular route - permanently! These new areas passed through are much more vigorously populated catchment areas than most parts of the eastern end of the (normal) Metrostar route.


For example, the Canon Street deviation  links a far greater body of central St Albans higher density housing (built, planned and likely) to multiple employment, study, shopping and recreation etc to facilities. from Hornby to New Brighton. 

The blocks immediately south of Canon Street (and north of Bealey Avenue) are being far more vigorously and intensely redeveloped as medium rise apartment blocks, including the huge Orion site, expected to house, I believe, 1,500 people, than those further north. If the roading is restored (and improved) "looping" through this area would make minimal effect upon the relatively straight forward nature of the route, involving only two extra turns. It would disadvantage very few current route patrons near Edgeware Road who would still remain within easy walking distance of potential stops, in Barbadoes, Canon, or Sherbourne Streets.

Studies show when people have to walk more than 400 metres to catch a bus, the numbers prepared to do so rapidly falls off with each metre [though people typically walk further for high frequency services where minimal waiting time applies]. Shifting the east west axis of the Metrostar closer to Bealey Avenue and all the housing in the designated higher density zones is far more user friendly to far more key bus user groups.


Likewise the current deviation in the North New Brighton area  from the Bowhill Road roundabout then via Baker Street, then New Brighton Road (and resulting increased access from side street)  adds a much bigger residential catchment than the very peripheral Keyes Road. An important added element is that this route variation this gives a very strong and frequent link between a much greater area of North New Brighton AND the immediate local services area hub at New Brighton, including library,shops, medical services, kindergartens, schools, cafes, bars and supermarket.

The current Baker St/New Brighton Road road is so corrugated by quake damage it will anyway need to be seriously resealed, NZ in Tranzit says; why not move the curb a metre or two over (on the generous but meaningless wide grass berm) this would facilitate a wider road, and a smooth quick bus route with multiple side streets, including those of New Brighton Road.

The MetroStar passes the popular PierSide Cafe as it begins its journey westwards from New Brighton. NZ in Tranzit bargues  it could be far more effective in providing a frequent "local services"  link tofro North New Brighton areas


BUT in this fantasy schemata there is still the problem of buses getting across the intersection of Canon Street with busy Madras Street where in peak hours there are few gaps. And BUT there is still the problem of west bound buses turning right out of Canon into the endless river (in peak hours especially) of cars on Sherbourne Street.. Problems, if not so bad currently (with so much inner city inoperative and less tofro city traffic) soon likely to reappear with a vengeance as the city revives.

So yes, my BUT does look big is this context.

I believe it is the case in many places in Christchurch  that buses could avoid a great deal of congestion if the city could create routes that better utilised secondary and feeder roads -  still servicing an area well - yet but able to avoid sticking points and twice daily traffic jams.

But this Metro buses can not do when they can not get across busy contraflow traffic at uncontrolled intersections or those intersections without electronic signals. And usually local authorities do not want to add traffic signals for all vehicles, at that intersection.  These would only encourage unwanted extra general traffic, cars and trucks, travelling on the wrong streets and creating a cross flow in the wrong place, also repeatedly impeding traffic on the opposing "desired" major traffic flow streets.

I believe Government needs to step in and get NZTA to investigate creating the model and protocols for a new format of Give Way intersections, to be used for intermittent (but important) bus services to access, travel across, or merge with busy roads. 

For example a large sign saying GIVE WAY with the international  upside down "yield" triangle below this, and then the words TO EXITING BUSES and a couple of those small very bright skittering yellow lights, embedded in the sign,  activated only by the approach of a bus.

Possibly a bus symbol (side on) might be incorporated too, or the bus version of this tram sign below, erected about two several hundred yards before the bus GIVE WAY

This Amsterdam sign (from About.Com) means "Caution, Yield to Tram Ahead"

Also in a similar vein (for buses coming to the end of bus lanes)  GIVE WAY - then upside down triangle symbol and lights - TO MERGING BUSES

Here is a Singapore Version

and of course to repeat the Singapore road sign at the opening of the post

It is a road control that would need to have some clear rules for application. Certain roads may be too fast or too busy or have too many lanes to comfortably fit such an irregular intrusion.

The exit point (from the side road) might also be redefined, possibly with a specific bus only lane approaching the intersection etc. and possibly only left out, or left in turns permitted private vehicles. 

Logistical problems but none that couldn't be solved if there was a greater political commitment at all levels to buses. The government spends millions on level crossings for trains...isn't it time NZ had legislation to assist our far more widespread school and urban bus systems? Buses are and always will be the prime form of public transport but they are rarely given the funding support and infrastructure tools to achieve quality results. Bus services are hobbled by outdated 20th century attitudes ("busism") and the stigma of older politicians (99% car dependent) oblivious to buses valuable role, their huge potential, and their rapidly improving technical quality and changing status, world-wide. 

This is one of the simplest, least costly and best value for dollar bus priority measures that could be taken, to create these new categories of Give Way signs and traffic management rules specifically for public transport .

We can land a man on the moon, or have ipods that deliver internet images to one's tiny hand device but it is beyond the technical capacity of humankind to invent traffic signage and road marking protocols and  traffic signals working to give bus a priority advantage? Yeah sure!


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