Monday, May 7, 2012

Using our nodal in Opawa?

The house on the left here is for sale. About time.  I have mentally being buying it for about three or four years.

This area is a neck of roading between Opawa Road and the Brougham Expressway, the traffic lights of which are clearly visible. It has large islands of grass and full grown trees, which should not be lost.

Seen in its less sylvan guise, a smoggy morning, the photo below shows morning traffic. This is  looking in the same direction as above but this photo is taken from back about 100. metres. Note trucks crossing on expressway, a very busy road likely to get more so with the opening of the Souther Motorway extension.

Or here seen below, from another angle, with a not uncommon queueing - often the stalled tail back from vehicles waiting on Ensors Road to cross Brougham Street Expressway stretches back through the very middle of this roundabout on Opawa Road, next block back. It is also a very tight roundabout, not conducive to smooth flow.  All in all it seems to me not a good design.

My theory is that this bit of Ensors Road should be widened and the traffic lights at Brougham Street be linked to another set of traffic lights. These would be at the above intersection on Opawa Road, the signals replacing this awkward roundabout. If council bought this property it will greatly facilitate a better transport management strategy, in place for now and protecting mobility in a future city grown much denser and busier. 

Helping cars? 

Damn, you guessed it; I am not really interested in buying or living in this house myself; nor in making life easier for cars!! Its a sneaky bus spotter plot afoot here. Same old same old, bloody bus stuff. But I do love the win-win-win strategy of sneaking quality bus infrastructure with a lollipop to keep motorists and cyclists happy.


In the world of fantasy the City Council plans to build nine bus transfer stations. This sort of bullshit has been on the books for years now but no obvious effort was ever really made,  even in the years before the first big earthquake. 

The location of these bus transfer stations will probably be at major bus route junctions in most cases associated with malls. It will be a huge advance for the city for every transfer station immediately multiples the directions one can travel;  options for getting to the city (often also other locations) by more than one route from the same stop; ease of transferring between routes (with RealTime listings of next buses); speed and frequency of movements across the city. They also offer suburban gathering and departure points for special services, such as to schools, industrial links, or big event buses.  

I "read" transfer stations as more than five bus routes inter-acting, including at least one cross town service, and a direct link to the airport or external transport sources and one bus access from that point to the university. 

However this is still on a fairly primitive level of integrated bus routing. Imagine if you will, every motorist driving around the city was not permitted to cut directly across areas in the shortest most effective way but was always required to drive their car via one or more of ONLY nine hub points. 

And this junction of Ensors Road and Opawa Road above is a classic example. This is where services tofro Woolston, Heathcote, Lyttelton and (via ferry) Diamond Harbour and Church Bay  intersect with "The Orbiter" and potentially other future routes. 

I know that these routes intersect and exactly how  because I have switched from one route to the other on multiple occasions, day and night, and had all the dubious joys of transferring (and often not the only one) when stops are about 400 metres apart. Amongst these getting soaked (unnecessarily??) ...walking in quite deep snow ...or running for a Lyttelton bus half way down Opawa Road because incoming Orbiter was delayed; seeing a mostly empty evening bus see me but race past, lady arrogance (whose wages I pay) at the wheel; or in contrast other good natured Lyttelton drivers pulling over at a safe spot short of the actual stop; some Orbiter drivers, well used to people transferring for Lyttelton,  stopping at the roundabout itself and saying "jump off quick and watch for cyclists" [coming up the inside of a bus] - probably illegally but at least a mite more caring than the indifferent performance of council bureaucracy on passenger support.

Ensors/Opawa is a good connecting point, a switch point from east-west to north-south [very roughly]. The Orbiter offers a ten minute service along one axis [it is always valuable if service in at least one direction is frequent]and a straight forward journey to fro the settlements of the harbour basin and the Heathcote valley, and the rapidly growing Woolston/Hillsborough industrial area and revamped escalating upmarket Garlands Road recreational and commercial zone, or Sydenham and the city in the other. 

It is a good connecting point but a very poor connection, because people have to jump through hoops to make the switch. 

Lyttelton harbour basin residents or workers (from or to the Port), industrial areas near Woolston, alternative schools in St Martins, or Linwood workers for Sydenham etc etc will never have anything but a D grade bus access, if every bugger has to run 400 metres at the change point. 

Will the policy of nine transfer stations improve this? Nope!

Under the system of nine major transfer stations my guess is the nearest transfer stations would be at Barrington or Eastgate - both miles away from this point. What on earth would be gained by such a large deviation to make a transfer?  

What a waste of time, and all because someone couldn't be bothered joining up the dots properly. 

D-Graded bus services because Council in the Parker years failed so miserably to secure the minuscule amounts of land (in the larger picture) to crank Christchurch bus system into the 21st century, let opportunity after opportunity be built out, lost forever

We are largely stuck with little but the suburb-to-city-centre system, even though three quarters of the city's worker and student population don't even work or study at the centre - the classic outdated 20th century concept of all services to the centre rather than integrated mosaic route patterns

Instead why don't we use our nodal ?

I identify about 20 other "Nodal Points" around the city, these not being fully fledged bus transfer stations but important enough, that should be developed as lower services level "Transfer Nodes" (two to three route intersection, RealTime rolling screen list, platform, traffic management and safety features and a larger than normal waiting area).

If the house in the photo above was purchased by the Council (before a two storey block of flats forever entrenches the Ensors Road bottleneck!) widening the road only about five to ten metres in total, a bit from either side (but keeping those beautiful trees) would allow enhanced through passage for private motorists AND Bike lanes, ready to take the extra traffic likely as the extension of the Southern Motorway ensures peak hour congestive minimum movement on Brougham Expressway. Something for the motorists.  AND - most important - bus lanes with island separated bus platform stops, with a waisted pedestrian-safe crossing area.Ironically most of the same property above, purchased could be re-surveyed and on-sold for housing on a slightly smaller section or purposely developed by the council in a way that blocks out any significant effect from buses. So little land is needed to create a bus lane, yet the capacity is virtually infinite, in contrast to roads of cars and trucks (well about 7000 passengers an hour...far beyond any likely requirements of this corner before 2099!).

The current roundabout  island could be - indeed have queued there with my work vehicle many times at 4.30pm should be -  replaced by intelligent traffic lights. These would greatly assist smooth bus movements and ensure longer cars queues no longer block or gridlock Opawa Road traffic and clear the very busy Brougham Expressway intersection and adjoining railway crossing. 

If a bus transfer node was on this corner an Outbound Lyttelton [including services to Rapaki and Diamond Harbour ferry] buses would operate as now, with the current stop moved 200 metres south - built in as a short bus lane and stop on the Opawa Road frontage with traffic light priority when moving off; in other words little real change. However city-bound buses would swing right at the suggested traffic lights, into the Ensors Rd transfer node, bus bay. They would then  load or discharge at the transfer node move off (on widened road) and turn left at the lights into Brougham Street straight through towards Sydenham, the next bus stop at Wilsons Road (as current). Orbiter buses would traverse as now, albeit in separate bus only lanes.

With such a "node" in place a long needed "business day southern link, from Ferrymead via Garlands Road to this node point then across Sydenham (by-passing Central Station) via Wordworth Street, Disraeli Street, Addington, Tower Junction etc could then be fed (or feed off) The Orbiter and 28 Route at this point. 

This "transfer node" location is still a very attractive park-like area, despite modern traffic queues.  Even with bus islands and a larger stylish roof-over shelter, and curbed a traffic channel, there is no reason this needs to be changed, large green areas and trees retained on the south side and enhanced landscaping with sun exposure on the north side of the road corridor.  

One other thing, sometimes missed in bus infrastructure plans (as it was by me in the world's most comprehensive analysis of bus stops); choosing pleasant sites or making bus stops attractive, scenic, pleasant places to stand or sit and wait is also a very significant way of up grading bus services.


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