Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New news section; Metz busway narrows bus/tram differences

Quality Belgian* bus manufacturer Van Hool is supplying the electric vehicles (with on-board hybrid diesel power generating facility)  to be used on the four busway corridors being built in the French city of Metz. 

Read more about this at Wikipedia (the source of the above photo) or in the "Transport Politic" bold link, in the NEW news link section of NZ in Tranzit. 

The new addition is called  Tranzwatching Now [date] and will appear at the top right hand corner of this page.  I get dozens of email alerts a day, this will allow me to flick some I believe most relevant straight to the reader. This is partly included because various other pressures in my life (not least earning a living) and researching a reasonably substantial history book are making it very difficult to maintain blog frequency and freshness.  Not least to put in the long hours of research and information summarising necessary to post out a blogs of at least reasonably intelligent analysis or comment. The Tranzwatching Now section also offers better direct access (without wading through my blather) to read some of culled news and background info that influences me and may also influence or better inform readers. 

A reader recently made a comment about the suggested Northern busway from Highfield/Redwood running via bus lanes on Main North Road to Northlands - and sure this might be an aspect, it is a fair comment. 
But clearly a quality busway is looking more towards an ultimate evolution into articulated vehicles, platformed enclosed mini-stations (pre-pay entry by Metrocard) and sophisticated exclusive busway roading sections (for instance Winters Road to Rutland Street non-stop at 70 km per hour) that drastically enhance travel quality, never fight other traffic and cut journey times, northern areas to city centre. dramatically. 

Thirty years ago reading of shopping Mall expansions costing $12 million [now more likely to be $100 million] I thought they are mad, what a huge added cost to shop rents and prices for the consumers. But people love these huge marble emporiums. I think the same is going to apply for public transport, we are running a corner shop system and wondering why we are barely pulling the punters. As soon as we build the infrastructure and make it a class act the consumer feels honoured, uplifted, proud of their city  and public transport can really get moving.

It is the underlying concept of this blog that we as a city think we are doing public transport well. because we are comparing to the 1980s etc. In reality public transport will never offer a competitive alternative to car use as long as it just queues in traffic with other vehicles, or even relies on part-time and often compromised on-street bus lanes, as its core structure. Public transport is already at a disadvantage from the walk, wait and multiple point passenger loading times; it needs to absolutely shine for other aspects. I think in Christchurch Metro spends (pre-quake) about $68 million a year, half from fares, to carry a tiny percentile of total journeys made by all modes of travel. Better to fund the necessary infrastructure (spread cost over 25 years an extra $10-20 million) buying the land and building exclusive roading and rail structures to make public transport faster and easier to use than private cars in most circumstances, attracting tens of thousands of marginal car users away from using or even owning cars and/or households second cars. 

The capital cost of a car invites repeated use to spread the benefits of such a large outlay. It is my guess it is not the car owners themselves that will be the backbone of public transport growth , who but for such a good public transport system those who might have bought a car or second car, older teenagers, emerging adults, couples that both work, students, inner suburb residents, that can boost public transport usage to more attractive frequencies by virtue making 400-600 trips a year, work/study access and recreational use combined, per person.  

Top quality public transport is a double edge sword "for defence of the realm"  - when oil goes through the roof in price, the wealthiest and most attractive cities for economic growth will be those with the most sophisticated public transport system; OR a miracle for addicted-motorists appears and electric cars or ones that run on water or wine etc continue to fill our streets, cities grow ever more congested as population grows (not least of course perpetuating the present pattern, strangling easy access to the city centre, meaning the tree rots out from the middle, as the branches suck out the energy), in this scenario a "built infrastructure" public transport system (rail or busway, it barely matters if corridors are consolidated and exclusive) guarantees ease of central city and cross town access, less than 20 minutes from any part of the city's main contingent build up area, even in peak hours (on Express vehicles). I imagine 75% of public transport operations may still be on street, in the suburbs or at city centre, but the key elements are the infrastructural supports at congested points, acting like stents in arteries to keep blood of life pumping around the city. 

Leaving aside a myriad of important details such as driver courtesy, stop location and vehicle cleanness etc etc I believe the key transit formula could  be expressed  as Quality competitive public transport = built infrastructure + frequent services + easy to grasp simple route and schedule structure. 

It is good to see even in a broad early stages way,  that the Christchurch City 30 year transport plan appears to be at least making a nod in that direction - read it yourself also available via Tranzwatching Now. However words are cheap and the reality is that a huge earthquake rebuild of conventional roads will steal a lot of fire from public transport, just at a time when many opportunities - indeed  "best chance ever opportunities"  - exist to advance such infrastructure.

*Thanks to "Just Passing" for noting I had this incorrectly described as Dutch firm ( for two months!)


  1. Van Hool is a Belgian Quality Bus Builder, not Dutch...

    1. This is so cool. I am such a huge fan of their work. I really am impressed with how much you have worked to make this website so enjoyable