Monday, July 30, 2012

Bus Priority Not Major Council Priority?

Back to the future? 

The more successful that  the Brougham St and the Southern Motorway extension prove the more likely are queues to access these roads, such as this one every evening at Burlington Street. Will this sort of queue also become the norm in Selwyn St? With no support mechanism to protect or enhance bus movements where is bus priority in all this planning?

The first [actually third I now realise - Ed] of the suburban shopping centres make-overs by the city council working with local residents and shop-keepers has hit the streets.

This is the final master plan guidelines for the block of shops in Selwyn Street - many of many which were destroyed in and after (as unsafe) the ferocious February earthquake.

These shops were originally built around the terminus of the electric tramway to Spreydon built in 1915, that is until the lines extended further down Selwyn Street after World War I. These tram lines were still visible in the original concrete roading in street lights when the road glistened after rain as late as 1978 when I used to drive that bus route.

On my God, where the hell is this rambling old fart with his head in the past going now ??  What the hell have trams got to do with this attractive new community centre??

Well, actually things haven't moved too far in 95 years. We aint exactly talking too much about the future here!

The council planners and the locals have created a very attractive plan for little terrace spaces and courtyard like areas, but forgotten we live in 2012- not 1912!

The central bus stop to the area is retained but no real provision at all has made to deal with the enormous increase in traffic likely in the years to come, that will inevitably queue up the heart of this little block as city population and density grows and the long corridor into South Christchurch offered by Selwyn Street becomes de facto another motorway off ramp.

According to the final document of the Selwyn Street shops Master Plan, traffic along Brougham Street approaching the Barrington Street on ramp -- AKA the Southern-Motorway-boot-planter-zone -   is expected to increase from 30,000 vehicles a day to 50,000 vehicles a day by 2041.

With Barrington Street very unlikely to see much reduction in traffic with motorway access expanding its reach and new multi-storey buildings on the way in Addington; and with Simeon Street now removed as access on to the Southern Motorway; and with access from Milton St (and Burlington St)  up to Brougham getting longer and longer peak hour queues, this suggests a great deal more of south and south west Christchurch traffic will funnel up Selwyn St through this potentially charming little shopping area.

Unfortunately with the Council having neither commitment, nor I imagine funding,  to buy property frontages, to inset parking to add segregated through flow lanes and widen footpaths a very congested street appears in decades to come appears about to be about to be set in concrete [ie the shops either side], possibly indeed  future all day traffic burping smokey fumes and noise into the shops and across the delightful little outside cafe terrace zones.

Buses hopefully won't contribute much in the way of fumes, at least after 2020,  given fully electric buses are now clearly going to become the norm within a decade or two. But for buses competing with queues from Selwyn Street south and Coronation Street feeding into this waisted access point, lack of support systems will mean another few decades of substandard public transport. 

When buses are unable to consistently run to consistent travel times every trip a modern sophisticated city wide integrated mosaic system is impossible. If a bus travelling across the city not only has to stop and start to load passengers but can be held up - or not - up to two or three minutes at any one of twenty intersection across the city - we are still driving buses as they were 50 years ago!!

Nor is it likely that the Selwyn St/Brougham expressway traffic lights can play much of a significant role - the vastly greater flow of traffic on Brougham Street will inevitably have precedence and three quarters of the signal time time, so buses at the back will be buses at the back, no time to let long queues across, not only for a minute or two, but possibly for two or even three light changes in the long term.

Even though it would take only a four metre wide slither of a fairly meaningless large green space beside the Brougham expressway to include a bus lane heading north across Brougham Street, no attempt is made to assist buses across Brougham Street with their own queue jumper lane. 

This would allow any bus getting within 6-8 cars of the intersection and any bus seeing the relatively slow four lane hold of the amber lights to switch into that lane and a nice cosy little position at head of the class, nose to the white line at Brougham Street, waiting for the 10 second advantage.

The idea that bus priority can be achieved just by selecting a few arterial corridors and over 22 years of astute planning and fundraising,  bus lane the least busy sections of these corridors  is plainly nonsense.

Quite apart from the hundreds of millions missed in concerted busway funding [not least to Auckland!] this policy of "grand lanes in the future" fails to acknowledge there is a whole circle of intersections,  either across the four avenues or at suburban shopping centres and malls, which block the free and competitive* flow of bus services.

In many ways getting through these choke points is arguably more important to creating a cost effective, schedule guaranteed, transfer friendly city wide bus network than some areas of bus laning already done such as Thorrington.

If a bus friendly intersection control can't be done at Selwyn St (where open council land already exists to subtly widen the road and landscape the surrounds ) where will it be done?

Sorry guys - NZ in Tranzit can only give you a "D" for what would otherwise be an attractive neighbourhood complex, not enough provision for increased through traffic and public transport priority.

Beneath the endless speels of Council-green talk, same old same old. And the talk - as anyone following bus priority implementation across Christchurch since 1996 - exactly that, mainly talk.

But also the continuous and on going failure to secure central Government funding that even in some way echoes the huge sums given in the last decade by central Government towards public transport infrastructure in Wellington and Auckland, directly or in loans on easy terms. Mostly this came from the previous Labour Government but even our road centred Government would have come to the party on basic urban and commuter rail upgrades and I suspect the northern busway (a de facto rail line). It is if nothing else our current Government is a Government with s strong sense of the role socially built and owned infrastructure plays in creating economic growth. 

Indeed National has continued to fund rail infrastructure capital costs in these northern areas and must breath a sigh of relief that Christchurch administrations are far too stupid to reclaim some of their share of the massive amount of taxes spent on public transport in northern cities. 

The real cost is delayed arterial corridor bus lanes and virtually no other en route infrastructure, though it is everywhere obvious around the globe that effective bus services in the age of mass car ownership and congestion need specific land usage, computerised traffic control assistance and free flow infrastructure.

That big (if low key) revolution is happening worldwide but barely - at an elderly snail's pace -  in Christchurch! 

Ironic really because with all the empty sites or buildings to be demolished around Christchurch, no city has ever had so many unique opportunities to create such far reaching ("forever") bus support with so little political resistance and so much opportunity to create win-win solutions. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wellington's accident prone bus lane - is bus colour a factor?

I love driving heavy vehicles, that king of the road feeling sitting above all the other traffic. I still feel more at home in a big cab than anywhere else on earth, even though it is now only occasionally I drive a heavy vehicle more than one day a week.

I drove buses, city buses and a smaller sightseeing for about 14 years in total, up to about 20 years ago. Since then  I have driven a specialised heavy vehicle every Thursday for the last 18 years, around the city suburbs. Some weeks or a several weeks I drive two days, occasionally four days.

I love driving this aging high beast (elephant?) through traffic but no one with a lick of sense driving HT vehicles can ever forget the huge minute by minute responsibility of their employment. When I was a full time bus driver every year I'd have one or two nightmares where I had of killed  or injured somebody with my bus. That's just the ones I'd remember. Obviously not entirely relaxed at a deeper level. I also remember a study they did years ago of London bus drivers, using electrodes on the pulse and head etc. Drivers were asked to rate how they felt. Even those old hands who said they felt the most relaxed as they drove through London streets recorded symptoms of high bodily tension and alertness. We always hear about the high stresses of executives (and why they deserve such high pay!!) but studies reveal it is often lower paid workers with less control over their working place or life that suffer far more from stress symptoms.

No other heavy vehicle threads so constantly through highly populated areas, constantly loads and unloads unpredictable people, in the same way as do as city buses. Kids or teenagers  jumping and out of doors, latecomers running beside the bus, pedestrians not looking crossing a road. One night thirty years ago on  Papanui Road a classic drunken Irishman (jovial, of course) waved good bye getting off at the back door, "Top of the world to you driver": the leery thumbs up goodbye. He clatters down back stairwell. Every bus driver checks curbside mirrors before pulling out. The extra bright street lights causing a dark pool shadow beside the bus, but offering a well lit footpath. And no Irishman. "What the hell?".

I hesitate, a hand appears from the gutter, the silly bugger had fallen into the gutter in front of the back wheels. He's pulling himself free, he crawls clear of the bus. The luck of the Irish. Not recommended as a habit!.

That's a mildly humorous bit because all's well that ends well. But really this posting is about a much more ghastly reality - the huge accident rate on the Manners Street bus-only link in central Wellington established a year or two back.

A jogger killed, ten others hit in the last two years by buses. The latest accident - could anything be more bizarrand ironically gross - a director of New Zealand Bus, operators of NZ's biggest urban bus fleet, Tim Brown was hit and dragged under the bus while walking across Manners Street, by one of his firm's own fleet of bus, moving at a minimal speed. He is seriously ill in intensive care. God help the poor man.

I think too, of the the other victim, poor bastard, the driver. Absolutely traumatised, in a state of shock .Jesus I feel for him or her, what a price to pay for being a bus driver, what a tough call to ever get back in that driver's seat. What a thing to carry through life however little driver fault may be involved.

I know in the 2000 page views I'm now getting per week ( blog stats, first time I've hit this mark, this morning! Yay!), there 'll be the odd transit worker or planner, including amongst this number hundreds  of USA, UK and Australian readers.  I have a question.

Wellington shifted its bus fleet colour from red to yellow and black  a few years back (regional colours and those local rugby provincial team - The Hurricanes ).  I'm wondering if there is any correlation between the colour of buses and the accident rate of the " I didn't even see it" [it didn't register in my mind] category?

I also wonder if mixing black in a two tone range, has the effect usually sought by camouflage stripes, of breaking up the solid quality of a tank or battleship, may play some part in the failure of the corner of the eye or even a quick glance to "register" an object as big as a bus (see bus face in photo above), If anyone has any comments or insight or actual experience of bus colour effects, please feel free to add a comment below and I will pass it on to those involved as I will this posting anyway.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Busism" - The Hugely Expensive Underfunding of Bus Systems

Buses bunching on "The Orbiter" circular bus route in Christchurch ensuring a service every ten minutes becomes two buses every 20 minutes or even 3 buses arriving simultaneously after 30 minutes. Despite the fact this system was carrying patronage levels about almost 20% of Wellington commuter rail before the major earthquakes it has never received even a tiny portion of the $600 million plus of taxes invested in Wellington rail. To "busists" - the transport equivalent of racists or sexists - buses aren't worth it! Yet probably a mere $20 million Government grant invested in added bus lanes. queue jumper lanes and other infrastructure, and a sophisticated computer system could probably produce accurate consistent unimpeded running, reliability (including transfers) and add up to another million patrons a year. 

Attitudes are slow to change and recognise we now have the conceptual understanding and the multiple technologies to deliver excellent quality bus services every bit competitive with rail in 90% of situations. 

NZ in Tranzit says it won't happen as long "busism" rules the roost, the Councils, the media, the Government departments which control the purse. 

Never under estimate the power of prejudice to cause damage and loss.

I think there is a huge - and largely unacknowledged - prejudice against buses.

It is a prejudice costing billions of people living the world over, access to quality public transport,  

It is a prejudice that robs thousands of cities of a powerful tool for city growth. It is a blindness that  may be hastening the browning of our planet

It is a prejudice that undermines social equality and a consistent and fair distribution of social wealth and shared resources, not least between cities and provincial towns.

It is a prejudice whose gross distortion permeates the policies of all political parties in NZ, not least Labour and Greens who might otherwise thought to be campaigners for progress, social equality and environmentally effective transport.

It rules the policies of our National Government and its off-shoot branches, such as Environment Canterbury.

I call this prejudice "Busism" to bring to the fore its common structure with racism and sexism

A close friend with a life long commitment to social justice takes great umbrage at me drawing a comparison to "sexism" and "racism". She rightly points out the hideous and appalling abuse of humanity brought about by ethnic superiority, the brutalisation, enslavement and often wholesale murder of one race (or more) by another; OR just as horrific the tens of thousands of women once burnt as witches, and the hundreds of millions still locked in systems where they can be treated as objects for sexual abuse without security or right of redress, denied education other than to be as breeding cattle and domestic slaves.

I appreciate this, I am not claiming "busism" to be such an evil. But I will still say "busism"  shares a common underlying structure to sexism and racism.

As with all prejudice, "busism"  consists of one sector controlling and utilising most of the available resources at the expense of depleting other sectors of needed resources [in this case we are talking sectors of transport]. It then creates laws and policies,strategies that direct resources away from this disadvantaged sector making it impossible to work effectively, fostering in the process a social stigma that the disadvantaged sector is inherently inferior. 

In the USA, as in many other countries, it means millions of people who are already disadvantaged and on lesser or even minimum wages must spent three hours or more of their working day just getting to and from work, or indeed live in areas so underfunded for public transport they barely get offered a service.  It is system that could soon generate similar effects in Christchurch under Metro proposals.

Xiamen, a major Chinese city has recognised free run for its express buses beats a motorway jammed with cars  any day and has built its busways as an elevated runway. Christchurch planning authorities still seem to see buses as undeserving of sections of entirely segregated corridor, albeit in a small city such as ours not quite so glamorous at that above! Photos by Karl Kjellstrom Courtesy of ITDP

In New Zealand as elsewhere buses are left to battle on-street congestion despite clear evidence of their superior ability if given unconstrained corridors to move thousands of people quickly and directly from one immediate location to another. Yet in our country as in most "developed" countries, billions of dollars have been poured into motorways and commuter rail systems. In contrast buses have been starved of the infrastructure funding and political commitment needed to give them effective quality and infrastructure quality and the social standing to transform our cities in the way of which they are showing themselves capable of doing overseas. 

In our own country "busism" sees two cities, Auckland and Wellington, receiving hundreds of millions of dollars for commuter rail from central Government - funded by the whole country - whilst all other cities and provincial centres are starved for equivalent and realistic funding to sufficiently lift buses out of  sixty years of steady degradation and decline.

Despite the fact buses carry approximately 120 million passengers a year in New Zealand, against railways carrying less than 24 million passengers, it is rail that swallows by far,far,the greatest portion of taxes. And yet, placed under close analysis, rail rarely does as effective a job as buses, with thousands of people driving to stations (or having to bus there!) essentially subsidising its lesser effectiveness and needing vast areas needed for car-parks. Passengers often wait 15 or 30 minutes between services even on busy lines and millions of passengers walking longer distances to access commuter rail.

Commuter rail is a hugely valuable asset in built up urban areas but really only a valuable tool in limited circumstances - spending the same money [or often less per kilometre] on segregated bus corridors (which can feed from multiple suburban locations and drop of at multiple other locations) is far more effective - on Auckland's North Shore buses on the Northern busway every three minutes or so to the city in peak hours - and unlike the city's rail system go to many city destinations without need for further transfer.


Whilst local Government in Canterbury under Mayors Garry Moore and Bob Parker, and various district Mayors; and Environment Canterbury under Sir Kerry Burke and now Dame Margaret Bazley have been happy to see almost $300 million of Canterbury taxes fed into enhanced rail and bus systems for Auckland and Wellington they have not even been able to see where buses are going overseas, and seek some comparable (if lesser) funding to enhance bus travel in Christchurch. 

In Christchurch a lobby within local Government (including Mayor Bob Parker) helped fuel a fantasy of light rail that would have seen $2 billion spent on a light rail and rail network that brought public transport close to less than a third of city population - and then to spend $40 million on buses for the other two thirds.

Yet if even a small portion of that fictitious $2 billion had built bus corridors and bus stations, bought land for corridors and designed intersections and traffic controls with bus movements considered equal or first priority, most people could get anywhere, at predictable times and in predictable pattern, in a city at journey times typically shorter than car travel and parking times.

Although our taxes helped pay for every second whistle stop station on the Kapiti line and Johnsonville lines to upgraded and the platforms extended for the Matangi Trains (in some cases exceeding a million dollars per station) in Wellington region, and billions are spent on motorways the idea of Government funding infrastructure such as a bus lane alongside Clarence Street traffic here is not on!!  Busism. And in this they are typically support by years of local councils believing two or three roadside car parks (even in areas with drive in-apron areas) still must take precedence over bus routes used by thousands per day. Again,busism

Choke-point roading locations (notably where radial roads and bus routes cross the Four Avenues or pass Shopping Malls) are not earmarked for bus priority lanes, queue jumper lanes or even widening. The City Council led by the same Mayor who pushed to spend $400 million creating a 7.5 kilometre tram line down Christchurch's busiest suburban road hasn't managed to create anything more than three part-time bus laned roads (two of them partly bus laned by NZTA) with some major choke points left intact.  

Even today whole new subdivisions have been and are being designed in outer suburbs without central busways that by-pass congested entry points and run consistently and on time to the central city and elsewhere using electric buses with gliding smooth acceleration and deceleration (and no rough or abusive drivers) and centralised (railway type) integrated movements and security control.

Local and regional Government don't even seem to understand the need to create the basic building blocks of modern public transport in Christchurch. 

Most administrators and elected politicians are old school, still anchored in the late 20th century in their prejudices and vision. Their images are tied to the thirty year old musty, lumbering, noisy, black smoke emitting buses of forty years ago; the exposed waiting for buses in all weathers in open bus stops and an often windswept cold Cathedral Square. They see buses like that particularly silly woman, Margaret Thatcher, did, as "looser cruisers" or as our own Mayor implied (after an ill informed trip to the USA) the last resort of "the young, the poor, the elderly and drink drivers who have lost their license"


Underlying the present disastrous attempt to create a multiple suburban  hub and spoke system, there is also "busism". 

As a result of funding cuts and the earthquake Christchurch Metro is trying to create the sort of sophisticated system that relies upon good infrastructure support on all routes to maintain consistent times; that relies on transfers with highly developed integrated system-wide scheduling and high frequency levels on all interacting services. 

This transfer orientated system relies upon safe comfortable transfer stations and the necessary roading space for multiple services to interact (and safe pedestrian zones). 

A high quality integrated system  relies upon a sophisticated computer modelling of people movements and subtle adjustments of a centralised computer control. In other words instead if spending hundreds and hundreds of millions on rail,a city needs to spend scores of millions to create a simple integrated route pattern grid that flows like clockwork - easy to understand, use, it takes you in any direction, it vastly increases choices and per se frequency. 

Fantastic !! Except Ecan - Metro is trying to introduce this as a money saving exercise!!  

How bizarre. 

Anyone with 2 cents of business acumen would look at this proposal and say "You are under capitalised". 

You are coming in at such a low level not only will this scheme fail it will probably do enormous damage to the status, trust and use of buses for decades to come. It is an idea that has huge potential to create a better bus system but it needs millions invested and levels of research and planning and infrastructure quite clearly beyond the funding capacity or even the basic political commitment of current local bodies.

Like all amateur businessmen or businesswomen, probably the bureaucrats dream of starting small and growing a good bus system and customer base. It is crap! It barely works for one business in a hundred let alone a city wide mass transit system that must start from the very beginning with a substantial base

The rush of the puppet Government imposed upon Environment Canterbury appears to be mainly to bring Christchurch back into line with National Governments brutal (high by overseas standards) farebox strategy as fast as possible. 

This is rather than to seek an adequate emergency funding platform from the Government as part of the post quake recovery to help sustain an effective urban public transport system regrow itself across the next ten years.

National's attitude to public transport apart from rail seems exceedingly negative; the attitude of ECan and Christchurch City Council seems riddled with "busism" - buses don't count, buses aren't worth it, Wellington gets a further $88 million dollars of taxpayers's money for rail carriages to carry 12 million commuter trips but Christchurch - notwithstanding the huge added earthquake damage suffered - gets nothing remotely similar  to assist its 17 million trip bus system re-jig itself.

All "busism".

Quality bus on a RedCoach longer distant  commuter coach in USA but even conventional urban buses seem likely to move towards the three seat width and a wider more comfortable seat with arm rest separators and wi-fi access as western obesity grows and bus size gets bigger and longer. 

There is absolutely no reason that public transport needs to operate on a single strata/single service level consumer choice, as long as the amount subsidised per rider by taxes and local rates per remains constant. One size suits all is rarely attractive to consumers but imposed by inherent attitudes of "busism" - keeping buses in their place!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Christchurch - Making Frequent Services Work for Our Money !

If services to the central city are to be cutback NZ in Tranzit believes extending frequent cross town services, The Orbiter . The Metrostar and The Comet  offers far better value for money than the "I was bored on a wandering star"and "lost in space" systems being put forward by Metro. Better one strong reliable mostly straight running relatively frequent service than  infrequent, fragmented, tedious and scary (insane "bus-rage" inducing if connections missed!) transfer routes.

Coupled with potential "split enz" routes (not shown) routes on this map this bring quality access and quality transfer within range of a great many more residents than current  Metro route change proposals. The extended Comet above (red line) offers direct access(no transfers) to multiple employment zones and residential areas; gives one bus access to the airport (for workers or travellers) as far to the east as The Palms; serves three major malls and three smaller malls (at Avonhead, Spitfire Park, Bishopdale) as well as various small shopping centres/medical/dental service nodes; connects to eight high schools* and is within walking access of four intermediate schools and  two swimming pool complexes. 

The extended Orbiter (to Bishopdale) and Redwood, and the extended Metrostar (via Canon Street rather than Edgeware Road between Sherborne and Barbadoes, link much larger residential catchments to the whole route and to their nearest suburban shopping, study and recreation hubs with a round the clock higher frequency service. Implicit in the slightly longer routes (though relatively straight running) is the recognition that in a poorer times, a reduced budget, system, serving more needs, travel time make time slightly longer but total journey times may not (because of less waiting) and busy routes will anyway maintain higher quality access at all operating hours.

Above is my take on an extended route for The Comet. This is linked in with a slight deviation and extension of The Orbiter to include Bishopdale, as a service, shopping and employment zone in itself and as a secondary (but important and time saving) north-west transfer point with land and roading to support an attractive stop. 

 The Comet at the Hornby terminus - A good service that could become even better? Photo NZ in Tranzit

This extended Comet route as suggested in the map above would offer extended frequent access to the airport (and route in general) from the Avonhead area  and access to Burnside High from Ilam areas, rather than merely repeating Route 3  along the same corridor. Otherwise the route remains the same until Wairakei Road when it threads through Bryndwr to Bishopdale. This removes the Nunweek, west end of Harewood Road connection, much of it away from large housing concentrations. These are better served by a more modest suburban route, also linked to Bishopdale. The Comet here then heads straight north, up Highstead Road, to Sawyers Arms Road and the  Northcote area, Casebrook Intermediate, the south end of Cavendish Road and St Bedes before running back through Papanui/Nortlands  Mall. It then continues down to  Papanui Road, before turning into Mays Road (close to St Andrews College)  and then across Rutland Street and Innes Road, running directly across St Albans on Innes Rd, then Briggs Road and touching base with new housing and commercial areas at the city edge of Marshlands Road and then travelling down Joy St/Golf Links Road to a loop around The Palms. Despite the corners in this map (with inflated thick lines for the routes) these are fairly large distances covered with relatively straight flowing running . Also with almost all with good "passenger feeder" streets ...easy access from bus stops to housing further back from the route

Eventually (when roading and bridge repairs make it possible) it is The Comet that  I envisage that would replace The Orbiter (eg The Comet at slightly lower frequency) along the Gayhurst Road/Woodham Rd connecting route between Eastgate and The Palms (I believe the busy Orbiter is far better suited to the higher density L3  apartment areas around north Linwood -Stanmore Road link, the temporary route it now follows).

To make this Comet route really work effectively one of the bus priority measures needing is infrastructure support for exiting buses at BreensRd/Wairakei Road and at Papanui Rd/Mays Road, and possibly exiting Veitches Rd onto Sawyers Arms Rd - this could be as simple as a roading signage back three hundred metres from the intersection saying "Please Slow for Exiting Buses" - it wouldn't work with every motorists but once it was realised it only takes a few seconds slowing  (ie not needing to stop in most cases if far back for a bus to join the traffic flow) I imagine it would become more widely respected. At Breens Road the width of the road there offers also offers possibility for a bus only turning bay. Conventional traffic signals of course are the other option, though these will off course pull more traffic flow through an area.

Despite the longer Comet route I believe this is an excellent and appropriate fast service for airport and for accessing work places at the Malls or Hornby and other points. An implicit understanding is that young people and people of working age will walk further to access direct frequent services. Also that a frequent route is a fast route, less waiting at home or stops, so a little more moving time is not resented, as long as the passage of the bus does not involve too many stop-start intersections or slowing to negotiate corners. The pattern suggested here also voids the absurdity of having up to 20 peak hour buses an hour (Orbiter and Comet) running along Harewood Road to Northlands while equally "adjacent areas" such as Casebrook or Rutland Street get only a fraction of the service!

Obviously there is a whole passenger market in these areas covered by The Comet in this scenario, living or working too far away to access The Orbiter route,  but just as likely to also vigorously support a cross town service, with lots of worthwhile connections (to malls, airport, High and intermediate schools - and church schools with a wider catchment - as well as employment zones and recreation facilities). 

I believe this route illustrates that Christchurch has many options to explore that are better than clumsy hourly transfer links. Bus routes must go where people go and do it in a relatively simple straight forward manner 

A Footnote; I of course have a totally unfair advantage over the poor planners who have been instructed to drastically cut costs (inevitably losing patrons) because I can advocate cost effective services that represent a wiser use of resources and will attract patrons at a higher rate than present  - these  may be good use of funds and better value (for more ratepayers and bus users) but nonetheless cost a bit more to implement.

* High Schools/colleges Shown by the letter H (I=Intermediate School) Note; Hornby High School is off the edge of this map

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Addiction to "one size suits all" - is it too expensive for Christchurch buses?

A specific function service operating in Sydney - one of 200 routes in that city.  Photo per Wikimedia Commons

Metro is making some very big shifts in strategic direction and this blogster's instinct is they are moving too fast and destroying what has been, almost in panic mode; not hallmarks of good planning.

Public transport planning has many tricks up its sleeve but Metro are betting the house almost entirely on the call of one hand of cards - and without too many obvious aces in that hand.. Again never a wise policy with complex infrastructure changes.

NZ in Tranzit questions how much analysis has been made of structural concepts that underpin Metro planning of the last decade, and continue to effect the new proposals.

Simply Does it.  Or does it?

I have long admired the relative simplicity of Metro's route structure. In this strategy,  followed for over a decade at least, every route is the same route, doesn't matter whether peak hour Thursday at 5.15pm or 8.30 am Sunday morning. It goes the same way every time.

Compare for instance the intense complexity of Auckland's bus route structure.

Phew!! Simplicity. I have always though it a good policy for a small city - particularly if we can afford it.  But it is relatively unusual.

Environment Canterbury has about 40 bus route and one ferry route in greater Christchurch and Timaru ; Wellington Regional Council serving an area with only a slightly larger population has about 90 bus, rail, ferry and cable car routes in total; Melbourne has 200 routes;  Sydney has 300 bus routes the Golden Arrow bus operation in Capetown (population the size of Auckland) has 900 bus routes !  

Almost every other city in the world has a hierarchy of services and operates a range of special routes or services supplementary to their main all purpose routes.

The principle divisions appear to be  routes from the city through the suburbs that run six or seven days a week all operating hours; circular and branded cross town services; and specific shuttles, links, feeder buses to stations (bus or rail); routes that run only or mostly in the peak hours - usually direct links to industrial and office park areas (or sometimes to Universities, in term time only), mostly only five days a week. In this latter category are regional express buses or commuter trains and special worker buses to high employment zones, and buses that bypass congested areas, there main purpose being just to shift people efficiently from one hub point/transfer station to another. In the evenings some bigger cities evening special services or after midnight buses (as Redbus did for some years in Christchurch) or to big sports and entertainment events. 

It takes a big city to run too many of these because bitzer services typically need a large population to provide sufficient patrons to warrant such links. And regardless of all the variations larger more frequent routes and routes with branded services, such as The Orbiter or The Metrostar in Christchurch  will always be the big carriers.  

But it seems to me takes a very rich city to run virtually NO supplementary routes at all, as has been the case in Christchurch for the last decade!

As I said, I have previously thought it the super simple, one route fits all occasions to be a  good strategy for for a small city. But there is genuine problem of over-bussing on some corridors and creating under-filled buses, and generating public backlash and then a contempt for the effectiveness of buses which undermines funding at a political level too. Christchurch has (had prior to quakes) a good bus system around the clock so to speak but attracted only a very dismal portion of "peak hour commuters using public transport"  (less than half that of similar size/similar demographic footprint stand alone cities such as Canberra, Victoria and Halifax in Canada, and only quarter Wellington's commuter share*). 

It certainly makes me wonder if that "one size suits all only "policy has been taken far too far.

The effect is to run buses through dead areas or to and from places of low demand in the weekends and evenings (and the operating costs do not get less just because there is less traffic or passengers) OR even worse NOT have adequate commuter routes and links through industrial areas OR to be running through route bus services that do not warrant the frequency of service at both ends of the route OR have buses running through open country and low density areas because they offer a faster connection between locations in peak hours that is not even relevant the other two thirds of operating time.

Public transport usage is going to be fairly closely linked to population density and to factors such as the greater number of car-less people typically living or staying (as tourists, overseas students or visitors) closer to the heart of a city and the much larger amount of movement in these areas in evenings. 

If the same service regularity applies from city to outermost suburb, the inner areas risked being underbussed (or not having higher frequency services tailored to their needs and a frequency level that will attract sufficient  patronage) and the outer areas being overbussed (at least in terms of cost effective use of funds).

Overbussed or underbussed - the end result is blunderbussed! 

Instead or well targeted strategy to meet the needs of a range of situations or population sectors we end up with a shotgun scatter approach, that it is hoped might meet the needs of at least some potential passengers.

Why for instance is Metro proposing to drag the "120 Burnside-Barrington" route down from Westfield, through parts of Addington, industrial Sydenham etc  completely by-passing direct access to city for an enormous swathe of Bryndwr and Burnside residents in the North-west and by passing the central city access for a lesser portion of Addington, Selwyn shops (ex shops) area and Spreydon and Barrington area in the South.

This to me seems a really twisted, the one size suits all policy now being extended  (distorted) to shifting buses away from the city. One size suits all but the suit fits no one properly! It confuses different roles, mall access; city centre access, new L3 (higher density) area services; and peak hour industrial/office park services AND doesn't do any of them justice!

Much realistic would be to create a bus route I have already nick named in my head the "The SoMo Rider" - a peak hour industrial/office park/retail staff  (mainly) service from Woolston roundabout that runs via Rutherford St, Garlands Road and Opawa Road, linking with No 3 Sumner-Riccarton; Lyttelton and Orbiter routes; then running via Shakespeare Road and Wordsworth Street to central Sydenham continuing perhaps via Orbell Street and Disraeli Street and Harman Street to Lincoln Road then up Whiteleigh Avenue and Clarence Street to the bus mall (yeah right) on Maxwell Street at the back of Westfield. This traverses these key industrial areas in a manner that links to work start hours at the key zones up 6am to 10am then resumes again at 12 pm (to cover lunch movements and part time workers - 23% of our working population) and goes through to 6pm. Comparatively speaking it does the job needed - connecting to multiple services along the way - and its cheap. Two or three bus drivers on broken shifts, Monday to Friday, meal break time not needing cover, none of this expensive nonsense of running with one passenger to 9pm at night,  or all through the day on Sundays etc.

There may be need for services to higher density residential areas  in some areas, on or near parts of this route,  but tasks are not confused. This is a dedicated worker service designed to be cost effective. Far from being cheaper the same service all hours is (a) wasting money off peak (b) as with the proposed 20 route to only the west side of Sydenham, not covering enough territory or enough transfer points to other routes, to be effective. And if it doesn't work it is easy to withdraw without effecting the whole route structure.

No other city of comparable population and demographics to Christchurch has such a poor record of attracting peak hour commuters and this record looks likely to get much worse, if journeys are made more difficult.

Why Metro is making such drastic cuts in service frequency and cutting direct access to the city completely for such large areas, and yet not running the sorts of effective and low cost additional link services that other cities do? 

This is a question that should be asked

NZ in Tranzit believes if savings have to be made;

Main trunk routes (including the Metrostar and The Comet) should have a 15/30 minute frequency in the core trunk, and two outer area arms running at half this frequency 30/60, these absorbing much of the role of lesser used routes in outer areas. 

(a) to reduce over-bussing in corridors like Riccarton Road 
(b) to avoid the necessity for transfers 
(c) to create a knowable high frequency core service to a hub in the general area for kiss and ride or "second best" (longer walk) options 
(d) to increase the options for transfers when two high frequency routes interact (in an integrated scheduling) 8 possible direct routes across the city become available.

Frequent service routes should be made to work harder - if we as a city are a bit poorer some routes may need to cover a bit more ground, straight running but be bit more embracing, to bring frequent services within access to a wider catchment of the city and void the need for existing secondary routes. Sample The Orbiter added loop via Wairakei Road and Farrington Avenue and then Harewood  Rd to incorporate Bishopdale and its interactive transfer stop with The Comet and other routed or shuttle services to the airport employment zone.

Frequent services should interact with other frequent services, and not necessarily just at congested mall zones.  In the Northwest for instance useful secondary transfer hubs could operate from Avonhead Mall and Bishopdale Mall, mediating services across the whole north-west, airport and associated airport zones, and these hubs themselves linked to larger hubs Ilam and Westfield; and Northlands. The primary transfer structure should be based around the interaction of services operating every 15 minutes or less, at very least in peak hours.

Possibilities of transfer should be manifold but mainly as options not necessities. Noted - when two higher frequency services with split ends cross, 8 possible direct routes intersect! In particular specialised short high, frequency in peak hours,  spurs  linked to The Orbiter should be considered.

Long winding routes traversing multiple intersections and congested areas, and operating only hourly, should not be viewed as suitable to carry major transfer functions, particularly for peak hour worker/student arrival time linked passenger traffic. Any service on these would be better at 30 minute frequency within a short time band 9am - 1 pm for example aimed at Granny Shoppers and young mothers, Mon-Sat.

The bulk of cross town traffic from these areas should be met by The Orbiter; The Metrostar and extending The Comet route northwards (from Bishopdale via Highstead Road and Northcote Road) and eastwards (via Papanui Road and Innes Road...ideally via Mays Rd and Rutland St if traffic controls were possible - across to Briggs Road and Marshlands Rd and The Palms. This is also part of a general strategy to get direct (one bus) links from all the major mall hubs to the airport, for both travellers and workers.

As well as the general existing criteria of a bus service within 500 metres of 95%  residents, a more specific criteria of direct access to the city centre should be obtainable within, say, 600 metres, to 95% of all residents between 7 am and 7pm at night six days a week and Sundays from 9am -7pm

The coming influx of 40,000 workers and their families, many immigrants from countries with long histories of higher public transport use, and the failure of oil production to rise above its five year plateau in production suggest very soon public transport usage -including  those travelling to a vigorously rebuilding and restarting central city - is likely to rocket.

 Government must be approached for financial and technical assistance to avoid the implosion of the current bus system into a set of shambolic fractured journeys relying on a high level of transfer efficiency quite impossible without more frequent services and major added investment in supportive infrastructure

This approach also reflects the gross and distorted under-funding of public transport in comparison to Auckland and Wellington over the last decade.

Roading controls that allow buses access to otherwise difficult intersections are of particular importance, as without these all routes are always forced to operate through congested chokepoints. These latter intersections will be very expensive to bus lane, if possible at all, and likely to narrow car lanes adding to congestion,  whilst buses anyway forced to use these intersections are often missing opportunity to service the main body of larger residential pockets.

The ridiculously slow pace of bus laning should be moved up, with an accent of laning of certain hotspots first - notably Lincoln Road at Addington and Barrington Street -Whiteleigh Avenue;and the northbound lane heading into the bus stops at Northlands, and probably access points to the Main North Road at Northcote Road and Blighs Road, and at Aldwins Road approaching Eastgate.

Service departure times should be dropped from "The Orbiter" 3pm - to 6pm and replaced with the simple message "services depart every ten minutes" with on the ground timekeepers ensuring buses don't bunch up and create 20 or 30 minute delays, completely undermining many transfer options. (En route staff room and driver change-over point needed)

[Slightly re-edited February 2018]

Monday, July 16, 2012

Metro Misusing Useful Concept - Undermining Bus Status

Those who have put together the Draft Regional Public Transport Plan 2012 no doubt drove to the meeting and drove home. When they go to the supermarket they will drive there, on Saturday night when they go out for a meal, they will drive there. On Sunday they will not wait in the freezing cold rain because they have promised to visit their elderly mother. On Monday morning they will not need to catch three different buses, and be at a bus stop at 6.30 am just to guarantee(almost) being at work by 8.00 am.

Because no one, no one, who depended on public transport to get about would ever design such a diabolical recipe for delays, long waits, cumbersome journeys doubling back on routes already travelled, sitting in buses waiting for a connection, tedious twist and turn journeys, anxiety and missed connections, fear of oneself or one's teenage children being stranded for an hour at night in some other bullying teenagers "territory", fear of being late for work yet again and losing jobs or personal mana.

No. The people voting for this system will think "Yes there will be resistance at first, this a new concept we are introducing to Christchurch, it has worked well overseas, they will just have to get used to it." (aren't we clever innovators, visionaries!). Others will say "Too many buses were coming into the city centre. this is better use of them". It is a half truth - and as such helps fluff the issue  and confuse opposition. As so common  in public transport planning generalisations are usually of minimal value, so much is situation specific.

The basic concept being applied by Metro - and I don't know if this is willingly or with great personal dismay and misgivings by the actual planners and administrative staff who have to accept God's word from above - is used around the world and can be highly successful. Because one route can't do everything, routes essentially run to suburban hub points, where multiple other routes run off in different directions, including to other hubs.

In big cities where services run every five minutes, or in worse case off-peak scenarios, every 15 minutes it allows for very fast movement in every direction. There's almost no waiting and that is the important thing.

In other circumstances - where the amount of time saved is insignificant or it adds to journey time in a situation where there are other options it will not be popular. Transferring from one vehicle to another is cumbersome and most people avoid it - I remember reading a Melbourne transit administrator saying when they ran feeder buses to a commuter railway station, if that same feeder bus continued into town by another route, the transit authority had found many of the passengers didn't bother transferring but just continued into the city, even if took slightly longer. One of the great luxuries of bus travel is to snuggle down into one's inner space, in limbo from the normal call's upon one's time - transfers can also interrupt or destroy one of bussing's greatest attractions. Another piece of information I read years ago, but whose source I didn't file on the computer and I can't now find - one of the guideline manuals for public transit administrators from overseas - said as a rule of thumb any journey involving transfers (or changing to one involving transfers) typically will lose about 20% of patronage, people who find other ways to travel, use a car instead etc

These people who drive to meetings in cars to decide how others travel by bus should also be aware of what waiting time time is - for scheduling criteria this is determined as 50% of the period of time between services on any particular route. This concept assumes if you have 100 people who decide to make a journey within a time period, the preferred time of departure will average out across that that whole period. Of course at peak hours, where most  people are travelling to be somewhere on the hour or half hour we can assume that will have a couple of peaks, be less pronounced. Indeed every hour probably has a small degree of peaking for journeys arriving at major people hubs just before "the hour".

A bus service operating every 15 minutes has a seven and half minute waiting time. If you have a route that takes 25 minutes to traverse, then typical journey time will be 25 + 7 minutes + walking to and from the stop time. It makes it very hard to be competitive, but still you can get most places in Christchurch in an hour all added up, and still arrive at work ten minutes early, for a coffee if you are lucky. But the waiting time for a half hourly service lifts that to 25 + 15 [plus walking] = 40 minutes. Forget the coffee! - indeed arrival time at work may be too close to chance it, you could end up being five or ten minutes late any-time you struck an overly slow driver or traffic congestion caused a bus to miss several lights. In that case so you are forced to catch an earlier bus on this half hourly schedule and the waiting time for an hourly service is 25+30 [plus walking] taking bus journey time up into the realms between one hour and 10 minutes and  one and half hours. Or twice a day - in worst case scenario 3 hours a day.

This is bottom line stuff, how quality of services is measured; the Metro proposal is to have low quality services to large areas of Christchurch.

... and this is before adding any time that will be spent (or lost) waiting for a transfer bus.

Metro or the joint ECan-Councils committee has taken a concept from big cities overseas that works well for frequent and reliable services and is misusing this in a situation where many of the service will only be hourly - some even only hourly in peak hours. 

And Metro hubbing these services at  busy malls where there is neither sufficient roading, bus lanes and clear passage, shelter or facilities or cross road safety, or immediate facilities for toilets [because bus passengers needing to go just can't drive off to the nearest toilet, and this can be very hard on the elderly or younger children in particular].

When a system is used badly it gives that system a bad name, it gives buses a bad name. Bus based public transit systems are on a huge rise in usage and status and service quality all over the world because they are finally getting the investment and dedicated planning skills and segregated roading space so long denied them.
Although 80% of world public transport is by bus, very rarely do these systems get a fraction of the investment of rail and light rail, yet they are by far the most effective, flexible, and economic operation to operate.

What Metro (or a faceless planning committee) is doing is applying good technology in an inept and poorly understood way, likely to reduce patronage, grossly imposing upon the life quality and time space of bus users,  and likely to do enormous damage to the image and effectiveness of bus systems in Christchurch for decades.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bus system crashing.....

Environment Canterbury is making the most savage cuts in bus service history under cover of reforming bus route structure. But have City Council and ECan really done an effective job in managing buses services and their  recovery?  Or are ratepayers and bus passengers paying a very high price (literally and in loss of life quality)  for a service that suffered far more that it might have, had there been more effective civic leadership more committed to public transport.

NZ in Tranzit investigates the "other fault lines" that have helped destroy a very good bus system

As a result of several severe earthquakes (and multiple aftershocks) multiple city buildings in the city centre were destroyed or made unsafe to occupy. The whole central area of devastated Christchurch was declared a no-entry zone to unauthorised persons. and all businesses and other enterprises had to relocate to temporary or permanent new premises outside this area.

Many streets and the underlying sewerage and water systems in city and suburbs  were severely damaged and ruptured and thousands of houses became unlivable - as much as 6% of total city housing stock.

For Christchurch's public transport system has two or three cross town and orbital routes but is still largely based on a a "spokes of the wheel" system, matching the most flat city's shape. About thirty routes radiate out from the central city hub, which is also used as the primary transfer point.

It was clear from the start that the number of people working or studying in the central city zone would drop radically, perhaps as much as 90% with most of those jobs in the peripheral areas to the red zone, where intact buildings were less likely to be compromised by neighbouring larger buildings. The Public Hospital was probably the largest workplace still operative.

It was also clear that many streets were impassable, blocked by damage or emergency water and sewage pumping stations, and at best even if passable many would not support heavy vehicles such as buses. This concentrated traffic onto a reduced number of streets with much added congestion, particularly in the crescent of streets linking north and south areas through the less damaged inner western suburbs such as Addington and Riccarton.

Before the earthquake 60,000 bus trips a business day (and a number of ferry trips) were taken on the city public transport system, a system relied upon by approximately 25-30,000 persons a day (roughly the population of Timaru). This included not only workers and students but about 8% of the population (one in 12) who according to the last census do not have access to private transport. Many of these latter people are elderly, disabled or poor and would have added trouble accessing to basic supplies such as food with multiple supermarkets closed, some irreparably damaged. 

The task facing Environment Canterbury, Chaired by Dame Margaret Bazley after the National Government removed elected members, was to do everything possible to restore links between home and workplaces and schools, and ensure that those dependent upon public transport were given the support they needed. 

Luckily, Dame Margaret Bazley has a reputation for being a person who gets things done and for being a trouble shooter (she is not paid $1400 a meeting for nothing). Public transport in Canterbury is one of the big ticket and primary functions of ECan, arguably the function effecting the most people [and ECan ratepayers] most directly on a day to day basis. 

This is the awesome story of how Metro and City Council saved our bus system and kept the city moving.

From the start Dame Bazley realised she was required to play a more interactive leadership role, and monitor efforts being made closely to ensure they were effective as possible given the circumstances.

It was clear that the central city would be out of action for a year, possibly several years, with many demolitions necessary and therefore, bringing almost all buses into the central area was no longer relevant. The key aspect was to ensure through route service links remained available. Even if the routes had to be cut in half, to avoid the added distortions caused by traffic jams and bus delays, it was important to keep the through function as simple and effective as possible - find one central point to replace the transfer function of the former Bus Exchange. Access to the central city was largely irrelevant but anyway easily covered by route patterns and a shuttle. This was instantly and easily grasped by both Metro and Council transport officers.

In the circumstances a proper bus exchange system with buses able to move in both directions and no obstructions from parked cars was set up beside the former sale yards in Deans Avenue. The NZ army helped erect floodlighting and the scaffolding and canvas work for platform side wind shelters, and two buses were converted to waiting areas after adequate ramps were created for elderly and disabled access, with added lighting and heating to alleviate the rather gloomy dank and smelly atmosphere. Project Legit made a superb mural on the old sale yards building which was otherwise sealed off. and two food and coffee outlets were also granted license to operate. 

The City Council helped out by using cones and signage to remove stop the usual half dozen cars that normally park in Harper Avenue from blocking up a very useful bus lane, the Fendalton Road/Harper Avenue tradffic signals were re-jigged to include an over-ride switch allowing a day time points-man to activate extended greens or delayed reds when buses were approaching. This helped keep a better link from all Northern route buses tofro the Exchange point. 

The central zone was served by a shuttle service looping the damage area, to ensure residents and workers around the edges continued to get access, the loop moving closer in over the months as more areas, post demolition were opened for resumption of activities in remaining safe buildings. 

Retaining an effective bus service was seen as a major key to reducing congestion on limited through roads as well as reduce the burden on resources, with reduced service stations and vehicle servicing facilities.

Metro is a large organisation handling over $60 million income a year, half from rates and taxes, and needless to say maintained proper professional research, networking and liaison systems with its city wide customer base, notably through its online networking with the 1000 biggest people "movement generators" in the city. 

Workplaces, educational sites, hospitals, the airport, recreational centres, malls and events organisations are just some of the multiple sites which are sent a simple survey  every six months, tick boxes identifying site numbers and shift hours, plans for increases or reductions in staff or new branches or site relocations. In the event of big changes planned a personal liaison is made with an appropriate administrators by Metro's customer sales team and details shared with planners in monthly reports and planning meetings.

It was this network that made it relatively straightforward to "shift the pins in the map", as to where new workplaces were being created or existing sites expanded. It was also linked to the marketing department which was able to create on-line and paper format fliers and posters advising recent route changes through these thousand key sites, for staff and public noticeboards, as well as on-line notices to email subscribers and through Metro's Facebook.  

The marketing department used a bus stop hierarchy  tree, ranking bus stops by most usage, which allowed quick and targeted pasting of updates, route and timetable changes etc using the same "reach as many people as possible" concepts once used by amateur organisations such as Halt All Racist Tours in their campaigns to stop sporting ties with Apartheid South Africa. This effectively helped reached thousands of people not anyway on-line and/or who had lost cell phones and computers and computer access fleeing damaged buildings.

It was not rocket science, but Dame Bazley made sure that the ECan commissioner responsible for Transport, Rex William (paid only $900 a meeting) was right there for thousands of  people already suffereing service cuts and multiple private effects of the disaster.

It was quickly perceived that the bulk or relocations, perhaps predictably, were to underused capacity in the "indycorr" the extended industrial/office park zone running between Ferrymead, through Woolston, Waltham, Sydenham, Addington, Middleton, Parkhouse, Hornby and Islington, with added activity at Rolleston; and areas around the Airport and Sheffield Park.  It was also identified The Orbital Route was getting the heaviest usage, and offered movement around the city that was impaired but still relatively fluid. 

The obvious move was to link some short frequent shuttles from these areas to The Orbiter - given most bus companies had surplus buses and surplus staff, this was relatively simple, In particular Metro instituted services running every 15 minutes in peak hours and half hourly at other times- a shuttle loop from the Airport area and Sheffield Crescent directly to The Orbiter route, and similar loop from The Orbiter route at Westfield to the Birmingham - Parkhouse employment zone.

Several eastside high schools had been amalgamated with undamaged schools in the west - one school operating 9am - 1pm the other 1.30pm - 6pm or similar. Scores of buses were used to transport students a cross the city and this gave Metro the clue to create a skeleton level express service from The Palms using the same route to give workers access to these shuttle service and key western areas. 

This was made a little easier after Dame Margaret Bazley secured an extra $5 millon dollars for emergency bus services, although of course it was only a minute drop in the ocean compared to the billions of dollars for recovery efforts in other fields. 

Speaking on the day the emergency funding was made available, then Minister of Transport Steven Joyce speaking in Wellington  said the agreement would help ensure the delivery of a "very,very good commuter system". Dame Margaret apologised profusely for being overly vigorous in pushing Canterbury's case, interrupting Wellington's latest moment of self congratulation.. Minister Joyce generously responded, "No matter m'dear, but please don't make habit of it". 

Dame Margaret and her off shoot Rex Williams, recognised it might be two or three years before a larger bus could go down some streets, and it was important to get a fleet of several shuttle vans into service. The world was waiting to help Christchurch and it three of the larger international vehicle manufacturers jumped at the chance to help out and publicise their goodwill efforts, supplying three vehicles each and these were provided three each to the main bus operators, Redbus, Leopard and GoBus. Through this method a regular half hourly service was reinstated to quake stricken areas, notably in the eastside of the city, from Lyttelton and Sumner through to Parklands, where multiple supermarkets had been put out of action and even obtaining fresh water had become a dusty trek with bottles to an emergency tank and spiggot.(Or did I just dream this - Ed)

Large numbers of houses were destroyed in the east, as much as 10%, and in some areas the ground has proved so unstable that whole streets will never be rebuilt. The radical drop of population is reflected in school rolls, the Avondale School for instance  - at the heart of one of hit areas - reporting one year after the February 22nd 2011 mega-quake that its roll had dropped from 425 to 310 (almost 25%!) due to people moving out of the area. 

Possibly as much as third of the population of around 30,000 people, in the seven census blocks most effected, have left. Obviously commercial interests can still add up the sums re population numbers and major super market Pak'N'' Save on Wainoni Road is keeping their supermarket (with 285 staff) open, adding a fuel outlet and spending $20 million on repairs and upgrade. 

Environment Canterbury has been just as committed to the area - taking only nine months (phew who burnt the midnight oil there!!)  to create an alternative service, Eastgate to the Palms via Aranui and Avondale etc (no direct link to city) to replace the two, half hourly city-suburb bus routes, 84 and 51, pulled out of this area due to roading damage and repairs. Using one van is economic - it allows a two hourly service, daylight hours and no suitable service for schools and workplaces, including the two mentioned above, because first trip is after 9am. As the time between trips from these key shopping malls is one hour twenty, the amount of time most pensioners take to full a bag of twenty minutes leaves an hour to kill, a great chance for an elderly person to use up their pension on coffee and cakes, or just farting around going to the toilet three times. 

And after all that fantastic effort to help Christchurch bus users stay mobile what a blow, that at its lowest 55% of passengers deserted the services!!   

Although only 2.5% of people left the city. Surely there is a big fault line under those figures. A 25% drop, a 33% drop,in bus use in the first months, that would be understandable, sure. 

But to drop the ball as badly as occurred took special expertise!  Sorry folks, now we just have to hack shit out of the best bus service in New Zealand.

Damn it,  Dame Bazley and boy Rex  fought like tigers,. but what could we do, this was a major earthquake, this wasn't our fault. It was the fault lines fault!  We just took the money cause we are worth it.

Such a wonderful story .....

NZ in Tranzit believes the photos below are closer to the real story, culled from past blog entries

Maintaining through flow;

A clumsy system of two central city transfers needed - three buses minimum - to cross town North-South, that often took two hours or more just get a few kilometres did enormous damage to patronage and the status and image of Metro. The bus shelter in a bus was good in theory but most people voted with their feet to stay outside where they see buses coming and going - the City Council appears to chosen  to ignore this obvious preference and made no attempt to use scaffold and canvas or similar to create curbside wind and rain shelters.

It was incomprehensible too many regular passengers why only one side of Hagley Avenue was used and a few parked cars (see right side of photo above) were given precedence by the City Council  over thousands of bus users who as a result had to travel prolonged loop, and switch buses twice, often wasting hours to travel cross city. Hard to understand indeed, indeed why the "Bus transfer station was sited where it was, when location in Deans Avenue (near sale yards) or further down Hagley Avenue near Hagley High (using both sides of the road - see cars parked below on this Sunday morning photo) - both of these options offered multiple opportunities to route buses in ways that significantly reduced journey times and maintained ease of transfers. 

Main stop at Queenspark photographed on April 24 2011 - eight weeks after the February 22nd mega-quake Metro marketing isn't even oganised enough  to paste or maintain  "services no longer operating" posters on this and other stops on the Queenspark route, and elsewhere

Council assistance for buses

Regrettably I have lost the photo of a LINK bus queueing on Harper Avenue while the lane adjoining the golf course had about four parked cars blocked probably 500 metres of potential bus lane.

Shuttle services to and from The Orbiter or Metrostar

Metro appears to have operated no additional or emergency services other than the LINK bus between the two central city area bus transfers, despite the large number of buses and bus drivers under-employed because of cuts in other services. It continues to design bus routes that lack clear "hop off - hop on" alignment of routes to foster easy transfers.

Networking, customer base tracking and marketing

Neither as a full time bus user, nor employee of a large corporate body, nor as a researcher of public transport information over many years have I ever seen any trace that Metro is working from a fully comprehensive customer data base, a continuously updated city modelling or that it networks on a regular basis with organisations that generate passenger traffic. Even their timetable stands, specifically aimed at passengers, have no room or added noticeboard section for updating customers.

Right hand photo - poor structure, poor scheduling choices, lack of empathy or understanding of passenger needs,  poor signage. lack of maintenance!  Departure point for the four remaining bus routes from New Brighton scattered between two different locations, 100 metres apart, no clear pattern is kept of spelt (this stop is for northeastern services via The Palms except when they come from Southshore via Eastgate). The other stop is for all services direct to the city via Eastgate). None of this is simply and clearly defined - and regular replacement or cleaning of the clear plastic covers of these signs is rare.

Services to elderly etc for accessing supermarkets

The appalling neglect by Environment Canterbury of the elderly and disabled, and the deep impact it made upon their morale and sense of independence was also noted by articles in suburban newspapers, two of of thse articles referred to in this blog posting 

Emergency Fundraising from Government/CERA

The Government is tolerating a lower farebox return in the next few recovery years but apart from a contribution towards the new Central Bus Station,( incidentally, built for about 1/70th the cost of Auckland's Swanson Railway station serving less than 4000 residents), remarkably little call appears to have been made upon Earthquake Recovery Funds being distributed for multiple other purposes. 

Sponsored Assistance from Overseas

ECan may be planning to make bus services a cot case but they don't ask for charity!  Or even a fair share of the NZ transport dollar for that matter!

Ecan and Council making strong commitment to the thousands of people still living in eastern suburbs.

Is there any wonder that people have deserted the bus services in their tens of thousands?