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


  1. David, very interesting ideas you put forward. You make some good points. I wonder though if you havn't given enough thought to the costs of all those extensions to the Orbiter and Comet.

    That extension of the Orbiter out to Bishopdale alone would probably add something in the order of $350,000-$500,000 a year to the cost of operating Orbiter (annual cost of extra km, hours and two extra buses).

    Costs mount up quickly on high frequency bus routes so there really have to be a lot of passengers generated by the extension to make it worthwhile. Would Bishopdale really add $350k of revenue to make up the extra cost? Would the extra distance and time put others off using the Orbiter negating any patronage/revenue growth from Bishopdale?

    You're right about Harewood Road and I always wonderred if the Orbiter should have taken a more direct route from the Uni to Papanui to avoid that double up. The cost saving could then pay for a better bus route on Harewood Road that does serve Bishopdale.

  2. Yep you certainly have some good points, as does LX with the suggestion for the Orbiter. If these cross suburban routes get planned right they may cover some of the suburban areas. Maybe the Orb can can via Wairakei/Blighs and the Commie go past Bishopdale mall and down Condell/Matsons (although maybe even taking it north toward Belfast and then across to service some of the possible new earthquake replacement developments may work)? This could give them service frequency to Papanui where they can then hit the new 'high frequency' services going into town. This might be better than running these routes 'as is' and cheaper than adding the new feeder lines that metro are showing on their new proposed 'hub' map. The possibilities are there but as you point out Dave we don't get to see the costs of our suggestions... maybe we should just encourage more bus users to get out and bike. The paper tells me we are a lazy nation so spending some money on cycling (and cycle facilities associated with bus routes - stands next to bus shelters as a start) rather than on any more roads that only get car commuters to work faster for a month might be a good future!