Thursday, August 30, 2012

NZ Transport Agency announces major transport investment for Canterbury

Press Release: New Zealand Transport Agency – Southern region

The NZ Transport Agency has announced an investment of approximately $1billion in Canterbury’s transport system over the next three years through the 2012/15 National Land Transport programme, that sees major investments in Christchurch’s roads of national significance projects, public transport and repairs to quake damaged transport infrastructure.

This programme follows the direction outlined in the Government Policy Statement on land transport funding (GPS), with a focus on creating transport solutions that will support economic growth and productivity, improve safety, provide people with a range of transport choices and deliver the best possible value for money.

The NZTA’s Regional Director for the Southern region Jim Harland, says between $130 and $180m is expected to be invested for each of the next three years of the 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme in emergency works in response to earthquake recovery challenges. The thrust of the programme for the next three years is to grow the Canterbury’s economy and support the recovery of Christchurch.

A key focus of the programme is continuing to support the region’s resilient export sector by progressing the Christchurch Motorways roads of national significance projects, and maintaining and improving Canterbury’s strategic freight routes.

Another priority is public transport, with $130m being invested to increase public transport patronage in Christchurch which has dropped by 40% since the 2010/11 earthquakes. The NZ Transport Agency supports Environment Canterbury’s recent proposal for a redesigned public transport network for Christchurch that will more efficiently service the market at lower overall cost, he said.

Funding for key projects to help create transport solutions for a thriving Canterbury include:

• Approximately $40 million to complete the first stage of the Christchurch southern motorway road of national significance

• Progressing work to four-lane State highway 1 from Harewood Road to Hornby on the Western Corridor on the Christchurch road of national significance programme, and completing the design and consenting for the Western Belfast Bypass section of this corridor.

• Completing consenting and design for stages two and three of the Christchurch Southern Motorway and the four-laning of State highway 1 to Rolleston

• Additional investment in investigating a high productivity motor vehicle route between Timaru and Christchurch to carry vehicle weighing up 53 Tonnes to more efficiently move freight to grow the Canterbury and New Zealand economies.

• Widening and strengthening of the Factory Road Bridge in Timaru to increase the safety and freight carrying capacity of roads servicing the Clandeboye dairy factory

• A $130 million investment over the next three year to improve public transport in Christchurch and lower its overall operating costs.

Mr Harland said another significant project being progressed in the region in the 2012-15 National Land Transport programme is a start on replacing the Waitaki Bridges on state highway 82 at Kurow over the next three years that involves an investment of $17 million. This news will be welcomed in the local area as the new bridges will increase the route security and resilience for the state highway 82/83 route and those living in the area. The NZ Transport Agency appreciates the patience of the local community who have been waiting to hear this news.
Mr Harland said the investment in Canterbury is part of a $12.28 billion investment in New Zealand’s land transport system set out in the 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), including $9.38 billion from the National Land Transport Fund. The National Land Transport Programme is a partnership between local authorities (who invest funding from ratepayers and prioritise activities and projects for funding) and the NZTA (which develops the programme and invests National Land Transport Fund funds collected from road users through vehicle registration fees and fuel taxes).

While the 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme represents a significant investment in New Zealand’s transport system, with the country facing tight economic conditions, not all proposed activities could be funded.

“We’ve been working closely with Canterbury local authorities for several months to ensure that funding is carefully targeted to the areas and the activities where it is needed the most and where it will deliver the best outcomes for the greatest number of people in the region. We will continue working closely with them as the 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme is implemented over the next three years.” Mr Harland says. 

The preparation of this programme has been informed by 16 regional transport committees and Auckland Transport developing and submitting regional land transport programmes outlining activities to be prioritised for funding.

National and regional National Land Transport Programme documents, Q&As and other information can be found on the NZ Transport Agency website at

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Small reductions in car use, big increase in public transit usage

Christchurch bus usage continues to increase as the city recovers. One effect of rises in oil prices may 
stimulate an even faster recovery   Photo; NZ in Tranzit

I recently came across this interesting comment about the likely effect of oil price rises and reduced driving upon public transport, in an article written by Tod Litman, an executive director of the Victoria Transit Policy Institute, a well respected, independent, institute for researching transport based in Canada.

Writing of the upsurge in public transport usage in reference to North America Tod said (the bit that caught my eye most)

Most public transit systems are now experiencing severe peak period crowding which discourages some potential transit users and perpetuates the impression that public transit is an uncomfortable and inferior form of transport.

This occurs because small reductions in vehicle traffic cause proportionately larger increases in public transit demand. Currently, about 98% of motorized travel is by automobile and 2% by public transit. When people reduce driving in response to incentives such as higher fuel prices or reduced incomes, 10-20% typically shifts to public transit, the rest consists of reduced or shorter automobile trips, and shifts to walking, cycling and ridesharing. Thus, a 5% reduction in automobile travel demand increases public transit demand by 25-50%.

Few public transit systems are prepared for such increases. This is a lost opportunity to solve traffic problems. Virtually everybody benefits from transit service improvements that attract travelers who would otherwise use an automobile.

I ran this through the filter of three statistics I know off the top of my head; there are a 11 million vehicle journeys a day in New Zealand; 47% of vehicle trips in NZ are commercial; 70% of public transport usage in New Zealand occurs in Auckland and Wellington.

Taking it up a simple 6 million private vehicle journeys a day, 1% equals 60,000. If 10-20% of these people switch to using public transport, than that is 6 -12,000 extra bus, rail and ferry passengers per day, nationwide. On current annual transit ridership* of Dunedin, Hamilton, Tauranga and several other provincial cities totalled - we could expect about two third of the 30% of public transport trips in New Zealand outside of Auckland and Wellington to be taken in Christchurch. That is between 1,800 and 3,600 extra trips a day on Environment Canterbury Metro  services for every 1% reduction in car use.

Before the earthquakes devastated the central and eastern suburbs, Christchurch buses (and one small ferry) were carrying about 60,000 passenger trips per business day, so a 1% shift from car use represents a bout a 3 - 6% % public transport use as an increase growth on the old norm. 

All things being equal! To be sure, there are too many other factors to make this anything but a rough equation, but it is an interesting one all the same and does offer some sort of measuring stick.  This is particularly so if upped oil prices reduced car usage by, say, 3 % (roughly 5,500 to 11,000 extra Christchurch passengers a day). This starts pushing growth up towards 20% on pre-quake usage and despite plenty of surplus capacity at the moment, public transport in crucial periods or locations, could quickly clog up.

The difficult thing for bus planning is it could occur virtually overnight, in a matter of a few weeks or months. Or of course, not all all, because although most of the climate changes predictions seem to be coming true (though much faster than expected) socio-economic predictions tend to be terribly unreliable and human innovations constantly shift the landscape in unexpected directions. 

In the circumstances it can only be an educated guess that a lot of future journeys, if fuel costs rise significantly,  will involve "kiss and ride" - short delivery and pick up  trips of older children, teenagers, wife or hubby, or visiting relatives ("mum comes over on Fridays to baby sit the kids" etc ) tofro outer bus routes and transfer points. 

Longer "ferry" journeys made on a regular basis will come to be seen as a major fuel and time waste, one of the first ways to amend transport usage while keeping the convenience of the car. Ensuring buses travel in an integrated pattern, serving adjacent routes alternately and interacting with transfer/option friendly spacing at outer transfer nodes -  and that ALL services to outer locations are marketed in a "see all options way" -  could be a key factor in serving longer journey needs in a fuel price induced passenger growth pattern.

Apart from the mirage of Christchurch's long promised suburban transfer stations I suggest about 20 other transfer nodes, little more than larger than normal bus stops with real time plasma signs, where two or more bus routes that criss cross or interact are brought into conjunction in a way that allows easy transfer, within a schedule framework of alternating trips. This essentially doubles or more, the frequency of access to city or larger shopping complexes and employment zones etc, as compared to each route alone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dom-Post dismisses light rail in Wellington

Wellington's Airport Flyer - despite commuter rail from Hutt Valley to Wellington city, this NZ Bus Ltd service shows a quality bus service can win patrons - so much so a year or two back there were squawks about the amount of travellers using Gold Cards (free pensioner travel outside peak hours) to access Wellington and the Public Hospital via the Airport Flyer costing the taxpayer too much. Despite appearance could this bus be green - indeed far greener than light rail! NZ in Tranzit suspects as much! Photo NZ in Tranzit 2010

An editorial in Wellington's main newspaper, the Dominion Post, Buses the way to get city moving has dismissed outright the fantasy of light rail through the business area of central Wellington. 

This is one of three options, reported here, up for considerations by the City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and NZ Transport  to improve the central public transport spine from from railway station to the public hospital in Newtown. It appears to arise, in part at least,  to a survey carried out last year.

 Says the Dom  
"Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and others who favour a light rail system, while clearly delighted to find it is still on the table, are ultimately bound to be disappointed.
There is no argument light rail would not be nice to have. However, at a cost of $172 million to $392m, it is simply too expensive for the region's ratepayers to fund on their own, and the contribution that would be required from taxpayers in the rest of the country is too high to justify."
NZ in Tranzit agrees, totally!!

There has been a huge distortion of public transport infrastructure expenditure in New Zealand, and Wellington has already received several hundred million taxpayer dollars, for upgrading its commuter rail system, whilst Christchurch and other centres have received almost nothing.
The case for light rail in Wellington seems on shaky ground for several reasons - one is literally shaky ground. Built on a fault-line it is only a matter of time before Wellington suffers a severe earthquake again as it did in 1855, similar to those suffered by Christchurch. The canyons between high rises, even without the rubble of collapsed older buildings, could be closed for months, just to allow adequate engineering checks of buildings. The shut-down of New Zealand's administrative hub could cost billions, effect the whole country. Why spend millions on a system that can not be disaster proofed, indeed will see post disaster streets jammed with difficult to remove tramcars as power and wiring systems are destroyed. It could be months or years before rubble or cable systems can safely be repaired, or rubble or broken tracks and twisted concrete beds repaired, especially if continuous aftershocks pose constant danger to anyone working in that area. 
Another reason that weakens Wellington's case is weak, is that the greater Wellington area has already had far above its share in public transport funding, with a major upgrade of its commuter rail network, refurbishment of stations and supply of new Matangi electric units.  All in all a city only marginally bigger than Christchurch has received over $600 million towards its public transport system. Back in 2010 NZ in Tranzit estimated that 13 times more per capita, in taxes has been spent on public transport in Wellington than in Christchurch. And this doesn't even address providing quality public transport in other cities and large centres. 
And arguably Wellington does public transport so well on a world scale that any genuinely green policy would be far better directed at looking at ways of lifting public transport patronage in other centres towards the same benchmarks. With 35 million unlinked passengers trips per annum Wellington ridership is far ahead of any other similar size city in the comparable low density, high car ownership cities of Canz (Canada, Australia, New Zealand). 
To give some perspective here are some stats from my past research (some slightly out of date but not likely to change essential pattern; population (GMA = greater metropolitan area), unlinked passenger trips per annum; transport modes
Public Transit Ridership in cities between 300,00 and 600,000 metropop in CANZ
7. Sunshine Coast Queensland - 312,908 A fast growing  area recently consolidated into one city  - 
8.  Windsor Ontario  323,342 GMA - 6 million + (2011) [bus] Across river (and south of!) Detroit,USA

9.  Victoria British Columbia GMA; 335,000 - 25.3 million (2011-12) [bus]
10. Oshawa Ontario (2008)GMA 330,594 - 8.5 million [bus]  city at edge of greater Toronto area 
11. Canberra Australian Capital Territory  GMA 342,000 - 16.9 million [bus]
12. Halifax Nova Scotia  GMA 372,679 - 22.5  million [bus & ferry]

13  Laval Quebec 376,845 18.7 million largest adjoining city (and de facto suburb) of Montreal
14. Christchurch New Zealand  GMA c390,000 - 17.1 million (2008) - pre-quake

15. St Catharines-Niagara Ontario  GMA 390,317  5.6 million (2008)
16. Wellington New Zealand GMA 415,000 - 35.1 million   (2010/11 FY)

      [commuter rail 11 million; cable car 1 million,  bus 23 million,  ferry 500,00]
17. Brampton (Peel Region) Ontario 433,806  16.3 million (2011)  contingent city to Toronto 
18. Kitchener (Waterloo) Ontario  451,225 - "nearly 20 million  (2010/11 FY) 
      three interlinked cities Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge in southern Ontario
19. London Ontario  457,456 - 22.8 million
20. Newcastle New South Wales  493,466 (Lower Hunter Valley) 12.42 million (08-09 financial year) also 2.7 million on commuter rail services, mainly to Sydney or Newcastle from same area 

21. Gold Coast Queensland  554,000 - 17 million (2008)

For total patronage (unlinked passenger trips per year); for passenger trips per capita; for percentage of people using public transport to travel to work; and for farebox recovery (amount of total costs met by fares) Wellington, New Zealand appears to a world leader amongst low density small city public transport systems. Most of that is linked to history and geographic footprint, some of it kudos for Wellington. 

But given 17% of peak hour commuting  is by public transport - ahead of Melbourne and many, many other far larger cities, Wellington punching far above its weight - isn't it time the public transport  dollar got out to the rest of the country??

ADDITION - SEPTEMBER -checkout Kiwiblog for a lively debate on Wellington light rail, a few good laughs in there too.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Post quake service cuts - but could cutting the cake a different way go further?

Why not? Post quake tourism  as Redbus drives it latest bus* on a tour through the "Red Zone" (photo actually through security netting, enlarged) past the remnant core of the former Bus Exchange** . 

I have the deepest sympathy with those who died in the quake and their families - nothing can ever remove the vast unfairness and utter horror of this.  But for those who survive, what stupidity it would be not to look deeply - as deeply as possible -  upon this huge damage,  to better know the humble place of humanity in this huge universe, and in the scheme of things. And also take greater care to build cities stronger, stronger and stronger than ever. If anyone visits Christchurch why not share what we have been through, see how powerful the world beneath us all can be?

All of which has precious little to do with this posting except to provide a eye catching photo and introduce the possibilities now inherent in combining the latest in quality bus technology and supportive infrastructure.
Metro is in a cost cutting exercise; at the same time a major review of Transport services in Christchurch closes in a couple of days.  NZ in Tranzit believes the world and our city now have the technology (and enough other tricks) to run bus services in an integrated core pattern, same core pattern every hour with huge benefits and - perhaps - surprising opportunities to cut costs. 

Core services 

NZ in Tranzit  believes all trunk services should be shaped in consistent patterns known as "core services" that operate every hour the same within given time parameters, starting in these system-wide patterns after 9am** on every day of the week. Ideally not more than two (or three at most) set time periods would apply. Parameter periods might be (A) 9am- 7pm Mon-Sat (B) 7pm-11 pm Mon-Sat and 9 am -9pm Sunday. Services within those time periods would always be consistent and interact with other services consistently (predictable transfer patterns). Bus services before or after these times, on any given route, may operate to the same "minutes past the hour" (or not) but no guarantee is given other or all routes will (remember - core time-after nine!)

Core departure times from outermost terminus on a route only might also vary slightly to a pattern (eg services between 9.00 am and 2.00 pm - depart three minutes later than standard time shown, from this timing point only) but all en route times would be otherwise consistent - same time every hour - within the [key] stated proviso  "services departs within 5 minutes of time shown, never earlier" . This standardised departure time is advertised, even if the actual driver schedules have subtly different schedules [as some already do], unseen time adjustments made to facilitate smooth flow and maintain the shown schedule pattern, compensating for delays (or lack of them!) at a congested location or incorporating known variations in loading patterns, typical on different trips.

Bus services (the specific departure time) is a product and you can't sell a product if people don't know what it is. Standardised times give the needed flexibility (with bus priority and about a dozen other behind the scenes tricks) to sell the same product, same transfer time, every hour within two time bands.

Nor is a product easy to sell if passengers have to waste time making calculations or memorizing or looking up complex patterns such 2.10 and 2.40; 3.12 and 3.42, 4.13 and 4.44 - absurd when all of these are essentially the same service arriving at the central city (for example) at the same minutes past the hour every trip.  Frankly who cares about a mere 2 or 3 minutes variation if service is easy to remember, consistent and reliable!  Do motorists waste time calculating whether it takes 2 minutes or 4 minutes to find a car park and walk to their destination? Why such anal "to the minute" criteria for bus services?

It is suggested every timetable format - including those with all the minor hour by hour changes (as described above) should offer patrons a "standardised times" option.  Eg services from 9am - 6pm departing 10 and 40 past hour ( "services departs within 5 minutes of time shown, never earlier").  Standardised times could even be sign written on bus shelters in big letters, visible to passing motorists  [Core Services depart for city 10 and 40 mins past hour (image of sun and 6 days) and 25 mins past hour (image of moon and Christian cross) every hour. Ultimately it is not a (vague) bus service that is being sold, it is the trip, each actual trip, that is the product. Guaranteed core services are so simple they offer everyone the option of using buses. 

Bus Plus +

Where services additional to the pattern of core services are needed - notably for departures from high Schools after 3pm or during peak hours - these are ALWAYS SHOWN  on timetables and destination blinds as "additional" ( 3.07+ pm )  and on bus destination blinds ( 60+ Parklands). 

That is to say, any service not a core service is ALWAYS followed by a + (plus sign).  

I suggest these are called "Bus Plus +" to indicate they are not the "normal' (guaranteed consistent) core pattern, and to avoid confusion caused by their variation from the core pattern, as in "No madam, your normal core service bus is not running early, that's Bus Plus+ service". 

Also the "+ " offers passengers an alert signal - a service listed as Bus Plus + may be slightly more variable (for instance only run in school term time) or not operate at all between Christmas and the second week in January. 

The Bus Plus + sign, once well known, immediately alerts passengers to possible variable factors on that particular scheduled service, this includes much that is "added value". It pays to be alert!

Ironically for a such a seemingly (on first glance) rigid fixed structure route and schedule system, the concept of core services actually frees up all other  services ( (Bus Plus +) to be a bit more flexible and to be used (or not) in ways targeted for best value public service and better fare-box returns. 

For instance reduced levels of service as now proposed by Metro (even busy routes and corridors reduced to only 30 minute services at night) could be embedded in the core timetable, But Bus Plus + can be applied at certain times, such as adding services on major routes Friday and Saturday evening only, effectively offering 15 minutes in busier evening entertainment areas. And these Bus Plus+ services can also then be the later Fri and Sat "last bus" - moving last bus services later - but  perhaps only in summer.  

Likewise in the peak of the Christmas holiday period, 24 December – 14 January, when patronage is usually relatively low, many Bus Plus peak hour services may not operate, allowing more bus staff holidays but providing a guaranteed skeleton service, all the same.  But on the other hand, Bus Plus + services to enhance day time access to beach areas may be added.

Or the Orb + Airport buses - peak hour or limited frequency services only, departing Eastgate (in both directions) and running via The Orbiter route (albeit not in branded livery) until Blenheim Road then via an unique route; ditto from northside to Wairakei Road then Sheffield Crescent airport, services arriving in cases before work-start times at key locations.  What could be simpler than adding a [ring fenced ]  Bus Plus+ layer to The Orbiter or indeed to The Metrostar. 

The "Bus Plus+" concept, of course, is also masterpiece of marketing, repackaging the old as new, especially considering more than a few of these types of services actually operate, as "normal" at the moment!  This said of course, separating core services in this way (ie in the mind of the public) allows a reliable trustworthy knowable core service AND ALS0  Bus Plus+ to go places never allowed before, experimental, one off, day specific, seasonal, direction variable. etc etc 

I perceive this as a hugely valuable way to re-grow our bus system and do so in the most cost effective ways, with least impact upon passengers and public. The concept advanced here allows great flexibility in adjusting post earthquake services levels, increasing services to meet slowly or (more likely!) rapidly increasing demand, and fine tuning to the season, or the budget available. 

The real challenge then is bus priority, eliminating all the sticking points that stop buses running on time. The very concept of a bus service would change from that gained in years and years of under-funding and degraded services that are the constant butt of jokes, about buses never being on time, or all coming at the same time. As well as, or instead of,  hundreds of millions of dollars poured into rail, a few tens of of millions could redefine what is meant by the term "bus service". In these terms, a bus service is a mosaic pattern in which the core moving parts move in an integrated harmonious way and interact with each other in an easily understood and knowable pattern which allows a passenger to join the system at any point and know they can more or less continuously get to any other point in that system within a given time. Also that where there are targeted needs, those needs will be met in a very specific and useful way, by Bus Plus+. 

We have (and still have) the potential in Christchurch to creates the world's most comprehensive, cost effective and sophisticated  small city bus service, just by by using all the modern technology implemented and joining the right dots of all that has been done so far.

** Before 9am all buses are linked to precise work and study start times in a tight time frame schedule and are anyway more frequent; conversely on weekends some don't need to start early while others serving malls and work zones do. Simpler to leave core services - eg ALL services operative to consistent pattern  - until after 9am, every day.

Note; Similar ideas to those expressed here have previously been raised in the NICE Ride page

Ps **

The Christchurch Bus Xchange was built in conjunction with developer Philip Carter, who saved original heritage building  facades but built modern  concrete car parking buildings behind these (with the ground floor bus xchange underneath).  These original facades were severely cracked after the February 22nd mega-velocity quake and later demolished, exposing the raw concrete car park building behind in top photo.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quality bus services provided by guided busway proving a big hit

Photos Wikimedia Commons

After a long and painful birth, with lots of over-runs, delays and legal issues (some still due to go Court) the Cambridge guided busway  has reached its first birthday  and is proving very successful.   

According to a Cambridge County member, Ian Bates;  

"The busway has been a magnificent success. In the spring we saw the number of trips had already gone past the two million mark putting the system well ahead of its business case. From the very start new services had to be put on to meet demand and the government has funded expansion to St Ives park-and-ride along the route as part of the overall strategy to reduce congestion along the A14.  The main operator, Stagecoach, has carried around 2.35 million people, double the number carried on the conventional services in the year before the busway opened.

Now the longest guided busway in the world, the 40 kilometre long system links the English university city of Cambridge with a scattered string of villages experiencing rapid growth in new subdivisions.  The track - the 25km guided section of which is surprising rural - follows a former railway track alignment and allows bus users to avoid the peak hour congestion on the motorway.  Usage is not confined to one operator, but the primary service provider Stagecoach offers single and double decker buses with leather seats and wi-fi access that travel of speeds up to 80km an hour in a journey described by many passengers (and drivers) as very smooth or smoother than rail journeys.

A unique opportunity to ride a double decker the entire length of one of the routes along this busway, at fast forward speed, is offered by You Tube makers, NCC

The You Tube opens with a bold message "Trams would have been better" and them precedes to show a speeded up journey through the narrow streets of Cambridge, an on-road section which at a rough guess cover at least 8 km [with a large number of  red lights  -  signals where buses do not appear to get a priority]. This lengthy on-road section tends to weaken the claim for trams - a hugely more expensive system than a busway that can run on and off tracks.

I would imagine the financial cost and inconvenience to locals of laying tram tracks just to get to the edge of town, let alone restate the former rail lines, woul be phenomenal, and possibly fail to offer such direct service to the various areas where busway buses can leave the guided section and run through the actual streets of various settlements, off the track, voiding the need for thousands of people to even bother using a car or bus to the station.

In a sense there are already three different main routes entwined with the core busway corridor has evident from this official map.  This is the strength of busways (whether guided or not) - there can be a fast corridor service but but the same buses can also travel right into immediate neighbourhoods or carry passengers directly to multiple different areas in the city centres.

Another aspect, seems to be the curiously peaceful quality of a guided busway, instead of "heavy" rail's dirt and grime, visual noise and clatter, and enormous intrusion into any environment, the grassed corridor and the buses gliding has the potential to create a corridor of greenspace (of course, exaggerated in this particular rural setting). It is also a corridor that is unlikely to threatening to limb and life in so far as even in the case of an intruding pedestrian or a car stalled on a crossing, the gentle curves and relative ease of stopping a bus compared to a heavy train, would seem to preclude most serious accidents. This compares to the very regular delays in commuter rail, for instance in Wellington or Auckland, cause by fatal accidents and/or suicides and by whole system failures and derailments. Unlike rail which needs fairly constant monitoring, measurement, re-calibration and maintenance, the concrete guidance rails are expected to give 40 years service without need for any significant maintenance or major upgrade.

Considering this whole subsequent kerb guided section of the route - 25 km of the total 40 km - costed
UK Pounds180 million**- about $NZ360 million at present rates - this is a far more cost-effective combination for this particular type of area than light rail. Consider here in Christchurch the Mayor was keen to see the city spend $400 million on a mere 7.5 km of light rail, less than a third of the length of the guided busway section.

England is full of disused rail corridors so there is great interest in the potential, the cost-benefit ratio and the success of guided busways, despite the somewhat patchy start to the concept in the last two decades. 

Two other larger guided bus-ways are currently being built in the United Kingdom, the 20 kilometre Leigh Guided Busway into Manchester (essentially bus lanes and Bus rapid transit with a 6km section of former rail line converted to guided busway) and the Luton-Barnstable Busway (7.4 kilometres of kerb guided route).

As with all forms of public transport different technologies will work better in different situations. 

In Christchurch building a (partly guided) busway from Belfast via Redwood (Grimseys Road) and Highfield feeding under QEII Drive and then across to and under or over Cranford Street, across to Grassmere then Rutland Street, cutting through to Caledonia Road, could cut up to 15 minutes off the journey from Rangiora or Belfast and link the whole northern area directly to the city centre, a huge economic and social gain in the post-earthquake city rebuild. 

**This said, there was a huge over-run, the original cost was meant to be UK Pounds 116!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Win-Win for City Council?

In  what appears to be a win-win situation for Christchurch Council Thursday's council meeting managed to publicly distance itself from Environment Canterbury's scheme to drastically cut bus service standards. 

At the same time Council also managed to simultaneously avoid taking any responsibility for building long promised suburban bus transfer stations, replacing action with words for another indefinite period. 

According to an recent report in The Press Public transport overhaul plan raises cost fears "The council is worried that it is being asked to bear the cost of a series of new suburban interchanges for Environment Canterbury's (ECan) new "spoke and hub" transport system when there are doubts over how it will work and how the public will react to it.

"We want to be supportive but we don't want to do it at great cost to our ratepayers," said Claudia Reid, the chairwoman of the environment and infrastructure committee.

It looks like a win win from the Council viewpoint!

"I don't want to invest now in infrastructure that in a couple of years time we decide isn't working," Barry Corbett told the council's environment and infrastructure committee yesterday. 

Councillor Corbett has been a Councillor for over a decade, including significant involvement in infrastructure and transport committees, so this doesn't seem to say much for the Council's ostensible commitment to public transport. 

If Council wants to advance public transport it could easily define the transfer station certainties and get working on them. After all it has been promising them for six years now! **  Potential sites and roading patterns for buses to align are being lost every year. 

Quite apart from the present Ecan proposal, the location of almost every major bus transfer station is clearly self evident and fairly logical, very much associated with the ring of malls and University of Canterbury (PESBWUN), and the outer hubs at Hornby Airport, Belfast, New Brighton, Ferrymead and Halswell. In other words the points where multiple routes and passengers already transfer. Indeed City Council Transport Planner Stuart Wood some years ago made a very good abstract map of the hubs and secondary hubs with various connection lines. It couldn't be spelt out more simply than that.

Yet in the years before the earthquakes' council managed to create only one suburban hub that might pass as a "suburban hub", where all routes through the area passed through a common point with a reasonable range of support systems for waiting patrons. 

This is at the back of Hornby Mall. Though lacking interior waiting facilities [ available at least for day time passengers] and lacking  toilets or baby changing facilities and without much security, the extended bus stops are pleasantly supported by a sunny north face and shelter from winds provided by the huge rear walls of the mall. Immediate access to mall toilets and supermarket products (from the week's shopping through to emergency Kleenex, nappies, fruit drinks, newspapers or a bottle of wine) across a wide spread of opening hours are also hugely supportive. 

It is not rocket science but it is an attractively presented waiting zone, that could be emulated with added facilities (where not otherwise otherwise provided in immediate area) or stylistic branding at other key points.

But this is apparently an enormously difficult task for Council. Indeed one can only be suspicious that much of the impetus at Hornby, possibly even the money involved here, came from the actual mall developers. This might include the really quirky (so weird man!) bus shelters which actually have sufficient veranda roofs to stop rain getting on seats or waiting patrons. (see 2010 NZ in Tranzit photo above) 

Surely our Council would not waste that sort of money on bus users? 

No, not very likely. I don't think so, not on the track record. Unless it is a grandiose project it is all 80% talk, 15% minimal token efforts to look good (usually with a huge overdose of self congratulation) and 5% actual hard miles implementing genuinely valuable infrastructure. 

Anyway, however scary it must have looked for a minute or too, luckily the Metro proposal for a transfer based system appears to be so poorly planned Council was able to astutely flick it aside and safely avoid commitment . 

A hub point for four bus routes offering travel in five directions, a secondary bus station at New Brighton - where all bus stops are within only 150 metres running distance of each other. This is one of many such fine transfer facilities built by a council committed to  public transport infrastructure. Clearly it fits Councillor Reid's criteria "that is not at great cost to ratepayers" yet strangely such facilities do not appear to be attracting significant patronage even at 5.13pm on this pleasant winter week night. 

Flashback 8 years ago!!

"The council aims to have these corridor street works complete by June 2006 at the latest. Other council work during this period will include improvements to bus stop amenities across Christchurch and to develop a citywide programme of suburban interchanges or mini bus exchanges at popular metro interchange points where different routes meet."

Robert Woods,  then transport planner for the Christchurch City Council, part of an article he wrote for The Press ( July 1 2004 ) "Making Metro More Attractive"  

Flashback 6Years Ago !!

"In a largely debate-free meeting yesterday councillors voted in favour of a proposed plan to develop public transport services in Christchurch over the next six years. The proposal, which would cost Christchurch's city and regional councils about $55 million a year over six years, is an attempt to double the number of public transport users by 2012.

It would include bus-priority measures, expansion of the central city bus exchange, new suburban exchanges, trialling "dial-a-ride" services and allowing bikes on key routes, and would investigate the feasibility of rail services."

The Press (June 16 2006) Approval for Transport Plan

AND At the same meeting... Yes, even the Council  realises there are limits in their  proclaimed powers  ...."Councillors also voted not to implement tougher controls on the 88,000 cats in Christchurch because they would be too costly and too difficult to police"