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"
"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"