Sunday, September 30, 2012

Deja Vu?? The Downgrade of Christchurch Bus Services

This was a rough and ready poster made for the NZ Tramways Union campaign to stop the savage decimation of what had once been the best bus system in New Zealand -  twenty two years ago!

It was 13 years again later after this - about 2003 - before Christchurch bus system fully recovered the title of a quality bus system, back to being the best in New Zealand, years of recovering  from the massive mauling by the right-wing.

 And here we are, back again 

being screwed by the National Party and its handmaidens in the ECan junta. 

National has a clear agenda to recreate Christchurch as a trendy boutique city, but let's be clear - very much the minor player; with massive shifts in wealth from Christchurch to Auckland and Wellington where the wide boys make a faster buck. Public transport investment is hugely distorted in favour of these two cities, despite much of the nations wealth being generated elsewhere. No obvious provision or adequate funding has been made for rapid transit in Christchurch - be it busways,proper enclosed secure transfer stations,  intersections and computerised road management controls, commuter rail or that unbearable lightweight of public transport, light rail (with those pretentiously contoured aerodynamic noses ).

Christchurch city appears to be being punished and manipulated for an earthquake! This is happening despite the fact, like all New Zealanders here in Christchurch all paid  EQC insurance (inherent in rent or directly included in household insurance) for decades, specifically to cover such events. Under this subterfuge of earthquake recovery, you must eat humble pie with liquefaction sauce, the fat boys are creaming it over weaker players such as Parker-Marryatt.  Demolition of local area schools -  such an absolute key binding element in local communities and a baseline quality of life factor - as a well as the  significant downgrade of property values inherent in putting everything in one mixer, is now followed by a grossly D-Graded bus system implemented by the ECan glove puppets.

Who ever heard of a bus system attracting more patrons by adding  a journey split  and a 8 -15 minutes** waiting period at a unheated street side transfer?  A break in a relatively short journey with every chances of missing a connection and then having to wait 30-59 minutes at this stop. This is a system now to apply for probably about 40% of all journeys to the outer suburbs, for those not travelling tofro locations close to a limited number of direct bus routes ?  Except in a high frequency well integrated system (if you can't there by one route you can usually get there by another, most people living between bus routes) transfers are hugely clumsy. The very transfer system that helped lose thousands of patrons after the earthquake - a hopelessly clumsy transfer system (of two exchanges) is now being touted as the answer to getting people back on buses.

The sort of transfer system planned by Metro is a pale anemic echo of intelligent modern transport concepts but missing the key element - high frequency - less than 15 minutes on a ALL interconnecting routes and ideally services every ten minutes or less on ALL routes. Although the promos for Metro changes allude to high frequency I have yet to identify any significant route or route corridor that will actually get increased services!

ECan metro is introducing possibly the world's crudest and clumsiest transfer system, a high frequency transfer-based system - without high frequency! 

Co-ordination will be crucial as will absolute right of way for buses over variable traffic congestion and top quality secure transfer stations (with manned security) if passengers are going to have negotiate changes and wait for lengthy periods, of 15 minutes or more

Yeah right!! Where will the money come from - the Government has already made it clear that despite hundreds of millions spent on upgrading public transport in Auckland and Wellington, Christchurch will only get $100 million over three years less (I believe operating costs take about half of this).

And the "chop and change"  (chop routes in half and force passengers to change buses in the middle of their journey)  is from a transport authority that has historically run thousands of trips a year simultaneously through the same or adjacent areas - two overlapping bus services minutes apart and then nothing for the next 55 minutes! - with absolute disregard and insulting indifference to patrons.

I can't remember how many submissions and letters on this issue I made (and I am sure many others) that were ignored!! 

This new plan is a huge kick in the guts for Christchurch.

The only solution to me seems to be that Labour and the Greens need get on the same page, not least with transport policy (let me be honest, in my opinion currently full of naive fantasies such as light rail in Wellington rather than actual realistic policies!) and make sure this Government of ostentatious, "big noter" buffoons gets dumped - and then that the new Government cleans out the grossly overpaid, unelected chook house of ECan Commissars and restores the democracy the present Government has so arrogantly usurped. 

I take solace and draw strength from Winston Churchill's words "No defeat is fatal and no victory is forever". Believe in a good bus system, the present crowd could all be washed away in 24 months!

** Note; logically any transfer system needs a minimum of 8 minutes between incoming and outgoing services, or the chances of missing connections are too great. Even so a percentage of passengers will be on buses that miss the connection and will be left standing for 8 - 59 minutes across week. Add to this a half hourly service can  not please everybody (a half hourly service connecting with  buses in either direction at multiple transfer points is virtually impossible).

 Viewed across all services in the week my guesstimate is that, ALL transfer trips added together, the average time of waiting for a transfer will be 10-15 minutes longer than the same journey presently. NOTE too, that stationary waiting always seems to feel twice as long as forward movement "waiting" on a bus  (Not that anyone in ECan is very likely to know that!). 

1 comment:

  1. These are all good points. This crude low-frequency transfer system isn't confined to Christchurch though; Wellington is about to get a whole lot of it too, in a very bizarre reorganisation that seems to be about 1) a fashion for transfers despite the fact passengers hate them and they will almost certainly lead patronage to collapse in some areas, and 2) static bus-based PT funding redistributed and the hollowed-out remains dressed up as an 'improvement'. Not good news for either Chch or Wellington, sadly.