Thursday, March 28, 2013

At last - $5 Billion plan to improve Canterbury transport woes

2004 " This is just an early indication of our long-term future if we do not act now to avoid the transport headaches facing Auckland today.....This is why the Christchurch City Council has developed a long- term transport vision to avoid such a future. This long-term plan is made up of various strategies, all focused on a single vision for Christchurch, a transport system that supports a quality of life second to none......

"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.'

From The Press July 1st 2004 - Metro More Attractive by line... "Christchurch is acting to prevent the sort of traffic problems that clog Auckland."   

2013 The Palms Bus transfer point?? Near the intersection where bus routes travel in about eight different directions -  a shabby freezing cold, windy bleak spot, exposed to accelerating car traffic, 200-300 metres to other stops - scattered around the area - and operating in a route/timing pattern almost entirely antagonistic to transfer needs . 

Year after year the bus users of Christchurch get a double dumping of crap facilities like this and the endless crap spewing out of the mouths of the spin doctors in elected or imposed Councils

However Jerry Brownlee (of all people!! ) appears to have a great plan to improve Christchurch public transport woes! He's got his boys workin' on it...

Canterbury is 12% of New Zealand's population but for many decades has never received anything approaching 12% of the "public transport dollar" particularly for capital works. Basically fair weather or foul, business as usual or catastrophic earthquake, the Canterbury tax payer has continued to pay out to subsidise  public transport in Auckland and Wellington regions.

When Wellington spent $90 million on the Waikanae commuter line extension and $31 million "new" carriages and a five station upgrade on the Wairarapa Commuter Line (with combined populations far less than South Canterbury) it didn't even enter the head of the Mayors of Timaru, Ashburton or Christchurch to shout "Foul ball". Nope. Of the $121 million spent by the rail authority 12% = $14.4 million came from Canterbury pockets.

Indeed NZ in Tranzit estimates approximately over $300 million dollars of "public transport dollar" has been milked from Canterbury and sent north in the last 15 years to fund close to $3 billion worth of transit infrastructure  up North. 

But can these woes be improved?

Yes -  it seems these woes can be improved.

Indeed  the transit woes of Canterbury can be improved and made greater by a factor of several hundred per cent!!.

Under the auspices of Minister of Transport Jerry Brownlee NZ Transport Agency has found there is still heaps more the Canterbury taxpayer can fork out, while shortchanging transit funding in Christchurch worse than ever.

While our Minister of Transport hogties future public transport in Canterbury with a minimal $100 million spread over three years, NZ Transport Agency and Auckland city authorities  are lining up Auckland  for a massive $60 billion transport -  roading and public transport  - spend up over the next 30 years.

Even allowing that the Auckland figures includes roading costs as well as public transport compare these figures -  the $33 x million per year for three years public transport in Canterbury (or was it just Christchurch?) compared to $2000x million per each year for 30 years for Auckland.

Obviously road taxes and possibly tolls will cover  much of this but it is also equally obvious that given Auckland population isn't THAT MUCH larger than Christchurch (less than four times bigger and only likely to widen that ratio slowly, if at all over many years) nationwide all taxpayers including  us here in Canterbury will also be forking out.

Astounding stuff - and apart from a few poorly informed  mumbles from Jim Anderton at the last local body elections -  not a single politician in Canterbury prepared to get up and fight for a decent 21st century quality public transport system!!

After 20 years of ECan/Council  hype we are STILL NOT MOVING towards completely segregated busways, an integrated network, a region wide commuter network and a city building commuter rail system, - indeed almost every obvious (and budget effective) opportunity in this area over the last 15 years has been thrown away!! For God's sake we haven't got decent bus shelters at major hub points - see photo above for the combined productive genius of two councils over almost 20 years!!

Minimal and poorly planned, timed and executed bus lanes with major choke points that still buses leave queueing and passengers missing transfer connections, unsupported by roading or land use changes and lack of mobility moderating technological support, failure of public transport to sustain growth etc, did not start with the earthquakes, that disaster has been building for years!!

There is an old saying that "You put your money where your mouth is" - but no significant** investment in public transport infrastructure in Canterbury has been made in 20 years!!  Post quake extra costs and rebuilds absorbing the $33 million per year, will certainly ensure that this will remain true.

 And if Canterbury forks out its usual 12% of tax that is the best part of $5 billion heading north!

** a few million dollars on part-time bus lanes, and a budget [original] bus exchange that quicked bogged down because it was built without growth potential, and built for less than the cost the remote Auckland suburban  rail station Swanson (about $20 million) does not really do the term "significant"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Parking for 2 cars - In Christchurch more important than 2 million bus passengers?

Aldwins Rd Looking eastwards

Aldwins Rd looking westwards

Anyone catching buses in Christchurch nowadays knows what a bloody mess it as become, with many patrons having to spend two-three hours a day getting to-fro work, just to ensure they won't miss transfer connections.  There is no point heading out from home now "only" an hour before you have to start work, a lecture or be at an appointment -  if you have to make transfers or rely upon cross town services - there is a huge chance services will be so far out of kilter - up to 20 minutes late - that you'll miss connections and be putting your job at risk or missing that appointment. Where as most motorists are having to allow an extra 15 minutes in their journeys to allow for road and drain repair works and ensuring traffic hold ups, bus passengers may have to double journey time, on journeys already three times longer than the equivalent car trip. 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know why Metro lost such a staggering number of passengers following the earthquakes (despite very small numbers leaving the city, and almost everyone back at relocated work and study locations within eight weeks of the Feb 22 2011 high velocity mega-quake ). Nor why regrowth of the bus system, outside one or two selected routes, is so slow to come back, when you see pictures such as those above. 

This is the Aldwins Road approach to Eastgate, the scene of continuous road works and large scale sewer replacement works now for over two years.  Were Metro and Council transport officers "in" on the planning the traffic flow patterns for here, or dozens of similar major long term projects? One can only suppose so, but perhaps they just attended to say "Yes Bill, sure, we'll deviate the buses here and there as necessary, thanks for the schedule of planned works."

OR did they say "This route is vital - before the earthquake we were carrying nearly two million trips a year on the Orbiter - tens of thousands of people depend upon it each week, not only to get around the city but to transfer to and from other routes. This Aldwins Road corridor is also used by other routes. It is imperative if there are to be major ongoing roadworks on this route that we keep bus-flow channels open absolutely as far as possible. If these buses get out of kilter, they can all start clumping up and services run 15-30 minutes late, which can mean an extra 30 -60 minute wait for some transfer passengers further down the line. We are not just talking impact on the services in Eastgate area here - we are talking of adding in city wide delays, screwing everyone around. That sort of thing, unreliability, just absolutely kills patronage and will cost or  waste millions.if transport dollars. Also, the more people we can get out of using cars, the shorter the queues and delays for motorists at these same bottlenecks."

Did I just hear a Tui laugh? 

My guess (with plenty of clues city wide) the thinking is this is not the time to be using emergency powers or council initiative to be taking parking lanes away from people!!  [We saw that in Harper Avenue in the months after the big one!]. And God forbid - just for buses to use? That sure would be crazy  - of course we know it would only take a few thousand dollars to install some concrete footings and overhead signage which can bolted and changed by an overhead truck over the months and years ahead  as roadwork patterns change, for cars direction as well as buses, but no, we are not even going to go there.  

The buses approaching this intersection often took two to three light changes to crawl up from Linwood College (Harrow Street /Linwood Avenue Corner), as much as eight minutes to go 500 metres. At 6.15 pm in the evening, not even the very peak of the rush hour.

Despite plenty of side street parking - or "temporary long term" potential to keep road work signs out of lanes when not needed as a traffic deviation device - just two cars were given complete dominance of this lane.  It says everything, a city that will not commit to quality public transport. 

Inactions speak louder than words!! As usual. Thousands of times each week.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Edge where the world divides? Are we going to make genuinely effective modern public transport or just talk the talk?

To celebrate the launch of the new Edgeware Neighbourhood Plan (sure to focus on making attractive environments for queuing points for cars !! And on the track record to date - nothing for buses, certainly no transfer friendly node for the Metrostar and 118, 28 bus), to "celebrate" I reprint a posting I did back in April 2010, when my readership was very tiny.

This suggests any rational analysis of cost-benefit bus rapid transport would have to say that the least disruptive, by far the most direct, logical, and multi-beneficial northern rapid transit outlet tofro the city centre, that does not involves scores of house demolitions would need utilise the Rutland Street Corridor. This can be  linked to Edgeware in the south by an enormously enhanced green housing, busway, bikeway etc redevelopment, running through to Edgeware Rd, and in the north under (or over) Cranford Street and QEII drive to Redwood, Highfield, Prestons and areas north beyond) - giving buses a direct bypass of all the heavy road use corridors. A huge boost to the central city rebuilt - Belfast to city in about 12 minutes, irrespective of how busy the roads! A bus system actually competitive with car use in many situations !!

Going Fast - A busway lost ?
(reprinted from 18 April 2010)

I have been campaigning since 2002 to have local public transport planners and civic authorities investigate the potential of corridor through St Albans towards Northlands for a busway alignment and direct cycleway to city. Originally I sent letters to the newspaper, in 2005 I sent a beautifully prepared simple clear document with maps to Garry Moore (then Mayor) and to ECan our public transport parent organisation. In 2007 I circulated an extended version of the same scheme - now with a busway corridor right up to Belfast -  to about 35 candidates to the local body elections. One or two were polite enough to say "How nice dear".  In that time Ecan investigated rail twice (ridiculously expensive and unsuited)**. 

Never once have I heard the slightest squeak from any corner that busways were being seriously looked at in Christchurch.

Obviously once built this corridor would be there for all time, so to speak, could not be built out however big or high rise the city became. It seems a good investment before the options are built out, for instance larger modern flats built right in its flowpath, costing a fortune to uproot. With two Council housing complexes and the Council owned Edgeware Pool site in the most obvious pathway options for relatively cheap redevelopment of the partly run down area were manifold. 

Amazingly what could be an 8 minute journey by bus direct from the central city to Northlands, some of it through attractively landscaped green bus (and cycleway) only boulevards, not only bypasses all the heavy congestion on Papanui Road or Cranford Street but can be achieved with minimal social impact, expense in building or operation. 

This busway centred route network could be operated by a branded service, every 15 minutes, supplemented by key stop only express buses coming from Styx,Belfast, Redwood, Kaiapoi, Rangiora etc. in morning and evening weekday peak hours. Other services would continue to travel via Northlands and Merivale of course, for those travelling to those areas.  If it ever became viable to operate light rail then this corridor would already be built - and indeed could be built precisely to allow for that future option. (It is almost an industry standard now to build a busway as a precursor to light rail in overseas cities). Never once have I heard the slightest squeak from any corner that busways were being seriously looked at in Christchurch.

During these eight years Auckland received $200 million from the Government to build their Northern busway; and then a further $20 million towards their $46 million Central Connector busway. (and zillions more for rail).  During that period that period cities all over the world from the huge (Beijing building 20 busways) and sprawling (Johannesburg building 270km of busway) to those small and closer to Christchurch in size and demographic patterns -  such as Halifax, Ottawa,Winnipeg, Gatineau, Calgary etc in Canada -  were investigating and building busways, typically a mixture of on-street bus lanes and bus-only separate corridors, bus-only shoulder lanes, underpasses etc.

One of our nearest neighbours, Brisbane has built the most sophisticated busway in the world, in one section buses travelling to a bus station at third storey height and other points into underground stations and trenches that completely by-pass congestion. The Gold Coast's planned light rail corridor - 17 km and $1.8 billion (and rising) is estimated to be accessible to 20% of the population. By contrast the Brisbane busway [also of course very expensive!] runs for several hundred kilometres of route - by virtue of the fact that 117 different bus routes feed into and get the benefits of the segregated corridor system. A system that benefits everyone. Something, obviously a bit more modest in size and engineering could obviously be looked at for our city. Never once have I heard the slightest squeak from any corner that busways were being seriously looked at in Christchurch.

This week I posted off a submission to the Metro Strategy 2010 Review. Above is the alignment of the Northern busway I see as possible. Given express buses would not stop between the Supa Centa and Bealey Avenue (or only stop at key stops) and the actual distances are not huge, it would take around 10 minutes Belfast to the city by bus in peak hours! Not only a huge saving in commuter hours but also of course, greater economy in bus use and driver hours per kilometre. 

The submission is a parting shot really because the Northern motorway coming down past the east side of Redwood is already planned and has as far as I know, no provision for a bus only lane to cut down the side and then through onto Grimseys Road. There is a cycle subway under QEII Drive at the bottom of Grimseys Road but I have never heard of any bus underpass planned. The area east and immediately north of Paparoa Street School and the Rutland Street Reserve, farmland and floodplain, which could be reconstituted into an attractive park, cycleway and skirting the edges on a fenced embankment, a busway corridor, has been subdivided and presumably sold off. 

The Edgeware Pool site - which coupled with a couple of older single storey Council Housing complexes - gave great potential for an exciting redevelopment of the area and an Edgeware bus station has been sold off. Ironically a far better, combination neighbourhood integrated recreation centre including pool and slightly re-sited tennis club could have really empowered a future high density neighbourhood AND made busway possible.

We have not only missed the bus, or tomorrow's light rail corridor - as a city we are too stupid to even realise it! 

Somewhere in between city hall's preoccupation with light rail fantasies and building heritage tramways and Ecan's narrow vision of a good conventional bus system, a gift handed to the city on a plate got thrown out, a potential to lever up tens of millions in Government funding was ignored, a great public transport makeover of a partly derelict area was never seen, great opportunities got washed away. Without a squeak. 

This illustration below comes from a later blog posting I believe now it would be more logical to use earthquake rubble to build a beautifully graduated busway ramp, not only behind the park as shown here,  but up and over Cranford Street rather than under

In this scenario - The current Rutland Park (which runs in a rectangle west-east) is converted to an elongated north-south (approximately) park with cycleways and stream and walkways and a inconspicuously fenced on busway on its own embankment; one arm to Northlands and Sawyers Arms Road - the other running over or under Cranford Street and ditto QEII to serve Redwood, Highfield Prestons, Belfast and the northern rural towns with a very quick journey to cuty centre and beyond. Needless to say any land close could be designated higher density (rather than just congested key points like Papanui) including a central retirement village friendly zone around Rutland Street  

A customised Google map of the same project

** Since 2010 I believe rail would be viable but only in a comprehensive "figure eight with spurs" network linked to extensive off road cycleways. See multiple postings