Friday, August 9, 2013

Proposed Riccarton Road bus station lacks sense, vision or commitment.

A plan to keep buses locked in queues on Riccarton Road, is doing a major disservice to bus users,  including transfer passengers that rely upon predictable times, for decades to come.It  is not great planning and does not suggests a great deal of vision or commitment to building a quality public transport infrastructure for our city.

The most  recent proposal, below,  ignores all common sense and will tie hundreds of buses per day to travelling along the most congested section of road in Christchurch for the next ten or twenty years.  

Recently the City Council website announced; 

Riccarton public transport hub passenger waiting lounge proposed

The committee has asked Council staff to assess the proposal for the development of a public transport hub on Riccarton Road (south side of Riccarton Road near Division Street) to facilitate public transport passengers. The nearby bus stops accommodate 2000 passenger daily and an interchange hub similar to the interchange lounge on Colombo Street has been proposed.

All appearances to the contrary - this is not (belated) progress but a backward step!

The quality of facilities to be scrunched at the top of Division Street is unlikely to be significant. Add to this the hugely busy corridor of vehicles between stops on opposing sides of the road. Without a specific speed  reduction zone and/or distinctive tiled bus users crossing zone (unlikely on such a significant arterial road and corner site) switching bus routes on opposite sides of such a busy road is recipe for crap facilities and crowding and dangerous practices -  kids running across roads to catch a bus in urgency etc.  How many buses will be able to load simultaneously and will there be separate stops for university, airport or city bound and Cross town (Metrostar, Orbiter)? I suspect not, just a hodge podge, as now of racing towards the  bus at the back of the queue one needs.

Building a bigger bus shelter (a lounge with minimum facilities) on a transit unfriendly, highly congested road - a road with a strong retail sector absolutely opposed to bus lanes (twice - in 1996 and again in 2010 - see shop window poster below) is high risk indeed! 

This risk is especially great when bus lanes by themselves anyway offer only modest advantage in peak hours and this is a road congested at all sorts of times, needing guaranteed free flow.  

What a bus services needs in the 21st century is absolutely reliable times and no where more so than at Riccarton which is a significant transfer zone, and would be even more so, if proper transfer facilities and integrated timetabling systems applied. 

Thanks to the Christchurch Transport Blog in 2010 for capturing this shop window poster image from Riccarton.

Was it not clear years 17 years ago ! that there are multiple  issues in regarding to using Riccarton Road  as a free flow bus corridor that could not be solved and other options needed to be investigated?  

Keeping buses stuck on Riccarton Road is especially out-of-date and clumsy when a far superior alternative exists. 

This option is building an bus mall and interchange, that will provide offer unhindered bus service for decades between the Riccarton Railway line and Church Corner, and which could be build for under $30 million (including some property purchase) behind Riccarton Mall at the end of Rotheram Street, now the central and busiest part of Riccarton shopping area.

Rotheram Street with Westfield Mall and Cinema Complex entrance on left, major retailers on right and - always adding value to a bus stop - the option of handy taxis also available. Note the bus on Riccarton Rd the new route suggested here is only 300 metres further south but closer to most major traffic generators

In this scenario being suggested here buses would use on-street bus lanes  before and after the central commercial area of Riccarton Road, bus laned from the railway line westwards. But instead Instead of fighting traffic in the central commercial section,  west bound buses would turn left into Mandeville Street and then turn right, directly right onto an extended Dilworth Street (access for buses and active transport only) and then continue in a straight line onto Maxwell Street  (which runs along the back of the Mall) past an attractive spacious well laid out bus station opposite the end of Rotheram Street, Afterwards they would continue to Matipo Street  turning left or right according to route, and where relevant back onto Riccarton Road along bus lanes until Church Corner).  

It is an apt solution in terms of bus lanes not disadvantaging the main Riccarton Road "street front" commercial area; also in creating a faster and consistent flow time of buses by virtue of allowing four intelligent traffic light intersections that always read the road and bus flow and give buses priority the maximum time safely appropriate (a degree of variation in signals not possible in main stream traffic flow). 

It allows for very superior bus station facilities both sides of the road (the larger on the sunny side) with a pedestrian friendly, traffic slowed, crossing zone (difficult on the major arterial); it allows allocated stops for different bus routes (eg to City, to airport) and  it is possible with minimum variation of routes  - two extra corners only - for several routes (Orbiter, Metrostar, 5 Hornby, 21 Ilam, 120  included) and with only an added 60 seconds of slight deviation  for the Selwyn Star, and 84 route buses that come off and return to Riccarton Road). A pick up and drop off stop can also be allocated at this bus mall for long distance and shuttle buses, given this excellent offers access to the Metrostar and Orbiter routes, in a way central stations can not.

The main infrastructure and cost involved would be extending Maxwell Street across to Mandeville Street, involving purchase of two or three properties; the purchase of a Maxwell Street property/s for adequate bus station lounges and associated facilities; the adding of one set of traffic lights (at Mandeville and Riccarton for eastbound buses (only) to enter traffic (other traffic could be left in and left out only (give way)  with a exit bus lane islanded for city bound buses. 

Below are some photos relevant to the NZ in Tranzit  bus station proposal;

Ample room to create a bus only right turn island, with left in and left out for other traffic, Mandeville St & Riccarton Rd

Ample room to create multiple lanes by removing parking and if necessary relocating berms to central division islands, with bus stopping lanes and bus passing lanes at back of Mall.  The nature of the road (mainly a carpark access) lends itself to slowed traffic zones greatly increasing bus passenger and pedestrian safety and ease of movement

Towards the western end of Maxwell Street - ample room to create a very different pattern. removing parking and probably creating island protected bus lanes and landscaped noise/fumes and visual protection hedging or design feature walls to insulate houses from "too many buses"

The Mall entrance & a cafe zone - a minutes walk from the "bus mall" proposed by NZ in Tranzit


  All this could probably be built to very high standards for less than $20 million - a tiny fraction of the $170 million (mostly from central Government) recently allocated  Wellington public transport to buy another 35 Matangi electric train units!!  

And an even smaller fraction of the $1.46 billion dollars the central Government will allocate Auckland Central Rail link

In other words after years of transporting taxes north to fund public transport infrastructure in Auckland (which has spent well over $246 million on busways, as well as almost 2 billion on rail) and Wellington the central Government will really welcome the chance to at last play fair by Christchurch and support such modest equivalent Christchurch transit projects. 

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