Thursday, September 26, 2013

Busways - hot news in today's world !!

Sunnynook Bus Station on Auckland's Northern busway

Its not very often NZ in Tranzit is "hot" with the news, but today - indeed right now - in the United Kingdom another guided busway begins the first day of  public operation.

Luton - Dunstable Latest Guided Busway to open

This busway in Luton area, north of London, consists of 13 km of mostly segregated busway with 7.4 kilometres of this utilising concrete tracks built along a former railway line corridor to provide a smoother-than-rail guided busway. The route bypasses heavy traffic corridors whilst still servicing key points and is expected to offer patrons a 15 minute bus journey, hugely competitive with the one hour journey by car or longer by conventional bus routes in peak hours over the same distance.

The Luton busway is the culmination of 20 years of work and planning by the local council and construction costs over ran £91 million pounds by less than 1%.

Here is yesterdays opening ceremony and a You Tube peak at the busway itself 

Success of Cambridgeshire Guided busway

Luton authorities were no doubt stimulated in the project by the huge success of the Cambridgeshire guided busway which attracted a ridership of two and a half million trips  in its first year and, even by that first anniversary. was racing far ahead of its business case. The long standing legal case between contractors Bam Nuttall and the local Cambridgeshire  authority has also been resolved with the courts ordering Bam Nuttall to repay  £33 million, bringing the real final cost of the 25 km busway down to under £80 million. 

The busway option was chosen over rail because it was a fifth of the cost of rail, offered greater capacity, greater frequency and by running some services into adjoining residential areas (as conventional bus services) removed the need for passengers to transfer, offering a one seat journey.

Construction begins on Manchester Guided busway

This week also saw the first sod turned on the Leigh Guided Busway - a  £76 million bus corridor - again with a central guided section on concrete tracks - running from Leigh into Manchester.

Permanent busway structure attracts and triggers economic development

As with light rail - but at a far reduced costs per kilometre and with greater flexibility than a single route light rail system - the permanent nature of busways with dedicated infrastructure can play a significant role in stimulating local businesses, new employment zones and urban revival.

This was again brought home this week in the USA where a study by an independent transport research institute of the Martin Luther King Jr East Busway in Pittsburg. This corridor - one section cantilevered of the side of a gully above a railway line - was built in 1983 (the first Bus Rapid Transit system in the USA) revealed that the busway had brought over $US900 million in development and urban regeneration around the East Liberty bus station. Fifteen different routes flow along all or part of the MLK East Busway, which generates over 7 million passengers trips per year.

Martin Luther King Jnr East Busway in Pittsburgh - giving buses quality support reaped benefits

Bus rapid transit seen as offering better cost-benefit returns by Australian experts

Only a few weeks ago Infrastructure Australia knocked back requests to help fund light rail in Canberra, pointing out that the cost-benefit returns of bus rapid transit average $4.70 return (for every dollar invested) compared to light rail returning $2.30. This suggests that from a taxpayer viewpoint effective busways can be twice as effective as a public investment too.

However - also hot off the press two days ago - in Cleveland, Ohio, the building of the Healthline [strange name - they sold naming rights] a lane based bus rapid transit corridor is described in a report as having levered up local business regeneration equivalent to $US5.8 billion, or a return of $114.54c for every dollar spent on building the $50 million corridor (a further $150 million was spent on associated neighbourhood changes).

Bus rapid transit well suited to Christchurch and cost effective.

However any public transport application is very much what suits local conditions best with busways a clear and obvious winner in Christchurch, though provision should be made for future commuter rail, setting aside land now for 10-20 years ahead.

We once had the best bus system in New Zealand and was there the political vision we could consciously set out to create the best bus system in any small city in the world, utilising our many strengths, and modern bus rapid transit concepts, most of which have barely entered public knowledge in Christchurch.

A busway [and of cycleway] using on-street lanes (at major intersections etc permanent lanes) could be built straight up Manchester Street, from the permanent lanes in planning, crossing Bealey Avenue and then curve left into Cannon Street crossing Sherbourne and Colombo Streets at bus triggered lights, then curve right, north into Caledonia Road and an Edgeware bus station before continuing via landscaped bus boulevarde to Rutland Street, to Redwood and Belfast etc [as previously described]  . 

Even the poms themselves can't offer "Manchester to Belfast" in 15 minutes!

Light rail is far too too expensive per kilometre and vastly dearer in NZ than overseas because of our very modest  per capita GDP and small per kilometer taxpayer base.

Wisdom suggests light rail would be better kept purely to a inner city circulator route, with modern low-floor streetcars sharing the Heritage tram tracks, providing part of the green image,

This would complement electric buses -  with added easy-load cycle facilities on many buses - doing most of the long haul rapid transit donkey work.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Small city Gatineau on eve of opening 17 km of segregated busway

                                                                                                                                   Official free image

The small Canadian city of Gatineau - across the river from Ottawa but with a separate administration and public transport system is only weeks away from opening a 17km long segregated busway, built utilising the land of a disused railway line. 

Gatineau has an impressive record in transit - among the first cities to introduce bus lanes 43 years ago - and punches way above its weight on various stats - see article below (an edited version of a posting made on this blog in 2010). Most recently it bus system, STO,  has been trialing wi-fi on 3 buses.

For a You Tube  promo about the Gartineau busway, Rapibus, click here 

Reprinted from NZ in Tranzit  May 2010 , edited

According to The Ottawa Citizen [May 1, 2010] Gatineau's transit company has bought the rail line between the Prince of Wales rail bridge and Montée Paiement to build a busway. The article goes onto say .... "but its plans should hearten Ottawa transit advocates who still hope to see commuter trains cross the Ottawa River.Spokeswoman Céline Gauthier said the Société de transport de l'Outaouais [STO] will pay Chemins de fer Québec-Gatineau Inc. $2.5 million for the 15-kilometre disused rail line. The STO plans to remove the track on land to complete a 12-station $233.5-million bus transitway by fall 2011. But Gauthier said the STO will rebuild the rail line next to the Gatineau busway when the road is completed, in case the line is needed in the future. The STO will own the line through the Société de transport ferroviaire de Gatineau (Gatineau Railway Company)."

Gatineau is one of the cities our Mayoral team - or rather qualified transport planners - would have been wise to have visited. It is much closer to Christchurch in size (actually smaller in size) but doing public transport very successfully by Canadian standards. Canadian transit anyway carries approximately twice as many passengers per head of capita than the USA.

Urban growth associated with Ottawa, the national capital of Canada, created much new housing across the Ottawa River in the second half of the 20th century, with much of the development spreading away from the traditional centre of this area, the small city of Hull. On January 1, 1975, the municipalities of Gatineau, Pointe-Gatineau, Touraine, Templeton and Templeton-Ouest and Templeton-Est were merged to form the City of Gatineau in an effort to improve municipal services and coordinate urban growth. Gatineau is now a city of over quarter of a million residents, with most of the housing appearing - from satellite image at Google earth - to be similar in nature and density to Christchurch's suburbs, single unit, in "caulflower" street pattern curving road subdivisions.  City of Ottawa statistics show [2006] that 43,000 people head to Ottawa from Gatineau each morning, while 17,000 travel in the opposite direction. I have been unable to ascertain how many of these use public transport.

Ridership on public transportation for the area, which had been provided by the private sector, had gradually decreased from 11 million in 1956 to a tiny 2.5 million passenger trips per year  in 1971. The story of the rebuilding of public transport systems in Gatineau is impressive. The first bus lanes were introduced in 1971 forty years ahead of Christchurch and with many other innovations since, its ridership has consistently grown. The public transit system in Gatineau is possibly the most successful of any of the, public transport systems in CANZUS**. The STO bus network of Gatineau today serves 262,000 residents - only two thirds of greater Christchurch's population size and carries (figures updated - 2012) 20.2 million passengers per year.

Peak hour patronage at 14.5% of all commuter journeys by any method (2006 figures) exceed those of any city in the USA except New York and are ahead of Vancouver (about 8 times the size). 

This proportion of all peak hour journeys is also ahead of those in Calgary and Edmonton,  cities which have made substantial investment in light rail. An additional interesting factor is the proportion of peak hour commuters using transit in the greater Ottawa area rises dramatically amongst the younger age group which does not suggest buses are seen as uncool or an outdated mode.

There are of course some added situation specific factors involved in Gatineau's success, as there usually are in most situations.  This crafting to the situation makes blanket calls such as "we need rail" sound rather foolish to anyone with any with the slightest understanding of public transport which must be finely tuned in every aspect, to every specific situation, to deliver (a) quality service to consumers (b) cost-effective use of resources, (including in my opinion realistic amortized costs of infrastructure across 25 years). 

It is never easy to do public transport well in a car addicted society and Gatineau has several obvious advantages. For a start it is very near a capital city - always a great generator of white collar commuters, along with tertiary students probably proportionately the largest single user group of public transport  in CANZUS cities; it's connection to Ottawa has bottlenecks around a relatively small number of Bridges (the Ottawa River is deep and wide and expensive to bridge); the Canadian Government has deliberately decentralised growth by building several major Government department high rise office blocks in Gatineau giving two way peak flow traffic. 

Yet all said and done, STO is a separate bus system, from Ottawas and cross river traffic of passengers is carried by routes from both bus services, clearly most trips are internal, within Gatineau.

By comparison  Christchurch kudos  are gained from a good spread of routes, and service frequency [a bit munted now !!] , extent of operating hours, real time and smart card technology, and operating a clean modern bus fleet.  Unfortunately it also blinds everyone to the fact that Christchurch is  doing "mass transit" very badly!! [and this was true well before the earthquakes] . By this I mean really tackling peak hour commuter travel, which appears to be about 70% of public transport patronage in many comparable systems. 

Christchurch as city must look to what is real and effective and plan for the future irrespective of the current (creepy) Government. Governments come and go, Christchurch must hold to the long vision. Even on reduced budget a vision can hold the line. Studying Gatineau seems a good start! 

Potential Busway corridor in Christchurch ignored

**CANZUS - the nearest demographic match to Christchurch smaller cities of Canada, Australia, NZ and the USA. There are 120 cities between 200,000 and 500,000 in these four countries, though the 19 in CANZ  - not including the USA - are probably the best match to NZ except in funding levelsCanada and Australia being much richer countries on per capita GDP and with more progressive policies. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

To understand public transport in Christchurch one must start in Auckland

Hundreds of millions of dollars generated by Canterbury fuel taxes have been used to upgrade public transport in Auckland and Wellington! Meanwhile Christchurch continues to operate buses very much at at a clumsy 1970s level, as above approaching Northlands.

New Zealand is about to be swept by the restless tide of city and district council elections - NZ in Tranzit looks at some of the key public transport issues facing Canterbury councils. The elephant in the back seat of the bus that can not be ignored in Canterbury is the gross deprivation of transport funding that rightly belongs in Canterbury

New Zealand Transport Agency is gearing up to start the $550 million extension of Auckland's Northern Busway, 

An internal report obtained under the Official Secrets Act by Auckland Transport blog - the details since reprinted in mainstream media -  revealed the Agency feels the first part of the two-stage extension will be "economically justified" by 2015 and the entire project justified by 2019.

Though $550 million is a large sum of money for taxpayers to fund, it is very much small bikkies beside other Auckland transport spending (of all sorts), all relying on nationwide taxes  - for example the planned $4.6 billion Auckland Harbour Tunnel  and Government half share - $1.43 billion - of the Auckland underground rail link belatedly agreed to by Prime Minister Keys.

Even Government spin can not hide the fact that taxes of the whole country will be needed to subsidise Auckland, Canterbury taxpayers alone, about 13% of the population can expect to feed in about $700 million for just to these three projects alone, with almost twice that amount eventually expected for proposed other projects (the Waterview Tunnel under Mt Albert, the AMETI scheme and Eastern busway included).

Wellington doesn't miss out entirely when the cake is passed around - the Greater Wellington Regional Council just has just "spent" another $170 million for the last (for now) of the Matangi trains, the lion's share actually for paid by NZ Transport Agency, This brings to over $700 million poured into upgrading a Wellington region rail network, mostly commuter passenger train linked, over the last decade.  

Meanwhile the programme of bus laning of several major bus route corridors in Christchurch planned six years ago to be finished by 2012  is barely half-way. 

In November 2009 New Zealand Transport Agency, under dictat of the National Government so eager to pour at least  $7 billion taxpayer money into Auckland projects, reduced the previous [Labour] Government allocated funding towards cycleways, road safety programmes and bus lanes in Christchurch by at lest $4 million.

Without sufficient Government funding some bus lanes will not now be built until 2019 - a mind boggling 22 years after the first attempt to create bus lanes on Riccarton Road - and years behind most other cities. 

The only major project the Government was prepared to come on board with was an (expected) $60 million towards a new bus exchange, planned in 2010. Viewed against the imbalance of public transport expenditure and what Canterbury had contributed pro rata to public transport in Auckland and Wellington, this was not was a fraction as large an amount as it seems. To put it mildly. 

However even this imbalance palls when we look at Total transport income and expenditure across NZ these last six years, it becomes merely sixpence in the hat of a the man driven to beggary by the thief who stole his wealth. .

Of course, of course,  Auckland has some special needs because of greater density and its economic role; Wellington has special needs because of the special geographic character of the area. That is accepted. It is not expected spending in any field will be 100% in ratio to population.But this said transport is a fairly homogenous thing in NZ. Nine out of ten adults have access to cars, rail and trucking will probably be fairly closely matched to population size, with a few quirks. The main source of transport expenditure is fuel taxes, and I would imagine these are fairly homogenous pro-rata - ten times more people in a town, ten times more fuel tax generated. 

The Press on 28 August 2009 announced -

 ..."The large spend up on New Zealand Highways will see funding for Canterbury roading projects more than double to $636 million in the next three years. Transport Minister Steven Joyce released details yesterday of the $8.7 billion in taxpayer money to be spent on roading [and public transport etc] over three years.

Sounds impressive doesn't it, $636 million, until we check out what 13% of $8.7 billion actually amounts to. It is actually $1.13 billion. Even in this unusually large spend up (mainly for the Southern motorway extension) Canterbury fuel taxes etc are actually still flowing north to subsidise Auckland and Wellington transport, to the tune of pumping about $470 million across the Strait.

And that was a good three year  period for Canterbury - the previous three year funding period $7.2 billion was allocated to various projects across the country - Canterbury 13% of the population received back in transport projects , $325 million. That is to say, Canterbury received only 4.5% to spend on roads and public transport etc, only about a third of the 13% of fuel taxes it generated  In that period, our generous southern subsidy to northern cities was about $600 million! 

In other words over a billion dollars in six years (even with earthquakes intervening) has been taken out of the local transport economy and sent north.

Back in 2003 the outspoken (if intemperate)  city Councillor Denis O'Rouke did at least make a few decently loud squawks, claiming the city was only getting back half of the fuel taxes it paid. 

In 2005 Mayor Garry Moore made a few more polite noises on the same matter (on a richter scale measuring the effect in parliament probably equivalent to a series of genteel  farts), and this in 2007 just before he accepted a sinecure as a member of the Boards of Land Transport NZ and Transit NZ!!.  Yeah right. Lead on McDuff??

We need an united  civic leadership that has the nous to stand up for Canterbury, that can mount a strategic campaign to achieve a significant shift back towards fairness in transport funding. A council that  that works hard - on the national stage (just as Len Brown fought for Auckland) to see that hundreds of  millions of transport dollars are retained here where they are generated, in Canterbury  and the South Island in general. 

As far as resolving our ever more lousy traffic situation and grossly underfunded and undeveloped public transport system that  seems to be the most basic task of any incoming council.  

More on the Auckland sucks debate (lovely place but its got a junkie habit for the nation's wealth)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Con Man Rips-Off City for Almost half a Million dollars

Police say they are hampered by a code of silence among a gang of executive con-men who specialise in ripping off public bodies for huge amounts.

Said Inspector Plod "This gang is bigger than the mafia, it operates across borders, it works constantly to shift money from the poorer and hardworking members of society to those who enjoy grossly inflated salaries. It is claimed these are for executive stresses and strains, but in many cases investigations by our forensic teams show these stresses are are actually much less than those faced by young families on low wages paying horrendous rents."

Added police Inspector Plod "Many of the victims of this robber gang are trying to raise children on fortnightly incomes less than the gang members spend on a single golfing weekend."

Police say despite the huge salary rip-off they were unable to find any trace of the most recent con man's activities, pointing as an example, to the dismal state of public transport in the city in question [city's name withheld to protect Councillors from ridicule].

Said Inspector Plod "You'd need to be Sherlock Holmes with his magnifying glass to find any significant infrastructure changes that support public transport - apart from few clumsy and poorly designed bus shelters, the offender in question left no footprint despite the huge sums that changed hands"