Monday, December 16, 2013

Primary "Green Road" corridors suggested for Christchurch

The concept of a "Green Road" strategy as applied to Christchurch's two major traffic flow corridors - northwards and westwards. Indicative map only (busway does not pass through Paparoa School grounds!!).

Red lines = the four highly congested main arterial roads entering Christchurch from west (Riccarton Road; Blenheim Road) and North (Main North Road, dividing into Papanui Road;Cranford Street). Some conventional bus services, with or without, part time/part-way bus lanes will doubtlessly always run on these roads

Green Road services (see below) do not displace these existing services so much as build and channel major "trans-active" growth (cycling and bus travel) through new corridors. These primarily link outer suburbs directly to the city centre, by-passing major congestion. A secondary function is to facilitate easy movement around inner higher density suburbs on high frequency corridors.

Green Lines = Potential "Green Roads" linked roading corridors along which buses and cycles - usually on completely separate lanes - have priority and extensive supportive infrastructure and devices. On Green Roads the roading for cars is primarily related to accessing private homes or businesses, rather than through traffic, with some exits "left turn only etc. Reduced on-street parking - or specific residential or commercial visitor parking bays - rather than curbside would also be a feature on some sections.

Green Lines dotted = expansion in 20?40? years time - room for an underground bus or light rail tunnel under part of Hagley Park and under the rail line to link to Green road west. A cycle subway under the rail line from Brockworth Place could be built much sooner.

Blue Line = Northlands and Nor-West feeder route, not a Green Road beyond Northlands but with added infrastructure support for quality bus services, particularly "Express, via Edgeware" services

Dark Green (left hand side) = existing  rail corridor; any subsequent expansion into commuter rail would add further connections, not compete or render obsolete the suggested Green Road corridors


Most of these Green Roads would be on existing streets upgraded to create superior smooth (and vibration free) roading surfaces to carry buses, including potentially (as patronage grows over time) articulated "bendy buses" or three axle double decker buses.  Potential exists too for all-electric or hybrid buses greatly reducing noise. 

The fact that buses given more or less continuous right of way on their passageways would offer very quick journeys without needing to speed or accelerate fast. Add in special landscaping and some residential buffering and small park zones and throngs of cyclists and this would create a scene often  busy yet one leisurely in spirit.

Most of these Green Roads would be along existing streets but (importantly) along minor arterial and feeder roads where bus services and cyclists are not competing against huge volumes of conventional traffic and where bus and cycle lanes do not actually add to the congestion and road space reduction or fight other uses such as shop front parking.

However the key factor that makes these Green Roads viable is the "cut throughs" - the linking together of existing streets by new infrastructure and/or parkway boulevards that only active and public transport vehicles can use. Some of these involve public land, others require some property purchase. Some like the land around the Cranford Basin, below, has already been purchased for motorway, with ample room to include a completely separate busway (here shown red) skirting the area and crossing over Cranford Street. Adding together northern suburbs built and planned and rapidly growing satellite towns at Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Pegasus and Woodend, probably already 50,000 plus people stand to benefit from this smooth pleasant and quick access to Central Christchurch

It takes political courage to say the long term needs of the city and to relieve congestion must inevitably involve some purchase of private property (with an added compensation) but the areas in the way of these proposed "cut throughs" - on both west and north Green Roads are almost entirely older stock single story rental housing in areas that are anyway likely to be rebuilt as two or three storey apartment blocks within the next decade or two. It will also be much more difficult, politically as well as financially, to rebuild these neighbourhoods to retrofit transit corridors in a few years, and likely to lead to far less attractively planned solutions.

With property purchase comes great opportunity to foster better local community infrastructure, parkways and native bird conservation corridors, enhanced community facilities and new attractive transit linked housing at all social and income levels. Some of the projects could be joint public-private, such as redeveloping the South side of Maxwell Street to apartment blocks, deliberately designed to minimise impact of bus lanes below.

The Green Road projects as shown here might run up to $150 million in total (including some residential enhancement etc) but this seems to me a a very appropriate level of technology, spending etc for a city of Christchurch size, even as it protects corridors for future use. This might include possible later conversion to a light rail system, though the huge cost of these (averaging $56 million per km) makes these currently patently unsuited to such a small city and our rather modest GDP per capita by western economy standards.

In contrast I believe any serious international traffic consultancy study would show the cost-benefit ratios and multiple spin-offs inherent in this "Green Road" (bus and cycleways) suggestion represent a far better return on investment than the rather mediocre bus stations and squashed in low standard bus lanes that form the core of present infrastructure policy. Good transport shapes cities!!

It is also  reasonable and appropriate that Christchurch model its 10 year public transport infrastructure around a budget of at least around $250-300 million - a relatively modest amount, mostly funded by national taxes (reclaiming some small part of our own local fuel taxes) and something quite apart from earthquake recovery funds. This is a more than realistic amount viewed against a minimum  $1 billion (plus) spend-up in Wellington (adding the central spine decision, busway or light rail, to the $700 million commuter rail upgrade of last decade) and $4 billion plus spent or planned  in greater Auckland.on public transport.

Why should public transport in Christchurch a city almost a third the size of Auckland, and only slightly smaller in population be treated in the obscene, amateurish, miserly and ad hoc way that it is currently planned?

Where is the wider vision?? 


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