Monday, July 14, 2014

Bus plan - a city going nowhere fast!

Ramped access, door level loading, full veranda shelter, on busway system in Mexico 

Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury are planning a new Riccarton Super Stop to reduce travel times on the city’s busiest bus route

I have campaigned for 36 years to get decent public transport.  I still vomit when I see such nonsensical bullshit as this..

Super stop?? As far as I can see this is just a bus shelter with a slightly enclosed bay - very much like the semi-enclosed bus shelters that used to be outside the public hospital or in The Square when I first arrived in Christchurch in 1970. Except more glass.  Back to the 1950s??

...reduced travel times - ....come on !! How does creating a often crowded bus stop on a busy arterial "increase travel times" in any significant way. 

What utter nonsense  All the genuinely fast bus services in the world nowadays are being built on exclusive busways, not pissing around in the odd hope of saving 30 seconds ( if lucky!!)

I am going to use a really offensive term (to me too) here.  I don't think I am a racist (or not more than anyone can't help being a bit at times) and but when I look a the level of public transport in Christchurch,  I think this just  "bus services for niggers"  

Please be clear here; I am not talking about skin colour here but the sort of despicable arrogant attitudes that once ruled in South Africa or the Bible belt states in the south of the USA, where funding of public facilities constantly shortchanged one sector of the population

In other words "who cares how pathetic and outdated in style and concept the services and facilities are   - they are only bus users!!". It comes through in almost everything the Government, the city authorities and regional bus administrations do, in Christchurch as in many other cities. Most of what passes for public transport is actual just "tokenism". How can we pretend to address this issue, whilst not really changing anything.

Years of being treated liked n------- (yuk word )  by various public authorities, all levels trying to avoid commitment to effective modern transport,  have left most bus users ridiculously grateful for the clumsy shambles currently passing as an efficient bus service, because the buses look modern and have a few technological lollies to hide the real lack of vision and commitment. 

It is the old theory if you kick a dog often enough it will be eternally grateful that one time a week you pat it.

Yet what intelligent 12 year old child could not look at the technology we have on tap to day and say why not create a bus system where the buses hardly ever stop for anything but passengers, where most major bus corridors have exclusive roads, or (fulltime) exclusive space on roads; where a few dozen properties are bought to create a super effective interactive grid (at about 20% the cost of the equivalent in light rail!); where all core service buses run to the same pattern and same times all day and always interact in the same pattern 9am-7pm Mon Sat and another pattern evenings and Sundays. Basically get anywhere within the city, anytime, and often faster than by car and usually so in peak hours..

Sounds impossible ??- Not so. Rather it would need much deep thought on how buses serve key functions ( malls etc) without entrapment in heavy traffic; it would require buses being given exclusive road space and priority access through traffic lights  (less than 5% of the total asphalted road space in the city - and why not 5% of people use buses!!) ; it would probably require the purchase of about 50 properties, here and there, to create some "stents" - bus, cycle and pedestrian congestion  bypasses ; it would require the building of four or five underpasses or overpasses exclusive to buses and active modes. It would include a whole set of interwoven support strategies and integrated computer listings to ensure buses run on time (within 5 minutes of time shown)  every time. It would mean Hornby to city centre; Belfast to City Centre etc in 20 minutes journey time, whether at 8.15 am rush hour or 1.15 am at night - hugely uniting the city and making the city centre fantastically lively - literally a hub rather than a doughnut. 

However these are the easy bits to get - they just take good planning, cunning strategies (I can name a dozen)  and good technology - what we have never had in Christchurch is a single person in public office who has the guts and nous to get up and say we are going to build the most reliable, fast and effective integrated bus system of any small city in the world. No half measures (we might even study bus systems that are working well overseas!!)

Wouldn't it be better to stop wasting millions subsidising outdated concepts and ridiculously low patronage and actually get some return for all that public money?

What is the point of a wizzo 2020 bus exchange in the city centre when the actual journey times and (in most respects) journey quality  are barely improved on 50 years ago - indeed in many cases worse?

Instead we are fed this ridiculous double speak about "super stops" and (magically) "reducing travel times" merely  by building a shabby characterless c-grade class waiting shed.

"good enough for...".  I won't bother repeating the word. But the heart weeps. Such an opportunity lost. 

Nothing changes, year after year, same old crap.

Exclusive bus corridor in South Hampshire UK - buses will never win the battle with cars and interruptions on busy congested roads and maintaining rush hour speeds of 50 km per hour even through built up areas can only happen with "stents" hugh congestion location by-pass corridors exclusive to buses.  A corridor such as this could be built relatively easily through the actual bus user BUSY part of Riccarton from Mandeville Street to Wharenui Road, completely by passing queues and having bus priority at lights (for the 20 seconds it needs for a  single bus to cross an intersection).