Saturday, July 31, 2010

City Mayor Bob Parker goes on the Offensive (literally offensive!)

Bob Parker has certainly demolished any public confidence that the City Council under his governance could capably manage public transport after all the nonsense he is quoted as having said in this morning's edition of "The Press".**


I can't imagine a more tragic situation for the citizens of Christchurch and particularly bus users relying upon a public transport administration led by a man who clearly thinks bus users are "losers" and buses "loser cruisers",  the last resort of  - I quote - "the young, the poor,  the elderly and drink drivers who have lost their license".  Parker is describing the USA bus system (with the odd exceptions of a handful of cities, arguably the least effective public bus systems in the developed world!) but that Parker bothers to bring this attitude into an article about Christchurch public transport says it all. 


Where has this man been for the last twenty years??  He clearly does not catch or uses buses in Christchurch, nor does he do any professional research into comparative system cost-benefits, and yet he seeks to govern a public transport system that involves millions of dollars of capital and operating costs and effects the lives of tens of thousands of local residents. Whoa!!


Some organisation in Hawaii, by far the most successful city of [just] under a million residents in the USA in terms of annual transit ridership figures (70 million, all by bus) did a survey a while back, which I can't find now but remember well,  and identified four main bus passenger groups that were represented disproportionately to the population as a whole - tertiary students, CBD office and retail workers (particularly women); tourists/visitors and retired persons. If we add high school students and people who are physically and mentally disabled - including the invisibly disabled (eg can't drive because they have a heart condition, don't speak sufficient English to obtain a driver's license or are epileptic etc) I think we would probably cover 60-70% of bus riders in Christchurch. A portion of healthy greeny looking types I suspect ride buses because they care about the degraded planet we are leaving our grandkids (I look more seedy but my heart is in the right place!!). Then there's a bit of everything else;  most the other riders I ever encounter - which includes riding buses through several less wealthy areas on the way to and from work - are just a cross section of our society,  fairly homogenous and in the kiwi way socially the same as the rest of us. More than half of Christchurch residents never catch buses but I don't think the primary dividing line is social class. The groups listed above feature strongly in Christchurch usage too but are by no means the lowest decile in income. I travel most routes in any given year, not having a car, but mostly Papanui Road routes and those through the eastern suburbs and rarely do I see significant numbers of people who look overly impoverished or depressed looking.


The only exception to who is using buses I would say is perhaps the top 10% income group and the bottom 10% income group - which by other overseas studies I've read and by casual observation [hardly trustworthy!!] I would say are disproportionately under represented. 


When I was a bus driver in the 1970s and 1980s were often used to get patched street gang members on buses [never had any problems, even bizarrely in a disputed fare amount with five hefty gang members, on the first night I ever worked alone in 1977] but I haven't seen gang patches on buses for years. The most common problem behaviour (apart from scratching windows) seems to be the occasional group of over-loud14 year olds mouthing off and hyping each other up - on the back seats sometimes with foul language as well.  If the behaviour is too bad, drivers or one of the passengers will sometimes reprimand them. This phenomena seems to transcend social class - that relentless teenage insecurity and energy that talks loudly in peer groups and only grunts and mumbles at home is just part of growing up for girls and for boys. [14 can be the least lovely age of the human lifespan!]. 


We shall have to put up with youth and let them mature - there is  an emerging trend appearing in various surveys overseas for the 16-24 years to be using buses more proportionately than other age groups, and rating buses higher than others. This a generation that does not remember dirty chug-a-lug diesel. Nor the prolonged dwell time at each stop as poor old Mrs Jones painfully climbed a bus staircase as steep as Mt Everest, saying "Never grow old driver" before hunting five minutes for her fare of accumulated tiny coins. Modern buses  with warm heaters, big wide windows and clean bright interiors, low floor entrances to help load elderly, swish along the road hardly stopping for more than a few seconds at most stops even as half a dozen boarding passengers swipe their Metro cards . With bus lanes much of the drag goes out of bus commuting.  


I image that there are still the odd wealthy dowagers or people that "look after the pennies" or excutive type using buses, but as wealth accumulates with age for most people I imagine these numbers are mainly subsumed in the retired category anyway. Real wealth (and indeed real poverty) is often more quietly spoken than we assume.


Usually  people keep to their own inner space when travelling en mass with strangers but generally I'd say the friendly moments, shared humorous situations with smiles, or "looks" all round, the polite or helpful incidents, or a young child's enthusiasm charming passengers, outweigh the negative at least four to one (one of the reasons I enjoy bus travelling is the sense of being in a shared and interesting community and amongst an incredibly rich diversity of dressing styles, ethnic groups and character types, a.k.a people watching). 


I don't see too many loosers in this situation Mr Parker, unless it is someone who has never had time to enjoy the community participation of bus travel and the more relaxed shared or inner journey it usually offers bus users.






** "It's one of the big things I learnt from hearing the experience of cities like Portland," says Parker. Buses suffer from a "loser cruiser" image. They are seen as the last resort of the young, the poor, the elderly, and drink drivers who have lost their licence. 


"Changing Track" Feature writer John McCrone, Mainlander section of The Press, Saturday 31st July 2010 (looking at public transport policies of various mayoral candidates)


NOTE; This posting was up-dated  and a link to the original Press article added on 22nd July 2012 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Christchurch rail study (again) - Even looking in the right places still railing against the odds!


Lyttelton,  Port of Canterbury - grossly unsuited for commuter rail?? Photo PhillipC - Wikipedia Commons

A few weeks ago the Tony Marryatt, CEO of Christchurch City Council was instructed by a council motion to organise an investigation of light rail and commuter rail options for Christchurch. It is about time we had another study of rail, a perennial favourite in Christchurch, a city with only the loosest understanding of public transport parameters and options! Other public transport technologies and variants - of which there are dozens - appear to be precluded from the study by the wording of the motion.



It will be five years ago next week since the release in The Press of a previous study of commuter rail options for the greater Christchurch area undertaken by Environment Canterbury [ECan]. This was not an intensive study but rather prelimary findings of a consultancy firm, based on standard costings for various infrastructure likely to be needed, drawing from overseas examples, did not consider site specific issues and offered only ball park figures. "You are looking at figures which could be plus or minus 50%. This is very much a preliminary investigation," James Leach of international infrastructure firm GDH told Ecan (The Press 4 August 2005). "Leach said the most expensive option would give Christchurch a world-class commuter rail system".

The five options thast were considered in 2005, are described in The Press article as follows

* Option 1: using existing rail lines. This would cost $55 million, plus $3.7m a year. Service frequency would be limited by existing freight and ferry timetables.

* Option 2: double-tracking between Islington (west Christchurch), Christchurch, Belfast (north Christchurch) and Heathcote. This would cost $105.5m, plus $5.5m a year, and enable a frequent service.


* Option 3: double-tracking between Islington and Rangiora. This would cost an estimated $201.5m, plus $7.9m a year, and allow a frequent service between Islington and Rangiora, and Islington and Lyttelton.


* Option 4: double-tracking between Rangiora and Rolleston. The cost of this would be $246m and $9.9m a year. This would allow frequent services across the network and could mean branch lines to areas such as Oxford and Prebbleton could be reopened to ease road traffic congestion.


* Option 5: a central city underground and double-tracking from Rangiora to Rolleston, costing $690m, plus $26m a year.


All would require new stations and platforms, estimated at $2m each.


No doubt the brief of GDH was to look at all options but Ecan has since referred to commuter rail for Christchurch as costing "at least $250 million". (The Press 7 May 2008) This suggests recognition that the first two options above, at least, are considered unworkable, because of track sharing difficulties with freight services and because without running to at Rangiora and Rolleston, much of the point and patronage of any commuter rail system would be lost.

The problems of sharing tracks with freight systems can not be under-estimated. Large amounts of money are currently being spent in Sydney, just as one example, to try to retrospectively create segregated passenger and freight corridors north and south out of the city. A recent posting on the Transport Politic blog [love that brill photo!] also highlights the speed compatibility problem of mixing freight and passenger services.

The current freight movements out of Christchurch, I imagine, will be fairly tightly timetabled, just as any commuter rail would need to be time-tabled. Rail traffic on the single track northern main line has a strong component of interconnection to the Picton-Wellington rail ferry, while traffic on the Lyttelton-Rolleston section is closely bound to the 12 trains each way carrying coal from the West Coast to the export wharf at Lyttelton In single track scenarios of rail,and freight sharing the same corridor delays on one or other system will impose on the other - and it doesn't take too many of these to dispersuade customers, whether those in freight forwarding or or passengers commuting to work, to look for other options. The need for double tracking, or even triple tracking in sections, to protect the efficiency of key drivers of the South Island economy is obvious. Just as the political difficulty of double tracking up (and greatly increasing rail traffic) through well established up market housing areas is also obvious. Or the outcry if the mother of all cycle ways - that fabulous broad 6km cycleway and pedestrian path from Riccarton to Northlands (and now Tuckers Road) was destroyed to allow an added track on the rail line.

Despite only a solitary cyclist in this Wikipedia photo the
very popular and well used Christchurch railway cycleway
6km long and cutting across multiple arterial roads (with cyclist
activated lights) in the inner western suburbs of Christchurch

Safety would be a big concern too, either from a train running a signal or a passing train derailing, mixing lightweight and heavy weight rail systems, and mixing fast and slow trains would fall outside good practice. The need for commuter rail system to stop often enough to generate sufficient patronage, and the time it takes for heavier trains to decelerate and accelerate as well as load at stations, suggests express services would not be viable and commuter rail in Christchurch would hardly achieve "rapid transit" status, competitive with using a car or indeed competitive with the more direct, door to door, benefits of express quality bus/coach services. Closer to the city - between Hornby and the city, Papanui and the City - many residents are too close to warrant park and ride, or transferring to rail from bus, at either end of their journey as would be necessary.

I also find it difficult to see the rationale of including Lyttelton in any commuter rail study. The combined population of Lyttelton, Heathcote, and Diamond Harbour (accessed via the ferry) would not collectively surpass 6,000 with constraining landscape restricting growth, a population base way way below any sensible threshold for commuter rail viability. It seems to me only lazy thinking would include this destination in a commuter rail study, superimposing past but now irrelevant factors on to the present situation. In the old days this line was Christchurch's main suburban line but none of the factors that once supported this service now remain. Before the road tunnel opened in 1964 the only road access was via winding steep hill roads at Dyers Pass or Evans Pass - making the direct rail line very competitive - not least to the 500-700 Lyttelton ferry passengers arriving and departing Lyttelton each morning and evening, or the many hundreds of waterfront workers in the days when ships were loaded and unloaded and stacked largely by manual labour.

As soon as the road tunnel opened patronage plummeted - 25% in the first year and by 1972 the railways were losing $100,000 a year [at a very rough guess, that is around $1 million a year in modern terms] and opted then only to run a service to link to Lyttelton-Wellington ferry arrivals and departures. On September 14th 1976 the ferry too ceased and rail with it - commuter rail services between Christchurch and Lyttelton had lost any rationale for their existence.

It is hard to imagine - in this day and age - why anyone would want to forsake a quick comfortable and fairly direct and fast bus service from the city and up into the heart of Lyttelton for the clumsy catching of a bus to a railway station in Christchurch and a rail trip followed by a long trudge up steep hills in all weather to access town and residential areas. Passenger traffic from Diamond Harbour is not likely to surpass bus capacity levels in our life time, if ever. If there is a demand for tourists from ocean liners to rail out, this is easily and more likely to be incorporated in the flexibility of a chartered (and time flexible) train. Nor is it possible to imagine KiwiRail being very attracted to running comuter rail through the bottleneck of the Lyttelton tunnel, inevitably compromising the flow or flexibility of coal train and container shipping movements. The rest of the Lyttelton line services mainly warehousing type industries, around Hillsborough and Chapmans Road, or housing areas too far from the track or too close to the city to allow effective commuter rail. Despite including the biggest piece of rail infrastructure in Canterbury - the Lyttelton rail tunnel (astoundingly built in 1864 when the whole province had only 12,000 residents!!) the return of commuter rail to the port seems pure fantasy.


If local passenger rail was rebuilt tomorrow I would see the natural terminus of the line as being at Ensors Road, opposite the Sullivan Avenue campus of CPIT. This would allow link up to the major road east-south road corridor and bus corridor, not least The Orbiter bus service. Presuming the Probation service leaves enough room this could make use of the partially converted rail yards with a small terminus station and another platform only, events passenger loading area, at the Stadium formerly known as Lancaster Park.


In receiving the original report back in 2005, then Ecan Councillor, Nicky Wagner said ECan had to understand the level of public demand for rail and how many people would use it. "This should be done by patronage, not just where the tracks are now," she said. Quite so. The way I see it is that current tracks don't necessarily service useful areas and to be effective at all, much of the patronage would be determined by judicious combination of fuure rail planning and land use, much as the rail line through the Hutt Valley line shifted westwards, over towards Taita in the 1950s at the same time as large blocks of new state housing were built.


In this light would seem more logical to me to either create a city circular route, by adding a double track line from Islington up past (and under the forecourt land) of the airport and joining onto the current northern line at Styx Mill. OR, even to do way with the railway line between Addington and Northlands altogether and run all trains via the aforementioned corridor, with small spurs to Northlands and to the present long distance station, with a small city commuter station somewhere near the Colombo Street, Durham Street area.


It is legend that Germany gained infrastructure advantage after world war two, by starting rail from a clean slate (so to speak, albeit it was dirty,dusty rubble) the existing systems destroyed. Any venture into rail in Christchurch could gain much from the Islington-Styx Mill link by virtue of the fact it is currently, largely, a blank slate, covering many many hectares but also links (in a continuous loop) to major employment zones at Belfast, Northlands, Addington, Middleton, Hornby, Sheffield Crescent and at and around the Airport. Building freight yards, industries needing rail sidings, and new residential areas near Islington and Styx Mill housing could all be done to benefit from and contribute towards the success of such a line.


I would like to think the city council in studying rail has the sense to least evaluate this as an option - although one of the more obvious possibilities, it was not included in the 2005 study.

I also wonder - with Auckland building an underground trench for rail at New Lynne ($160 million) and a 300 metre underground trench for rail entering Onehunga (part of the $90 million extension of commuter rail services to this suburb) - is it not time Christchurch stood up for its own situation? The adding of 6000 jobs in several new office parks in the Addington area, not to mention the major growth current and planned around Halswell, Henderson and Awatea , all suggests that it is no longer appropriate to have surface road/rail level crossings at Lincoln Road, Whiteleigh Avenue-Claridges Road. I am sure the traffic on these crossings must equal or exceed traffic on similar points in Auckland - any rail study might ask is a trench technically feasible and politically achievable.  We don't need any more great ugly flyovers of the Durham Street type, especially in these areas (x2) if rail could cross below road level on the hugely busy roads. Roads which can only get busier, many times over, in the years ahead.
I haven't heard this raised anywhere but it seems to me it must be addressed sooner rather than later.

Leave out Lyttelton; investigate the north-western Styx -Airport-Islington loop rail corridor; investigate a trenching of the main trunk line south around Addington - three things that an amateur trainspotter (really buspotter) suggests any rail study must sensibly do  - and yet even then I am still dubious of commuter rail as an appropriate technology in Christchurch.


At the 2005 ECan reception of the report, according to The Press, then ECan Councilor "Ross Little said most commuter rail services were in cities larger than Christchurch. He wondered if the city was big enough to warrant commuter rail."

He wondered and this blogger has wondered this too! Across the last few years I have tried to identify similar cities to Christchurch (in key demographics such as population size/density/car ownership/wealth distribution) in Canada and Australia, NZ and even USA and found - to my surprise - out of 120 that match up only one city has its own proper commuter rail system, and that doubtless because of a combination of unique factors, Wellington NZ.! Where commuter rail service connections to smaller exist elsewhere it is primarily to link to much larger cities nearby, Wollongong for example benefits from reverse flow rail commuters, though almost 80% of rail patronage is towards Sydney.  In contrast many of these cities appear to have considered rail options, some with published studies (two samples Halifax Nova Scotia and Victoria British Columbia) and found them not cost/effective for the size of the city - even when rail corridors already exist.

Does anyone else out there hear dem warning signal bells a ding-ding-dinging ??





Bonus reprise!  Can't remove it!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Genuine Article - sort of!

Even though I slag off at our local city and transit authorities I am ever mindful I live in a beautiful wee city. Remarkably it is still full of a reasonably large number of heritage buildings and even a [re-created] circuit of tram tracks around the city central areas,  with beautifully restored original trams from Christchurch itself, and other restored trams from Dunedin (350km south) and Melbourne, Australia.  In some cases these trams date back over 100 years.   Murphy's law applies here! I was trying to get a good photograph of one our iconic 1990s Designline gas/electric shuttle buses and a tram went past and I thought "Everyone photographs the trams, how cliche!" [and then remembering I had a digital camera so extra photos cost nothing/can be eliminated!] I thought what the hell".  As it turns out that I love this photo. Even so,  it is a little bit fake - we are only a provincial city with about a dozen or so higher rise buildings - by chance two line up behind this old 19th century Dunedin tram at the same moment, giving us a big city gravitas we don't quite really have! However we do have lots of elegance, that is something we do well, in a thousand ways big and small. This tram (originally ran in Dunedin, on two axles - predates bogies) was originally restored at Ferrymead Park, but is now leased to the city tramway system.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Auckland Bridging Finance Flows whilst Canterbury Transport Vision Stalls Badly

I don't like blogging too often (it feels like ear bashing people even if they do control the OFF button!) but I am driven to post again,  the very next day, almost immediately on top of my last posting about rail in Victoria BC. 


I have had a busy weekend but two events - both linked - stand out in my mind and indeed grieve the heart terribly. On Saturday afternoon I went to the EcoExpo at the Christchurch Convention Centre. Originally, when I first heard of it I thought " oh - oh cheesy greenwash. lots of marginally green enterprises jumping on the environmental  band wagon". But later with a chance to look at the line up of speakers, which included some very dedicated activists spanning years of unpaid, thankless (and sometimes abused) commitment, and after perusing the list of short movies, and  noting that the Christchurch City Council was a key sponsor and noting [not least!] the very reasonable entry fee (accessabilityto maximum range of people given priority!) I was swung over.

In the event (or is "at the event?") there was maybe 50-70 stalls, a real range of businesses mainly involved with insulation, water use and conservation, energy production methods and recycling systems; and stalls for eco related community organisations, organic growing groups. and green orientated political groups. There was a small stage with more or less continual speakers and power point presentations. In another area acting as a theatrette  movies screened about environmental issues.


My main interest as always is transport - along with energy production or conservation - probably the key issue of the next decade or two if we are to find any salvation in the huge and catastrophic breakdown so clearly enveloping the world. Oh woe! One bicycle importer (or whatever) stall and the local public transit authority Metro (Environment Canterbury  transport arm) represented by a couple of essentially meaningless Orwellian "let's be happy families" big posters in an any empty unattended boxed cubicle stall.  As a centrepiece,  albeit to one side -a solitary rotating stand of bus timetables. I must be fair here - I went about 2.30pm Saturday - perhaps the presenter had been taken ill, packed up his or her folding table and left early!
I hope he or she is feeling better.  I am not. How sickening that the public transport system has become so devoid of vision, so lacking in long term strategy or determination to create a viable alternative to the private car, or so underfunded that it can no longer project energy, forward drive, have plans and surveys to share.

The second event - so to speak - and so complementing the ECan display in a rather morbid way - was the opening this afternoon by Prime Minister John Keys of the new $230 million Mangere Bridge in Auckland. This has been built beside and matching the existing Mangere Bridge, and each bridge will operate in one direction only, with five lanes on each bridge.

Second, parallel, Mangere Bridge being built in Auckland. Source Wikipedia Commons

Two of these lanes, a shoulder lane on each bridge,will be bus lanes. Apart from 52 general bus laning projects, which may have received government funding or part funding, during the last decade, this bridge represents the third major segregated bus lane project in Auckland in the last five years. The first was the 8.5 km Northern Busway - Government provided $200 towards this; the second was the central connector - a permanent bus laned accessway in and out the CBD up to Newmarket (including operating the Grafton Bridge as bus only) which cost $46 million (government gave $20 million).
And now at last the Mangere Bridge finished (amazingly, ahead of time). By my calculation if you have 10 lanes and two of them are for buses, and the project costs $230 million [we will leave aside the sunk cost of the existing bridge] that means 20% of lanes are bus only - to wit 20% of the $230 million is a $46 million commitment to public transport. FANTASTIC! A government that puts its money where its mouth is. a real commitment to giving public transport the more even playing field it needs! Ahem, 'scuse me, yeah, ok, ok - we all know this is really the legacy of the Labour Government, not the present National Party government.

But then my thoughts swung back to that forlorn empty looking, unattended, colourless, planless, no projects to share or promote Environment Canterbury stall at the Ecoexpo.  

I think of the $266 million, minimum,  now spent on Auckland's busways [with 13% of the NZ population in Canterbury, in crude terms our local taxpayers fronting with a gift of  $34 million]... not even counting the $1.2 plus billion on Auckland rail... and I think of the absolutely pathetic dalliance of local body politicians with commuter rail and light rail, without ever researching to see if these were actually appropriate to a city of our circumstances. A dalliance that has cost us a decade of lost opportunity, a decade where the smugness and insularity of Christchurch completely misses major trends in overseas in the key new rapid transit corridor technology; a decade where funding opportunity existed, was ignored and the opportunity then lost; a decade which approaches tomorrow with nothing but dreams of light rail and complete blindness to the needs to preserve bus and rail corridors along appropriate alignments, many being compromised or lost by the day.

With Auckland receiving over $1.5 billion and Wellington half a billion towards transit did not Canterbury warrant a few score million, perhaps some more just portion?

That unattended empty, unimaginative, underfunded, directionless display stall  says it all.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Commuter rail seen as not effective option for Victoria, Christchurch sized city in Canada

VIA Rail diesel railcar unit at Qualicum Beach Station on Vancouver Island
north of Victoria.  - Photo: Courtesy of Alasdair McLellan, Wikipedia Commons

One of Christchurch's "true sister cities" [see Pages section on sidebar ] would appear to be the city of Victoria in Canada. This city is at the tip of Vancouver Island,  the largest Island on the Pacific Coast of North America and about the size of Denmark. Despite the name-match the city of Vancouver itself (c 2 million population) is a ferry trip away on the mainland. Victoria is the capital city of the Province of British Columbia and at around 357,000  metropop has a population slightly smaller than that of greater ChristchurchThe city of Victoria is one the most successful "stand alone" small city public transport systems in North America in patronage, its transit system carrying 22.4 million passengers a year at last known count.   

In some respects Victoria has a footprint vaguely like that of Wellington NZ, except the land and sea are "in reverse" . The CBD and core of Victoria proper sits at the waterfronted apex of a "V" formed by two extended residential corridors.  The Saanich peninsula extends for about 40 km immediately north of the city and includes Victoria international airport and the Swartz Bay where ferries across to Vancouver and the mainland depart. On the other side of the long and wide Saanich inlet, the other arm of the "V" extends westwards and northwards along the main body of Vancouver Island. (a simplified map here might explain things better) .

The coastal areas west of the Victoria CBD are (surprise) called West Shore or the Western Communities, and include several growing residential communities, with a combined  population  totalling around 60,000,  Langford at 25,000 residents being the largest town. Passing through this area is The Southern Railway of Vancouver Island  formerly the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, or more simply [as it is still known locally, it seems] the E and N Railway. It was originally built back over 100 years ago to open up the land and particularly to transport timber from the central island down to the port at Victoria. After a pulp paper mill closed in the late 1990s, removing the largest bulk freight customer, viability of the line declined. Subsequently the system passed through several owners and operators, in the normal complications of business shifts and changes, until Canadian Pacific donated the section of line it owned  to a native American (aka first nations) trust, Island Corridor Foundation. As with most gifts of this nature, receiving the gift of a no longer ecomically secure railway line and land corridor has been something of a double edged sword.

The one train per day passenger service "The Malahat" is provided by VIA Rail the main Canada-wide (and Government owned)  passenger rail operator. As with the Tranz Alpine line, operating out of Christchurch, this is tourist service and service to residents locations along the way - leaving Victoria in the morning, arriving back early evening. The possibility of using the same line, in an opposite direction,  for a commuter rail service for residents of the Westshore area to get to work in Victoria has been raised on several occasions over the years and was the subject of a previous study in 2002.

In 2008, the Island Corridor Foundation  identified the need for $104 million to rehabilitate and upgrade the E&N corridor to North American freight standards and the Province committed $500,000 to a dedicated study of  upgrading the line for freight and passenger rail options. The results of  this study were released a fortnight ago in several sections, including one report focussed on the viability of creating a commuter rail system. Why this wily wabbit finds it fascinating - even without knowing the locations described first hand -  is that the report does not talk in generalities or even sweeping estimates but works through every aspect in fine detail - cost of new track or upgrading sleepers for faster speeds, between this point and that, and this point and that etc etc; every single grade crossing is analysed for the necessary works needs, as are station facilities, platform length, height of boarding steps, dwell time, car-parking areas needed. etc. All these are weighed with parameters set by best and worst range or modelling from equivalent situations elsewhere and standard railway processes and requirements. The report calculates the exact travelling time needed according to different conditions and the maximum level of service calculated as possible (every 30 minutes for four hours in morning peak, and again in afternoon peak) and the number of trains needed (3 plus 1 spare) to cover the 17km proposed route length through built up areas. And measures these against comparable car journey times to see whether they would be likely to attract commuters away from cars to rail.

There is a feeling here, for me reading this, of investigators trying to find a solution in a way that can benefit residents, the first nation tribe of the area, and the Province in general. But also the perception of the investigators not baulking, sliding over or generalizing away, in any way,  the many nitty gritty realities.
As in most public transport planning, it implicitly recognises the devil is always in the detail.  And finds there are just too many areas where things do not match up or meet bottom line standard criteria for rail planning. Hard rock stuff. Coupled with the previous findings of the Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Project that the rail line itself did not serve sufficient destinations and workplaces, the conclusion is that due to the high cost to implement commuter rail and the estimated levels of travel demand, the sizeable ivestment needed was not warranted.

For this writer it echoed much that could be said about commuter rail in greater Christchurch, New Zealand, where commuter rail is often put forward as an option without, it seems to me, any great depth of analysis.  Although many factors are different the comparable city and commuter suburb population size and dispersement of outlying residential areas involved, the length of line required, the need for double tracking etc and the amount of diesel units needed to maintain a very basic core service, half hourly at peak periods (only) all have parallel with the greater Christchurch situation (as well as the fact that both lines stop short of the CBD and don't serve any major key patronage destinations such as universities or airports). Good reading because many of the evaluations and comments, weighing various factors, could equally apply in Christchurch or at least educate us early to real costs and challenges.

It would be nice to think that those who advocate rail with such casual certainty would take time out to read this report, about 40 pages plus appendii. If nothing else the complexity of doing rail well - as with any public transport - may be brought home.

If the study and report being prepared under the auspices of the CEO for the City Council on rail options in Christchurch is as intelligent and indepth as that prepared for Victoria our city will be well served. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No accounting for tastes - wild wabbit again

Hop to it! Bus Rapid Transit Station in Santiago de Cali, Colombia - but it could be
Burwood Hospital or Avonhead mall,  if we  took the unseen potential of  buses as
seriously as  they do in South America, Africa, China, Canada Photo courtesy of ITDP

One thing I note with rail and light rail advocates is that they very rarely include capital costs in their descriptions of "successful rail projects". Hundreds of millions can be spent for systems that carry only a few million passenger trips a year, if that. That sort of patronage level is nothing in world terms. Allowing too that patronage is, often, mostly the same people making morning/evening (or after school commutes) each weekday, it can mean a lot of money is going down black hole of a rail tunnel to support relatively few commuters. Not surprisingly despite the huge investments in rail, in the same city the over-all proportion of people commuting to work by public transport barely alters.



Not counting the capital costs of major infrastructure is as if the cost of establishing the infrastructure is paid for by some benign God-like father figure. Actually it is not. It is paid by you and me. Or has to be found at the expense of some other project. Who would borrow a million to open a shop and then say he was successful, though his profits didn't cover the loan repayment costs? While I acccept public transport works to different rules and has social, environmental or cost saving (elsewhere) factors, I think there is definitely a limit to how far that sort of thinking can justifiably be applied. Sustainability must also stand on hard rock.


The operating costs of public transport are only partly met by fares paid by passengers - New Zealand's best farebox recovery level is that of Wellington's public transport system with (by world standards) the fairly high return of 51% of operating costs met by passenger payment. I believe in public transport operating costs do not incorporate major capital expenditure, al though they may include incremental costs such as repairing a rail culvert or removing a slipped hillside from a cutting.


Wellington is undergoing a long overdue upgrade of rail infrastructure costing over $550 million. Wellington commuter rail currently carries 11 million passengers a year and will doubtlessly grow as services are modernised and become more reliable, and as population in outlying areas such the Hutt Valley and Kapiti Coast grows. This said it is a well established mature system, already carrying very high levels of patronage by world standards and operating in an era where work places continue to decentralise. Athough Wellington commuter rail systems may eventually carry 20 million passengers a year in 25 years time, my suspicion is the average for a year measured across the whole period would be closer to 15 million.


Annualizing the capital costs of the $550 million upgrading over a 25 year period - presuming money came straight from taxes, nothing was borrowed (no interest) and not another penny was spent on Wellington rail infrastructure over the next 25 years, gives us a cost per year of $22 million. That is a relatively modest $1.50 per trip - for commuters making five weekly return trips a week $15 per week. I don't know what the average fare is in Wellington - on one hand it will be off set by child fares, and on the other raised by more longer distance rail fares than most systems, (guessing wildly) it will probably be in the order of $3-4 dollar a boarding, $30-40 per weekly commuter. Presuming half the cost is met, as now, out of local rates and national taxes that is another $15 to $20 a week for a 10 trip a week commuter. Let us say all regular commuters in Wellington (irrespective of age or fare paid) get an average subsidy from NZ taxpayers and local rate-payers of $30 a week minimum.

I imagine this is actually very conservative figure.

Annualized costs in Auckland, where much more capital outlay is needed to build the public transit systems that were never built while NZ was subsidizing massive motorway projects, are much higher. As a rough guide $600 million was spent double tracking rail and building new stations etc, and $600 million is needed to electrify rail and buy electric trains (albeit a loan from Government to KiwiRail for latter) and $300 million to build the northern busway (I'm not counting the $84 million from North shore ratepayers for the bus stations). That is a round sum, conservatively, of $1.5 billion. Auckland rail currently carries 8 million passengers a year. Unlike Wellington its a new system and in a city almost four times larger in poulation, let's say it averages 25 million passengers per year averaged across a 25 year infrastructure evaluation period. That is a annualised capital works cost per year of $60 million or around $2.50 per trip annualised cost per passenger - or for regular 10 trip a week commuters $25 a week minimum annualized "capital cost" subsidy. One probably equalled by the operating cost subsidy - in other words about $50 a week per regular passenger subsidy.






Again I suspect this is a very conservative figure.


These are figures for rail systems achieving some sort of benchmark figures of mass patronage. They are presumed on averages, retrospectively looking back from year 2035 - not on current annual subsidy rates which in Wellington's case are currently 50% higher, and Auckland, in the scenario as above, currently heading towards three times higher i.e $120 plus per each weekday regular commuter.


If Christchurch was to introduce a modest rail system between Rangiora and Rolleston at peak hours Mon-Fri only and at 30 minute intervals, this would probably require at least five diesel units, (i.e. that can be driven from either end) four in service and one to cover repairs and breakdowns, and double tracking large sections of the line from Rangiora to the city, new signal equipment etc and building or rebuilding and extending various stations. At  most optimistic calculations (I imagine), based on similar systems in NZ and elsewhere it might cost a $150 million to create - depending on new trains or recycled Auckland (ex Perth ) DMU - and in extreme optimism it might carry 1 million passengers a year (though more likely less than 300,000 given the small population bases it serves!). Even in the optimistic case the annualised capital cost of subsidy per weekly commuter would be somewhere in the order of $60 a week , and operating costs subsidy about $30 a week per passenger.


For what? A fairly klutzy old system, far too heavy (literally and figuratively) for a progressive modern city, a service that doesn't run at weekends or evenings (couldn't afford to) and only runs every 30 minutes, means most people have to transfer bus/rail or rail/bus enroute and directly benefitting probably less than 5% of the population. Man crazy stuff from rail nutters!!


Why not run luxury coaches with armchair seating and wi-fi?  Departing every 5 minutes during peak hours from both Rolleston and Rangiora, some running to or via the airport, some running via a Belfast-City 12 minute busway , some via Northlands, some via The Palms - it will offer far more relaxing journeys, door to door and the total cost across 25 years will still come in way below the $150 million plus operating millions in in operational subsidies. Think rail, build bus, go hog wild!

Ok these are just wild wabbit figures I know. But even in the wildest, vaguest way, people (tax payers, greenies, rail fans, you and me) need to keep in mind the real costs. Of course in none of these cities have I mentioned a high portion of these commuters must travel to to station in a car (hidden car parking space costs borne by ratepayer? - Metlink Wellington astoundingly has 4613 (free?) commuter car parks) or by bus, and/or travel from the rail station by bus, adding another $20 a week in subsidized operating costs etc; that is the nature of rail, its linear nature ensures relatively small numbers of people are within easy walking distance.


Although a good busway network in Christchurch - with sections of segregated road, or underpasses or flyovers, and a couple of dozen proper keypoint enclosed waiting platform level stations, with computerised articulated buses and roads resurfaced to smooth cruising levels, and a (railway like) computerised network integration system might cost $200 million plus, it would directly benefit about 85% of the city, potentially carry over 10 million passengers plus a year (on top of current patronage) revitalise the central city and have real subsidy costs way below Auckland and Wellington ratios.  The city that jumped into the future!


I imagine this is a fairly conservative picture of the real benefits.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

GO Transit Toronto

Arguments about capacity or journey quality offered by light rail or commuter rail systems versus bus have become largely irrelevant - especially for smaller cities - in the face of huge advances made in bus technology in the last decade -  Photo Go Transit Bus from Toronto (courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

The Palms Bus Station (or maybe not?)






The Palms - a suburban shopping complex in Shirley Christchurch; no evidence to date suggests local transit authorities have made any effort to negotiate an integrated  bus station in the planned extensions to the north [left hand side of photo] where double storey car parks are to be extended - or indeed anywhere else in the vicinity. Historically, the Christchurch municipal and regional authorities - representing about 12% of NZ 's population - have opted to send hundreds of millions of tax monies north to help fund over $2 billion in commuter rail and busway projects in Auckland and Wellington, rather than selfishly claim money for local transit projects. This admirable record has been maintained now for over a decade!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Suburban bus stations in Christchurch (our presumptious big eared friend plays architect!)



     Both photos BRT station in Hangzhou China. Thanks to Karl Fjellstrom and ITDP

Creating suburban bus stations is not quite as easy as it seems. Ideally you want all buses to feed through common points and in a logical pattern (services bound for the city at one platform, outbound at another; and possibly dividing these categories into broad segments - services to city via Southern area , via Northern area etc).  It is rare to find a situation where bus stations can be built that do not interrupt the natural flow of routes - route A and B work ok, but route C and D have to go around a block to be aligned the right way.... a tedious deviation if one wants to make journeys as straight and direct as possible. Or if off road, buses then have to pull out of the station typically crossing over busy roads.

Generally modern suburban bus and rail stations (especially BRT stations) seem to be heading mostly towards the  "H"  principle, in which the uprights are the parallel platforms and the crossbar is - according to intensity of bus traffic or (if platforms are either side of a busy road) car density - a pedestrian crossing, an overhead walkway, or and underground pedestrian subway linking the platforms.  When there is an overhead walkway - often with elevators or escalators that "H" pattern operates vertically as well as in the mapping sense, such as in the photo below of Swanson rail station in west Auckland.
Swanson Station Each tower holds an elevator as well as a stairwell Photo NZ in Tranzit

A common feature nowadays of  rail stations and busways (and even of roading around Christchurch) is to have the central area or islands between up and down services divided by chest high bedstead fencing, to channel pedestrian traffic into safe movements. Walking to the local shops feels tedious when you own [and are addicted to!] a car but quickly becomes an easily accepted part of life once you stop owning a car. In similar manner  walking across overhead walkways or down pedestrian subways when the opportunity exists to duck more directly across a road or railway line can seem tedious.  Remove any option for shortcut and no problems or suffering is felt!

Photo does not capture height of the central fencing too difficult to climb or jump


Recently the issue of suburban bus stations in Christchurch has arisen again and (as I enjoy doing) I have had a chance to ponder possible locations and designs. Over the years and here and there around the world I haved pick up a few concepts that add to the mix.

I have arrived at the conclusion that suburban stations appropriate to Christchurch need;
 
(A) an outdoor area, open to the sun, perhaps with a sheltering  wall or belt of shrubbery or planters and flax.
(B) a verandha area right across [the normal footpath area] to the edge of the platform where the bus stops. 
(C) and an internal seating, similar to the Bus Xchange area with glassed off with doors opening out onto the  verandha. 
 
To get such bus stations built right to the edge of the road means incorporating the through footpath into the verandha area, that is there is wide enough passage and clearly marked for footpaths to curve through the bus station, between the loading platform and the fully enclosed waiting area. For example looking at the photographs of one of the Bus Rapid Transit stations in Hangzhou [above], the wall at the back of the seated passengers would become a half trellis, and behind that a broad footpath and then the glassed in part of the bus station. With real time signage passengers don't need to be able to see the bus coming, though earlier "Boarding now" style wording could be triggered 2 minutes before the bus appears for those in the enclosed area. 

The set up envisioned here has four components - viz internal waiting room; outside area; verandha area; a well defined covered pedestrian concourse through the middle (or alternately curving around the back of the whole complex). Getting adequate sunlight and shade, and wind buffering for the more exposed areas is a key part of design and may require seasonally orientated skylights (eh the central concourse and verandha get more sunlight in winter). Many of the early open platform stations, built in the UK etc (even the original Britomart bus station in Auckland) were either too exposed and windswept or too gloomy and several sizeable bus stations, such as Luton, UK which theoretically had years of life have been demolished as anachronisms, a sort of depressing old public service "cruisers for loosers" image  that belongs 25 years back in the ugly hard face of Thatcher's Britain.

Christchurch has two prevailing cold winds - the southerly [winterly rain etc] and the nor-easter [fresh to icy cold on-shore breeze] and a bit of architectural genius or even pivotable sculptural panels could drop the effect of these down to a murmur, bearable for people already out in the cold, reducing use of the heated internal waiting area by the more able bodied most days.

Another factor is make a bus station an attractive place to wait but not so much so that it becomes a hang out for lowlife or even a meeting point for boisterous young teens flexing their muscles (notably vocal cords) - the latter not necessarily evil but typically disturbing others a great deal and often because they jostle around and high five etc so much it is unpleasant for the fragile body and reaction speed of the older and the elderly.  One reads about overseas situations where people needing to catch buses try to avoid using bus stations because they are so seedy!! CCTV cameras, in my experience of working with these, need to have a head and shoulder type entry point camera, in order to match up later blurry pictures of thieves or assailants etc Often the culprit is easily identified "in a red and white jacket, see he's lifting her purse off the seat etc" Sure, but with no clear facial image of the man in a red and white jacket, the purpose of CCTV is rendered meaningless! Security guards are of some use, but have limited legal powers and it seems to me usually better in two or a team. But this may be too expensive or anyway difficult to empower in smaller suburban stations - good design seems to also be a crucial factor.

Arranging seating so there is some privacy but still some visiblity of one area with another, and so the area offers no big de facto "stage"  areas for loose units to do theatrical bits,  seems one possibility. Seating could have intimate pockets, looking outwards in various directions, perhaps partly obscured by flax in planters etc but the pockets never so private as to feel safe for drug dealing, illegal transactions or violent or bullying behaviour. Having a parking bay at the rear for service vehicles that can also be used by police or ambulance in emergency is another useful facet. Ideally a bus station should be "safer than houses"   

The verandha area - immediately adjacent to the point where the buses pull in could mainly be leaners. In a fully purpose built integrated system such as NICERide (advocated by NZ in Tranzit!) service flow pattern is such that waiting time is minimized as is waiting time for passengers  transferring between routes... noted; this is not the current pattern to any great extent, especially after dark when the greatest gaps in service occur!

A key component of the concept here is that the internal waiting room with air conditioning etc can be closed earlier than the cessation of buse services themselves, for example at 8pm. This recognises that most those most in need of enclosed shelter , the more vulnerable parents with younger children, disabled and elderly do not travel significantly in the evenings. This also recognises most of the policing difficulties (and potential for generating a bad name for that bus station) will occur "after dark" and particularly towards the end of the evening when drugs and alcohol typically fuel disorderly minds. Or where drunken up-chucks or surreptitious peeing could leave its mark! Having the large verandha area - also with real time signage and CCTV  - and mainly just leaners,  leaves more than adequate shelter (far more than current simple bus stops) with very little to vandalise, and with a tile or concrete type flooring area capable of being hosed or indeed hot-hosed down before the start of the next morning.

I see the most likely priority suburban bus stations in Christchurch being the existing multi-route hubs, mainly at shopping mall complexes. Theoretically priority for implementation would be based upon (a) numbers of passengers catching buses (b) numbers of passengers transferring between routes at that point (c) other factors weighed (is this the only point south residents can access the University from, is there a major aged population in this area, new subdivisions planned in area etc).

In rough order I'd guess from my own full time bus travels, observations etc a priority ranking  of Westfield,  Northlands, The Palms, Eastgate, Barringtons, University, Hornby, Airport, Belfast, and New Brighton. I'd also throw in QEII and Avonhead Mall - both well located and pivotal points particularly as more routes run past these points. The key point of these node points - in an integrated system - is that you can travel to these points by one route and leave in five or six different directions by other routes. Alternately you can drop off spouses, teenagers, aging parents or guests at these points, knowing for sure they will not wait more than 8 minutes for a bus to the city weekdays in the day-time and not more than 15 minutes off peak.

In an integrated system regular bus users would soon know they can hop between these bus stations and get to where they are going in several different ways, in time probably recognising the fastest pathway of transfer (which may not be the most obvious). In an integrated pattern, they would not in normal circumstances miss transfers because two routes do not arrive and depart simultaneously as is too often the case currently.

The Palms ideally would suit a bus station built into the northern area that is being rebuilt (I think - but am not sure - that the Library may be purchased and relocated to allow the mall more space) so that east-west buses loop around and then back onto Golf Links Road and then onto New Brighton Road.  But this raises another factor with bus stations - if all services are channelling along the same road can the local neighbourhood stand the stress? - in this case all routes (about six) would have to run along the same partly residential street, dozens of buses an hour. Alternately a far-sighted council might buy land (curently older housing) on the South side of New Brighton Road and built a larger waiting room on the sunny side of the street (with a new inset more accessible inbound bus stop) and an overhead walkway or subway across to the northside with a smaller enclosed and elongated out-stop. Route 60 from Stanmore Road and 45 North Shore would need to deviate along this stretch of road to bring all six routes into the same inbound/outbound conjunction, these routes continuing up Golf Links Road to rejoin Marslands Road north of the The Palms. The northside bus stop on New Brighton Road is currently an always-shaded and often freezing cold exposed bus stop, heavily patronised, accessing two frequent cross town routes and two suburban routes. The bus station in the scenario here would straddle New Brighton Road. Similar effect could be achieved at Westfield - perhaps by going under the road with a wide well it pedestrian subway - the outstop being the larger area (by purchasing some small part of the Westfield Mall carpark) and connected in the H fashion to a l;onger narrower elongated in-stop, with heavy grade  bedstead fencing channeling all east-west car and cycle traffic between the two halves of the station.

In New Brighton - the only part of Christchurch where local politicians are organised enough to calling for a bus station the same H pattern could be created. This could utilise part of Beresford Street (which is equivalent to about 8 lanes wide) between the recently purchased community board rooms and the current three shelter 40,5,83,84,51 route in-stop on the opposite of the road. Here there would be no need for overhead or underground pedestrian access, rather a pedestrian crossing point linking a mix of well designed islands, with bedstead fencing and a  humped, slowed and narrowed road corridor (slow - bus zone)  between platforms.  A  waiting room complex built alongside the community rooms - or even  extending to part of the rear of the next section, linked to the walk through shopping corridor as well - could provide in-stops for buses to the city via QEII and the Northeast (Metrostar, 60, 83,) that depart heading east first; a further island for Southshore passengers and dropping off (only) passengers from the city; and (as now, with upgraded waiting facilities) across the other side of Beresford Street in-stops for services to the city via Eastgate, Aranui and Wainoni (5,40,51, 84) . The adjoining car park offers park-and-ride space if there is demand for such, perhaps amongst older residents.

Park up space for buses could be in the same adjacent area, around the streets on the carpark perimeter, each with a proscribed terminus route,  possibly with a gated fence to park the bus closely alongside to allow total security for drivers to leave empty buses and stroll across to a staff toilet and possibly a small (shared by all firms) staff room with hotwater etc included, all with easy overview of buses and CCTV coverage of waiting areas. There are cafes closely adjacent.

New Brighton bus station  is not a priority in any wider picture that I can see but it is a start and perhaps most of all, a potentially very useful model to pilot station design, from many angles, before the city commits to building far bigger and more complex suburban bus stations, such as The Palms or Westfield which require the centre bar of the H to go over or under busy traffic roads. Linked to the purchase and makeover of the Community Board rooms it is a chance for the city council to commit to the principle without a huge expense (less than a $1 million?), even in a period where they have had to put suburban bus stations on the back burners.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Buses emerging as local leader in New York transit?

"But the shift in balance should not be to increase bus speed slightly; the shift needs to turn buses into a substitute for rail, with rail-like speeds and rail-like reliability"  - Brian Kavanagh Assemblyman New York


Generally I am not such a fan of carrying news about large cities, a million plus, because the dynamics of public transport are so closely and exponentially related to metropolitan population and density, and by implication also the taxpayer base. In New South Wales about 5% of tax goes to subsidizing Sydney's suburban train network - about $1.8 billion a year. Fares meet only about 25% of the operating cost. Obviously when a city gets to the size of Sydney there is no way hundreds of thousands of extra commuter's cars can be crammed into the city centre and busy areas each year, so taxpayers are more inclined to accept this. Christchurch is 10% the population of greater Sydney but I can't imagine Christchurch ratepayers happy to fork out (pro rata) $180 million per year to operate a rail system!


Likewise London public transport at 8 million population carries about 3.4 billion passengers a year on its buses, trains, trams and subways - does that mean in New Zealand, with a total population size of 4 million carries 50% of London's systems? In fact total urban public passenger trips in New Zealand barely get above 100 million - one eighteenth the level of patronage of London.


The one exception I really make is bus rapid transit technology. Obviously Christchurch can't afford exotic busways, ramped above the city, as in Xiamen or travelling across the top of a hospital as third floor level, as in Brisbane, but the concept of giving buses the clear run, and quick loading capacity of railway systems remains the same. Even Ashburton could curb off a bit of street and create a segregated busway. Unlike any form of rail the investment level can operate at anywhere across the spectrum, and on projects of any size. Select Bus service in New York is hardly top order bus rapid transit - even the lanes are not curb separated - but its success has led to several new projects and rethinking the whole concept of buses.


Tonight I came across this article "Subway in the Street"  by feature writer Robert Sullivan in a recent issue of  "New York" Magazine online. Part of the byline reads "The MTA [Metropolitan Transit Authority]  has a simple, not very expensive ticket for improving how the city gets around: Revolutionize the bus". 

Quite so.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Right on New Brighton

"Pegasus Post" - a well known flying horse that is also part of the stable of suburban giveaway newspapers managed by The [Christchurch] Star - has an an article in the  4th July 2010 issue (p3) saying Christchurch City Council is looking at moving New Brighton up the priority ranking for a suburban bus stations. Certainly some improved shelter, and re-organisation of stops and bus movement patterns is needed, even if funding for stations seems a bit sparse in the present climate.  In a previous post I have suggested amlagamating design for a  local bus station with the recently purchased Community Board room.

Buses huddling in public carpark on the ramp at New Brighton ........or hunkering..

 down beside the Esplanade Hotel, random parking to access public toilets and take recovery time


Let's face it, New Brighton can be a bloody cold hole, more so I suspect for those that don't live there. Residents do seem to get many more calm mornings and calm evenings, or build their houses to create sheltered decks, patios or balconies against the wind. Most visitors typically don't arrive to after 9.30 am by which time the "fresh" on-shore wind is powering up.  Most visitors come only during the day when this very cool breeze cuts through the sinuses and bone marrow with equal enthusiasm. It is a wind every Christchurch resident knows and loves but is never more vicious in its cold bite than as it first hits the shoreline. The very busy library built on the sand aside there is precious few places to go to get out of the wind ubless purchasing food.  Nor have really adequate bus shelters have been put up to try to make life a bit more bearable to passengers of the seven bus routes servicing New Brighton. To be sure, to be sure, there are nice modern standard bus shelters at New Brighton but their location is not sympathetic  (of the two main in-stops one is in the "three season winter icy permashade" of a former movie theatre (and still often windy!); the other is way out in the open beside a carpark, miles away from any windblocking buildings or walls. After dark the Oram Avenue stop, opposite a bottle store and adjacent to the rear of two pubs, is far from an ideal location, particularly given the poor co-ordination of evening departures


Oram Avenue Stop - central but usually shaded, often cold and windy, vulnerable at night

Having spent many hours of my life (all minutes added together) waiting at these stops I'd be a mug to oppose any move to get a proper bus station. And good on the Community Board and a local MP who are pro-actively seeking to improve the quality of local bus services rather than just evaluating whatever the Council or Ecan have doled up.

However the more immediate priorities I see at New Brighton are to get the 5 and 40 routes to run in an alternating pattern (as they used to do) in effect so both routes offer between them a fast and frequent service to Eastgate and the city eight times an hour. And indeed this is what has happened in the recent route and timetable changes!!! The current middle of the day pattern = via route 5 (Pages Road) 02 17 32 and 47 past the hour,  and after recent changes = via 40 (Wainoni Road) 12 27 42 and 57  past the hour ....or combined, departing New Brighton for city direct 02 12 17 27 32 42 47 57.. passengers never need wait more than 10 minutes and 66% of the time wait less than 5 minutes! Yippee!! Route 40 takes about 3 or 4 minutes longer - so whose counting? It is fast and direct. Alas at night what could and should be a consistent 15 minute service reverts back to the "same old same old" overlapping and duplication of services  - a combination  02 04  32 34 pattern - de facto for many residents or travellers to the city or Linwood - four buses to deliver two services! Another outrageous waste of the taxes we pay Environment Canterbury!! (Why 40 routre which only runs to Parkside (i.e CBD, is not a linked through route) should have to run on the same unfortunate times as 5 route is obscure, particularly as outbound departures, 40 and 5,  from the city are also erratically spread).

Another priority, one so many people talk about and yet nothing ever gets done. I filled out an on-line suggestion form on the Council pages some years ago and it disappeared without trace. I never heard a squeak - is it still floating around a satellite in space??  This second priority of which I speak is to put a bus stop immediately opposite the supermarket in Hawke Street - a bus stop for dropping Metrostar passengers off  at the back of the New Brighton Club - the natural and logical "arrive at the beach" stop. This also offers easy simple and easy access to four of the  local facilities  with the greatest foot traffic viz the supermarket; the New Brighton Club; the beach and playground; and the landmark "ocean liner" style library) ; add and another bus stop opposite, heading back towards town on the other side of the road, an easy  trolley's push distance from the supermarket entrance - passengers can transfer shopping bags without even removing trolley from carpark. . These bus stops would primarily serve the Metrostar - although I also personally think 84 route should enter New Brighton this way as both routes serve a common North New Brighton catchment area between Bower Avenue and Keyes Road area.

How can a bus service be supportive and offer quality access to the elderly - and everybody else - if it drives right past the only local supermarket and then doesn't stop until over half a a kilometre away? "Doing bus well"  to me is all about big vision, clear strategy but also as former New York Mayor Giuliani recently told a Canadian small city Yes, do sweat the small stuff.  
It is precisely in the commitment to details one finds the the quality finish. While each single bus and its route timing and stop locations can't please everybody, it is falls short of public service to ignore high demand locations that are both regular user friendly and stranger friendly.  Imagine the Countdown supermarket itself saying "Patrons must park cars 250 metres away from the entrance, in Hawke Street up near the school,  or about 350 kms away, around in Oram Avenue."  Of course they don't - so why should a committed and caring public transport system?

It is stretching it to call New Brighton a priority in terms of passenger movements or transfers (compared to say Westfield or The Palms)  but it is a major terminal point for over 800 bus services a day, where drivers need safe park up place with immediate toilets [possibly a vestibule with hot drink making facilities] after long cross town runs; where adjacent residents need an organised bus movement pattern (spreading the stress load evenly ); and passengers need more and better shelter from the elements

A bus station at New Brighton is a good call and, the most the important thing -  it is a call being made!  

Contrary to huge silence on many other public transport issues.