Monday, November 28, 2011

New Brighton super market access far from super service

 

The other day I caught a Metrostar from New Brighton. I was pretty pissed off because a long queue in the supermarket meant by the time I was served I only had 2 minutes to get to the stop. It was a case of fast walking and huff and puffing and cursing under my breath because the Metrostar bus stops in this neck of the woods are about three quarters of a kilometre apart - around in Oram Ave or way up by the School on Hawke Street. 

I can understand residential stops being broadly spaced to maintain pace across the suburbs but in a built up retail area??  Most of the action in New Brighton is towards the beach end - the beach itself of course, the very popular and busy library and spectacular pier, the supermarket and larger shops and the New Brighton Club. It makes little sense having buses drive past the place people most want to go.

However in the circumstances, this time, it didn't really matter. Either my clock was wrong or the bus was very late because no bus arrived for another 15 minutes or so. What did arrive was the elderly gentleman in the photo above. I saw him emerge down by the supermarket and try to hurry as best as he could.  It took him several minutes. Old age, as they say,  is no fun.  It is no easy matter when the legs are painful or frail. However he certainly had his wits about him.  When he finally got to the bus stop he cursed the bus system that  that  goes straight past the supermarket entrance without stopping yet made him walk almost 400 metres to catch the bus. He said to me, I have asked for a better bus stop  but they don't do anything about it.  I said I had complained about it  too [and also wrote this previous blog]  

My  understanding is there are real complications with the land on the north side of the shops at New Brighton - what appears to be one big carpark is actually owned by multiple owners. It is very hard for the council to come up with a common scheme in these circumstances, I guess all the owners want to keep their options open in case they ever want to expand and build out. This said the motley area - which is a potential sun trap that could have shelter elements built against the nor-easter  does New Brighton a disservice. And this multiple owners, multiple exits may make it difficult to create a better unified system of  vehicle access for cars - one whereby a bus stop and  road narrowing/crossing zone can be built at the rear of the club (not such a problem) and  an outbound stop (and shelter!) immediately near the supermarket entrance.

My suggestion in the interim is all these car owners be asked to park in Hawke Street west of the Shaw Avenue roundabout, up by the school, where the bus stop in this photo is situated. This means that car owners only have to walk 400 metres to get back to the supermarket. It is a well known fact that when people go to the supermarket their first preference is to park almost half a kilometre away. Indeed, it was trying to make bus services as attractive as car use that led to the decision not to put a bus stop close to the supermarket and other high use facilities. Moving all car parking further west would leave the car park area or the road outside free for a bus stop for all those elderly people (and others) who don't have a car. These are those deemed "transport disadvantaged"  people, alas not entitled to enjoy the longer walks of car owners.

Yeah right.

As long as the city administrators, elected representatives and bus operating authorities are prepared to treat bus passengers like second class citizens we will have a second class bus system. 

Bus routes inadequately scheduled or not integrated in patterns with other bus services to the same area or which are poorly routed and have bus stops in places that are not optimized to serve patrons cost just as much to operate but attract less patrons and recover lower amounts in fares. What is the point of NOT getting it right?

A baseline standard of route planning should be location of bus stops on passing routes close to supermarkets, and the orientation of every general bus route to include at least one supermarket (with a convenient stop) within each 6 km or so length of route. 

If this policy was applied consistently - a bus stop outside every supermarket on a route to the city (as well as any other services, such as cross town buses like the Metrostar) there is also a very useful synergy. Looking for a bus in an unfamiliar area? Spot the supermarket! Kids want a ride to town, drop them by the supermarket.   Indeed it would do no harm for these to be identified on bus route maps.

As well as transporting commuters to work buses also play a secondary but just as important social role, helping those who are carless (for many different possible reasons) maintain their independent mobility and dignity of life.

Given current Ecan budget shortages perhaps Metro could ask a non-profit group working with aging or mobility handicap people to do an audit of every route and its stop location and bus stop facilities (with specific relationship to carry supermarket bags/ supermarket trolleys etc)  as relates to independent access to supermarket facilities and work to remove the bugs.

I said to the bloke do you mind if I photograph your back getting on the bus ? He shrugged in a why not way. Perhaps more publicity will help this man and and many others find some relief from this unfortunate set up. At least the driver* recognised the fellow's struggle with his aging legs and slowed to a gentle stop right beside where he was standing, rather than being small minded (as the odd one or two drivers unfortunately are) and insisting on holding all passengers up just to meet the rules.

Despite his difficulties the gentleman still still had his legs to stand on; in my opinion a policy that allows this sort of unnecessary stress and humiliation of the old, infirm or disabled - or indeed any bus passenger - does not have a leg to stand upon.







Friday, November 25, 2011

Should the circus come to Lyttelton?

http://www.theloons.co.nz/images/posters/Hanussen_Poster_for_WEB_poster.jpg 

Further to my last posting about Oamaru, this is a poster for the same show I found so brilliantly choreographed, timed, acted, performed etc at the Oamaru Opera house (I am sure The Loons won't mind me further promoting their promo poster, taken from their website).

One of the few criticisms I would have had of the show was the name "Berlin Burlesque", was too generic, lacked its own personality, a distinctive identity, a name to invite enquiry. Someone else obviously thought so too! This is a world class show, and I imagine could literally evolve into that. That said where other countries would find a set of genuine twins as talented as the Twisty Twins,  acrobats but with superb timing, balance and humour I am not sure!

I get the impression that a major aspect of this theatre company's first high standards of performance and high level of acrobatic skills is, in part, linked to the background of some performers who have attended or graduated from the CIRCO arts, the School of Performing Arts at CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology - a tertiary level multi-discipline education provider).

There is no doubt that institutions that focus research and learning and develop fields of skill , in any field at all,  do an enormous amount to lift the standards of professional supply and practice in that industry. 

Buskers and Circo Arts amongst others appear to have produced new highs in quality street and circus style acts in this town, that's for sure.  (And wouldn't a school of public transport  studies do wonders for the woefully low, last century, standards of transit organisation, planning, supply and information marketing typical in Christchurch and most of New Zealand!).

As you will see from the CPIT CIRCO arts web page, they have lost their home in the large auditorium of what used to be the High School hall of "Christchurch tech". tonce upon a time he poorer boy's trades college. It has been damaged by the earthquakes.  Likewise The Loons Club theatre in Lyttelton has also been damaged, though reparable, alas unlike the iconic Harbour Light Theatre, now demolished as are quite a few other mainstreet (London Street) buildings in Lyttelton.

I lived in Lyttelton for four years in the 1990s, including running a small business and renting in London Street and one of the great things I thought about Lyttelton is on both the main cross streets, Norwich Quay and London Street, there were buildings totally out of proportion to all the others!!

One was the much criticised and condemned (artistically) little 1960's style high rise on Norwich Quay - bizarrely still standing when so few others are (as in this photo of demolition crews removing the older shops and hotel buildings wrecked in the earthquake a few months ago). It is so ridiculously quirky I can't help loving it.


The other building "way out of proportion" was the Harbour Light Theatre built as a cinema in 1916. 
The size reflects the huge impact of movies and the huge amount of money to be made (especially in a port town with hundreds of seamen with a pocket full of money looking for entertainment) back at that era.

The Harbour Light was so much apart of the street scene in London Street I wonder how many other people ever stopped to think how much it absurdly overshadowed its neighbours little two storey colonial shops. And yet for me this disjuncture of sizes, on both streets, worked. In size and style these variations it was the slightly discordant note that helped give Lyttelton its element of quirky charm and stopped it from being merely colonial and cute.


A touch of Hollywood-before-talkies glamour and grandeur in a small colonial port
the 95 year old Harbourlight photographed just before it's final performance

[There are also some very evocative photos of Lyttelton as was - including the Harbour Light Theatre on the web site of one of the bands that played the Harbour Light, Liquid Blue) 

I hope when they rebuild Lyttelton that this low profile with protrusions sort of image is retained. But of course such things can not be planned in the uncontrolled purchase and sale of properties or developers dreams. So far the Draft plans look OK but miss a bit of the quirky flair!

Unless.

Unless..... the Department of Education and the Christchurch City Council (Or CERA or whoever) realised that rebuilding a campus of CIRCO Arts in Lyttelton could have a powerful synergy! 

This admittedly curve ball creative move could do heaps to foster the port town's revival, image and greater Christchurch's cultural diversity image....a flow on helping attracting tourists (in general) and foreign students, or students from other parts of NZ (in general). Lyttelton of the last thirty years has established an association with alternate culture and arts, and many people of kindred spirit are in turn attracted to its landscape of rugged towering peaks, steep streets and colonial cottages.  

I imagine the potential capacity of this particular campus would need to be less than 100 students a year, it is a highly specialised and intensive field. But by rebuilding on Lyttelton's mainstreet (possibly on one of the landmark corner sites or indeed on the site of the Harbour Light Theatre itself,  with some nod in style to this landmark passed) room would exist to create the big gymnasium style theatre space and permanent public performance spaces, a circus arena or smaller theatres, as well as lecture halls, offices etc. 

My guess is the physical performing arts is a relatively unique field, without many students also doing courses or papers in other fields, so such a campus could well stand alone, albeit plenty of opportunity would no doubt exist to interact with other CPIT students and faculties in town or at Sullivan Avenue. With a 15 minute bus service, a campus in Lyttelton would get the quicker trip benefits of lower loading back-flow in peak periods, whilst helping to boost patronage without the cost of added vehicles needed. A Harbourlight size building body would give ample room for trapeze and performance art that can be very vertical as well as feet on the ground.

Centring this campus in Lyttelton brings into the town, to live, or daily a lot of creative (unusually healthy!) young people,  a noticeable presence in the main street, and is sure to help re-generate a whole new group of associated cafes, clubs, music venues and other small theatres. For local landlords and residents taking boarders a real boon.

Just as shopping malls need a few large tenants, supermarkets or department stores etc, as anchor tenants, it seems to me the slightly quirky charm and alternative magic of Lyttelton needs a centre piece institution, a building of size that punches above its weight, helps define the (marketable) image of Lyttelton - what better than a (world famous to be!) School of CIRCO arts?**

Lyttelton recovery by the loony fringe!! Probably looking at the world upside down. Again. You bet

Of course I know nothing about this field...but raise the possibility nonetheless. You'll never be a good clown if you are not prepared to make a fool of yourself!



Another iconic loss, an era gone  - ainside the Harbourlight as Eric Bogle plays his last tour ("The band played Waltzing Matilda" of course) a bunch of mainly grey hairs in this case  (like myself) listen. in the background the very evocative "faded" (sepia), slightly stilted and "caught in time" stylised scenes from famous movies painted so adeptly by Tanya Wolfkamp**,  commissioned by owners Tom Jones and Helen Hobbs when they took over the former cinema in the early 1990s.

May the spirit of 70 years cinema and almost 20 years of live (and usually alternative and less mainstream or commercial) performance rise from the dirt where the Harbourlight once stood!!



And in the meantime bit more promo for a great show....

Hanussen-The Palace of Burlesque

Jack Mann Auditorium at the  University of Canterbury

January 4,5,6,7,11,12,13,14   2012

7th January show starts at 3 PM

All other shows start 8 PM



This posting was updated  on 29 November 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oamaru, old fashion and sensible transport planning






I have been down in Oamaru, one of my favourite haunts, a town of about 13,000 with the character, energy and rich diversity of a much larger city. This time the draw-card was the Oamaru Heritage Festival, a sort of Waitaki District "Show Week" with an historic theme to match the town's fantastic array of Victorian and Edwardian lime-stone buildings. With the demise of much of Christchurch's Vic & Ed streetscape Oamaru's star can only rise further (in a long ago posting I suggested that  the District and city councils of the east coast of Te Wai Pounamu, could unite to offer a heritage and walkway package, united by an iconic weekly steam train Christchurch to Dunedin (and one offering both  tourist and budget class rail)

For the festival in Oamaru my partner and I hired Victorian costumes and joined several hundred other people similarly clothed - its a hoot, dress-up for adults, lots of fun and friendliness. It also gives one a so much deeper sense history being about living people.  The grim black & white photos of Victoriana come alive in colour and the character of people does not change, in many ways appears more pronounced.  That said,  you can play at being whoever you like, such as this dandy couple.



The main theme of the week is Victorian Heritage but there are also sub-themes (so to speak) of history in general and Steampunk.  There was a new exhibition of steampunk inventions  and artworks - by everyone from local school children to the most sophisticated devices (some from Peter Jackson's WETA studio's) - all with marvelous captions of exotic Victorian time travel with explorer names as sterling as my alter ego, Montague Porch. This incredible exhibition at the magnificent Forrester Gallery indeed cements Oamaru's claim to being steampunk capital of the world!


 Steampunk - tomorrow as it used to be!

We were also lucky enough to see the Loon's Theatre company from Lyttelton do Berlin Burlesque, a sort of update on similar themes to the movie/show "Cabaret" in Oamaru's magnificent and beautifully restored Opera House.  The Loon's show is based on a leading German entertainer and night club owner murdered by the Nazis. and is fittingly done in cabaret form. The complexity and precision timing of this spectacular never boring mix of music, singing, lighting, acted history, costumes and acrobatics (all with burlesque spice) was a world class, a fantastic show. 

Which makes me think, if the quake damaged  circo arts school at CPIT can not be rebuilt, I believe the Government could do much to psyche up Lyttelton's recovery and future image and tourist trade by creating a CPIT campus of circus and performing arts, possibly on the London street site of the former Harbour Light Theatre.  This would offer an anchor institute for the main-street revival, a school in a distinctive larger landmark building and one that also incorporates actual operative performance theatres and venues. This in turn will generate and stimulate associated commercial activity and two way bus traffic (yes, well it is a public transport blog!) and a lively creative core of young people in Lyttelton.

With no fanfare, with no "big noter" politicians to boast about it, Oamaru has something else I love and admire, something so simple but which has long eluded the ability (or is it underlying awareness and commitment)  of much larger Christchurch to achieve. It is something so simple, like good plumbing, I suspect it barely consciously noticed anyone other than me - a common transport hub for long-distance and local transport services. 

Immediately off the main street in the centre of Oamaru, on Eden Street, are the bus stops for ALL the long distance bus services tofro Dunedin and Invercargill, and tofro Christchurch. It is a common 30 minute rest or lunch stop for most of these services, with two well provisioned cafes immediately adjacent, as well as other food options with a minute or two walk.  Between public toilets and those for cafe customers "every convenience" is offered the traveler. One cafe, The Lagonda, also offers a booking agency for travelers and equally useful, a range of hire internet machines.  Immediately adjacent to the bus stops is the cab rank of Whitestone Taxis. There are no shelters as such - and as usual on the East Coast sharp sunny day easterly winds need better wind block devices, but adjacent shop verandas offer rain proofing or cafes a cup to linger over until buses arrive. 

Simple but effective 

A range of traveler services in one place beside departure and arrival zones

 Whether all this has just fallen into place or is the result of a more conscious planning I have no idea - I do know the combined might of Ecan and Christchurch City Council's spanning 20 years have been completely unable to achieve anything remotely similar. Neither august body appears aware that  many of those who use public transport within a city (including students, retired people, out of town visitors) also want and need a seamless switch to taxis or long distance buses, or waiting spaces with food, toilets, access to internet, left luggage or booking facilities. Nor do these governing bodies (or not) seem to value that long term tourist image and word of mouth promotion  is directly linked to ease,  reduced movement related stresses, user-friendly services and enjoyment when visiting a place.

Whilst the new "temporary"  bus exchange seems to work well for free flow of cross-town buses and transfers, the normal thoughtlessness and minimal interest in doing public transport better does consign Christchurch yet more years without a genuinely integrated approach to public transport.  Much smaller Oamaru with iys act together  makes Christchurch's big city ego look sometimes rather foolish!

Lastly in this pot-pouri of promoting things I love and public transport, does anyone notice that getting early start long distance coach and shuttle services from towns and cities at the centre of either of the two main islands (Te Wai Pounamu. Te Ika a Maui) is virtually impossible. Buses leave Auckland and Wellington, or Dunedin and Christchurch, early morning and pass through the Taihapes and the Oamarus about mid day often creating a half day of limited tourist use (especially for those without a car). For most travelers getting the most out of every day is fundamental. I imagine when planning an itinerary (NZ in three weeks etc) from online bus operator timetables,  many tourists just write off the thought of stopping overnight in Timaru or Oamaru (or Taihape,  etc) purely on the lack of early departure times or convenient bus service times.

I wonder when some enterprising coachline or shuttle service operator is going to realise there is an untapped market in a service early morning from Oamaru to Invercargill, or Oamaru to Kaikoura (and reverse), giving the bus users of these smaller centres big city access at more useful times whilst allowing overseas tourists a more useful early start.

As suggested in previous articles about Timaru-Christchurch commuter services, that extra night (and evening out at events or wining and dining) spent by tourists or family visitors could be worth many many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to local accommodation and hospitality providers in these smaller centres.  In other words long distance bussing times become more of a mosaic of departure times across the whole day, stimulating greater patronage over-all.



Sunday, November 20, 2011

USA public transport systems under threat from too low a tax support and increasing climate change pressure

In the United States public authorities are having to face the reality of climate change, even if politicians and those who associate freedom with escape from social responsibilities are happy to ignore it or dispute the cause.

Heavy carbon generated mostly by oil fired power stations and secondly by auto exhausts is credited with raising the over-all temperature of the planet. It can not be confused with carbon generated from other sources.

This is also highly unlikely to be part of a natural cycle (which typically occurs over centuries) for many reasons. One of the most spectacular - according to studies of tell-tale carbon dioxide levels found in ice core samples over a decade ago this is by far the fastest rise in global temperatures in 456,000 years!

The temperature is rising far faster than most natural and man-made systems are able to handle, with massive species death or forced invasion of new areas, upsetting natural eco-systems.  It will also see huge cost burdens forced upon the human species who mostly inhabit coastal and fertile low land arable areas likely to be inundated beneath rising seas. In other areas predictions of massive droughts and forest fires are already coming true (530 killed in Australia's heatwave in Victoria 2009) whilst more recently predicted flooding in Pakistan has left almost 5 million homeless and many facing potential starvation.

In many cases it is the less developed world that is paying the highest price to support the western world's culture of mindless consumption and resource use, but even the USA is not invulnerable to increased numbers of hurricanes and violent weather events as seemingly minimal ocean temperature rises, increases the hotter areas of ocean that fuel hurricanes (or typhoons as known in the north Pacific). Whilst the planet is warming in most areas, temperatures are expected to drop in other areas. This includes the heavily populated north eastern triangle of USA and the Atlantic side of Canada.

Most recently the quality US publication "Transportation Nation" featured a very interesting article revealing that tropical storm Irene, which thrashed the north-eastern USA, came within 30 cms of flooding New York subways with sea-water, a potentially devastating event that could cripple one of the world's most powerful cities for months and months.

The Federal Transit Administration is now advising transit agencies to start adapting to climate change, which could cost many billions in a country already lagging well behind many other developed countries in maintaining its social and economic basic infrastructure
Reports the Transportation Nation article

"Climate change impacts are occurring now and will increase in the future,” reads the first line of an FTA report, Flooded Lines and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation, released in August. “Aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will lower the severity of climate change impacts. Yet the amount of long-lived emissions already in the atmosphere means that a significant level of climate change is inevitable.”


“We have seen significant extreme weather conditions,” says Deputy FTA Administrator Therese MacMillan in an interview in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Washington, DC headquarters. “The patterns are pretty indisputable. The hundred-year floods are occurring every 20 to ten years. The hurricane intensities are repeating themselves and being very common. The extreme winter effects that we’re seeing in the Northeast are clearly in evidence. We need to deal with the fact that these extreme weather conditions are impacting our already stressed transit infrastructure.”

The ominous message from the FTA comes on top of studies by US engineers and public transport operator bodies which show years of low fuel taxes, amongst the lowest in the world, have provided insufficient income to keep roading and bridges and public transport infrastructure at functional, safe and effective levels.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Environment Canterbury Failing Eastern Suburbs


Yeah Right.

I photographed this crudely attached poster on a Metro timetable stand at New Brighton Library.

I realise the promotion may be stimulated by Eastgate Mall management, which is giving away shopping vouchers to those who use a Metrocard or Supergold card in an effort to boost their re-opening.  

This may have encouraged Metro's marketing to go beyond saying the decent thing -"a greatly reduced Metro service is now in place, however many eastern areas can now directly access Eastgate again".

Instead they have wandered in to the world of tasteless, offensive hype, duplicity and a degree of double-speak that would do Russia's Stalin proud.

The Government imposed Environment Canterbury junta lead by Dame Margaret Bazley (at an absurd $1400 payment per meeting, other members $900 per meeting) appears to be making the most drastic bus cuts in its history and hocking these off as "new and improved services".

I can find no trace of improved services in eastern areas nor of any new service other than a planned and grossly belated minimal service to compensate for massive reductions in earthquake areas.

I challenge anyone to prove otherwise !

The only sense the current services could be termed  "improved" is in the sense of a used car salesman who has repaired a puncture on one of his cars trying to cream customers with his guarantee that "Yes this is an improved model!!"

In reality the eastern suburbs have suffered the biggest cut backs in service levels that I can recall in the last thirty years.  Whole areas have had services removed, truncated or reduced in spread of hours and frequency of service.

Some of this is because three routes are suspended - 83, 84 and 51 because roading or sewerage is severely earthquake damaged, and in many cases resident numbers have dropped as thousands of houses have been rendered unliveable. Yet thousands - the majority in all except worst hit streets-  remain.

Fair enough, in those cases a different strategy is needed - it turns the stomach to realise that the words "is needed" means Environment Canterbury has left the thousands of people who remain living along these routes with no alternative service for nine months!! 

Indeed as was revealed in NZ in Tranzit in April the only bus service still operative through the Avondale-Wainoni-northside of Aranui block - route 40 had it's service frequency cut in half

The Ministry of Transport made restoration of transport in Christchurch one of its five key goals for the year, setting aside $400 million.

Clearly the bulk of this will go to roading and bridge restoration but with - at minimum - about 10% of the population solely dependent or highly dependent on public transport even Minister Joyce, no friend of public transport, could hardly argue this sector of taxpayers have no right to a few million towards avoiding transport poverty.

Despite this potential funding and the great surplus of buses, bus drivers and disrupted and under-employed cabbies (with no central city to work from) Environment Canterbury could do not even achieve the obvious thing of chartering taxi vans to provide a skeleton service from these areas - even from just key locations in these areas - to bus routes and hubs, for morning workers and mid day shoppers, many elderly widows and mothers with younger children included. Fitting a metrocard reader to these vans could have seen a reasonable farebox return at normal fares, plus a top up from Metro funding.

Would Leopard, Redbus, Go Bus have opposed this (which anyway delivered more passengers to the surviving routes) because it over-rode existing contracts?  Hardly, and anyway CERA could have stepped in. For hell's teeth it is a disaster already without Metro adding to the stresses by inaction.

The complete collapse of bus services through certain areas have left hundreds of distressed residents without access to supermarkets other than by spending precious money from limited incomes.  

In Lyttelton it was reported in The Mainland Press (september 14)  former Sight Seeing operator Don Ross stepped in with his 14 seater bus and ran two trips a week with eight to ten mainly elderly passengers a time - all expenses out of his own pocket - from Lyttelton to Barrington Mall.  Said The Mainland Press " Mr Ross started the service as soon as the Lyttelton Road Tunnel opened again after the quake and never expected it to keep going as long as it had.  "Once the metro buses came back on I stopped the Lyttelton service but then I got a request to continue because the red busses were not going near shopping centres." [my accent]

Indeed this appears to be a major area of disaster mismanagement, worthy of study by other cities in NZ or overseas authorities wishing to learn how "not to do it" in the face of a major disaster. Metro and Environment Canterbury officers appear to have made no attempt to analyse which areas no longer had access to a supermarket and consequently no attempt to reconnect the dots as fast as possible to ensure that people already suffering huge losses and stresses, difficulties getting to work or school,  were not also cut off from buyin| food and in some cases clean water.

Also in The Mainland Press, a few weeks previous (August 17th) the headline "Elderly take taxis to bus stops" drew attention to the older residents for whom a one to two kilometre walk to get to a bus stop [my note- with reduced frequency service] to wait for a bus to on of the few  eastern supermarkets still open was virtually impossible.

According to this article, "Local resident Joan Marshall, 84, felt like she had lost her independence as now she had to pay $11 to take a taxi to her nearest bus stop in Wainoni Road." Mainland Press approached Avondale Resident's Association president Adrienne Lingard who said many elderly residents were totally reliant on public transport and she would like to see council action on the matter. "We've been coping for six months without buses. It just makes it so hard for older people to get out and about. Just going shopping is now a huge ordeal for them and not everyone can afford the taxi fares to get to other bus stops".

Is help at hand in the new improved services refferred to in the poster above? Certainly it was promised back in in October, according to Pegasus Post , the long standing eastern suburbs giveaway newspaper;

"Ecan is proposing routes which would run from Avonside through Dallington to the Palms shopping area and Avondale through Aranui to the Eastgate Shopping Centre. They are planned to run every for every two hours.  The proposed small buses will have a limit of 12 passengers due to the damaged roads and Dallington Bridge, which has a weight restriction of 35000kg. "

However.....don't hold your breath, they have only had nine months.....continues the Pegasus Post  "the plans are not yet finalised and services will depend upon patronage."

" But for some the good news comes a little too late. Dallington Resident's Association vice chairman Lionel Clarke could not understand why a bus service wasn't in place earlier. "This is what I pay my rates for. Everybody in Dallington is still paying their rates."


A summary of "improved" and "new"  eastside services to Eastgate is listed below

5 Southshore Hornby
- back to normal high frequency (every 15 minutes or more) except for Southshore leg where road damage may be disguising plans to sneakin a future permanent reduction to evety 30 minutes only

40 Wainoni (- Middleton)
15 minute service applies only in peak hours, with 30 minutes at other times. Removal of 84, 51 and (prior to the earthquake) 49 route from large sections of the 40 route mean services cut by over 50% on this corridor, despite a threefoold increase in catchment area served by this solitary service. 

35 Heathcote (to Lytelton via Eastgate ) route - this link to city for Bromley and Woolston  area residents cut completely; evening services removed; frequency of day services cut 50%; no connection to Diamond Ferry despite ratio of population 3000 in Lyttelton; 1500 in Diamond Harbour - neither area with supermarkets. Repackaged as 535 "new route".

21 Mount Pleasant via Eastgate and 23 Bromley appear to be restored to normal levels

Service reductions of 66% in North Linwood - Amergh -Gloucester area (loss of 84 and 83) and The Tuam Street - Harrow Street  corridor of Philipstown of about 30% (reduced 40 Wainoni day services, deletion of 35 route section)


NO CURRENT SERVICE (2 hourly shoppers shuttle to Eastgate only proposed!! ) No peak hour connections appear to work commute buses appear to be included). No evening services appear proposed.   100% work/school services cut ;100 % evening services cut - Avonside, Dallington  Avondale; Aranui, and South Breezes Bexley area (no previous service ever implemented!). 75% cut in in week day service levels to most of these areas to Eastgate, 100% cut in direct access to city area


Absolutely pathetic Environment Canterbury - do the decent thing and refund eastside transport rates!! Or - funny idea this one - do the job the city pays you to do, run an effective bus service





Despite the large apron of wharf area for buses, enough for several to manoevre at once as shown here,  no attempt is made to link up 535 route with its direct link to supermarkets to the Diamond Harbour Ferry - another waste of resources from the supposed "Environment" Canterbury; throwing away a chance to foster freater ferry use;  another exposure of all the grand bullshit offered year after year about building an "integrated" transport system from an organisation that can't even tie its own shoelaces properly!





Monday, November 14, 2011

NZ passenger rail projects struggle for traction

The last month or two has certainly been a bit of a roller coaster ride for those who support implementing new light rail and commuter rail projects around New Zealand.

Columnist Chris Hutching in the The National Business Review on 20th October said that the CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) submission to the Central City Draft Plan made it clear they did not buy a lot of the Council agenda, including height restrictions on new buildings. Based on his analysis of the submission process Hutching noted "light rail is also highly unlikely" in Christchurch and its  recovery scenario

Despite the word "submission", CERA is very much the chief driver in this situation and the City Council the junior player in this scenario with light rail funding unlikely unless CERA is in the cab and Gerry Brownlee is pushing from behind (with a fat wallet ready to split open).

Meanwhile in Auckland, on October 28th Mayor Len Brown put forward a possible funding scenario for the proposed central city rail link, to built mostly underground linking Britomart to Mount Eden station, at a cost of $2.4 billion.  According to Brown this project could be funded 16.6 per cent by ratepayers, 2.5% by developers, 30.9% by "alternate transport funding" [presumably he means congestion fees or motorway tolls or similar ] with taxpayers footing the other 50% of the cost. This cost split was immediately rubbished by Minister of Transport Stephen Joyce's office, which has consistently disputed the business case for the rail tunnel.

According to a report in the NZ Herald, "Brown has previously floated congestion and network fees as an alternative way to fund transport projects while keeping rates low. The fees were all but rejected by Joyce who said motorists already contribute enough to public transport through fuel taxes. "

However response in the same fortnight from the other major political parties has been much more positive . The Greens announced they would meet 60% of the cost out of Government coffers; Labour announced it would fund the 50% and meet the costs by dropping Joyce's Puhoi to Wellsford "Holiday Highway" our-lane Auckland as far as Puhoi at a cost of $1.2 , part of the Roads of National Significance strategy. To pay for the rail link, the party would scrap National's plans for the new highway north of Auckland, which would cost nearly $1.7 billion and has little identified cost-benefit return.

Labour favours a $320 million alternative that includes a Warkworth bypass and improvements to the existing road. he alternative road and the rail link would be less than what National budgeted for the highway.

Labour also announced it will investigate establishing a Hamilton-to-Auckland commuter rail service, extra funding to promote coastal shipping, and re-evaluating National's roads of national significance program.

The recent revival of interest in establishing commuter rail between Hamilton-Auckland followed a petition in 2009 signed by over 11,000 Waikato residents. A logistical problem is that there would be no room for a peak hour trains to travel into Britomart. An alternate proposal to use the platforms (with a basic but expensive make-over) of the former Auckland railway station at The Strand taking some of the shine off the proposal.. As always with rail projects relying on significant local funding it is hard to win wide support for a narrow corridor of line where the alignment of which or the purpose can only serve a small portion of the population.
Transport Auckland has said the project does not deliver enough benefit to Aucklander's to be considered within their areas of governance and was not prepared to help fund a two year trial, which anyway offered only two trips a day [just one of the several long distance coach service providers between Auckland and Hamilton, InterCity Coachlines, claims it offers 23 services a day to choose from] .

The rail plan that was proposed calculated as many as (or should that be, as little as?) 130 regular commuters a day using this Waikato to Auckland rail.  This said, even this might be unduly optimistic.When the previous passenger rail service was withdrawn in 2001 it was reported in the Waikato Times (June 21 2001) only 12 people were commuting every day between the two cities.

In the Waikato itself, constituent district council Waipa said they could not support the costs for so limited benefit, Waikato Regional Council  made its position clear by making no budgetary allowance for the project in the current 2012-2022 ten year plan, saying it was no go unless funding partners came forward.  A few days later Hamilton City Council gave it the thumbs down as well.

Also struggling for its existence is the Capital Connection which is part of the KiwiRail long distance rail system, but has acted essentially as a commuter train between Palmerston North and Wellington. As with many long distance commuter services the costs of the early stages of the longer run, where fewer passengers typically board, are in large part met by the greater number of shorter trip passengers boarding as the train gets within easier commuting distance of the metropolitan hub. In this case it has been the passengers boarding in the Waikanae area, until recently beyond  easy access to the terminus of Wellington's electrified commuter rail, that have boosted the Capital Connections operating income. Since the extension of the commuter rail to Waikanae, Capital Connection patronage has slumped below viable margins.

According to a recent report in the Dominion Post " While the northbound service from Wellington to Palmerston North had remained largely unaffected, southbound passenger numbers had continued to drop. About 630 people now catch the Capital Connection every day, down from 708 a year ago. KiwiRail is monitoring the service and if patronage does not pick up options such as subsidising or closing it would be considered. ....[and this is real down to the wire reality!].... The service needs an extra 38 passengers per day for the service to break even".

In general despite a huge investment into the hundreds of millions Wellington commuter rail has yet to start growing a bigger patronage. In August the Dominion-Post reported  Wellington City Council's submission to the regional transport plan saying;

"Wellingtonians are high users of public transport relative to other cities in New Zealand, but patronage has not been growing in recent years, partly as a result of reliability issues and fare increases," the submission says. Though the regional land transport strategy (RLTS) aimed to increase annual passenger trips from 36 million in 2009-10 to at least 50 million trips in 2020, the region's public transport patronage had only grown slightly since 2005.

"Achieving the RLTS goals for public transport will require major improvements in how public transport services are delivered. While major improvements are now being made to rail infrastructure and services, two-thirds of Wellington's passenger transport trips are made by bus, and improvements in how bus services operate are also critical."

It also noted how the need to increase fares to cover this big expansion had reduced the accessible pricing image of public transport "However, figures from a quality of life survey show the proportion of Wellingtonians who believe public transport is affordable has plunged from 72 per cent in 2003 to 46 per cent last year".

At the last  Census, in 2006,  17% of greater Wellington residents indicated they used public transport to travel to work, a figure only about 12% greater than the percentage in 1996. However the 2006  This compares with just 7% in Auckland and 4% in Canterbury. Whether it is the constant breakdowns and delays caused by the run down older infrastructure or the interruptions caused by the introduction of the new system, there would rarely be a week where Wellington doesn't have service problems or suspensions. The new Matangi trains in particular offer (appropriate expression!) new light at the end of this upgraded tunnel but it can not be entirely discounted that Wellington public transport use is close to its likely ceiling, other than the effects of very large oil price rises. At 17% Wellington punches far above its size in public transport patronage, far above the 120 other or so cities under 800,000 in CANZUS. Even amongst much larger cities over the million mark only the largest (usually with subways) achieve above 20% of peak commuter patronage, the only exception being Ottawa with 22% and its extensive network of off-road busways and associated bus lanes.

Busways have turned up trumps in Brisbane too, this year celebrating the 10th anniversary of the opening of the first full busway corridor in 2001. Bus usage has since increased 65% since FR 2003/4 to 71 million trips a year, outstripping a more modest 20% increase in rail patronage to 57 million per year.

Meanwhile in Auckland a survey of 1,822 members by the Automobile Association found that 52% of members considered a bus their most likely alternative to car use, only 32% a train. This possibly reflects the limited ease of access to fixed rail corridors, or lack of direct connection between home areas and work areas, problems inherent in any fixed rail system. The survey results make for interesting reading and appear to echo trends overseas in many larger cities, where traffic congestion now costs so much in lost time waste and creates such lifestyle deterioration that even motorists are becoming big supporters of improved and increased public transport.

Says this article posted on Voxy News "The AA has acknowledged the Council's balanced list of public transport and roading projects. However, given the lack of available funding, we have expressed concern about the Council's failure to prioritise regional projects in a transparent manner which focuses on the principles of benefit-cost efficiency, geographic distribution and customer preference," says Mr Lambourne.  AA believes Council should prioritise bus improvements.

"The AA believes the Council's public transport priority should be upgrading the existing bus and rail networks, infrastructure and services across the region. Only once this is done should the Council consider expanding them."

Quite so!
 
The AA is also concerned about the generic nature of the Auckland Draft Plan and lack of specific detail.

Hmmm that's a big problem everywhere I suspect! Just this morning the NZ Herald carries a story that Standard & Poor have threatened to reduce Auckland City Council's credit rating (from AA to AA - ) because projected rail projects will put the city too far in debt. This could increase cost of borrowing money for all council projects.

NZ in Tranzit has put forward a scenario for a commuter rail in Christchurch, not least to build a solid foundation for the future and build in resilience against future oil shocks but please let us not pretend doing rail anywhere is an easy or an instant ticket to success.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hot-spot exposes a city falling far short of quality public transport



POOR ROAD USE

A couple of weeks ago, one rainy day, I was on a bus traveling up Papanui Road to Northlands. It was about about 3.30 pm. and already traffic was queueing.

The most impressive part of the bus journey was north of St Andrews College/Normans Road intersection -the bus fair flew along the bus lane, up the inside of a traffic queue until it got into the congestion at "the roundabout" (junction of Papanui Road and Harewood Road).

Then it got bogged in a queue and crawled up to the stop just past the Mobil Service Station on Main North Road. Understandably perhaps local retailers resisted bus lanes through this shopping area, and I respect there are places where roadside businesses need the image and illusion of of easy front door parking to survive. However after leaving the stop by the convenience store [opposite The Rose and Thistle pub] it probably took another two to three minutes, with a red light at Langdons Road, and in a stop-start queue [photo above] to travel the next 700 metres to the major bus stop outside Northlands.

This wasted time is instead of the 20 seconds this distance would take in a clear run situation if lights were designed to favour buses and buses had their own exclusive lane.  It is hard to see the point of bus laning parts of Papanui Road if the three most congested areas -Victoria Street, Merivale and Papanui/Northlands - offer so little assistance to giving buses clear advantage.

The lack of commitment in Christchurch to public transport is fairly self evident if one notes  the large unused footpath and ornamental border space in the photo above.  Here is another photo of it, taken further back towards Langdons Road,  immediately rear of position of top photo (ignore artistic condensation patterns on bus window!)



This suggests an added bus and bike lane could be accommodated and still leave room for a more than adequate pedestrian footpath. There is a wall of Westpac protruding onto the footpath, presumably they have figured there was more land than they needed. In an extreme case, negotiations by a Council committed to public transport could see this frontage area purchased and returned to public land, with a concrete arch over the footpath replacing the structural role of this protruding wall. Noted; Auckland is spending millions of dollars (including those sourced from Canterbury taxpayers) to enhance roading and public transport corridors, buying up over 500 private properties just on the AMETI scheme and Waterview Tunnel project alone - our city won't even negotiate a minor frontage purchase widening a road to give a better bus run!  However there appears anyway, more than enough space for pedestrian, cycle and bus lane.

Where ever bus lanes are built close to the footpath it does no harm to build a bedstead fence and this situation it would also render the passage safe for sight handicapped people. Further purchases would need to be made of the meaningless ornamental box and frontage of Cash Converters - council might offer owners a far more attractive, thinner, ornamental box hedging, and build a slightly less wide footpath. Ditto along the frontage of the Northlands Mall car park where currently buses slide into the (ahem) Northlands Metro Suburban Transfer Station.

Not. Ok a rainy day makes it look worse. No propaganda photos please blogster!



Of course on a fine day it might look like the photo below taken in 2010 (noted - before the buses arrived several people including an elderly lady and a mother and small child had to walk onto the road to get past this thronged footpath).



This classy looking set-up is presumably one of the nine suburban bus stations promised by ECan and Council back in 2006. Yeah right.

The transport authorities in Christchurch had only four years before the earthquake to address the issue. Understandably only one such station, a fairly modest set-up at at Hornby, has ever been created. 

At a rate of one suburban transfer station per four years (if Council can maintain the pace, phew!) expect completion of all nine by 2043.

But let us go back in "space" rather than forward in time and check out Main North Road as it approaches Langdons Road. As usual the dwatted wabbit (yes he still lurks somewhere in these pages) was carrying his camera. a couple of weeks after the top two photos, and noticed the following scenario -



This is outside PostShop and KiwiBank (combined) in front of an area permeated with multiple car parks in lanes and back areas. It is looking in the opposite direction to the bus photos above and just by the blue car in the middle distance are the markings on the road for the bus stop by the convenience store.

The yellow line in front of the car parking bay for two or three cars leads right up to Langdons Road. Arguably if on road parking is needed at all it would be better as 5 minute parking in front of the convenience store and this lane have (a) a bus stop in front of Postbank then (b) a Bus Lane (bus only straight ahead, turning lane for cars) with intelligent signals to take buses straight through this congestion point onto a full time exclusive bus lane towards  Northlands and a proper suburban exchange station.

My guess is be create an adequate transfer station the Council will need to work with Northlands Mall, perhaps insetting an enclosed waiting area into a small part of the Northlands carpark and narrowing the waist of the road to create safe passage across the road to a narrower bus shelter stop on the opposite side, copious use of bedstead fencing needed to channel pedestrian movements safely. The footpath area will needed to pass under the over arching veranda or around the back. As with Ottawa or  Calgary in Canada CCTV will need to be clear and linked to a monitored centre which can focus to faces, move and track movements, and if need be security or police alerted. I believe vulnerable bus stations needing to be "safer than houses" - precisely the places that bad eggs avoid - rather than as often happens overseas, places that "normal" people avoid because they become hang-out spots for street people or idle but noisy youth to annoy others or worse, locations for drug dealing, panhandling, bullying and abusive behaviour.

Facilities such as toilets, baby change station, cycle rack at rear will also be necessary. Electronic touch maps city wide will probably be available - touch present location, touch desired destination and a ticket size information document spews out showing the next three options, by whatever transfer pattern pattern and travel time, between the two locations.

Entrances and exits to the Mall carpark may need to shifted slightly and work in with traffic lights for the buses. Real time signage for buses travelling in both directions will be needed, so it is possible for passsengers to evaluate all options.

POOR SCHEDULING

Bus services would need to be scheduled in a co-ordinated interactive way by professional bus planners not the current mish mash which would make a child blush with embarrassment at ineptitude and stupidity. Also for an organisation called Environment Canterbury - a hypocritical and gross waste of limited resources, all over town running rare evening and weekend services through key points and along shared corridors simultaneously - and then anything up to an hour gap. 

Take these sample departure times below,  from the "new look" post-quake timetables (mostly the same-old same-old recycled!), route numbers in brackets. This lists all services that run along the a shared 6km stretch of road, including that in the photograph above, a road which is probably one the busiest  in northern Christchurch.  

Effective resource use? You can judge for yourself.

City Central to Northlands via Papanui Road Saturday night (mins past hour)
04 (8)  07 (12)  24 (11)  58 (22)  .....four buses an hour and still a 34 minute gap in services!!

City Central to Northlands via Papanui Road Sundays (mins past hour)
01 (12)  09 (8) 29 (11)  50 (22) 58 (22) daytime three services grouped between 50 and 09 and then nothing for 20 minutes, then nothing for a further 21 mins.

What a dogs breakfast - like something out of fifty years ago (or do I insult the past?)

Incidentally - if we add in the 10 route bus service and walk ten minutes from Papanui to Northlands it changes nothing all services in both the above periods run at 05 past the hour city to Papanui - how flakey does it get!!)

What is so impossible about a core departure time pattern 10 25 40 55 - every 15 minutes during EVERY operating hour from 7pm Saturday morning to Sunday 9pm? 

It would use no more buses than present or at most marginally so, just to cover swapping drivers. 

Is this really so far beyond the abilities of ECan to work out? Any extra services such as 10 route or Saturday middle of the day services woven in at rational spacing, but the core pattern would remain rock solid and reliable. 

What on earth is the point of our public transport system spending over $60  million a year (half from the public purse) to create a product that is not user friendly, fails to minimise and make predictable maximum wait time and offers patterns so fragmented, asymetrical and absurdly spaced as to be impossible to retain in the mind easily?

How many thousands more people would catch all day Saturday and all day Sunday bus services along  this 6 km shared corridor (city via Victoria St, Papanui Rd and Main North Road to QEII Drive)  - the busiest northern arterial in the city - if they knew  this simple  fact; that buses on this shared route corridor always run to a predictable pattern, every quarter of an hour from 7am Saturday morning to 12am Saturday night; and from 9 am to 9pm Sunday, additional services also on Saturday in middle of the day.

What idiotic system throws away the marketing appeal of this simple reliable concept, operating all the buses needed to supply it in a higgedly-piggedly mess?

Until Environment Canterbury can get its act together not only is it screwing the rate/tax and farepayers paying for this system, delivering half the service quality it could be for the same money  and driving potential customers away, it also makes any possibility of  (reliable) transfer stations slightly ludicrous. Why would anyone trust transferring between routes that run only two or three minutes apart? Or that can leave one standing at a transfer point for 34 minutes (or longer) between buses. .

SOME MORE FIGURES

This piece of Main North Road is a stretch of road that sees about 25 or more buses in each direction per hour, The Orbiter every ten minutes and about seven or eight others to multiple northern areas including the "express" Northern Star buses to Rangiora and The Comet to the Airport.

In the period 3pm -6pm, even allowing that many buses are still running very low in patronage following the earthquake dusruptions  and the closure of much of the CBD, this probably amounts to at least a 1000 passengers spread across 75 northbound buses.

Let us say enhancing bus lanes and traffic signal patterns at this area (notably the intersection with Langdons Road) could save, say, on average 1.5 minutes, or 1500 minutes of passenger time lost per business evening (= 25 hours per night, or 175 hours per working week or roughly 8750 hours per year. I am not including the, say,  20% of the time outside the 3pm - 6pm period, such as Saturday mornings where time could also be saved so this probably a very conservartive figure.

Of course, making buses not only faster, but felt as faster, does much to spur patronage. As well the city's steady revival will significantly spur patronage and it might be more realistic to say delays at this intersection cost bus commuters an expected 10,000 hours per year increasing to 30,000 hours per year in the next ten years as bus services fill up again.

The delay in queues can also tilt the balance in favour of car usage instead for those that have  or choose this option. Let us say the Papanui/Main North Road chokepoints contributes to the loss of the potential weekly patronage of 300 individuals who commute to work or tertiary study  etc each working day, averaging 10 trips per week (45 weeks per year - allowing annual holidays, statuary holidays and sickness). These are  patrons who tried the service but decide against bus use because of perceived slowness and  the Papanui-Northlands chokepoint is the image that most commonly springs  to  their minds when they tell others why they decided to buy or use  a car instead. This prepresents loss of potential 3000 trips per week times 45 weeks a year = 158,400 passenger trips per year or (Metrocard) revenue of  $138,000, one zone users only counted. 

These figures are purely hypothetical but you can probably get the ghist!!

The battle to move buses from the back of the queue into the fastest and smartest way to get around the city is fought and won in seconds and minutes. Not least because if route gets to point A on time every working night, then passengers can transfer to bus B at the same location 10 minutes later. Which means predictability, reliability, easy to memorise travel patterns, journey options expanding exponentially.

When buses employ modern technology and are supported by local authorities and good scheduling they can cut  the perception that buses only travel in one direction A to B, or K to S, rather than every service inherently  takes you in every direction.

Although we often hear about how buses are subsidised we never hear about the real cost or costs that can be estimated of parking or Council's inaction or merely making token gestures towards public transport.

Why should ratepayers, taxpayers and bus users combined spend a whopping $68 million per year on a bus service that can't even deliver quality services on time, because Council will not create the necessary infrastructure. Is the real cost in lost status and effectiveness and patronage of buses into the tens of thousands.

If indeed we lose $138,000 of bus income, from this congestion point (one of about 20 around Christchurch) what is the real cost of subsidising those two or three car parks that make a clear run between two stops impossible, as shown by the placement of the carparks in the photo above? $10-20,000 per year?





Sunday, November 6, 2011

Heritage trams - out of place in the new Christchurch?


Temporary shop built in containers - stylistic harbinger of a very different city?


I was in that part of the central city of Christchurch now re-opened to the public the other evening. The temporary Cashel Mall shopping centre built in containers was fantastic, really worked. Hopefully when new building's are built they can capture that same mix of open space and intimate lane feel as well. It is also possible to walk around much of the Central city west of Colombo Street in this area - not least because so much of the land is vacant, cleared, gravelled or even tar sealed into car park.

In this area there are perhaps a third to a half of the buildings still standing, mostly nondescript and/or modern. What comes home to any Christchurch citizen must surely be this, that there will be virtually no buildings of historic character left in the central city east of the Avon River.  One or two 1930s buildings, nice enough but probably barely noticed in the past, and the cute little wooden shop Shand's Emporium, in wood, build 1853 are all that seems to remain in the area around which I walked with a friend. Far from from being a "heritage city" we will have fewer older buildings in the business area than most other small to medium cities.

On the other hand the area west of the Avon, with the Arts Centre, Museum, Christ's College etc and many fine old wooden houses remains more or less intact, with its overall integrity and needs "nothing more" than a few tens of millions and several years  to restore. There seems to me to be a much more distinct dividing line now, between new city and old city and the importance of maintaining the integrity of the whole Arts Centre zone can only become more important.

Less important I suspect are the graceful old heritage trams that have operated in Christchurch for the last 16 years. These had a natural synergy with the older character of Christchurch, they created an iconic image and a binding of the old and new together.  The contrast between old and new - such as the photo in the sidebar of this blog, a tram heading towards high rise buildings,  had its own energy. But now - New Regent Street aside - in an entirely new city I suspect such ornate old trams will appear oddly out of place. Without older buildings they will appear slightly pathetic, sad, like some poor old soul with dementia wandering, looking for a past that no longer exists.




The earthquakes and their devastation have changed many things and one of them may be the relevance of heritage trams in the city centre.


One of the problems for locals long before any earthquake was that trams played no useful role for residents. Although the tramway operations added value to the tourists, stopping and starting and sight seeing commentary provided, they were so slow as to be utterly useless as a form of public transport, even with a resident annual pass. I bought an annual ticket one year, mistakenly thinking I could add this to my transport options, traveling Cathedral Square  to Arts Centre or Hagley Park (etc) instead of walking, but it was so painfully slow I never used it again. Information in the commentary was old hat to locals, the long stops and intrusive voice (for me) just tedious. And I could walk the distance twice as fast.

I have always suspected that the continuous expansion of the Heritage Tramway in Christchurch, with all its likelihood of reducing returns to the operating company ( it all takes wages and resources to go the extra distance when the added route section unlikely to attract significantly more tourists than the existing one) was also an attempt to build a future light rail circuit -  before the city had actually agreed to build light rail! And it was being done cheaper than might otherwise be the case because the line building budgets were slipped into other upgrades,  such as the resurfacing of High Street and Cashel Mall.

This said, how modern trams/streetcars could be inserted into that scenario was for me the curious question. With so few passing loops, and such ponderously slow tourist trams in the way, how could a brisker schedule of modern circuit trams running simultaneously be created ? Also how could a free tram or minimal cost tram designed to circulate local shoppers operate without significantly cutting into the profits of the heritage trams?  Most travelers are keen to pick up hints from other travelers, especially those on backpacker or a mum, dad and the kids budget. I can imagine talk in Picton motor camp or an Auckland bed and breakfast along the lines  "Oh when you're in Christchurch  just catch a normal tram, it's fraction of the cost and you see all the same things as the old ones, you just don't get to ride on a vintage tram or a commentary".

In the new circumstances it would seem to me somewhat irrelevant to operate Heritage Trams through a consistently non-heritage central city, east of the Avon. On the other hand much of the work for a light rail (street car type) has been done.

If Christchurch wants to score above its weight - hugely above its weight in transport sophistication -  I suggest reversing the estimated expenditure pattern for public transport put forward in the Central City Draft plan. This was  $40 million for the whole city wide 250 km (?) bus network [offering next to nothing in support infrastructure !]  and $406 million for light rail - for one length of 7.5km light rail !

I suggest Christchurch gets its own light rail variant - the modern streetcar - by putting the $40 million into finishing a revised central city tram circuit and buying three or four lightweight, low floor, wide door, modern light rail vehicles for a central city circulator system. These will cost about $5 million each leaving about  $20 million for track extension. And then, sensibly,  put the $406 million side of the equation into a region wide commuter rail and busway corridor system and - not least - into the dozens of bus infrastructure projects that need doing (intersection widening at key congestion points for added straight through bus lanes, intelligent road signals that read bus needs etc).

The Heritage trams might continue to operate across the wider route network, but just say four trips a day, a sort of advertising circuit, with most Heritage tram rides on the existing circuit which covers new Regent Street and the Arts Centre with other added value thrown in, as specifically tourist trams focused on our remaining "heritage zone", Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens. It could even travel in some part into the gardens or Hagley Park.  In these circumstances it does not seem to me to be so incongruous, not a defining image of the city, just an occasional visitor to the new city, a reminder of the heritage area west of the CBD for tourists

The rest of the city tramway could be recreated in a shorter faster circuit - Cashel Mall then up Oxford Terrace to Victoria Square, then back onto existing tram tracks or a new circuit across Tuam Street to the bus station.

If commuter rail became a fact utilising the area (possibly the huge building) between Colombo and Durham Street overbridges in Sydenham for a station, as previously advocated in NZ in Tranzit, the streetcar style modern trams could not only run to the station but being electric and non-polluting could also run right through part of the building itself, at floor level or on a mezzanine. Running trams every five minutes to the city centre would offer continuous rail access with one short walk (10 metres across the platform from train to tram) from as far afield as Rangiora, Rolleston or even Picton, Dunedin and Timaru right into the very heart of Christchurch. Frequency is speed in public transport and offering virtually a  "no wait" commuter rail or longer distance train-to-tram transfer for incoming passengers would be a key factor in the city centre's recovery.

The over-all effect - the new Christchurch would have a modern light rail system and morale boosting image; the old Christchurch would retain a presence and link to the city centre. Both systems would logically be operated by the one tramway company, as now under a single contracted  agreement,  without or without  subsidies as determined etc.

As with commuter rail I am now advocating a rail based solution, this time for central city!!

This is highly ironic because I believe - know -  buses can do every form of public transport much faster, frequently and more effectively, in multiple directions, if given the sort of financial support enjoyed by rail, and at half the cost and twice the quality of service.  Certainly there are parts outside this loop that could be as well or better handled by our existing shuttle buses, with an upgrade.

This said, I accept people get a buzz off rail systems and will use it more.  This suggestion, light rail in city centre only, seems like a win-win situation, offers something to all parties.
It is a solution that would allow  the city  - long distracted by the fantasy of light rail - to get on with the REAL TASK so long sidelined by repeated administrations, the task of moving our public transport system as much as possible off [congested ] roads and into the 21st century.  

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