Thursday, July 4, 2013

Christchurch's Planned Bus Station - Dare we believe it will really address bus user needs??


Getting it right - Hamilton's Transport Centre in the Waikato (NZ) - urban, metropolitan, regional and long distance buses (and timetables) ; cab rank, info and ticket office, left luggage, cafe, real time   - ten years ahead of Christchurch city in public transport thinking!  Photo; NZ in Tranzit 2010

Interesting to see that Christchurch teenagers want a safer bus exchange, without gloomy corners, twist and turn tunnels and more CTV.   

We have a constant problem that public transport systems are being designed by people who do not catch or rely upon buses. Many aspects are just not attuned to passengers needs. 

The result is actually inferior facilities, despite all the usual hoopla. Not only for teenagers as above. 

Overseas research, for example shows, two major reasons people do not swap from using cars to using buses is their need to break journeys to pick up groceries from supermarkets or to drop off or younger children from day care. Too clumsy on any route with buses less than 10 minutes apart (and even the The Orbiter can't manage this in rush hours!).

Wellington has addressed the first need by putting a small supermarket franchise specifically orientated to commuter needs in its central rail station. Will Christchurch go this far? I don't think our Council is quite that far sighted! No doubt hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) are spent on designing roading, traffic signals, lanes and islands etc to facilitate cars entering and exiting supermarkets but helping bus users shop ....how dare they expect some levelling of the playing field!!

A child care centre in or above the planned Christchurch exchange would offer excellent support, particular for when both parents are working alternative hours, with some overlapping, or when grandparents pick up children. 

A dry-cleaning franchise would also be excellent. Even toilets for example need two coat hooks and shelves for bags, bus passengers have to carry more with them than car users.

A taxi rank, in or right beside the exchange, is another necessity - people who catch buses also need cabs at times, especially around the city centre, if the bus is running very late or the passenger is in a hurry to get to an appointment, or if strangers arrive from suburban accommodation, staying with friends etc, but then seek doorstep delivery to precise locations. 

A couple of cafe franchises - one burger bar style one for young families and teenagers; one a bit more in the cafe mode, would be a great if they have real time departure boards visible or overlook the bus exchange. A place to say last good byes or wait for friends in a relaxed way, without all that last minute stress or tension of getting to the bus exchange from a cafe down the street.  

Last but not least the lower end of the tourist market is a dogs breakfast in Christchurch - how can we as a province even pretend to be tourist friendly without a one stop, multi-company, long distance bus station - offering also access to all the facilities mentioned above and a concentration of information about service and location options. It is absolutely bizarre we pretend Christchurch is tourist friendly and yet don't make it easy to make the most of time spent here by eliminating a lot of needless transport worries, time wasting and opportunities lost for our visitors. 

Canterbury tax payers (pro-rata) are funding hundreds of millions of dollars of public transport upgrade in Auckland and Wellington whilst our own bus system has barely advanced in ten years, a few bus lanes and Selwyn Star and Blue Line (when on time) aside.. Many would say it has gone backwards lately.

We are living in a modern technological society where huge advances have been made in many fields, including of course computer chip cards,  real time arrival info, and apps for next bus due etc but so little has been done to actually "support and smooth" the actual journey and the way it relates to bus users lives.  

In a sophisticated society buses and cars must be treated equally, which is to say some of the advantages of having a car,  are countered by giving bus users other advantages; such as buses never having to queue, or queue for more than a few seconds,  at busy intersections. Or being able to do some of the functions described above.