Saturday, November 30, 2013

Road sign = GREEN ROAD - Cyclists and Bus priority. Watch for pedestrians

Following release of the Christchurch Central City (post earthquake rebuild)Transport Plan it has become clear that the city council is prepared to support having certain streets giving priority to a particular mode of transport.


Rather than the private car and commercial vehicle being king and queen of every road and street - with bike lanes and bus lanes squashed into one side - this strategy will see wide pedestrian or  bus or cycling lanes, taking priority in some central city streets. See official map below



NZ in Tranzit believes this is an excellent concept and should also be carried into the inner suburbs and even city wide, on a select number of streets.

Indeed this blogster believes the city should create a concept called "Green Roads" - these are not just a single street, but a number of streets that can be linked together (sometimes by off road segregated corridors) to create attractive corridors in which private cars and commercial vehicles are largely absent, restricted. or take second place to other modes.

A limited number of properties would need to be purchased, demolished or relocated, and the landlords (or in rare cases, owner occupiers) compensated but this also allows heaps of options. These  added features, such as drinking fountains, rain shelters, native forest landscaping, childrens safe play zones, or facilities for the use pf immediate local community such as a tennis or basketball court or a conversation pit.

Total land use planning would ensure a good mix of easy access to a rapid frequent bus service, but shielding and buffering of local housing from any pollution or undue exposure to buses.

Potential exists to create some very beautiful "green rivers" with a two directional busway (on beautifully smooth bus only roading and door level loading mini stations) and adjoining this bus lane but separate in almost every situation wide (4 plus metres) "roads" for cyclists, skaters, pedestrians.

The aim of each GREEN ROAd is to connect the dots - residential areas in outer areas, and in higher density inner suburbs, directly to the city centre and other high passenger traffic generators, such as malls, without being trapped in traffic jams and in ways that allow much higher quality infrastructure than conventional roads or just bus lanes can achieve,

NZ in Tranzit has long promoted the building of a GREEN ROAD (to use this new term)  from CBD to Grassmere Street area, dividing into arms running tofro Belfast and Northlands-Sawyers Arms etc. 

Campaigning on this modest busway suggestion, requiring purchase of about 15 properties, but remodelling a whole area near Edgeware into an attractive mix of higher density social housing, apartments and recreation facilities,first began  in 2002. I would guess (based on other similar projects) would cost approximately $80 million (not counting some work done under housing and parks budget). 

Special features of this Northern Green Road would include a wide landscaped transit and active boulevard, from Edgeware Road to Rutland Street direct; a elongated pak between Paparoa St and Grassmere Street; a bus and active flyover ramp across Cranford Street (about $8 million?) and a bus underpass - beside the bike underpass - under QEII Drive (about $6 million?).

Simple infrastructure across Cranford street, near the pooling basin, a ramp and central viaduct (cost  $8 million?) would allow millions of future bus and bike trips from north of city and from Waimakariri District to travel directly into the city centre via a Green Road under QEII Drive, over Cranford St, around the pooling basin through Rutland Street,  Edgeware, Canon Street and Manchester Street.

Earlier this year, in NZ in Tranzit I have added a similar concept  from Mandeville Street in Riccarton to Middleton Road, and the University. This bypasses almost all the congestion along Riccarton Road whilst delivering maximum access tofro the main people generators of Westfield and the University, and core high density Riccarton residential block. This project would require about 25 properties (mostly run down rentals occupied by students) but come in under $50 million. Later it can be linked,  under the railway line and back towards Hagley Park, Definitely a Green Road!

Both Green Roads could be the first sensible step (securing the land corridors) towards building light rail, probably not in this decade (it is far, far too expensive for our small city and GDP per capita!) but one day, and half the work done already. Alternately the rapid evolution of electric buses may make this unnecessary.

Two beautiful world class rapid transit corridors (but more aptly, potently and attractively called Green Roads) landscaped, a dream for walkers, joggers, skaters, cyclists, a natural environment for face to face community interaction. Corridors that steal almost nothing from motorists, residents or shopkeepers; add nothing to congestion, corridors that deliver on time (with 5 minutes) every time, corridors  with smooth gliding buses (and mini-stations along the way, with minimum delay from intersecting traffic, with maximum opportunity for public-private high density housing within minutes of easy access to CBD.  

All this for $200 million, spread across say ten years, and with Government funding two thirds, and getting off bloody easy at that!

Road sign; 
Green Road 
Cyclists and Bus priority. 
Watch for pedestrians


Definition of road  - a pathway for traffic of all kinds (in New Zealand even beaches are legally classified as roads!) 

... also "road" as a spiritual and philosophical concept, as in "the road to recovery" or "the road forward",


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wellington Transport Spine Study - Bus rapid transit assessed as a better option than upgrading bus priority or building light rail



Jarrett Walker - Human Transit blog - must have leaned out of the conference room 
window to capture such a iconic photograph of Wellington buses! Here threading along 
Manners Street, a bus only section of Wellington CBD city's narrow streets.


A study by international engineering and transport consultants AECOM has identified a Bus Rapid Transit system from Wellington Railway Station to Newtown, and to Kilbirnie, as the most effective mode of meeting expected growth in Wellington public transport use on this primary transport spine.

The relative costs were Bus Priority upgrade $59 million; Bus Rapid Transit $207 million (both systems direct to either Newtown or Kilbirnie) and Light Rail $989 million, to Newtown only (with feeder buses to Kilbirnie etc.)*

A pamphlet outlining the study finding (or indeed the whole report)  is available to read here, and has inevitably produced a lot of debate and perhaps also some justified criticism.  

Almost 9000 passengers per hour in peak hours are expected to come off trains heading into Wellington central city and work and study zones beyond by 2031 (note; in 18 years time).

This presumes that Wellington rail commuting will continue grow significantly, something I don't think can be automatically assumed given Wellington is already far ahead of many, much, much larger cities, in the proportion of commuters using public transport to commute to work.  Wellington may be prove to be a "mature system", unlikely to grow a higher percentage of commuter use, and any growth pegged to slower population growth. 

Among the critics of the study finding have been retired engineer Kerry Wood, whose analysis of Bus Rapid Transit in the built-up areas of Wellington suggests it is unworkable on a logistic level. I am no fan of light rail (on cost factor/even distribution of quality transport dollar factor, mainly) or of seeing millions more of Canterbury transport dollars sent forth to other centres, but Wood certainly makes a very intelligent and sensible case.  

A bus operator, Mana Coachlines (also operating Newlands Transport, both part owned by Scots transport entrepreneur Brian Souter) , has publicly challenged the way that the Bus Rapid Transit operation is distinguished from Bus Priority. 

It is hard to interpret either motive or logic of the latter critique, because bus rapid transit is given exclusive centre lane road space over much of its passage and its own bus corridor in a new (duplicated) Mt Victoria tunnel, reflecting the "think rail;build bus" status benchmark of  properly constructed BRT. In contrast the bus priority only option assessed was pretty much "more of the same" using the existing Hataitai bus tunnel [originally built for trams in 1905] 

Mana seemed to be implying that use of the a new Mt  Victoria tunnel gave BRT systems "unfair" advantage over bus priority using the Hataitai bus tunnel. Yes. It probably does. Isn't that the very point?

My late grandmother used to have a leather plaque on her wall reading "Never put your wishbone where your backbone ought to be".  As applied to the Wellington transport spine concept it is a rather useful saying!!  

However wishbones may win all the same. A factor here is that every generation wants to redefine the world on its own terms. The generations rise to spiritual potency, centre stage and political leadership as they approach their middle 30s and early 40s and tend to set the dynamic coming ethos and style of their era, of the next decade anyway. The rise of the green public servant may be influential.

Wellington for all its small size has the compressed downtown energy of much larger cities and I have a suspicion that the influence of green, urbanist thinking, finding it hard to ride a bike in Wellington's hilly terrain, maybe extra likely to push through the light rail option, irrespective of the logic or cost-benefit analysis of any such study ! People don't always vote on money factors alone, and light rail is a stylish image, if absurdly expensive.

Several points interest to me in this study. Firstly it reveals further evidence of the growing trend in world public transport to discriminate between types of bus system in planning. It seems to be saying that the days of "good old bus" (chug a lug), shove it on a street and it goes anywhere, don't worry about how long it takes, etc, are passing. Likewise (low status, only partly effective) on-street bus lanes are best value option, if you are trying to build a vital city. We moving into an era of more discriminate targeted use of transit technology, and multiple bus use concepts are now in interplay.

South America has led the way in creating bus rapid transit - "Think rail; build bus" - a system of essentially making bus routes like railway lines, spiritually and often practically, separated from other traffic. A minor subsection of this larger mode - painted bus lanes on city streets where other options do not exist (first done in Chicago in the 1940s)  - has lately been more or less hi-jacked by some cities that appear to be mostly trying to avoid major investment in public transport, and  pumped up with a great deal of huff and puff as "Bus Rapid Transit" even when without any major infrastructure support.

The Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) is trying to counteract this dilution of a potent concept for transforming cities by creating industry standards for bus rapid transit systems.

Recently it even created a set of Gold, Silver, Bronze grading for Bus Rapid Transit - reported fairly simply in this Trinidad newspaper.

The other thing that goes through my mind is "here we go again". While our new leaders in Christchurch debate how to spend $40 million across 6 bus transfer stations, five more bus lane corridors etc (lets forget about exclusive bus corridors, bus rapid transit etc)-  while we piddle around on such matters - Wellington dismisses the bus priority option identified by AECOM on this corridor (as it surely will) and debates projects costing between (roughly) $300 million and $1200 million!




*Newspaper reports talk of light rail at $1.2 billion so there may be some subsequent adjustment upwards of all these figures that I am missing


Previous NZ in Tranzit blog postings on  public transport expenditure in Wellington

Dom-Post dismisses light rail in Wellington

Take the money and run 





Saturday, November 16, 2013

Busway corridor through Riccarton ticks many boxes



Noosa Bus Station, Queensland just after completion, stylish and spacious 
(photo displayed on the website of  designers Guymer-Bailey Landscape Architects, Brisbane)
 (a link to further  photos of this project below)

I have made a submission to the proposed Riccarton Road transfer station consultation.

As there is a very big chance this submission will be deemed outside the terms of reference of the review, and not even viewed,  I share here publicly some of the aspects raised.

If nothing else, it is good to share a range of more realistic options for better public transport.

This submission suggested the "Smart Way" concept (previously raised on this blog) of building a mostly segregated busway corridor parallel to Riccarton Road from (at least) Mandeville Street to Wharenui Road and possibly (or later) Middleton Road.  On-street Bus lanes would operate between the railway crossing and Mandeville Street, and between Wharenui Road and Church Corner. These lanes would affect very few properties (most commercial) that do not already include on-site car parks.

Essentially most buses coming from the city would make a 30 second deviation off Riccarton Road at Mandeville Street, then enter on a new cut-through bus/cycle/pedestrian only access lane to Dilworth and Maxwell Street, interconnecting with other routes at a bus station rear of Westfield mall. Most services then run south of,and parallel to, Riccarton Road  until  Wharenui Road and special signals to turn right towards Riccarton Road, making a 30 second return journey to bus lanes on Riccarton Road, This completely by-passes the worst of congestion, and by-passes the complex and bus slowing traffic signals at Straven Road and Clyde Road. New, simple bus only or bus priority, traffic signals at Clarence Road, Matipo Street and Wharenui Road would support this rapid transit corridor

No businesses in the central commercial core will be effected by bus lanes or indeed, as now, by having too many buses along this shopping street. Some additional on-street car parking spaces would be likely. Shop customers etc will be able to enter Riccarton Road commercial area from various points/bus stops and the suggested bus station location itself, less than 2 minutes walk away (equivalent to one city block away).

About twenty properties would need to be purchased but most in the path options of the suggested route appear to be older housing stock in poor condition rented to (what appears to be) groups of students and/or houses in streets reclassified L3 or L2 intended for higher density redevelopment.  The indicative route does not appear to threaten many (if any) long established family homes or elderly residents, where special support in relocation in the same area may be needed.

In short a good opportunity still exists to stake out a rapid transit corridor before the spread of new developments - such as the flats being built in Rattray Street in the photo below - render an effective relatively straight running busway corridor route a dead duck. The development of quality high density housing should be in symbiotic and mutually supportive relationship with increased public transport access, not in conflict with it!



It is not possible to show the route suggested in submissions, which can only be indicative anyway, because I am not in any position to suggest which particular properties would be needed from several dozen possible, a sensitive area of course itself subject to negotiations and multiple other factors.etc.

However I estimated the busway corridor put would cost around $25 million - a very modest amount nowadays. To get perspective here, the former Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore said in 2005, "When we rebuild an intersection it takes a million dollars".

The cost estimate is of course highly amateurish but is based on purchasing the 20 or so properties including the usual compensation payout, at average  cost of $500,000 - this is a fairly generous estimate with few over $400,000 -  ($10 million). Further costs would come in construction /reconstruction of the roading surface of the busway at the back of the Westfield Mall and as it crosses these cleared sections and several small side streets heading westwards ($10 million). Potential exists to actually cut one or more of these smaller streets into two cul-de sacs, with bus and cycleway crossing in between the ends of these residential enclaves.

Lastly there would be the building of a proper, spacious attractive bus transfer station on Maxwell Street - probably the best site is at the end of Rotheram Street- - so the bus station itself becomes a very easily accessible and highly visible part of this very lively and busy entertainment and shopping zone (including Westfield Mall entrance and Hoyts 8 entrance).


Rotheram Street, entrance to Westfield, Hoyts 8 and the street itself home to several major retailers and cafes and restaurants.  Riccarton Road (see Metrostar bus in background) is less than 2 minutes walk from the area of the suggested busway corridor. Some property purchase, committing part of the street to median bus lanes  and good design  of a multi-platform bus and transfer station would lift this side of Rotheram St and hugely increase the presence, status and effectiveness of bus services on Christchurch second most important transport corridor.


Recent images of Noosa Bus Station (built for $10 million Australian, including much recycled material) above convey for me something of the feel to me of a quality bus interchange. This said Noosa's design is primarily built for the much needed shade from hot sun factor, at Riccarton in Christchurch a (smaller) design would need to focus on more sunshine and reducing wind effects, with perhaps some distinctive Christchurch branding element. Apart from a big illuminated Metro sign, and bright lights at key points, creative use of neon sculpture or neon banding around loading verandas, could add vivacity and the warmer tones, often so needed in public transport station design, to avoid overly cold or desolate night settings.

A major facet of the roadstead of the busway corridor itself would be the addition of a broad cycle and pedestrian way separate but beside the busway, the green park-like corridor landscaping, and a range of devices to reduce visibility and noise of buses to neighbourhoods. As quite a lot of park land and roadside berm is involved, and the width of most sections is equivalent to up to 10 buses parked/passing side by side, and only room for two lanes and a cycle-pedestrian way is specifically needed, there is a big margin here for re-orientating existing park footprints, or even selling surplus land to adjoining houses, adding buffering or redevelopment potential. Modern diesel is anyway much quieter and less polluting, but it is also likely some sort of fully electric buses will become mainstream over the next decade, While most houses will be no closer to passing buses than houses on bus routes on existing streets, one of the advantages of a segregated busway is that  ideally houses (unless multi-level apartment blocks) will not even see passing buses, a chance perhaps also to screen the ugly carpark buildings for the residents of Maxwell Street!  To give absolute "light rail quality" smooth operation (and avoid neighbourhood vibrations) the busway surface itself would be especially compacted to a high degree. If trees are saved or planted to the side (particularly where they do not overly block the sun) looking along the cycleway or busway would be avenue (and only 200 metres away from a clogged and congested arterial road!).

Running between busy town centres yet completely by-passing congested roads, in the UK. The recently opened Eclipse Bus Rapid Transit system in South East Hampshire utilises a former rail corridor, the bus corridor suggested through Riccarton would have similar elements but a wider land area allowing an adjacent but separate wide cycle and pedestrian way and substantial landscaping. Photo Wikimedia Commons

This minimum disruption effect is very important because, eventually and at its peak operating times the busway might be expected to carry 50-100 buses an hour, including possibly one day articulated buses or double deckers. This "phasing in" period over an extended period allowing residents (the area appears to be mainly rentals anyway) to relocate and their place to be taken by those who love the easy car free access to facilities the busway delivers  -such as airport, university, Riccarton, city, Addington etc and the Orbiter and MetroStar routes. Noted too, this is an area where scores of houses were removed to extend shops,  malls and carparks, and subject to extreme car traffic, and steadily being rebuilt in apartments.. Indeed, a major cost-benefit advantage would be the added development of new higher density housing - anyway expected - sooner and perhaps to a higher standard than some of the rather gross new "low block sheds on a concrete apron design" student housing units currently being privately built.

A major "tick" factor is taken together the residential area north of Riccarton Road (much of it in motels, Deans Bush and single unit professional housing), the commercial area of Riccarton and the Mall, and designated higher density  housing areas between Riccarton Road and Blenheim Road, despite superficial appearances, are better served by the Maxwell Street axis than Riccarton Road. Public spending should aim to serve the most people per dollar, and running bus services along side rivers, sea fronts, green spaces, or as current, along the northern edge of a huge potential bus user catchment, does less justice than centring the key route corridors through the middle of this sector. Capturing the residential fulltime working or studying bus user means buses supply  4-600 bus trips year for that person (and cuts car use by same amount) and this also needs to be equated against casual shoppers taking only one trip a week etc, in planning. 

Another "tick the box" factor is the great flexibility both in building such a busway corridor, in day to to day operations, and in contingency. Not all routes need to operate the entire length - I have suggested The Orbiter would be the key one, because delays on Riccarton Road ripple right around Christchurch, leaving a lot of people pissed off at missing Orbiter to [less regular] radial route connections, and buses falling over each other, instead of evenly spaced.  Just the increased efficiency of  the Orbiter might generate another half million passenger trips per year. In the long run this might run right through to Middleton Road. 

In contrast the Metrostar would need to return to Riccarton Road at Matipo Street to be able to access Clyde Road.  (although why Clyde Road is not taken straight through to veer onto Wharenui Road, simplifying this clumsy intersection with its huge delay factor is not known). Longer distance services Hornby, Rolleston, Lincoln, Darfield, Ashburton, Timaru etc  would more likely continue very much on the straight , dropping down Mandeville Street to a new busway through to Maxwell Street, the bus station, and then onto Wharenui Road, and back onto bus lanes along Riccarton Road, What can be adjusted is the portions "Vis Busway" "via Riccarton Road", and over time which new routes are introduced. Presumably the busway would be mostly double laned (though only half the tarsealed width of a conventional road) which allows buses to pass each other when one bus stops for passengers, and in appropriate situations for fire, police and ambulance provides fast access way through an often highly congested part of town.

Yet another 'tick' factor - not only is this concept future proofed for increasing capacity and the number of routes operating through the multi-platform station - it actually lays the groundwork for the future. In the first instance a cycleway under Deans Avenue and via Brockworth Place then under the railway line, crossing Mandeville Street and then straight along the new busway corridor, to Wharenui Road with minimum cycle car interaction. Later - when the city hits 750,000 in 206? - perhaps adaptation to also carry a light rail line, from hospital corner through Hagley Park under Deans Avenue, under Brockworth Place (that area) and the Railway Line to  Maxwell Street and the interchange, then to Middleton Road. In a city as small as Christchurch and in a country with barely half the wealth per capita of Australia, the only sensible path to light rail - is (a) very long term and  (b) via rapid transit corridors first established for buses, with capacity for future joint use by both modes.  

This $25 million "guestimate" could be way out, I am the first to admit, but even at double the cost, measured across the 25 year cost-benefit evaluation of a major infrastructure project, it would seem to be extremely good value for money. I don't know how many passenger trips travelling by urban bus are made each business day on Riccarton Road nowadays, but ten years ago in 2003, according the New Zealand Bus and Coach Association* it was 9700, so let us say 10,000 nowadays. For simplicity let's also add only half that amount of passenger trips on Saturdays and Sundays (is probably higher but this can cover public holidays too). At a rough guess 60,000 bus passengers per seven day week, just over 3 million passenger trips per year.

That is to say - without any future passenger growth purely because of city population growth, or any added growth because of the popularity of an ultra-smooth, no delay, much faster (especially in peak hour) bus journey through Riccarton - of 75 million passenger trips over 25 years. (approx 30 cents per passenger added cost, decreasing in real cost with inflation). Actually busways have done very well around the world and there is every likelihood in the same period, patronage will increase dramatically, doubling or tripling in relationship to population size over 25 years. 

This is a city building piece of infrastructure. This so in a way not really possible with merely some part time part way bus priority lanes and a storefront transfer station with limited capacity, lacking any larger style, grace or presence and without sufficient cycle-bus facilities or significant capacity for growth.

I have requested that this idea - the whole question of servicing Riccarton Road area - be put out to a bona fide transport planning consultancy to fully investigate all the options. I don't believe councils that are prepared to roll over and accept a mere $6 million input from Government for something as important as one of our two primary transport corridors*  are doing their research or homework properly.

It is not appropriate that we in Christchurch expect the $5 billion plus in public transport infrastructure, received and planned for Auckland. 

It is not appropriate that we in Christchurch - who do have the restrictions of narrow land corridor geographic factors of Wellington -  would expect over $1.2 billion  spending on public transport infrastructure, done and likely in Wellington (once a bus rapid transport or light rail city- Kilbirnie spine system is agreed upon, on top of the $700 million rail upgrade). 

It is however appropriate that a city of metropolitan population 400,000, already struggling to recover from a major earthquake, on the verge of a genuine long term congestion growth, with increased growth on perimeter areas should expect to spent around half $500 million in the next decade on public transport infrastructure. And it is appropriate that a very significant portion of this come from central Government as is the case with virtually ever major infrastructure project in  New Zealand, and as is the pattern in most countries of the world. And not least, appropriate as a reasonable minimum degree of equity with the northern cities, in support of Christchurch to build a prosperous economy and livable city.

As a starter - a busway corridor through the most congested part of Riccarton, with a bus station linked to every major corner and facility in greater Christchurch - built for somewhere around $25 million, (ok even twice that) - is tremendous win-win-win- win.




*(ie North to Rangiora; west to Rolleston)

**Lift bus use or spend $169m on roads The Press June 11 2003

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Clever hacker gets 50 years free travel on insecure MetroCard

The system used by Environment Canterbury to make MetroCards has been cracked wide open by a geek hacker to expose its weakness.

He was able to load $167,769 on his card and then run it into the red for $3 million!!

According to the article in online mag SCI - Secure Business Intelligence

To demonstrate the flaws, software developer and security hobbyist William Turner had taken advantage of security weaknesses and hacked a transport card to boost its monetary value to a staggering $167,769.85, and by the same means ran it into the red to the tune of nearly three million dollars.

"If we have physical access to a card we can reprogram it with a balance (because) they are using old standards, default keys and there's no encryption stored on the data on the cards," Turner told delegates at Kiwicon in Wellington.

[my emphasis]

No doubt there is cause for genuine concern and improving the security of MetroCards. 

However the hacker did not seem to understand much of the intrinsic strength of MetroCards - possibly the best structured and best value customer loyalty reward card in the public transport world.

For a start you have to have a physical card - steal one (or a break in some where and steal a stack). This immediately allows the owner to report it missing, or the agency to declare the codes number of stolen cards null-and-void. If presented it will be blocked. With CTV cameras on most buses it would not take long to identify the offender/s before he or she had gained more than a few dollars advantage.

If he can hack into the system changes the coding, still the most he could steal is $9.10 per day!  That's the most one can spend in a day or ever needs too. That amount is two separate - longer distance - 3 zone fares (he would have to travel to Rolleston, Rangiora or Diamond Harbour, twice a day, to fully enjoy his ill gotten gains!)

This amount is the maximum per day, for five days in any calendar week after which all travel is free to 5am Monday morning and the start of a new calendar week. This applies to whatever zoning applies. If a card is used twice, more than two hours apart in any one day all subsequent travel for that day is free.

Losing a card even if it has $20 dollars on it, even if it is stolen, can be quickly remedied merely by cancelling it before more than a dollar or two is used, and the remaining balance is transferred to a new card.

If a hacker tried to sell or give away this secret access to loading cards to anything more than five people, human nature being what it is word would soon get out, and then to the Serious Fraud Office and the pathway would belatedly be blocked, I'm sure.

Perhaps too the hacker - out to expose a faulty system  rather than steal - got mixed up with the Snapper card in Wellington, with which a large variety of other items can be purchased at a range of businesses.

I think it is absolutely wonderful (another strength!) that Environment Canterbury have never opted to broaden the range of things that can be purchased with a MetroCard - it is for public transport use only.

As an "on and off" full time bus user in many years, including the last thirteen, like most other regular users, I have had occasional incidents where I  left my cardboard "10 trip concession card"  or the $60 monthly pass at home. This is much more rare now that I can carry my MetroCard, separate from other bank cards or wallet, in one of the tough plastic envelope casings, that Metro itself sells for $2. It has a comfortable presence in my right pocket, it is instantly possible to check I have it on me just by patting my pocket.

Even worse in the past,  there were occasions where I didn't have any cash on me either; or I spent the fare or some part of it, in a moment of forgetfulness. For example I needed  to hold back $3.50 bus fare to get home but accidentally used $1 of that amount when making some other small purchase, only realising later - too late - oh noooo!!  Oh you stupid bugger! Not being a kid I can't plead for discount or a free ride on a bus - here comes the long walk!

An inbuilt security factor of the Christchurch MetroCard - eroding vitally needed transport fares by buying coffees, newspapers, ice creams, or whatever, is impossible with a "public transport only" card. 

It feels to me a much more reassuringly safe system than the Snapper system. There are plenty of other cards (or cash) to buy other things. With Metrocard  however much money is spent, wasted or blown, the bottom line is; the ride home is secure.

And even if there is only 10 cents value on the card it will allow you to ride - deducting the outstanding balance of what is owed next time the card is reloaded.

I am sure ECan value the knowledge and advice that their system seriously needs an upgraded security (and appear to have been fixing this over the last day or two) but the greatest security was really just good old fashion design - the card and the way it operates is so well structured it makes theft in any form largely pointless.

The $167,000 would have bought 50 plus years of bus travel around Christchurch! To obtain this involves constantly reused system - daily to get value - making exposure and prosecution only a matter of time, not to mention suffering a certain feeling of jaded ennui from too many trips to Rolleston, Rangiora and Diamond Harbour!






Monday, November 11, 2013

Yesterday's buses.....


This is a photo taken yesterday, Sunday 10 November 2013, from a bus window, of two Orbiter buses ostensibly operating in  a service where departures are 15 minutes apart . 

Anyone who lives in Christchurch knows that a double-dipping of lime buses is a common sight.




This next photo was taken over three years earlier, on 12 August 2010  - note before any earthquakes - it is an image of what a weekday Orbiter service, ostensibly running at ten minute intervals, can look like on RealTime sign. 

Reading between these tightly packed lines we can see that some poor bastards here, and down the line, will or have been waiting 30 minutes for this ten minute service!

In Christchurch we have a bus system that has proved chronically unable to use its advanced monitoring technology, or to develop  operating strategies, roading controls etc  to keep a scheduled service running at even intervals, and arriving and departing at designated times.  There may be all sorts of good reasons, and many factors involved -  this posting is a reality check, not a finger pointing exercise - but that doesn't change a core fact, the system can not deliver as claimed..



Here is another historic photo - buses queued up to get into the Bus "Xchange" on the 18 November 2011. 

This was a central city bus station serving 360,000 plus people of greater Christchurch in 2000, built for the same price as a fairly minor outer suburban rail station in Auckland, $20 million. It was a joint scheme with developer Philip Carter and the city undoubtedly got a fantastic bargain - and a time bomb because this stylistic world leader bus station had a capacity for growth that was very limited. Oops! Unexpectedly (??) its very success helped grow bus usage much faster than projected.

In the late afternoon of business days, bus queues lined up trying to get in or out, indeed lined, Colombo Street,  the main axial street of central Christchurch waiting to turn into the street upon which the bus station was situated.  

There may be all sorts of good reasons this happened. It doesn't really change much what these reasons were  - again the system could not deliver as claimed. 

Now let us remember the organisations who have not been very effective in dealing with the problems above currently implying that they can operate an effective bus station with only three bays outbound (and one suspects only two inbound) and up to 70 buses an hour in peak hours, from a storefront bus station on Riccarton Road. All of this on one of Christchurch's most congested roads. 

Yeah right, sure. So where are the other two Orbiters going to stop  and wait their turn?  And where are the rest of the routes running early or late going to mark time. 

Oh yeah,  buses can queue in their own special bus lanes. That should speed things up no end! 

To quote a famous  saying  - Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Unfortunately we are the punters that have to put up with this.  

The much larger question is why is a corridor likely to be carrying (at very) least two or three million passenger trips a year getting only $6 million from New Zealand Transport (central Government) whilst New Zealand Transport Agency is perched ready to pump $550 million into the extension of the Auckland Northern busway towards Orewa? 

Auckland, Wellington, other cities around the world are building rapid transit corridors - commuter rail, light rail and bus rapid transit corridors and segregated busways  - yet Christchurch is still struggling to get buses into the low budget, small benefit, lane of bus priority.

Rapid transit? Busways? Not in Christchurch thank you - definitely not our style. We are still driving yesterday's buses...