ECan’s Commissioners: What will happen to public transport?

Posted on March 31, 2010 by

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ECan’s elected councillors will be replaced by Wellington-appointed commissioners in May. All the focus currently is on water and resource consents, definitely a contentious issue, but it comes at an important time for Canterbury transport. The government’s focus is on roading, with the multi-billion dollar motorways project starting work today.

At the same time Metro has been taking submissions on their Greater Christchurch Metro Strategy (which are open till Apr.16, do yours now!). Metro has seen phenomenal growth  – doubling from the first Metro Strategy in 1998 to over 17 million trips last year.  Over that time, Metro also introduced NZ’s first integrated smart card ticket system, and has really led a lot of development in public transport in New Zealand, such as the bikes on buses, the Exchange, real time info, etc. There’s also a lot of expansion such as the remaining 10 bus lane projects (Papanui Rd done, Colombo St should be almost finished), planning for the new Exchange is meant to start this year, as well as upgrades to the Metrocards.

The Christchurch City Council wants to have a lot more control over public transport, and I’d guess that this presents an excellent opportunity for them to get their hands on Metro. Not that this is necesarily a bad thing, there have been positive rail noises coming from the CCC’s offices for a few years now, and I don’t think they’d reduce any aspect of the Metro strategy. I’d pick the CCC to prefer an expansion of Metro’s strategy, reviving the suburban interchanges projects perhaps, or doing more work with bike/bus integration. However, no other city council has had control over public transport, it being the domain of regional councils. The outcome over who controls the Supercity’s transport may provide a guide for a ‘provincial’ transport organisation for Canterbury, which might be an autonomous agency with split input from ECan and CCC, but is probably not going to happen.

What is going to happen is ECan will be taken over by government-appointed councillors, who I hope do not mess with Metro at all. Below is my draft open letter to the incoming commissioners:

Dear ECan Commissioners,

Do not mess with Metro. At all.

Give it the money it needs to continue its expansions. Ideally, give it more money and let Metro be ambitious. Last year, Metro trips replaced 8 million car trips, and gave mobility to people for another 9 million journeys. This is valuable to all Cantabrians. It is valuable to the economic and environmental success of Canterbury. So please, ECan Commissioners, don’t mess with Metro.

Until then, we’ll just have to wait to see what happens to ECan over the next month.

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Posted in: Christchurch, General