Improving Public Transport In Christchurch (Part One)

Posted on April 22, 2010 by


The Christchurch Metro Review Strategy (adopted 2006) is being reviewed, and recently Metro gave the public the opportunity to have their say on how public transport in the Greater Christchurch area should be improved. Submissions closed on 16 April.

Here are some of my thoughts on improvement’s that could be made to the Christchurch public transport system over the short-term. I have kept my suggestions to improving the existing system, my thoughts on additional options I will keep until later;

Bus Lanes – These should be implemented faster. Shortfalls in Government funding have already caused unacceptable delays to the bus lane programme. This has caused uncertainty over a number of bus lane projects including Riccarton Rd, which is highly congested throughout the day and has buses every 2-3 minutes off-peak. It doesn’t help that Christchurch is already well behind other cities in introducing bus lanes, which help buses avoid congestion ‘hot spots’, keep to time and even improve overall transit times. It should be a priority of all relevant authorities to push for increased funding for these projects.

Park & Ride – In Christchurch, public transport needs to play to its strengths. A number of bus routes serve low density areas and, combined with bus lanes, park & ride can improve patronage in these areas. Park & ride has already been identified as being suitable for Rangiora, Kaiapoi & Rolleston but has continually been delayed due to lack of funding. Park & ride facilities at these three centres will make public transport much more accessible to thousands of people for whom it previously was not an option. Combined with the advantages of bus lanes, there is a real possibility of increasing patronage.

Bus Corridors – Recently I have noticed a lot of services being funneled along key corridors. For example, CBD-Riccarton-Church Corner, CBD-Merivale-Papanui, CBD-Linwood, CBD-Cashmere, etc. It would be ideal to have separate timetables for these corridors, showing each route travelling along it, and to implement a minimum off-peak frequency along them.

Express Services – Branded, pre-pay only, limited stops bus services along key corridors running at high frequencies. Combined with bus lanes, possibly park & ride and possibly higher capacity buses, such an idea could be a cheap short-term winner.

Suburban Interchanges – Another initiative long-delayed due to funding limitations, suburban interchanges/bus exchanges would go a long way toward improving the image of public transport in Christchurch. Quite frankly. the facilities at the city’s largest, and nations second largest, shopping mall are pathetic.

Improved Bicycle Facilities – The roll out of bike racks on buses is good to see, Christchurch seems to be a leader here in New Zealand in that regard. Introducing bike lock-up facilities at key locations throughout the city (bike & ride) would take it that one step further, particularly on the fringes.

I’m not coming up with many original ideas here, I’m pushing existing ideas and projects that have failed to get off the ground or have stalled due to a lack of funding. I draw your attention now to my previous post and the comments made by Steven Joyce regarding a historical lack of investment in the Christchurch/Canterbury transport system. It is nice that we are getting some serious roading improvements, but there has been little in the way of serious investment from the Government in Christchurch public transport. In fact, it has been reduced and that is why bus lanes are being delayed and are under threat.

So, how do I think public transport should be improved in Christchurch? Simple really, the key is increased funding. The needed improvements are not coming fast enough, if at all. There needs to be an overall plan, a template, for public transport in Christchurch, so that individual projects make more sense. What kind of overall plan do I envisage? More on that in my next post…