A while ago, with the Metro Strategy Review in mind, I looked at some measures that I believed could be taken to improve the quality and effectiveness of Christchurch’s public transport network. At that time, I mainly focused on the here and now, basic common sense measures that were quite clearly lacking and hindering the performance, accessibility and effectiveness of the existing system. Now, (sorry for the delay) I am focussing on the bigger picture, what shape I think our system should take in the next five, ten, or twenty years, to be a truly useful and effective system that suits the public transport needs of a modern growing city.
What I would like to see is a long-term public transport ‘blue print’ or ‘master plan’ developed for Christchurch. Within this plan I would see a network drawn up, with public transport focused on a number of key corridors that would be linked at various points. These corridors would be of different types, each type performing a different function and role.
Quality Bus/Transit Corridors (QTC’s) along existing principle bus routes.
The idea would be to group bus routes along key corridors linking key destinations (we are already getting there), before they disperse into the outer suburbs. Such routes would have minimum standards of service quality (e.g. bus lanes, suburban interchanges, bus capacity, shelters, real-time info etc) and service frequency (e.g. minimum 10 min off-peak). Such QTC’s would ideally link various nodes, with the CBD at one end while at the other end routes would disperse. obviously some routes would ‘branch off” at other points along the route so QTC’s could be graded.
There are several bus corridors coming along nicely now that I think would easily fit the bill;
- CBD-Riccarton/Church Corner
There are other routes too that I feel could also be suitable, some requiring a bit of rationalisation of routes;
- Riccarton/Church Corner-Hornby
- Linwood-New Brighton
Another measure I feel could be part of this is establishing regular express services along the QTC’s, which could be integrated with regular daily services (e.g. selected 11 Styx Mill-Westmorland buses do the usual route then become express once they hit the bus corridor). Such express services would limit stops to major centres en-route (e.g. a bus heading from Papanui to the City might only stop at Merivale and Victoria St). Christchurch doesn’t have enough express buses in my opinion, and I have always felt that with bus lanes being rolled out, now is an ideal time to introduced a more extensive express bus system.
It is probably worth pointing out that these QTC’s would form the bread and butter of the public transport network, and would be geared to take advantage of bus priority measures, high-capacity buses, express services, suburban interchanges and so on. I guess an obvious conclusion to draw from that is one goal could be future conversion to light-rail for some routes to increase capacity and improve the quality of public transport along the corridor. While that is a hot topic for another day, the possibility of these QTC’s leading to light-rail is certainly worth thinking about.
Suburb-to-Suburb bus routes.
The next part of the puzzle is integrating these corridors with suburb-to-suburb routes. We all know how much of a success the Orbiter service has been since it was introduced, in fact it is now the busiest bus route in Christchurch. Metro have followed this up with another suburb-to-suburb route, the Metrostar and this has also been successful. I would like to see more such routes planned so that every node served by a QTC is served by a suburb-to-suburb route. With the implementation of suburban interchanges at key nodes and the development of QTC’s the network would be far more accessible.
Just as I would forsee QTC’s being marketed in some way (possibly through the express bus aspect) I would also like to see suburb-to-suburb routes marketed/grouped under a separate banner in order to emphasise their role to the public.
Planning and designating Rapid Transit Corridors.
Finally, I would like to see planning undertaken towards the designation and implementation of Rapid Transit Corridors (RTC’s). Personally, I would forsee such RTC’s linking the CBD & key nodes with regional/satellite centres and therefore integrating with the QTC’s and suburb-to-suburb bus routes. However, what shape or form these RTC’s would take is something I’m not too keen to speculate on right now as it is not really the point here. The point is to realise the need for rapid transit, look at what role it will be expected to play in Christchurch, and from there plan the routes & decide what form they will take.
We may be able to utilise the existing rail corridors in some capacity, but elsewhere we may need to develop a cost-effective, but future-proofed, solution. It is certainly worth remembering here that the rapid transit networks of many cities, big and small, are sometimes made up of more than one mode (e.g. Auckland or Brisbane). It all depends on where such RTC’s might go, and that will depend upon what role they are ultimately expected to perform. The future urban form of Christchurch may have a role to play here, and a quick check of the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy will give some indication of what that might be.
Towards a network.
I guess it’s pretty clear to see what I am suggesting here; an integrated network that can get you pretty much anywhere with great efficiency by having quality services concentrated along key corridors, which are all linked together in a kind of web or grid. Such thinking is certainly not new, but I thought it worthwhile putting it into a Christchurch context. I like that it works with what we have but is flexible to adapt to changes in the future. You can probably see that I would intend for this to be a step-by-step roll out, which, with each component able to be planned and developed separately, would be affordable and realistic.
The main point I want to make though, is that creating a plan to work from for public transport in Christchurch over the next 10-20 years is imperative. It would state clearly what we want, how it will all work and thus what is required to get it done. Having clear goals to work towards would be ideal PR as well. Aucklanders’ have a pretty clear idea of the key projects that are required to improve their public transport network (rail electrification, CBD tunnel etc) and it is a strong talking and political topic. Perhaps we can do the same here?