Jim Anderton slams rail plans

Posted on August 2, 2010 by

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Jim Anderton puts through some of his opinions and visions for public transport in Christchurch:

Jim Anderton considers the proposed schemes of a light rail network and an underground city bus exchange being put forward by the Council are too costly and impractical for the immediate future.

“The real issue facing public transport is how to get more people to use it. With less than 10 percent of all trips made by bus and a similar number by cycling, over 80 percent of all journeys in the city are made by car,” Jim Anderton said.

“Research has repeatedly shown that the real reason people are not using public transport is inconvenience and unreliability. Christchurch’s buses often run late. Bus Lanes are the Council’s solution, but it has taken twelve years to get just three in place.

“The building of an expensive new central city underground interchange won’t get the buses running on time or grow passenger numbers, particularly when the underground exchange will not attract government funding and will be at the expense of suburban interchanges which are crucial if we are to make bus transport a more attractive proposition.”

Jim Anderton’s affordable solution is to install bus lanes between the major suburban shopping malls and the central city, combined with feeder services every 5 minutes between the city and the malls to reduce waiting times and make it easier and more attractive for people to travel by public transport.

Note: The times that bus lanes will be open have to be carefully negotiated with local retail businesses to avoid putting them under unreasonable pressure because of the potential loss of customer access.

With regard to light rail, Jim Anderton considers that without the population required, light rail is an expensive fantasy.

“A train from Rangiora, would get used in the morning and evening rush hours, but is likely to be empty for the rest of the day. Whilst Selwyn and Waimakariri residents might like a rail service, their Councils may be reluctant to pay the $100M or more required to implement the scheme in their districts. Christchurch City’s rate payers should not be expected to pay for a service they are unlikely to use,” Jim Anderton said.

“Even cities around the world with a population base of millions, need to obtain significant funding from state and federal governments. But Christchurch is unlikely to be able to attract such subsidies for light rail in the immediate future. We can, however, move forward with a modern, accessible, reliable and comfortable bus system which will see our needs met for as far into the future as we can realistically forecast.

“We should not cut out options for a future light rail system but it should not be part of our immediate planning horizon,” Jim Anderton said.

To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement. Bus lanes are great, they help to make the bus system run better, but they will not revolutionise transport in Christchurch. In other cities they are merely a normal everyday part of the regular bus system. Rapid transit they are not.  His “affordable solution” sounds like a great initiative, on its own, but in the grand scheme of things as a template for improving the overall effectiveness of the public transport system in Christchurch it isn’t much of a solution at all. It really builds towards nothing.

Although he makes it clear he is opposed to anything rail, he also seems to make it clear that he does not see public transport as particularly important. That is what is concerning. There is no real plan for the future there and his response is not a serious way to change the cities behaviour towards transport. In my opinion, Jim Anderson’s ‘vision’ for public transport in Christchurch is not a vision at all. Its focused on basic improvements to the bus system (which I admit we need) but that is it. There is no real commitment to make public transport a more viable alternative and an important part of Christchurch’s future growth, from what I can see.

He has a point about funding but I want to see a mayor and council fight for it. Why should we roll over and say we will never get the government funding while Auckland and Wellington receive hundreds of millions of dollars?

His criticism of the underground transport interchange has some valid points, although what the alternative is I do not know. Clearly the current bus exchange is out of its depth, and there is now a chance to develop a facility capable of being at the centre of a vastly improved public transport system. With that in mind, I have had little problem with it. I also believe there is central government funding for it, just not for the extra costs associated with the underground aspect. I do agree with Jim on the length of time it has taken to roll out bus lanes as being rather pathetic, but I do not share his vision that bus lanes are the be all and end all for public transport in Christchurch.

Bus lanes and other bus priority measures need to be rolled out to improve the bus system, that I do not dispute. However, if public transport is to have a serious role to play we need to develop a series of high-capacity, fast corridors that link into this vastly improved bus system. Then you will really see public transport patronage increase as a share of daily trips. Unfortunately, all I can see is a repeat of Auckland mistakes being made here, one which they are desperately (and at much expense) trying to rectify.

All in all I am very disappointed with Jim Anderson’s views on public transport in Christchurch.

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