Yesterday I caught the bus from the airport to Riccarton (number 3). The return of bus and ferry operations, even though they are limited, seems to have been quite a symbolic event. Perhaps seeing buses on the road and people waiting at the stops is a sign that, slowly, things are starting to return to something approaching normality.
It seems completely trivial right now to say this, but since I have it on my brain, the bus stop facilities at the airport are truly woeful! So a note to the airport, please create a first-class bus stop as part of the general upgrade! Hopefully I can touch base on that when things aren’t quite so dire in the future.
Quite a few people seemed to be taking advantage of the free buses, which is good to see. Traffic is terrible at the moment, probably caused by a reduction in the number of key routes, road works and the fact that not everything is open which necessitates having to travel all over the place (especially for eastern suburbs folks!). This won’t help buses of course, but taking the bus probably beats driving in the traffic yourself, and since its free for two weeks it can go some way toward helping out the household budget at a time when some people will be finding it harder than usual (especially when you consider increases in GST and the price of petrol). Of course the best way to get around right now is probably by bicycle!
Anyway, the service I used ran on time, was well patronised, and the staff very friendly and helpful. So, a big ‘well done’ to Metro and Redbus (who were operating the service I used).
It will be interesting to monitor how the public transport system recovers. The major public transport destination, the CBD, is currently off-limits (mostly) and that means the bus exchange is out of action (Northern and Eastern buses run to Bealey Ave, Southern and Western buses run to the Hospital and a shuttle links them). I do wonder if this might lead to some re-thinking on future public transport development, but really this can’t happen until a solid plan for the CBD (and the city as a whole) is put in place. Personally, I would like to see somethnig resembling the Gehl plan put in place for the CBD, morphed with the preferred approach for developig the greater metropolitan area by the Urban Development Strategy and all given priority. With such an approach, the role of public transport will be vital, and with a blank slate, almost anything is possible. The idea of a strong core (the CBD) and key nodes all linked by high-quality public transport, is now suddenly a more reachable goal (albiet, presented to us in tragic circumstances).
I have heard some banter about the possibility of a ‘temporary CBD’. Where that would go, is anybody’s guess but I think it’s probably one of those things that has been over simplified in the media. An article in The Press the other day had contractors saying they wanted to get into the CBD ASAP to clear places up and get those parts of the CBD, that safely can, operating again. There is plenty of vacant land in the south-west of the city that could potentially be utilised (all those car-parks and warehouses) plus Addington seems like a good candidate to erect some temporary offices until the CBD can start to recover some of its office spaces and regain better access (old saleyards anyone?). Basically, I think such an idea will only be possible if it is kept as central as possible. Almost by default, public transport and active transport modes could potentially take precedence.
At the moment, the indications seem to be that businesses have taken what they can anywhere, and that means a nightmare for city planners. Basically, by default we are getting exactly what we don’t want, more businesses in the suburbs. This is fine in an emergency, but plans should be put in place to make this temporary, and this is why I believe it is essential for an urban development plan for the entire city to be given priority.
Finally, I have been wondering about some of the key projects around the city and their future. When I can, I will report what I can about their future but for now priorities are elsewhere. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if the various motorway projects get put on the back-burner, cut-back, or even fast-tracked. It’s hard to say at this point, but certainly there is a case for each option. The Government has talked about postponing key infrastructure projects to help the rebuild. Will that include Christchurch, or does that mean Christchurch projects will be given priority. I guess it depends on whether those projects can be deemed to be a help to the re-build or whether the funds would be more useful elsewhere. As most of them are in the largely undamaged areas of the city, it makes it slightly more interesting! The tram extensions are also going to be interesting, but I would prefer to wait and see for a while before given any indications of what I think! It could play a key role in the future CBD though, and could be a symbol of hope… but right now its hard to say whether it should be put on the back-burner or included as part of the general recovery.
Please remember that buses are free (as is the Diamond Harbour ferry) and to stay safe out there.