As the number of ideas put forward by the public on the future of Christchurch passes the 40,000 mark, the City Council has made tentative comment on the emerging themes of the ideas thus far. Although I’m not surprised, it’s still pleasing to see that transport is clearly emerging as one of the most important issues, amongst the public and certainly with the Council itself. In fact, in the media release the Council alludes only to transport related common themes, including; fewer cars in the Central City, greater use of the Avon corridor as a pedestrian/cycle route, and integration of the tram into the public transport network.
This is intriguing because it seems to be a clear sign that the Council see transport as key to developing the kind of city that people want. I don’t doubt that there seems to be a consensus between the public and the Council, but there does seem to be a bit of an effort on the Councils part to ensure that transport is seen as being the keystone to the whole rebuilding effort.
As for the few ’emerging themes’ themselves, perhaps the most interesting is the ‘integration of tram into the public transport network’ idea. When the tram was first proposed to run down Worcester Boulevard, there were a number of competing ideas. In the end, it was seen as paramount that a heritage tram operation be used to fit in with the heritage character of the area and to attract tourists. Obviously, the idea of developing trams as part of the public transport system did not take precedence, if it was even seriously considered at all. Perhaps now people are starting to see this direction was a mistake. Who knows, had we had more vision at the time we might have had modern light rail vehicles operating through the CBD and perhaps extended through Hagley Park to Riccarton and then who knows where. I can’t help but feel this was a missed opportunity at the time, but the way things are we kind of have that opportunity again.
The current tram extensions, which though delayed are still going ahead, never really made much sense to me in the context of the trams current tourist/heritage set up. In my opinion, the extensions to the Lanes and CPIT were a kind of attempt at light rail by stealth, by making the system more useful to the general public and thus justifying further expenditure and modernisation. I mean, once you are at CPIT you may as well go to AMI, then it’s Sumner or bust. In the other direction, connecting the CBD with Riccarton makes sense, so long as it doesn’t impede traffic too much, and wouldn’t really require too much segregation due to the short distance. From there, the University is only down the road and then it’s only a bit further to the airport down the median of Memorial Ave. I’ve talked about an Airport-Sumner light-rail line before, and although it is only an idea it is nevertheless one that is gaining significant traction. Even Richard ‘lets have more car parks in the CBD’ Ballantyne has slightly changed his tune and recently made a call for light rail from the Airport to Sumner. Mayor Bob Parker says that 80 per cent of the ideas shared so far are in line with the direction the city had been heading with its revitalisation in recent years, so perhaps there is something to be said about the trams being mentioned in this media release.
Fewer cars in the Central City is another idea that has been thrown about a lot lately too. It is the kind of policy that will naturally lead to more of an emphasis on active and public transport modes. In a way, you have to wonder if the City Council’s media release was a little too well thought out!
Some more detail on how the whole Share an Idea concept will work were released. Ideas are read and analysed by the team working on the draft Central City Plan. Of further interest, they have already begun to work on the draft Plan using the emerging themes already identified through the whole Share an Idea concept. Hopefully it won’t be long before we start to see some solid concepts and visions of the future Christchurch.