Christchurch needs a central transport interchange

Posted on June 2, 2011 by

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When I made my contribution to the share an idea website recently, the thing that really stood out for me in terms of what I was saying was that I made it abundantly clear that the proposed underground transport interchange should still be developed.

Why? The main reason is that I believe Christchurch needs a world-class central public transport hub if we are going to get serious about improving public transport. There has been a lot of talk recently about having two, or even more, bus terminals at the edge of the CBD, with trams or electric shuttles ferrying people in. I can’t fathom why anyone thinks that would be a good idea, other than it is probably a knee-jerk reaction to a desire to rid buses off city streets. Although transferring is something that can be relatively painless, and is a norm in most modern public transport systems, forcing people to transfer when it isn’t really necessary isn’t the best use of resources. Furthermore, it would be much more difficult to provide through routing, and more useful transfers between services would be more difficult to make. We would be kicking ourselves for years to come. It would be a colossal failure, and we only have to look at the current difficulties to see this.

Christchurch needs a central transport interchange. That is the realisation I came to when putting together my ideas. Although we should continue to adapt our system, including further services which by-pass the Central City, it is essential we have a central hub where people can transfer between most services across the city. It would also aid in the rebuild and recovery of the Central City. Although there are still people stuck in dystopian dreams of sprawling office parks, endless cul de sacs and wide motorways, the reality is that most people want a strong Central City which is a one stop shop for business, entertainment, shopping, and culture, just like other cities have. Having a public transport hub in the middle of it all will help aid that vision, and having everything in one place would make it a hive of activity.

So, I have established why I believe Christchurch needs a central transport interchange. However, I have not made it clear why we should proceed with the proposed underground interchange on Lichfield Street. In a way, I actually don’t think we should, at least in terms of the finer details. We certainly need to have a significant re-think about the future and what kind of public transport system Christchurch will need and that will require a different response to what we had been doing. However, I can’t see anything that could happen that would require the site and the basic concept to be completely thrown away. The changes, adaptions and differences will be in the detail.

Some have suggested that the underground element of the interchange should be scrapped following the earthquakes. Now, I am no engineer, but I don’t see that as needing to be the case. Nevertheless, we have the option to have a rethink on that and other things with the changing environment. One of the key things that could change the nature of the central interchange is the Central City Master Plan. One of the directions that is likely to be set in that plan includes transport and that will likely have an effect on what type of interchange Christchurch will require, and what functions it will need to fulfill. For that reason, the details of the interchange should remain fluid until after the Master Plan is released later this year, or indeed be included as part of the Plan. The point is though, the basic concept of having a central hub should still happen and, given the fact the location is paid for and waiting, it should be at the Lichfield location (unless an incredibly solid reason is brought up for why it should be moved).

So essentially; keep the underground interchange project and adapt its design. One change I would like to see is more of an allowance for any future light-rail (or similar) services. The City Council previously indicated that it was being designed with light-rail in mind, however it seems likely that this was above ground and probably not built into the underground part. Making space for light-rail or tram-trains below ground via similar access ramps, similar to as planned for buses, would make for a quality facility. So long as the space is made during the initial construction, the platforms, ramps, and other required bits and pieces can be added when required. If a light-rail system or similar is endorsed by the Master Plan, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be worth refocusing the direction of the interchange slightly.

My contribution to the share an idea site pretty much just covered the ideas I have often put up on here before. This includes the need to create dedicated bus corridors through the Central City to separate buses from other traffic, probably a better alternative to the ‘multiple exchanges’ idea. I also touched on the one-way system and advocated it’s removal. That is a contentious issue in itself, but I feel that while the one-way system ‘works well’ (as people keep saying) it certainly isn’t the best option. The one-way streets create barriers and are rather desolate and lack soul. They also generally serve through-traffic anyway so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be better to re-route traffic around the Central City, probably by utilising the four avenues better. Slower traffic, shared spaces, pedestrian priority and better infrastructure for cyclists also got my nod. Who knows, maybe I will see some of my ideas in the final product. What I hope I don’t see is the government stepping all over it and ripping it up. In anycase, make sure you have your say. It’s a great initiative and as many people as possible should participate.

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