Metro changes – they are a comin

Posted on June 20, 2011 by

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As alluded to in a previous post, the state of Christchurch’s public transport system is currently… not the best. Obviously, the earthquake situation has made it a difficult enterprise to provide the standard of service Metro has built up over recent years and all in all they have a done a good job simply to keep a system going at all. At the time of that post, I put forward some simple ideas for improving the situation and overcoming some of the more obvious short-comings of the current temporary set-up. In a nutshell, these were:

  • Reintroduce through routes
  • Have one central interchange (will help the above)
  • Look to provide better links with areas such as Riccarton and Addington
Well it looks like Metro are about to roll out some changes, and these seem to be largely centred on addressing those three issues. With an aim for changes to take effect from 1 August the plan appears to be to create a new temporary central interchange in the CBD, introduce new routes, design the system to better address changed commute patterns post-quake, and create better connectivity across the city by reintroducing through routing. Perhaps this is the ‘new public transport system‘ that was cryptically mentioned by the ECan commissioner?
A single central interchange is much-needed (see here) as the whole concept of having two city termini has proven pretty woeful (why some people have called for this as part of a central city rebuild is beyond me). It shouldn’t be too hard to set one up on some vacant land or on a street with plenty of room, probably in the south of the CBD in a good location to areas that are open and are planned to open in the near future. Put in some quality bus shelters, a Metro kiosk, even a cafe and make sure it is landscaped and paved and you are away. It isn’t too much to ask and given it might be the main interchange for several months, perhaps even a few years, means we shouldn’t be too shy about putting in some effort.
A central interchange will also make it easy to reintroduce through routing. At the moment the fact people have to transfer a number of times to get across the city (or take a long tour by Orbiter) certainly makes the bus system much less user-friendly. Through routes will help improve connectivity across the city and will aid in the development of new bus routes that might better serve current commuting patterns (i.e. more buses running through the city to Riccarton, Addington and Hornby).
What new bus routes might eventuate I am not entirely sure of, although it will be interesting to find out! Certainly, as I mentioned above, having buses run through from the eastern sides of the city through the CBD & central interchange to western nodes would have a lot of merit. I would expect quite a few services might do that. There is certainly scope, and demand, to introduce more Orbiter and Metrostar type services too, and this would fit in with future directions as well as being a logical response to the current situation. While I am on the subject of the Orbiter, it seems extra services and a new timetable will be introduced for that service as part of these changes. There have been problems with bunching of Orbiter services in the past but the situation appears to have gone completely out of control since the earthquakes so hopefully they can come up with a way to crack that a bit better.
Other than that we will just have to wait and see what changes are in store. It sounds like there is going to be a significant shift in focus from recovering the system to adapting it. Further ideas that could be explored include more express buses, which given the congestion might be very popular, fast-tracking bus lanes (there must be some serious justification for this now – even make shift temporary ones!), and perhaps exploring other alternative ideas such as utilising the railway lines to some degree (pushing my idea again but what the hey!). Obviously details are sketchy but hopefully more information will become available in the coming weeks. There is much to come on the future directions of transport in Christchurch but in the meantime there is an opportunity to explore new ideas with adapting the current system to a changed landscape. It will be interesting to see what happens. Definitely a case of ‘watch this space’.
****Edit**** News on Stuff about ‘temporary bus hub‘, pretty much confirms suspicions:

Christchurch could have a temporary bus interchange site within weeks.

Two temporary bus terminals have been operating on the fringe of the central city since the main exchange became part of the cordoned-off red zone after the February earthquake. That has not allowed “through-routing” of buses, forcing people to take multiple bus trips across the city.

Environment Canterbury (ECan), which runs the region’s public transport network, says an interchange is crucial to lifting passenger numbers, which dropped 40 per cent in the first four months of this year compared with the same period last year.

ECan road corridor operations manager Paul Burden said 14 central city sites were being considered for the temporary interchange, mainly southeast and southwest of Cathedral Square and north of Moorhouse Ave.

“A preferred site has been identified and issues surrounding taking possession are being worked through,” he said. “It is hoped that these issues will be resolved in a few weeks.”

The interchange could be operational within two or three weeks of the site being cleared, he said. Once the site was secured, damaged buildings would have to be removed, bus platforms and waiting areas built and basic services, such as lighting, installed.

Burden said an interchange was needed to encourage people to return to open areas of the central city and to allow passengers to easily connect to other services. More public transport use would ease traffic congestion.

“The more efficient the public transport system is, the more people will use it.”

Burden said ECan was finalising a changed timetable for the new interchange.

ECan acting passenger services manager David Stenhouse said bus services were not suspended after last week’s aftershocks, but some changes were made. “All bridges were closed throughout Christchurch, meaning there were many minor diversions in place.”

Bus user Christopher Webster, of Bowenvale, said considering the city’s “hopeless” public transport system, his family was considering buying a second car. “We have three children who could travel to Cashmere High and CPIT [Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology] by bus, but it is unrealistic to drop them at the bus stop so they can stand in the rain and wait for a bus,” he said.

“Patronage will disappear with the onset of real winter.”

Shame they had to ruin that report by finding a bus ‘user’ prepared to have a bit of a negative rant, when the news is actually quite positive. Love how it is ‘unrealistic’ to have teenagers standing in the rain yet apparently it is more realistic to spend thousands of dollars on an extra car when traffic congestion is nuts, petrol is at an all time high, the roads are in a state and the cost of living is up. Perhaps bikes would be a better investment? Oh no wait, it is unacceptable to stand in the rain (and it rains all the time ya know!) so it would be even sillier to ride a bike in the rain!

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Posted in: Buses, Christchurch