Improving public transport in the eastern suburbs

Posted on June 21, 2011 by

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It looks as though it is only a matter of days before the government announces the future of some streets and/or suburbs in the east of Christchurch. I really have no idea what might eventuate but it is probably worth remembering that the eastern suburbs will  not be completely abandoned (it’s easy to think that given the media coverage though), and we are probably looking at certain streets, parts of streets and some parts of certain suburbs at most. Of course, there is always the chance that I am wrong but the speed (or lack thereof) that the Government is approaching this probably indicates that they are whittling it down to land that is absolutely and completely stuffed, and they want to be extra careful that they don’t generalise too much and force people off land when they didn’t actually need to be. It is also worth remembering that even where houses need to be demolished, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the land can’t be rebuilt on.

Anyway, what I am getting at is that as we begin to move down the path of recovering, planning and rebuilding of the eastern suburbs, future connections between them and the rest of the city are going to be most important. The development of a rapid transit corridor to provide a high quality public transport service through the eastern suburbs would aid recovery, provide a focus for future development, and improve access for residents to the rest of Christchurch. I believe that the development of a rapid transit corridor through the eastern suburbs is a project that should be very high up on the list in the recovery and rebuild of the city.

There has been a lot of talk about trains and trams forming the centrepiece of Christchurch’s future public transport system. While there is a lot of legitimacy to this idea, realistically that might well be limited, at least initially, to on or around the existing rail corridors.  There are, however, other ways of developing rapid transit corridors through parts of the city that might not require as much of an up-front investment as say a light-rail line, yet still provide high quality services and allow the reservation of a corridor for future upgrades at the same time.

The main route between the city and New Brighton, Aldwin Ave and Pages Rd, to me has enormous potential to be adapted to provide much improved public transport services. For a start, the roads are particularly wide and have an abundance of room to move things around to provide space for a dedicated busway in the road median. Auckland is proposing to do something similar through its south-eastern suburbs (AMETI project) where there is no railway but where a rapid transit route has been identified as needed.

This vision of central bus lanes for Auckland's AMETI project gives an indication of how an eastern suburbs rapid transit route might look

Such a busway would not have your traditional kerbside bus stops but instead would have more substantial off street bus platforms and, as a rapid transit route, stops might be more spaced out than on your traditional bus route. Eventually, this route might be upgraded to light-rail or tram train, particularly if it could eventually be connected to the Main North Line at Belfast (Heck, if the money and political will was actually available you could actually do that from the get-go!).

Red lines indicate normal bus lanes on the side of the road while the green line indicates bus lanes in the median of the road. The purple line is a possible extension through Parklands toward Belfast

While we have been looking toward rail as the future direction of public transport in Christchurch, and that is all good, the focus should really be on developing a ‘rapid transit system’ which could be made up of any number of transport modes. Sure, develop the rail corridors, investigate and implement the tram-train vision, but other potential rapid transit routes might best be served by developing  relatively cheap, easy, and quick to implement options such as this, which can then be upgraded at a later date. The eastern suburbs are a prime example as it is a vast urban area where there is no rail corridor, or any other reserved transport corridor, to develop and it is an area that would benefit significantly from vastly improved public transport. However, this is a concept that could be extended to other areas of the city too that along with the development of the rail corridors, could together form an integrated world-class rapid transit system that would be the backbone of a future Christchurch public transport system.

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