Prior to the February earthquake, one thing I had often wondered about was why Metro had not introduced a brand for high-frequency/quality bus corridors. Metro has done well over the years to get bus routes to follow a common corridor before dispersing at nodes, and to me it has always seemed odd that this has never been exploited in some way through a brand of some sort. After all, Metro have developed such successful brands as the Orbiter and Metrostar so you would think it would come quite naturally. With relatively minimal investment it is possible to make some significant gains in patronage, as evidenced by the recently introduced B-Line routes in Auckland and already proven in Adelaide with its ‘Go Zones‘ and Brisbane with its BUZ network. So, for a city that was a leader with its real-time information, low-floor buses, integrated smart-card ticketing, cross-city routes and much more, it seems rather odd that Christchurch has never embraced the concept of marketing high-quality bus corridors.
Auckland's two B-Line routes. Different bus services converge to run along common routes providing a high-quality level of service. Christchurch has many similar corridors but has yet to exploit the situation.
Now that a new temporary bus interchange is to be developed in the south of the CBD, and that means through routing will be re-introduced, it seems like a good time to me to start looking at this concept again. Already we have a number of corridors that would be perfect for this system and others that could be managed with some minor rejigging of routes. Some I think could be achieved pretty much straight away include:
- City-Church Corner
and with a little work:
- City-New Brighton
These corridors could be marketed under a common brand and would provide a minimum service level along the entire route such as minimum 15 or 10 minute frequencies and perhaps higher capacity buses. Bus lanes, as already planned, would be rolled out also along each corridor to complete the high-quality service offering. Papanui and Cashmere would therefore be your obvious launch choices. Buses on affected bus routes would thus carry a logo identifying them to the public as travelling along one of these corridors, while timetables for each affected route and bus stops would likewise carry an identifiable maker. The corridors would be clearly marked on maps, showing which bus routes traveled along them, and specific timetables could be produced for each corridor. The idea would be to make it easy for people to identify bus routes they can simply walk up to and go, and to promote an image of quality.
We know that there are some big plans in the pipeline over the next few months to improve the bus system, so perhaps it is an appropriate time to consider a concept such as this? As I mentioned, Papanui and Cashmere could be the two launch routes and I see no reason why they could not be readied in about two or three months. The concept is proven as being effective at improving patronage and requires comparatively little expenditure, so it is surely just the type of thing needed during these times. In my view, it is an easy, quick and cheap win, and it amazes me that it hasn’t actually been done here already. I am looking forward to seeing what comes out of things like the Central City Master Plan and such, but there are many quick wins we can get now that would go a long way to laying the foundations for future bigger and better improvements.