Some good news. The latest stretch of bus priority lanes will come into operation on 20 March, along Main South Rd from the Sockburn roundabout to Halswell Junction Rd. This is a significant event as it marks the resumption of bus priority roll out (which seemed to be falling well behind even before the earthquake) and shows that authorities are serious about improving public transport and the role it plays in the land transport system. Given that these bus lanes will be along an increasingly congested arterial seems appropriate, and should be of immense benefit to the Hornby/Sockburn area.
“These new lanes will improve bus travel times and make public transport an attractive alternative for those currently travelling by car. Christchurch has the highest rate of car ownership in New Zealand, so it is not surprising that many vehicles a day are now delayed by traffic congestion in the City. The Canterbury earth quakes have changed travel patterns further exacerbating congestions level.”
This should help buses keep time, and improve service reliability. Bus routes affected by the priority measures include the Metrostar, the Comet, 5 – Hornby to New Brighton, 81 – Lincoln, 83 – Hei Hei, 84 Russley, and 88 – Rolleston. I am not sure to what extent bus signals will be employed at traffic lights, the original plans on the NZTA website called for quite a few, but I can only see one location on the map (below). Hopefully more can be put in place to allow buses a clear run away from bus lanes at intersections. I am actually quite amazed that they could not extend the lanes further between Springs Rd and Shands/Carmen Rd, as the corridor is wide, and it is mainly industrial and retail with off-street parking (especially on the railway side). Yo me, this would have been pretty straightforward. Speaking of the railway, just look at those black lines running through the image, just begging to be used.
Nevertheless, progress it is. What I would like to see is further progress on other routes. The rest of Main South Rd leading onto Riccarton Rd and then Riccarton Ave into the CBD would offer immense benefit to bus services where it is needed the most (i.e. the congested western suburbs). The New Brighton bus priority route, via pages Rd, would bring us up-to-date if these routes were implemented by the end of this year, and would allow planning for much-needed system changes such as creating a core network of routes, establishment of suburban hubs, feeder services and so on. That is why it is important to roll out these measures as quickly as possible, and the first goal must surely be to get the timeline back on track. Sumner and Halswell routes would follow on after that within the next two years, and that would see the development of quite a nice core network of pendulum bus routes (cross-city routes aside – but I think we really need to rethink where such routes go before we lay down dedicated bus priority for them).
It is a shame that the bus priority website has not been updated to reflect the latest milestone, in fact it has probably not been looked at for about three years. I await to see what progress is made during 2012 on the remaining routes.