Finally. It is what we have all been waiting for. Tomorrow, the government is set to reveal the final Central City Plan. Worryingly, the Mayor and Christchurch City Council, who wrote the orignal and final draft Plans, seem to have no idea what the new plan will be. Somehow, that does not surprise me in the least (I wonder if people will look back on this and shake their heads in disbelief?).
Labour continues to persist with the rumour that a new central city rebuilding authority will replace many of the functions of the Christchurch City Council. This would be yet another needless doubling-up of local government,yet another move away from democracy, and yet more confusion in the governance of the city. As I suggested yesterday, this is hardly the kind of framework conducive for rebuilding a world-class city. I guess tomorrow is going to be very interesting!
So the big question for me right now is what possible changes there will be? What might change, what might stay the same, what might get watered down, and what might get thrown out completely. Plus, there are also things that could get added in which have a fundamental impact on the overall package (which would be weird bu nothing surprises me anymore with this stuff – you will be reading a lot about how I am hardly surprised at anything, in this post!).
Certainly there will be changes, it just depends on whether the government decide to bite the bullet and rip into it or if they take a more careful approach to preserve political support. Despite what some commentators may suggest in the media, the final draft Central City Plan presented to the government in December last year had significant support from the community. They helped write it after all. There are certainly some controversial parts of it, but as a whole, people seem to have gotten behind and even be proud of it. As I pointed out yesterday, it just needs the right framework, leadership, and championing.
Anyway, I thought I would speculate on possible changes to some of the key aspects of the transport part of the plan. I am just spit-balling, may not even be in the ball park at the end of the day, but I thought I would air what is on my mind before tomorrow comes along. Who knows, it may make for some interesting comparisons tomorrow! Anyway:
Light Rail – I have always felt that some concepts in the draft Plan had a “red herring” feel to them, and if you strip the layers back on the light rail proposal, it really only amounts to a proposal for a detailed study, not an actual specific proposal for a network. Everything else, such as the proposed routes and method of operation, was indicative only. Was that done on purpose? Possibly, if they calculated the government would likely water down such a proposal.
I can only speculate on changes. The chances of the whole rail aspect being ditched are probably higher than any of the other transport proposals in the plan, but hopefully it won’t come to that. The intentions of the CCC are clear – to get a study approved and underway for the reintroduction of rail as part of an overall public transport package. I don’t think that is actually too much to ask. So a lot of the detail, vague as it was anyway, might get stripped, and it may be less committal in tone. Perhaps there might be focus only on the existing rail corridors? What is for sure is that this section of the plan will likely change. The government aren’t big fans of rail based transport solutions, so they will be unlikely to see it as something they are willing to throw money at willy nilly but, hopefully, they have the decency to allow progression of a study and business case.
Buses – I don’t see there being much that the government would throw out in the bus realm. The original draft put forward some pretty busy proposals for a series of “street stations” and so forth, but the final draft pulled back from such a committed position. Keeping the buses outside of the core of the CBD won’t be too controversial, and I imagine they will be pretty happy to not tinker with it too much.
The only changes I could foresee is if the government take the knife to public transport in general. Remember, the draft plan was working to significantly increase the mode share of public transport in the CBD (and thus the whole city). The government might not share the view that this is desirable, or at least not to the extent the CCC do, so may use it as an excuse to water down the role of public transport, perhaps in the context of a “this plan hinders access by car too much”. This would still be pretty extreme though, as the plans approach is consistent with the other documents such as the draft regional land transport strategy.
Roads & Parking – The final draft plan didn’t really hinder car access too much anyway, so I don’t really see why the government would want to amend plans around parking or the make up of streets. Nevertheless, stranger things have certainly happened! I wouldn’t be surprised if there are question marks around on-street parking and speed limits, which could compromise plans for greater pedestrian and cycling priority. Having a walkable core seems a pretty popular idea, and the fact you have car access to the edge of this walkable core means I doubt too much would be made of that. Still…
Parking rules may change, but I don’t really see why as what is proposed is really not that restrictive, no more so than Auckland or Wellington anyway. Having said that, the business community will have been vocal on this subject matter, regardless of the facts, and the government seems to have shown more sympathy for the business community than it has for the wider community itself thus far.
Cycling & walking – As mentioned above, my only concerns are that there might be a government back-lash against perceived limitations on car access to the inner-CBD, and that this might have an effect on the amount, or quality, of pedestrian and cycling priority.
One-way system conversion & four-avenues – this has already proved controversial, and is something I think the Minister would typically consider “idiotic” straight off the bat. The result may be that the final plan pulls back from a commitment to revert the one-way system back into two-way streets pending a detailed investigation. If they are feeling brave, and they actually may on this issue over others, they might ditch it from the plan entirely as “unfeasible”, regardless that most of the arguments against removal of the one-way system are founded on a misunderstanding.
This might have implications for the upgrade of the four-avenues, but probably not. I can see the prospect of an upgraded orbital road around the CBD being quite attractive to this government.
There are probably other things I have missed, but those are the key ones on my mind at the moment. I really have absolutely no idea what is in store for Christchurch tomorrow. I wonder how Bob Parker feels? There are bound to be some disappointments, perhaps some surprises, and the whole thing will be guaranteed to be interesting. Will we see the CCC cut out of the process altogether? That would be a disaster, but I am picking yet another “partner” for the CCC to work with on this – not perfect, but not so much of a disaster. The only saving grace is that the draft plan has plenty of support in general, so that might be an incentive for the government to not make too many fundamental changes. What ever, hold your breath!