Car-centric carriageway clogging culture continues in Christchurch [3A]: Accessible City sabotaged (2)

In my last post on this topic I addressed the way that the Accessible City plan has been sabotaged by wealthy elite interests. These interests and the council’s craven cave-ins to them are substantially responsible for many gaps in the provision of services and inequality in the way citizens are treated by the Council.

Simon Barnard writing in his Cycling in Christchurch blog highlights this very succinctly in a recent post called “Local Government – Muddling through Democracy“. One example he highlighted is the High Street redevelopment. I made a submission on this project but the Council staff have stuck to giving priority to car traffic and parking in ths street and have ignored the submissions like mine that questioned why it was necessary to deviate from the AAC treatment developed for this street.

I today spent about an hour walking around the CBD precinct. Here’s an example, the Terrace development faces onto Oxford Terrace and the section directly in front of it is pedestrianised, or open to one way traffic at 10 km/h. This is quite a small section of road to be closed off to traffic and it being like that actually adds a lot of atmosphere to the outdoor dining areas of the various restaurants and bars that would be impossible to have if the road was clogged with two way traffic at rush hour. There is actually a lot of foot traffic through these areas of the malls. There is also a great deal of carparking close by. In this case there was a carpark right at the end of the strip where the Terrace buildings sit. People would be able to drive in there and park with very little inconvenience to their visit to the restaurants or bars. Having the road closed is also safer for people accessing the premises which can often be very busy at peak times of Friday and Saturday nights.

I took the opportunity to walk through High Street again and was able to confirm my view of the area which was taken into account in my submission and has not changed. In respect of High Street and Victoria Street, they have to be seen in context and that context is that they are part of a CBD streetscape and they really are just parts. There are loads of surrounding streets that are still open to cars and aren’t being closed off. The impact really is limited from changing these streets around. There is plenty of carparking space and road access nearby.

However I don’t support the more extreme views taken by some of for example the cycle lobbyists who have suggested the whole CBD should have been completely closed to cars. Likewise there are those who are aggressively defending the amounts being spent on cycleways around the city. The very large expenditure on cycleways is probably out of wack with the rest of what is being spent on roading in general.

Car-centric carriageway clogging culture continues in Christchurch [3]: Accessible City sabotaged

Last time around we took a look at Christchurch’s replacement transport chapter for the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan (CCRP). This was put out for consultation and was eventually adopted and implementation began about 2014. CCC itself committed to the AAC plan several times, including  June 2015 when a budget setting meeting affirmed the value and merit of the projects, and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee was also sold on the concept. For a couple of years it rolled along with support from some of the CBD businesses but in 2016 there were increasing concerns being expressed by a section of the same community which crystalised along a familiar if well worn theme – the restriction on car movements in parts of the city, and removal of on-street car parking, would send businesses broke, etc, it was alleged.

From early 2016 through to December, prominent developers and businesspeople vehemently attacked the AAC projects. The reconstruction of Manchester Street that started mid-2016, plans put out for Victoria Street about the same time, and  work on St Asaph Street attracted heated criticism, and the Government, caught out by the strength of opposition to the changes, froze funding for some of the work unless changes were made. Only minor changes were made to St Asaph and Manchester Street was completed with its full time bus priority lanes but continues to be criticised for restrictions on other traffic. Councillors in the central ward largely fell spinelessly in line with the business concerns and have wholeheartedly supported the sabotage of the plan despite their earlier support for it. In March 2017 legal action was threatened if the plans were not changed.

What has happened since? The Council has now spinelessly caved into business demands and practically thrown away the remainder of the AAC plan. This means we will just see more and more pressure to get rid of all the work done to date whilst there will be no more bus or cycle priority measures. The High Street and Victoria Street redevelopment plans are essentially cramming all modes together into an already narrow streets, in the case of High Street that has double tram tracks down a section of it, making it extremely hazardous for cyclists. The consultation documents and responses by council staff whitewashed over these concerns. Victoria Street plans have no bus priority despite the large number of buses that pass along this street each day. Essentially a group of wealthy property owners and developers in the CBD have used their clout to force CCC to provide them with free on street parking for their businesses, instead of providing their own off street parking as should normally be the case, because there has been endless handouts to these people from both the government and CCC and they demanded more. However it is becoming clear that the general public and CCC are becoming tired of the constant hands-out attitude from the CBD people and considerable scepticism is being expressed over some of the demands, but it remains to be seen what will happen in respect of cycling, walking and public transport, because the prioritisation of these has more or less been thrown to the wind.

Car-centric carriageway clogging culture continues in Christchurch [2]: “An Accessible City” – summary

One of the great things that came out of the post-earthquake reconstruction in Christchurch in the early to mid 2010s was the “An Accessible City” concept which was based on the submissions of a large number of people from all over the city. It was adopted by Otakaro Ltd (one of the lead Crown earthquake recovery agencies in Canterbury) as the replacement transport chapter of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan in October 2013 and was signed off by Ecan, CERA, CCDU, CCC, Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu and NZTA. This post is essentially about the plan and most of the content is extracts from it. The plan opens with the diagram shown below which creates the concept of a “central city road use hiearchy”.

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Clearly this is a sound concept: ensuring that some roads will be prioritised for public transport and some for cycling helps to make those modes more viable in the central city and therefore promote these environmentally friendly alternatives to reduce traffic congestion in the Four Avenues.

The next thing we read in the plan is “Part 1: Accessibility” and this sets out the key concepts, summarised as “The buildings, open spaces, streets and facilities within the central city will be safe, accessible and people friendly”. This is further expanded into statements about the function of the transport system, namely that it will focus on certain routes that prioritise public transport and cycling over cars, as well as minimise mode conflicts and provide enjoyable journeys for different types of users. This also includes the implementation of speed limits within the CC.

The plan then expands into a section referring to each mode and here we will summarise the detail. The Walking section refers to the changes made in the Core to make some streets pedestrian-only and others restricting traffic flows so that these areas would be safer for pedestrian use. Vehicle speeds within the Inner Zone would be no more than 30 km/h to ensure pedestrian safety. The Walking section seems to have been the one that was most readily implemented and with the fewest compromises to date, partly due to the adoption of the existing pedestrian malls into the plan.

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The blue shaded area must be the “inner zone” referred to above. The large green rectangular area in the middle is The Square and the purple rectangle is the Bus Exchange. The key routes shown above are Colombo St (north-south through The Square), Worcester Street (east-west through The Square), Oxford Terrace (east / south side of the Avon), High Street (diagonally south-east from The Square), Cashel Street (east-west two blocks south of The Square), Lichfield Street (one block south of Cashel Street on the northern side of the Bus Exchange), Tuam Street (south of the Bus Exchange), Rolleston Avenue on the east edge of Hagley Park, Victoria Street (diagonally upper-left), and the new laneways going north-south between Manchester Street and Madras Street on the east side of the inner zone. The main problem has been the halt placed on further AAC development in 2017 which means Victoria Street and High Street alterations may not be completed as envisaged.

Cycling is the next section covered. This map shows the key cycling routes within the CBD.

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These are similar to the walking routes. Much of the work up to the end of 2017 was completed as planned. Since 2018 with work being put on hold, High Street and Victoria Street in particular are unlikely to be completed as originally envisaged. St Asaph Street’s cycleways were very controversial, but the revamp demanded by some sectors of the business community was scaled back and only minimal changes were made.

The next section is “Main Streets” referring to Victoria Street and Colombo Street South as areas that would be prioritised for walking and cycling as well as having appropriate public transport priority measures where applicable. There would be limited on street parking provided for short term use.

Next is “Bus interchange and public transport”. This map shows the key public transport network in the central city.

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Victoria Street bus priority has been put on hold at the time of writing this due to significant opposition from businesses in the area and this will remain a major bottleneck for peak time public transport operations as there are hundreds of bus journeys through the street to reach northern destinations.

Car travel is next. In the inner core the expectation is that traffic speed would be limited to 30 km/h. Salisbury Street and Kilmore Street are listed for conversion from one-way to two-way operation but this has yet to occur and it is uncertain when this work will proceed.

This map shows the expected outline of the road network.

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Tuam Street has been converted to one way as predicted in the plan.

Next section is “Parking and service access”. Here the key problem is there is no requirement for any business to provide for its own off street parking. Consequently we now have the ridiculous situation that landowners are threatening legal action against the Council to force them to provide on street parking outside their businesses. This is the single greatest issue that has forced the abrogation of the Accessible City plan in the last couple of years.

“Way finding” is the next section and refers to the type, level and design of street signage and other visual information for users of the CBD.

“Implementation and monitoring” is the next section and gives timelines for developing the different aspects of the plan.

“Statutory direction…” is the section which directed the adoption of the AAC chapter into the CCRP. The following sections in the document show the changes in the wording of the District Plan transport provisions.

So that sums up the “An Accessible City” plan. This was put out to consultation and work began to implement it. This will be described in the next article of this series.

Car-centric carriageway clogging culture continues in Christchurch [1]: Introduction

In recent months there has been a lot of work being done by Council to determine a possible solution to traffic safety issues at the intersection of Harewood, Breens and Gardiners Road in north-west Christchurch. This intersection currently sits around 62nd in the list of the 100 most dangerous intersections in the city and therefore does not qualify for major improvement works in the next decade (Long Term Plan) which will address only the top 20 dangerous intersections.

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The Council’s reports on the issues initially recommended that traffic lights should not be installed on this intersection and it should be changed into a left-in, left-out intersection. So far so good. However, after undertaking more reports and public consultation, a bizarre recommendation that the LILO option be modified to allow a right turn from Harewood Road into Gardiners Road was added to the options. Apart from the increased risk of an accident by allowing a right turn, it would be possible for people wanting to go straight through from one side to the other to just drive through the gap in the median strip, thus foiling the LILO safety improvements.

The reporting found that there was no evidence of increased safety from installing traffic lights at this intersection. This is easy to understand – because accidents are often caused when people run red lights. Of course, the fact that we have never had more than one red light camera in the whole city, and that the Council does not want to spend any money on buying more of these cameras, is also a factor. The volumes of traffic actually using this intersection at the present time do not justify traffic lights.

However, the Waimāero/Fendalton-Waimari-Harewood Community Board met last Saturday and completely ignored all the expert advice and reports and voted unanimously to recommend that traffic lights be installed at the intersection because a vocal group of residents had been demanding this and because it is an election in a couple of weeks and most of the board are standing to win back their council seats. Now, we know that similar things do happen from time to time across the City where staff get overruled for similar proposals. An example we saw recently is the Sumner Road – Bridle Path Road intersection at Ferrymead Bridge, which was going to be made a LILO intersection when the bridge was renewed and widened to four lanes some years back. This intersection instead had traffic lights installed. However this is a quite different situation in that there is no convenient access to Bridle Path Road elsewhere for traffic except by making a huge detour down Tunnel Road to Heathcote several kilometres long. In that case the traffic lights were quite justified. The Harewood-Gardiners-Breens intersection case is very different. There was to have been a signalised pedestrian crossing to cater for school students, and there are numerous other streets nearby that can be used to access either of the side streets.

This decision essentially amounts to having a very expensive signalising of this intersection (over $1 million) put in place for a handful of residents who are apparently unable to drive a few hundred metres further via another intersection nearby. But there is more to it than that. Installing the lights will make this route more desirable to use and therefore guarantee an increased traffic volume on the side streets, creating more problems for the people who live along them, and helping to ensure the streets in the area become clogged up with increased numbers of cars. The issue is simply that here is a community board that believes only cars matter. The same board wants to stop money from being spent on a cycleway in their area, and they have also voted down  improvements at Greers Road and Memorial Ave intersection that would speed up bus routes. All of these situations illustrate why community board should not have decision making power over transport networks in their area, because selfish local interests will take precedence over the needs of the entire city.

We’re also aware that the High Street redevelopment proposals have been having hearings at the Council in the last couple of weeks. Despite the efforts of a few people such as us with well presented safety rationales, no doubt cars will also reign supreme there because of the nonsensical belief that ratepayers owe every business a free supply of on street carparking outside their front door. This issue has, however, been exacerbated by the greedy developers’ political party abolishing business requirements to provide off street carparking with the recent changes to the District Plan, another act of stupidity that the Council appears to be remarkably slow to address. In the High Street case, the businesses have asked for even more carparks to be provided over and above what has been designed in. Obviously this is a complete folly when we look at the rest of the City pedestrian malls which are doing a roaring trade with no car access to their front doors.

Another time wasting Government review announced

We’re still waiting for the repeal of National’s cuts to public transport funding through the PTOM and farebox recovery target. Without those improvements there is no more money available to improve public transport in Canterbury.

We’re also waiting for the repeal of legislation in the resource management area like National’s Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Act 2009 which essentially made most consents non notified, thus removing the requirement for public consultation. In Christchurch this was followed up by a new District Plan which has been highly controversial for allowing housing developments such as intensification in certain areas of the city.

But the Government has only made limited changes so far to the Resource Management Act and has just announced a complete review of the legislation. Whilst this review takes place there is no change happening.

One is left with the impression that this government is overly focused on political correctness and its own web of red tape stymying just about everything. As you can see, when Nick Smith passed through that piece of legislation, it was the year after his government was elected. They didn’t waste time getting their changes implemented.

Here we are faced with not only another time wasting review of the RMA, we also have the situation that a new Housing and Urban Development Authority is being established which itself will take time to set up. Another waste of resources. It seems the focus of Labour is to spend oodles of time and resources trying to reinvent everything under the sun. This is a complete waste of time and taxpayers money. Labour needs to get some perspective. They only get three years in office between elections. Whilst some policies have been implemented, everything slowed down a whole lot after the first 100 days in office. It has just seemed that was a publicity stunt. Labour may not actually be able to stay in office long enough to get anything completed.

We don’t believe we will see any improvements to public transport funding and management before the 2020 election. This means the creaking inadequate public transport system in Christchurch (and in other centres) will not be able to be improved in a reasonable timeframe.

People’s Choice propose free public transport within CBD

As part of their never ending campaign for CCC to take over running public transport services within the city, People’s Choice members and candidates have been attacking and criticising Ecan’s public transport operations in a number of fronts in the past three years. This started with the establishment of the Joint Public Transport Committee at Ecan after the 2016 elections and has continued with trenchant but ill founded attacks on Ecan being made at meetings of this committee by the Mayor, Lianne Dalziel, on many occasions, as noted in previous posts on this blog.

Last week Cr Mike Davidson, who is the Mayor’s stepson, repeated the claim that the administration of bus services under Ecan is flawed, making references to two attempts by People’s Choice to have free bus services established in the CBD. The first of these was for the reinstatement of the CBD inner city shuttle service, which was a free service operated by three hybrid turbine-electric buses that ran on a loop around approximately Kilmore St / Manchester St / Moorhouse Ave / Colombo St. The service was stopped after the quakes and the buses were sold by the Council under Mayor Bob Parker. It is important to note a  key difference in this service at the time was that the City Council fully funded the operation to allow for free rides as the funding system of that time for public transport did not allow for free passenger services to be subsidised. Calling for the service to be reinstated with no funding support from CCC and then blaming Ecan when they have stated the funding system of today would not fund free bus services, is quite misleading as it omits important information about a situation that Ecan is powerless to change, and which could not be altered if CCC took over the service, unless they dug into ratepayers funds. Since CCC has set its LTP already with no provision for funding free bus services, they could not immediately introduce funding for a service if they were to take over running bus services.

The second option which is now being campaigned on with Cr Davidson’s recent post is for free bus rides within the CBD using the existing routes, which was said to have been put before Ecan / JPTC at the time of creating the Regional Public Transport Plan last year. Ecan have said the current payment system will not support it, according to the post. The payment system by which the government requires farebox recovery targets (which prevents free bus services from being operated) is a matter of Government policy and is not able to be ignored at will by a regional council. The campaign by People’s Choice is misleading in that most of the service parameters for public transport operation are tightly controlled by central government and are not open for a local body to change.

The other components of the proposal include park and ride facilities on the outskirts of the CBD to allow people to leave their cars in order to be able to travel free on a bus within the CBD. The issue here is that the responsibility for funding park and ride facilities would fall onto CCC as the authority owning the local roads that the buses operate on. The key question fot this aspect of the proposal is how an incentive is created for people to leave their cars at a park and ride and travel quite short distances within the CBD by bus. In other words, this only really makes sense if the CBD is closed to cars, and it isn’t clear whether People’s Choice are proposing that as well. All the current routes are operated by diesel buses and would only become really attractive if they changed to electric operation, but this is not outside the bounds of possibility when new contracts come up.


It is now appropriate to look at which services actually operate within the CBD and whether these services would be able to provide for inner city travel sufficiently well. For this purpose I have drawn in the bus route maps (but not the stops) and screendumped in two halves, one for the north and one for the south of Cathedral Square. For the sake of this discussion we assume the area concerned is within Bealey Avenue / Fitzgerald Avenue / Moorhouse Avenue / Park Terrace (inner city) rather than the vague definition of “CBD”.

CBD Bus Routes North4Aves

These routes are north-east/west of Cathedral Square. We can see that by number we have route 17, Bryndwr/Huntsbury; 29, Airport/City; 28, Casebrook/Lyttelton; 44, Shirley/City; B, Belfast (or Kaiapoi or Rangiora etc) / Cashmere; 95, City / Waikuku; Orange Line, Halswell / Shirley; and Yellow Line, Hornby/New Brighton. With the route coverage we can see there are a lot of gaps, with often the same corridor being used by several routes, rather than them being spread out across all the possible corridors. Part of this is that the city has major one-way traffic corridors that often are not used for bus routes and do not have stops on them. These gaps make the idea of CBD-only bus travel less attractive. The second issue is service frequency. Even at peak times, many of the routes shown operate at a frequency of not more than 2 buses per hour; the high frequency routes being Blue, Orange and Yellow lines which cover only a very limited area of the inner city. In fact the Blue Line is the only route to cover a significant part of the inner city north; both the Yellow and Orange Line only cover one the same lower-right quadrant of it.

CBD Bus Routes South4Aves

Our second map shows routes which are south-east/west of Cathedral Square. There is somewhat of an improvement in coverage, but not in service frequency. The high frequency routes are Blue Line, Orange Line, Yellow Line and Purple Line. The fact more of them exist in the inner city south is due to the fact the present bus exchange is located there. So the routes that cover two or more quadrants are Blue Line and Purple Line, which respectively are north/south and east/west. Purple Line is mostly confined to Tuam Street, and Blue Line to Colombo St. This still leaves a lot of what we would call “CBD”, closer in to Cathedral Square, not covered at all by services.

There is a lot more to service coverage that can be put into a simple map like the above, and a large part of it is probably limitations that CCC community boards have placed on the corridors which the existing bus services can operate on. As well, the inner city has many pedestrian-only areas. An example of the community board input comes from complaints about bus layovers in Rolleston Avenue some years ago prior to the quakes. We can see immediately on the map that there is only one CBD bus route that is operated in Rolleston Avenue these days. In essence the CBD itself is a difficult place to operate buses because there is an anti-public-transport bias from inner city residents and businesses much as there is in other areas of the city where businesses and residents in higher income brackets are hostile to non-motorised or non-private forms of transport. Electric buses may or may not be able to change this perception.

In summary whilst there is possibly a case for inner city shuttle bus services, the extent to which People’s Choice have attempted to paint Ecan as obstructive and incompetent for declining to institute such services is being obfuscated by a number of factors, most of them outside of Ecan’s control. These are:

  1. The limits placed by community boards on the operation of bus services within the CBD due to opposition from residents and businesses. Political opposition is also obstructing improvements to bus services in other parts of the city, such as a route alteration to provide a bus service for residents of the Dianna Isaacs retirement village in Shirley, which was unanimously blocked by Cr Davidson’s Papanui-Innes Community Board.
  2. The funding model for passenger transport services and other aspects of the operational model are set by central government and cannot be readily changed by local councils.
  3. Many of the improvements for which People’s Choice members have campaigned for and lambasted Ecan for not providing, require additional funding that is not immediately available. For example, the replacement of diesel buses with electric vehicles cannot be carried out unilaterally in the middle of a contract without incurring substantial cost to break the contract or compensate the operator. The only reasonable time to mandate new types of vehicles is when new service contracts are put out for tender, which can be many years away.
  4. CCC funded the old inner city shuttle and provided its own buses (the service was operated by RedBus, a Council Trading Enterprise). Those calling for the reintroduction of this service have not offered to fill the funding gap in any way.

My own conclusion is that the charge that Ecan is obstructing improvements to inner city bus services and that this can be improved by changing the management of these services to CCC, is very difficult to justify when all factual information is considered in detail.

High Street Redevelopment Submission

This is the first actual post from Christchurch Transport Blog under that name. The blog has had all the posts from previous blogs imported to it and they appear in the archive section of the blog.

As noted in a previous post, CCC opened consultation on High Street about four weeks ago and today, 11 June, was the last day of submissions. My submission was virtually identical to what I wrote in the blog post and incorporated the following summary:

The plan is of concern because it prioritises motor vehicle traffic in an area of the city which mostly has pedestrian malls at both ends of the section of High Street covered by this plan. Cyclists are very poorly catered for with little appreciation of the added safety risks they face because of the presence of the tram tracks, particularly in the north block section where there are two tram tracks side by side, and the expectation of car parking being provided on both sides of the street is an unreasonable wastage of the limited space on a relatively narrow thoroughfare.

As High Street is not a major traffic route, parts of the section under review should be closed to motor vehicle traffic entirely or their access or the amount of parking provided for, severely restricted. This would be in keeping with the character of the surrounding area. High Street is so close to other roads which are open to vehicle traffic that there would be little inconvenience in limiting vehicle access and parking in the manner described in the detailed submission which follows. For example there is access to a car park in the northern block from an access lane through the Stranges Building complex off Lichfield St. Likewise, premises in the mid and southern blocks are easily accessible from rear access from adjoining Manchester, Lichfield, Madras and Tuam Streets. It is therefore extremely difficult to justify the need for vehicle access onto High Street and car parking (except mobility parking).

The proposal is expected to have public hearings held in August-September (depending on council election timetable) and construction is expected to start mid-2020.

I am considering speaking to the public hearings. As I have not done this before this will be subject to my perception of the hearing process itself and timeframe (availability).