Heathcote Expressway Cycle Route Powers Ahead [1]

One of the best developments for transport in Christchurch in the last few years has been the new network of cycleways. The most relevant one to us is the Heathcote Expressway from the city centre to Heathcote, which we generally make use of around half a dozen times weekly nowadays. This is because we often cycle into town along Wilsons Road, which incorporates a section of the cycleway from its intersection with Charles Street, along Ferry Road to my regular destination at No. 150, and from there into the Four Avenues to join up with other cycleways such as St Asaph St / Colombo St et al.

This very same cycleway also heads in the opposite direction towards Ferrymead, which just happens to be where we currently cycle up to twice a week and return. We have been cycling alongside SH76 from Opawa to reach Port Hills Road, Martindales Road and Truscotts Road, but have found the section along SH76 (Opawa Road / Port Hills Road) to be very challenging due to the heavy trucks which are so close to the shoulder themselves requiring one to keep a very close watch out and nerves of steel. The Council did make it a little easier to go along this route some years back by converting the footpaths underneath the Tunnel Road / Scruttons Road interchange to shared paths, but this only affects a small part of the entire section and risk. There is a significant part of the section where there are no usable footpaths at all.

To get into the Woolston Loop area from our part of the city we have been following back streets and cutting across the Hillsborough loop in the Heathcote River by using the footbridges at both ends of Ford Road, emerging onto Aynesley Terrace and then going straight onto the westernmost section of Garlands Road to the signalised intersection with Opawa Road where Garlands becomes SH74A as part of the Ring Road. Previously here we would have made a right turn onto Opawa Road / SH76 but now we will carry on up the south side of SH74A on the footpath, crossing the Main South Line, to reach Maunsell St and then using that street and Cumnor Terrace alongside the river, eventually emerge onto Chapmans Road, cross the MSL again, and then reach SH76. Here there are some non-continuous sections of footpath that can be used to reach and cross over the Tunnel Road on-ramp and then we can use the existing shared path to get through the full interchange to Port Hills Road and so on as existing. This section has the issue that it is a long way around to reach Ferrymead because of the double back along Truscotts Road to reach the Park. Currently this is a total length of 7.0 km taking up to half an hour to cycle.

Obviously another question has been whether we can actually use the cycleway from Wilsons Road instead. This has been completed only as far as the Tannery in Woolston meaning our new section through the Woolston Loop is going to have to be tacked onto the end of the existing cycleway until the rest of it is completed. The first issue is that Cumnor Terrace between Garlands Road and Maunsell Street was absurdly changed into a one way road to fit in more car parking alongside the Tannery so the first requirement is to cross Garlands Road at the new signalised cycle crossing and double back to Tanner Street to Maunsell Street. From here we can go onto Cumnor Terrace again and then feed into Chapmans Road and SH76 as mentioned above. In total, this would make the entire journey 9.3 km long which is 2.3 km more than presently so there is no real advantage from what we currently use.

The other option we have looked at is therefore using our current route to join onto the new section of the Heathcote Expressway in Woolston and the total length that would give to our commute. Here we have detoured slightly from using Maunsell Street, to going from Garlands Road up Radley Street and along Marshall Street to get onto the Expressway at Cumnor Terrace on the north side of Garlands Road, avoiding use of the footpath along a short section on the south side of Garlands Road. This makes the total length increase, but this is compensated for the much more direct access into Ferrymead as the new cycleway section which runs right alongside the MSL making use of an existing water supply easement eliminates the doubling back along Trustcotts Road. At the moment it is a toss up whether to use Radley/Marshall or Maunsell either now or when the cycleway is opened and this will be evaluated from now until the cycleway extension is completed.

In part 2 we will take an actual look at the new off-road section of the cycleway from Cumnor Terrace to Ferrymead with maps from NZ Rail Maps to show how it fits into the Ferrymead landscape.

Christchurch Local Government Elections 2019: Key Issues

Christchurch will very soon be facing the Local Government Elections in 2019. In my opinion this is quite a significant election because of certain policy directions taken by the Council in the post-earthquake reconstruction of the city in the last couple of terms.

Talking Transport has ably summed up the election process here. One of the issues I raised in the comments is whether the City would do better in terms of city wide planning if territorial wards and boards were eliminated, and all representatives were elected from across the City and the boards were focused on policy areas rather than territories. At the moment the biggest concern and one which I have articulated on various occasions is that each community board gets to decide how to plan its own transport networks in its own areas. This frequently results in a narrow parochial local interests taking precedence over city wide issues, in which the role of transport networks in enabling people to move across the different parts of the city to reach a destination is made less important than the “rights” of residents in the local area. It is likely that this is a key driver of a car-centric culture in Christchurch and other major cities, due to the parochialness that is inherent in territorial local body politics.

The key aspects of the election which I will address here are as follows:

Firstly there is the regional council elections and the shift from a council that is partly appointed commissioners and partly elected councillors, to the restoration of a fully elected council. There are numerous environmental concerns that people are hoping will be more fully addressed by the change back to a fully elected Council. As far as this blog goes, public transport is certainly a key area. Due to government funding cuts but also a lack of commitment from the appointed commissioners in the last term, the public transport network has certainly slipped. In the first term of the commissioners we had the Hub-Spoke reorganisation of the bus network which brought with it the improved passenger facilities at Northlands and Riccarton, particularly the much maligned suburban passenger interchange at the latter, something CCC would have never built without a lot of prodding. More recently, the Joint Public Transport Committee approach with territorial councils has brought proposals to improve the PT network on the assumption of increased central government funding. The key aspects I would like to see happen better under the regional council are some gaps like an effective complaints procedure for public transport users, better communications with users who don’t have the use of social media or smartphones, and greater transparency and engagement with rail passenger service proposals. From my perspective I am personally endorsing the campaigns of Axel Wilke in Christchurch Central, Tane Apanui in Christchurch North and Rik Tindall in Christchurch South/BP. The first two having campaigned on improved PT options in particular and being in areas that will be key to rail passenger development. I am not particularly aware of pro-rail candidates in the other CRC wards. It is concerning to see Peoples Choice have stood candidates in every ward, selfishly oblivious to the possibility of vote splitting with similarly aligned candidates standing on independent platforms.

Secondly we have the territorial elections which for greater Christchurch are in Waimakariri District, Selwyn District and Christchurch City and it’s in the City that the greatest controversies have been raised that are likely to create the impetus for a big change in the look of the new Council. The key areas that I believe are a flashpoint for discontent in the City at the present time are:

  • Rates rises of 65% overall in the term of the current 10 year LTP.
  • The backlash against “An Accessible City” which was highlighted in one of my recent posts. Although the Council has backtracked on changes to High Street and Victoria Street, opposition to the redevelopment of St Asaph Street was only partly addressed by the Council which ignored concerted campaigning to reverse the removal of much of the carparking along the street. The lower speed limits and impacts on other thoroughfares such as Manchester Street and Tuam Street will also be relevant. This also can flow through into concerns about public transport priority measures such as bus lanes in outer suburbs like Papanui and Addington.
  • The impact of the city wide cycleway developments in the removal of carparking in many streets where these cycleways run and the overall substantial expense which many feel is being pushed through whilst roads in other areas are not being repaired to a reasonable standard.

I must make clear in this blog that I generally support the AAC and cycleway developments as being a long overdue rebalancing of transport focus into other modes of transport because prioritising cars will simply keep creating more congestion that can’t be ignored. This post is simply intending to identify where City politics is going amid concerns that transport focus is dominated by a vociferous car-focused lobby that fails to address many of the legitimate concerns about environmental impacts of large volumes of motor vehicle traffic upon neighbourhoods and other transport modes.

Whereas in the 2016 election the AAC opposition slipped under the radar and there was only one serious challenger to Dalziel (from the left of the political spectrum) in 2016, there was also no identifiable right-wing challenger and there was a record low turnout of only 37% in voting. This election there is clearly a mayoral candidate likely to attract significant support from the CBD business mafia and higher income neighbourhoods over ongoing concerns about the AAC, rates rises and cycleways, and with ward candidates tapping into similar suburban concerns, the Council could shift significantly to the right. The issue of rates rises is unlikely to be able to be addressed unless either the stadium project is suspended or major asset sales occur; cycleways can be put on hold and the Accessible City street level changes reversed in a number of areas.

So the elections will be fascinating to observe and the outcomes fairly important for the future transport directions of Christchurch.

 

 

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.

Who, Why, Where, What?

Here is an introduction to Christchurch Transport Blog and what is proposed to be achieved from it.

The aim with this blog is to support transport focused activism mostly in Christchurch but occasionally there will be a focus on more national things. I have have a long term interest in a lot of different types and areas of transport over many years and I used to write a general transport blog which still exists at http://enzedtransport.blogspot.com/ and it essentially dates from 2007 and the last article was published only about a year ago. There are some issues with missing images and embedded maps that don’t work that I am not going back to fix up mainly because I migrated to a different Google account and closed down the ones that were used to publish most of the content. So really mainly of historical interest. Prior to this blog I was mainly active in rail history and preservation and online through various forums and had several sites but mostly these don’t exist now and that blog pretty much is the sum total of any record of online activity that I still have running today.

About the same time as that blog was first authored I also started up a project called NZ Rail Maps which has come about out of a small community of people who have been interested in updating some of the existing historical resources like the New Zealand Railway and Tramway Atlas. last published in 1993. After many discussions I decided to move forward independently in terms of creating electronic maps, starting with Google Earth/Google Maps. If you go into the blog at http://nzrailmaps.blogspot.com/ you can see the first article there dated 22 January 2008 talking about the start of the NZ Rail Maps project. An important transition in this project was made middle of 2012 i.e. seven years ago at the time of this writing, because the focus was changed to drawing the maps in a real GIS and using real data layers sourced out of Land Information New Zealand’s Creative Commons licensed resources. With Linz bringing their Retrolens project online in the last couple of years we now have a large volume of freely downloadable historical aerial photo data available that can be overlaid onto the Linz contemporary georeferenced tiles and hence traced over for historical features. The project continues and has various other resources attached to it, linked off the blog.

The latest activity is this blog and associated activity. The key focus is, of course Christchurch and rail provides an important backdrop to that, but is not the only component. The real issue is to get a level of momentum going on pushing for a better transport system in Christchurch and this is something I have been considering in one form or another since about 2012. As you know, in Christchurch, we have had the big and life changing earthquakes in 2010/11, which has changed the city in quite a far reaching way, and there have been similar far reaching opportunities to change the city’s transport networks over that timeframe. But these opportunities have not been realised in any major way. At central government and local government level it has been business as usual and apart from a few token efforts, the transport networks of Christchurch have followed preset agendas and the opportunity for meaningful improvements have been missed. In 2012 the bus network was restructured due to Government funding cuts resulting in significant reduction in the services and due to the ongoing impacts of the government agenda called the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) the bus network continues to operate at a lower service level with the focus being to commercialise these services so that they need less subsidies. This is still in effect today because there have been neither the legislative or funding changes implemented by the Labour-led government that would revitalise the public transport network. Only in the last few months has there been any commitment from the Transport Minister and NZTA to bring about any changes. So that is one level of central government agenda that has created problems and that is mostly due to the agenda of the National Party with a focus on using taxpayers money to build more roads and slashing taxpayer funding of other transport modes like public transport. About the only good thing that National achieved was to fund new cycleway development of which more below. The proposed “Accessible City” plan that came out of the earthquake recovery process was changed to fit what National thought and they took the opportunity to grant themselves far reaching powers to literally dictate everything that went on in the City over a period which is still in force today.

So that is the impact of central government. Whilst that has been overarching in the last nine years since the first quake, local government has had great opportunity but has not realised that opportunity, and in all probability without a great deal of lobbying it never will. I have been observing local government contributions over a period of about thirty years from the time when I was first old enough to be politically aware and to be able to start voting and it has not been an impressive record. However in about that timeframe we had local government reorganisation by Labour that put public transport responsibilities into the Canterbury Regional Council and I think we can say that when central government finally caught up with funding and support for public transport improvements in the 1999-2008 term, the public transport system in Christchurch went ahead in leaps and bounds under Ecan’s management and improved in a big way on the pre-1989 public transport system in the City. But from 1990-1999 and again in 2008-2017 we have gone backwards because of National governments’ interference and meddling and running down anything that isn’t a car or truck. The problem is the elected politicians of the Christchurch City Council are always taking a very weak line on public services regardless of whatever affiliation they aspire to politically. The track record in particular of “Peoples Choice” (a coalition of Labour/Greens and other parties) or Labour-affiliated “independent” has been in effect to establish itself politically but not especially to stand for any particular platform or to have any sort of consistent track record on public transport or cycling/walking modes that gives these modes a consistent improvement over a timeframe.  The Council’s efforts in transport as in all of its areas tend to amount to opportunities for political grandstanding and vote grabbing rather than implementing any sort of policy platform so you have supposedly left-leaning politicians voting for new roads and car-centric transport improvements and against public transport initiatives in a way that contradicts the values they claim to guide their lives by. Hence we find that the Christchurch City Council poses the biggest threat to the development of public transport and its related supporting corporate and individual modes which are needed to address environmental impacts of mass car use.

To summarise, the key issues associated with this blog and the overall impact of this campaign are as follows:

  • Support Labour’s campaign promise for rail passenger services between Christchurch and Rolleston and for this to be extended to Rangiora.
  • Support the continuance of regionally focused integrated development of public transport across Greater Christchurch and oppose political efforts to divide the public transport system across territorial authorities.
  • Support better roading networks in Christchurch including increased safety focus at level crossings in the city.
  • Support better walking and cycling networks especially at the busy highway corridors that tend to divide communities.
  • Support development of increased public safety and convenience focused infrastructure development in the public transport system
  • Support route development and other modes similar to the current JPTC’s regional plan except that this must be focused across Greater Christchurch.

In order to achieve this I am not affiliated to any political party and the blog does not set out to achieve particular political objectives. The general aim is to bring together a grouping of people into some sort of umbrella body to lobby on all of the key transport modes: rail, public transport, cycling and walking that it is necessary to foster in order to improve the focus of public transport in Greater Christchurch.