Car-centric carriageway clogging culture continues in Christchurch [4]: MFM campaign highlights transport funding debacle

We welcome debate on the public transport system here and are interested in any proposals to improve the system. It’s abundantly clear in our other posts that we are concerned that the City Council has not given public transport a high enough priority to development of a public transport network in the city, by being prepared to fund its component of public transport adequately. The Minto For Mayor campaign has raised the question with its free buses campaign policy. The state of funding for public transport is in many ways similar to other key public service areas (like social housing) where the priorities the Council has are completely wrong. People ask about PT funding when large amounts have been spent on cycleways, and as the MFM campaign has highlighted, millions of dollars have been given in rebates to apartment owners that would have paid for the social housing upgrades, proving the Council has definitely got its priorities wrong.

In this light the campaign by the current Mayor to take over the running of public transport system in the City has to be seen for what it is – primarily about the gaining of political power and not about improving the system. A prime motivation for this campaign is for CCC politicians to remove a major source of criticism from public submissions to Council consultation over public transport infrastructure from Ecan. We have observed this over many years through multiple Council administrations. As long as the Mayor or Councillors can shut down public criticism of their failures to properly fund or support public transport they can pull the wool over people’s eyes better when it comes to election time. This applies to other policy areas as well, so it is important to have this understanding

The Mayor of Wellington who is also a Labour member (it is almost always Labour politicians who want more political control and power for themselves) is obviously very interested in the type of political vehicle that we have in the JPTC and is proposing a similar agency if re elected for Wellington, so that he can gain more power over the bus system they have there. Like the JPTC this political creation would have no actual decision making power over the actions of Wellington City Council or GWRC. When our JPTC did the recent Regional Public Transport Plan four things in particular stood out:

  • The plan was almost all about Christchurch passenger transport excluding other local authorities requirements.
  • The rapid transit corridors run only to the city limits.
  • The rapid transit corridors parallel the existing rail corridors.
  • All of the onus to do things under the plan was for Ecan to do stuff. There was never any onus under the plan for Christchurch City Council to do anything. CCC wants a network that gives them maximum advantage without putting anything into it themselves.

So ostensibly whilst this plan is supposedly about Greater Christchurch, in reality almost all of it is about Christchurch City.

The funding situation that specifically relates to the MFM campaign is they have said CCC should fund free buses. Now it is questionable if NZTA will give its usual 25% subsidy for a completely free service. So far we have been told the free bus services policy will not get an NZTA subsidy and possibly not an Ecan one either. In which case the amount CCC would have to put in would greatly increase. So at this time the financial basis of this campaign promise is a bit suspect. That part of the policy aside, the key issue that relates to the existing level of CCC public transport funding is that it is wholly inadequate, as are most aspects of CCC’s public transport policy in general. Community boards are delegated the decision making power over bus routes and stops in their areas. This means that these decisions are dictated by local residents rather than the needs of bus passengers. The result is there are many questionable decisions over routing, bus priority and stop placement that do not take into consideration what is the best way to run a public transport network for the greater good, instead it comes down to what is the least inconvenient for people who drive cars and who don’t want a bus stop outside their house. It also means bus priority lanes and other measures are considered less important than lanes and parking for cars.

So the conclusion of this post is that CCC overwhelmingly favours cars in its transport funding decisions and public transport is well down the list in priorities. The failure of the public transport system can be partly sheeted home to these priorities.

What is the best administrative structure for public transport?

In New Zealand, since 1989, public transport around the country is governed by regional councils, whilst territorial councils are responsible for funding road-based infrastructure for PT that uses roads, such as buses. Where rail is a form of PT, the local infrastructure, however, is generally under the ownership of the regional council, the rail line and corridor being owned by the Government. Unitary authorities work in a similar way to a territorial council that has taken over regional functions. Auckland is in a unique position of being a unitary authority with all of its transport and roading functions placed under the control of a CCO, a company owned by Auckland Council which it only has governance oversight of, not direct operational control. This essentially means the board of Auckland Transport is not elected directly by ratepayers and therefore not accountable to them.

There is no perfect system for administering public transport because the sticking point is the source of funding for local infrastructure. Ratepayers in local government areas are very reluctant to see their rates being spent on public transport infrastructure, or road space being prioritised for public transport ahead of cars. So in Christchurch, bus priority takes forever to implement, and bus shelters and interchanges tend to be scarce. Residents opposing the operation of a bus down their street is also an ongoing issue.

Rail has a relatively easy ride compared to road transport because the rail network is a central government asset, and they are not directly accountable to local ratepayers. The operation of trains has to be contracted out, but the regional council governs the service just as they do with bus services. The crucial difference is that local ratepayers cannot hobble the operation of the train services. Train services are also different in that local infrastructure such as stations is owned by the regional council rather than by a territorial council.

Public transport therefore works best when it is governed by a non-territorial authority. This is precisely the reason for the system we have now. The problem is that as a long as roads are under the control of a territorial council, which is guaranteed to kowtow to the owners of private motor vehicles, public transport will always remain second priority and second rate because the money will never be found from rates to fund the infrastructure that is needed to improve the services.

The solution for road based public transport is probably to keep the governance of the services themselves at regional council level as is the case now. The second step that is needed is for central Government to fund public transport infrastructure directly, through either the regional or territorial council, preferably the former. Therefore for example, giving the regional councils the powers necessary to designate and manage a public transport network and the necessary infrastructure, is probably the improvement necessary to ensure that road based PT systems operate much better than is possible now. This essentially would mean giving the regional councils the power to override local councils in the matter of bus routes and corridors, and the funding to build the supporting infrastructure themselves. At that point, the operation of a road-based public transport system is similar to that of a rail network.

There are those who argue that the answer is to give full governance control to the territorial authority. This will result in the services being subsumed to the all-dominant motor vehicle interests. In short it is not going to improve on the current system as funding will still be at the whim of ratepayers.

CCC’s demands for takeover of regional functions is contrary to public service and good management

Christchurch City Council has recently been at the forefront of campaigns against the use and management of water by Canterbury Regional Council. The particular issues that have come up are the granting of consents to Cloud Ocean Water for water bottling, and the level of nitrates that is permitted in the artesian water supply aquifers in Canterbury. These campaigns are related to other Council campaigns against the regional council over air quality and public transport.

However, it is important and relevant to note that Christchurch City Council is at the forefront of promoting irrigation development and the resultant outcome of increasing farming intensification in Canterbury by its direct involvement in establishing and operating Central Plains Water Trust, which is an organisation that is facilitating the development of irrigation in Canterbury. This raises quite a concern about the political motives of the City Council in campaigning in relation to these issues and whether the obvious conflict of interest severely compromises the moral authority of CCC at the forefront of these issues.

CCC first became involved with this issue back in the day when it owned a gas company (On Energy) which was acquired through its former operation of Southpower as an energy retailer. When Government electricity restructuring forced retailing and distribution networks to be separated, Southpower was broken up and the lines network became Orion, which remains in CCC ownership through Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL). The gas company was not directly affected by the restructuring, but it did get sold eventually as CCC sought to divest their involvement in energy retailing, and so the funds released were then available for a new investment vehicle. At that time, the City decided they would get into the investment opportunities that would be available from developing an irrigation scheme. This is somewhat similar to the controversial Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s Ruataniwha irrigation scheme and ran into similar consenting issues over the large scale water reservoir that the scheme required. But whilst HBRC has abandoned its scheme for the present, CPWT’s scheme continues in a modified form without the reservoir, instead having smaller storage ponds distributed in different areas.

The real concern however is that current CCC campaigns against water management by Ecan are directly in conflict with its involvement and commercial interests in CPWT and as such, these campaigns appear to be less about actually improving water management and more about political objectives. They can be seen as part of a wider issue of CCC wishing to muscle in on some of the work that Ecan does and take it over. This is already seen in broad attacks by the Mayor of Christchurch on Ecan’s existing management of public transport and air quality in the city. Many of the candidates in the current elections for the regional council are sitting CCC councillors and board members. Their interest in becoming elected members of the regional council appears to lend itself to the suggestion that their role on becoming elected is to grease the wheels to make it easier for CCC to succeed in its takeover campaign. CCC’s interests in water management are directly related to its objectives in developing the City as the dominant economic power in the upper South Island and therefore in ensuring there are sufficient water resources that will not hinder growth of the City. This also drives the key objectives in other areas, which are to challenge the regional council and become the dominant political force in the Canterbury region. Currently the regional council has a supervising role over certain activities carried out by territorial councils and this is the source of endless political bickering and infighting from these councils towards the regional council. The objectives for territorial councils are for increased political power and influence, without necessarily achieving better outcomes for their people. Major concerns with CCC to date have been that they have not effectively managed water demand, which is important with a limited and precious resource, nor have they managed their freshwater or wastewater reticulation infrastructure in a way that ensures these resources maximise public safety. But the most serious concern about CCC is that while attacking the commercial extraction and exploitation of water by the water-bottling companies, and while attacking the pollution of the city’s water supply by nitrate run-off from intensive farming, the City Council also seeks to enrich itself from the commercial extraction and exploitation of water for intensive farming activities that produce nitrate pollution. The same conflict issue exists with public transport where the City profits from the operation of a bus company that receives contracts from tendering to run some of these services.

There is a great deal of merit in the Regional Council’s services remaining vested in that body and not being usurped into Christchurch City Council’s functions with the extremely weak accountability and myriad personal political interests that reign supreme in territorial council and by which any purported improvements in the management of the public interest in assets such as water or transport networks would soon be lost in the greater scheme of wheeling and dealing to buy political favours and outcomes. There are numerous examples of this that already exist within Christchurch City. Social housing is a key example that has proved to be a major political embarrassment for CCC in the last few months running up to the local elections whereby the housing has been run down for many years and in some cases is not worth spending money on to upgrade to current governnment-set rental standards. The city’s freshwater well heads were found to be unsafely constructed, requiring a rushed upgrade programme with mandatory chlorination in the interim, and at the time of writing, this has been extended until the City can prove that the supply pipes, which are in very poor condition in parts of the network, are able to be upgraded in a timely way. In public transport, the City is seeking to have a road based transport network, which ignores the environmental benefits of rail and the economic efficiency of re-utilising its abundant existing capacity without constructing new corridors and duplicating infrastructure in a proposed light rail network. This is also likely, as with other existing aspects of public transport that the City is responsible, to fail to be funded when ratepayer support is required. Ultimately when there is no oversight of the public interest, as is being achieved with the current split of responsibilities between regional and territorial councils, the public is who loses out. Territorial councils have too much power to suppress the public interest and in this case, transport administration is very poorly administered by CCC which has devolved the decision making power to local community boards, giving residents too much dominance over roads and other transport networks.

 

Minto campaign gathers steam

The Minto For Mayor campaign is gathering steam. On Friday I was at the Bus Interchange where a campaigner was handing out flyers explaining their free buses campaign promise.

minto

The other campaign issues are also being articulated in news media appearances, including this one talking about social housing in the city. We note in particular the comment that the Council is prepared to hand out free rebates to apartment owners. This highlights the inequality of funding in the City that characterises the failure to properly resource and support the public transport system in the City.

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.

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.

 

 

“Planning For Successful Cities”: NPS on urban development out for consultation [1]: Background

Earlier this week the Government (HUDA and MFE) released a discussion document on its proposed National Policy Statement on urban development. Consultation is now being undertaken in relation to the issues raised in the document, until 10 October 2019 at 5 pm.

The key issue raised in the DD is that significant problems exist in current urban planning and growth that are producing negative outcomes such as severe housing unaffordability, falling home ownership, increased hardship and homelessness, increased household debt, intergenerational inequality, congestion, poor transport choice and urban pollution. The Government therefore proposes its Urban Growth Agenda to provide the improvements needed to address issues such as these. It suggests some important issues that it aims to address are reducing car dependency, fixing the present broken system for funding and financing infrastructure, and ensuring central government works more closely with local government, the private sector and communities.

The following is a summary of the chapters in the DD and my responses to it. These responses will form the basis of my submission that I intend to produce for this proposal. Christchurch is one of the key growth areas identified in the government’s press release and public transport forms a key part of the solutions needed in the city. At the same time there is existing and substantial concern that the last government’s pro-developer agenda expressed through the combined impacts of the replacement District Plan and the Resource Management Act amendments pushed through in 2009 have gone too far in their impact on neighbourhoods.

As we already know, recent governments have attempted to fund ways to promote increased housing development in the major centres to increase the housing supply but this has produced quite a mixed bag of results with concerns particularly identified over National’s policy shift promoted as “reducing red tape” that has given developers greatly increased rights to develop without considering the impact on the environment such as through increased vehicle traffic in existing streets, removing trees, lack of carparking on site, etc. There have been numerous higher density housing developments recently in Christchurch that have created these concerns, but a much bigger one currently occurring in Merivale is the expansion of a local shopping mall which is likely to end up in court because the impacts are far from being “less than minor”.

The newspaper reporting on this NPS release has suggested this is “a government plan to sideline nimbys” and this could be a problem if it is an accurate statement. I am certainly hoping this proposal is a reasonably balanced one. Whilst it is undeniable that intensification of housing is always going to create challenges for some residents, the worst cases in Christchurch to date have resulted from the District Plan requirements being regularly flouted and concerns over streets becoming clogged with traffic and parked vehicles. Since the release refers to “high quality streets, neighbourhoods and communities” I certainly hope this is adequately addressed. Another issue that is important to be addressed is social housing development. Housing New Zealand is a key concern with their post-earthquake trend of pushing through many new complexes in parts of the City and changes in their tenant case management since the change of government, but CCC’s SH developments are also capable of creating similar challenges.

This NPS is expected to replace National’s NPS-UDC from 2016, by broadening its focus and adding significant new content. The key relevance for Christchurch is the existing Urban Development Strategy which has in turn resulted in some key initiatives taken by the preceding National government. The key ones which were relevant are:

  • Changes in the District Plan to produce increased intensification in various areas of the city.
  • Developing the Southern Motorway to enable faster road transport to/from Selwyn District.
  • Developing the Christchurch Northern Corridor motorway to speed up road transport to/from Waimakariri District.

These have all raised their own issues. Intensification has already been mentioned above. The key issues with the motorway developments have varying impacts. The Southern motorway project has been largely focused in recent years on bringing the existing SH76 through to join SH1 at Weedons, creating a bypass of the main urban areas of the south-west of Christchurch, so that freight and passenger vehicles can reach the city more quickly and conveniently from Selwyn District. SH76 joins onto Brougham Street, the main arterial route for freight to and from Port of Lyttelton. As this area has been intensively developed along these lines for decades, there has not been too much of an issue with the motorway expansion, which on SH76 itself has seen widening to four lanes completed just after the earthquakes, west of Barrington. However, the last National Government put forward an election campaign proposal to four lane SH1 from Rolleston to Ashburton which was dropped by the incoming Labour administration and has raised some local controversy. West of the city, SH1 which has run on that route for many years via Russley Road and Johns Road, was widened to four lanes and a bypass was built to go around Belfast at the northern end, the roundabout at the Memorial Avenue intersection was replaced by an overbridge and on/off ramps, the bridge with its large arches being a prominent landmark in the area. The Christchurch Northern Corridor, currently nearing completion has been the most controversial proposal. Although it runs mostly through greenfield land and the designations have been in place for decades, it will funnel a large volume of traffic into the existing roading network through Cranford Street and St Albans Residents Association has been highly active in campaigning against it and this is ongoing at the time of writing.

A key part of the counter proposals to address the impact of the CNC has been the proposals to develop a rail passenger service between the City and Rangiora and this has been well addressed by this blog and the campaign will continue. I will share some thoughts about the upcoming elections and the possible impacts in my next post. The NPS discussion will continue in part [2] of this series/

 

 

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”.

Screenshot_2019-08-20_20-48-03

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.

Screenshot_2019-08-20_21-02-18

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.

Screenshot_2019-08-21_02-29-20

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.

Screenshot_2019-08-21_02-44-11

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.

Screenshot_2019-08-21_02-49-14

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.