MaRTI invigorates rail PT along the Main South Line

This evening we caught sight of the MaRTI presentation at Turanga. MaRTI is a proposed redevelopment of the Middleton rail yards for urban housing. The concept is certainly well conceived. There remain various questions relating to where Kiwirail would relocate the various functions that are currently performed at Middleton yards. Aside from the container terminal and the freight sheds (which until relatively recently were still under Toll Freight control), Middleton also houses the main locomotive depot for Christchurch.

One suggestion is moving the rail yards out further west, between Islington and Rolleston being options. The main challenge there is to get Kiwirail’s freight from customers around Christchurch to somewhere that is convenient for them. We would guess this includes freight from points to the east of Middleton as well as parts of the city. Middleton is the key freight yard not just for Christchurch but for a lot of the surrounding area north, south and west of Christchurch. Kiwirail has a few other sites in Christchurch City but they only have limited facilities for specific types of freight or servicing; they are at Lyttelton, Woolston, Waltham, Addington and Hornby.

Since viewing the presentation, Kiwirail has stated they have no intention at this stage of relocating from the Middleton site. Also, as Talking Transport has highlighted in its MaRTI debrief, “some officials have raised concerns with us that some ideas may counter to what is being planned through the ‘proper channels’. This could only be a reference to the existing work of the Joint Public Transport Committee, which is attempting to wrest political control of public transport, and with it all transport and urban planning, firmly into the grasp of City Hall, despite the fact Greater Christchurch is a partnership between four local government authorities and central government. The reason for this is that City Hall is focused on the dominance of the city centre, the “Four Avenues” as we know it, or the CBD, although the latter is in actuality a subset of the former. There is already a great deal of political conflict going on over the CBD-vs-suburbs debate and this is obviously a part of it, when the “official channels” want to focus on owning all of the transport infrastructure and operations, and directing it towards the CBD. This conflict is very apparent already with the JPTC playing down the merits of rail as a means of moving people outside the Christchurch city limits, and similar reactions (from the Mayor of Christchurch) to the northern motorway corridor, both options which will make it easier for people to live outside Christchurch City limits and travel into the city for employment. This shows why the Government should be stepping in and overriding the city council with its selfish parochial political power plays.

The key concept for the development of intensified housing along the corridor is to have a lot of it. The debate is whether to have large developments around a few stations, or smaller developments spread all along the corridor with stations every kilometre or so. In New Zealand to date the latter has tended to be the predominant model as it is used in Greater Wellington and Auckland. Redesignating land within (for example) five hundred metres on each side of the rail corridor for its entire length is the way this could happen. However a strong case would exist to exempt those commercial areas that make heavy use of rail, which are at Woolston, Waltham, Addington, Middleton and Sockburn. These areas should be kept as compact as possible otherwise no improvement from the status quo will be achievable. The Main South Line is already difficult to develop a suburban passenger business case for due to the historical fact of planning designations placing a great deal of industrial development along much of its length so this is something of an obstacle to making it a viable residential transport corridor. Christchurch has obviously lacked the sort of foresight that was integrated into the development of Auckland and Wellington, especially in the development of the Hutt Valley as a rail served residential area in the 1920s for example.

If Middleton is not an option then former rail land at Waltham and Linwood could become viable alternatives for large scale development. As it stands, without the impetus that developing a large site like Middleton would produce, it is difficult to get the intensification happening along the rail corridors. The real challenge is that the District Plan targets different areas for intensification, and the City Council will not want to change that. This illustrates the uphill battle against the established town planning schemes to get an initiative like this off the ground.

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.

 

Greater Christchurch Passenger Rail Stations [1]: Main North Line

If we are going to have a passenger train operation from Christchurch to Rangiora, it will be necessary to look at where suitable locations are for stations. In Auckland and Wellington the typical spacing of stations is 1 to 1.4 km. This is considerably closer together than the stations on the old Christchurch suburban network. To make passenger rail work in Christchurch, more stations would be needed than was historically the case.

If we start from Moorhouse Avenue as a terminus at approximately  11 km, the old Addington station is at 12.7 km so that is almost justifying an intermediate station except that there is no residential population except around Addington so we can let that one go, maybe. Going north, Riccarton at 2 km is too far and the first station, ideally, would be just south of the level crossing, where sufficient space exists for a platform. My view is these stations can be small platforms in the denser residential areas as not all stations need to have car parking facilities. Hence the next station, Station B, would be just past the 2.5 km peg in Clifford Avenue. The old Bryndwr station would be the site of Station C at 3.8 km. Station D would be at Papanui, 5.3 km. Station E would be near Northcote Road crossing, 6.3 km. Station F at 7.7 km near Sturrocks Road. The old Styx site is not ideal and probably 9.1 km is the next best place for Station G. Station H at 10.3 km just south of Belfast and Station I at Belfast at 11.3 km get us to the edge of the residential boundary at present.

North of Belfast with presently very little population we could probably put Station J on the old Chaneys site of around 13.4 km and Station K on the old Kainga site about 15.2 km. Station L can be at 16.3 km near Tram Road. The old Kaiapoi site is unavailable so we could go for two stations in the area, Station M at 17.7 km and Station N at 19.05 km near the Williams Street crossing. A third station (O) along Adderley Terrace near the motorway overbridge is also an option. We are now on the outskirts of Kaiapoi so there is no need at this stage for closely spaced stations.

The next location (Station P) could be at the old Flaxton site around 23.3 km. Station Q could then be placed at 26.8 km just south of Southbrook, with Station R at 28.8 km and the terminus Rangiora (Station S) at 30.1 km. Therefore we have a total of 18 passenger stations in a 30 km distance on the MNL, or 20 if we include Christchurch and Addington.

MNL Passenger Stations

(Click here for larger version of map)

 

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.

 

 

CRC Mid-Canterbury/Opakihi Constituency

Here is the boundary map for the CRC Mid-Canterbury/Opakihi Constituency. This incorporates the Selwyn District portion of Greater Christchurch.

CRC Mid Canterbury Constituency

The markers on the map are railway stations and mileposts, so you can see that it incorporates parts of the MSL, Hornby line, and Midland Line up to Arthurs Pass.

(Click for larger version)

Here is a closer view of the boundary with Christchurch City along the rail corridors.

CRC Mid Canterbury Constituency 2

(Larger version)

This shows the Hornby line corridor to Lincoln and the Main South Line corridor to Rolleston.

CRC Mid Canterbury Constituency 3

(Larger version)

A similar map to the previous one, but showing the current bus routes that are operated by Ecan in Greater Christchurch, that terminate in Mid Canterbury. These are Yellow Line to Rolleston, Route 80 to Lincoln, and route 820 from Lincoln to Burnham.

CRC North Canterbury/Opukepuke Constituency

Here is part of the boundaries for the North Canterbury/Opukepuke Constituency of Canterbury Regional Council.

CRC North Canterbury Constituency

From a public transport perspective it includes the Waimakariri District part of Greater Christchurch, including the Main North Line corridor from Kaiapoi to Rangiora. There are only a few bus routes that operate in this constituency, mostly the Blue Line, and Redbus have a service that operates to Oxford.

Apart from passenger trains there is limited scope for expanding public transport unless the population of parts grows rapidly. Most residential development at present is occurring in the north east coastal boundary of the constituency.

Protests needed against NZTA/Government buck passing on public transport funding

The Labour government came to office promising improvements in public transport funding which have so far amounted to very little. All that seems to keep happening in this sector (or for that matter in many sectors) is the government announces another time wasting review. All they have to do is ask people in the sector what is needed instead of more reviews and delays.

In Canterbury we have a new regional land transport plan developed by Ecan in partnership with CCC, Selwyn District and Waimakariri District, but no means of implementing it without additional government funding. Consequently Ecan is limited to doing reviews to try and squeeze more efficiency out of the current level of funding, so there have been a few services cut and changed but no new ones introduced as proposed in the plan. A look around the country shows that things aren’t different anywhere else except in Queenstown where the local council has stumped up additional funding for their improved bus service, or in Hamilton where a hugely expensive train service is being planned. In Wellington where they are trying to fix up the mess of the new services they introduced there, the governnment is refusing to help, but without repealing the PTOM or increasing funding there is a limit to what can be achieved there, too.

It is simply not credible for the government to have left public transport funding improvements in abeyance for so long with no relief in sight and it becomes necessary therefore to consider protest action from across a range of different organisations with the objective of getting the government to stop passing the buck, especially in Canterbury where we have a much lower level of government funding for public transport than in Auckland and Wellington.

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.