The Burbs Don’t Owe The CBD A Living

Well we are back in business, now we see the potential for Ecan to hit the ground running with new public transport development focus. Unfortunately the turf war with the Christchurch City Council just got a whole lot bigger with a stupid law passed by the Government to facilitate the transfer of public transport services from regional to city councils. This government has made the issue too much about politics and their unquestioning faith in the ability of local government and not about the government’s own commitment to properly funding public transport development. There is only so much that can be achieved with weak support from the Minister of Transport, something has become increasingly obvious in Auckland and is becoming an issue here with the limp wristed outcomes to date on their promise to develop urban passenger services.

Never the less, one of the least known outcomes and one the Government should be front footing is an improvement in the funding formula, which is tipped to shift to a more favourable farebox recovery target of 33% locally. This will enable impetus to be given to the new regional public transport plan with the extra routes that are intended to go in. The Ecan public transport staff have been working away on this and sent out tender specs during the election campaign, which is questionable because it has limited the ability of the new council to influence the process. Rumour has it also that a living wage is on the way for local bus drivers, and the new tender specs have asked operators to put forward proposals for diesel and electric services. But one key issue for the latter is the much greater cost of buying electric buses, and their limited range, which on some routes would see buses pulled off in the middle of the day for charging. We don’t expect electric buses by themselves to make a big different to the desirability of public transport services. A whole lot more work is needed which CCC has consistently failed to deliver.

Now the real theme of this article as its title befits, is the endless war between the CBD and the suburbs, about which a lot has been heard since the quakes and continues endlessly. The real problem is that ratepayers are being asked to fork out constantly for the CBD to develop in ways that are not provided for universally across the city. When Bob Parker was the mayor he gave the finger to the Central City Business Association and fellow travellers and allowed a large amount of development to take place in the suburbs. Check and you will discover that many of the whining CBD developers also own property in the burbs and have benefited from developments out there. So here’s an article published in the Press before the local elections. Surprise surprise, a push for more freebies and corporate welfare for the CBD, but at least some kind of balance is achieved with Julie Downard of Extinction Rebellion countering many of the pro-development viewpoints. But the newly elected Council has once again pushed the agenda with a new thrust from Jamie Gough for more handouts. Let’s just understand that the CBD is good for some things but supremacy over the rest of the city does not cut it. The chief reason why all this support is called for is the very high prices of CBD property, which is due wholly to a historical fact of a closed market of property in the area with most of it being controlled by a relatively small number of landowners and no real competition. Much of the undeveloped land currently within the Four Avenues is being land banked long term by owners rather than release it for development at a lesser price. This gravy train is expected to be propped up endlessly by ratepayers all across the city. The Mayor has shamelessly jumped on this bandwagon which she sees as her power base, empire and re-election ticket. She would do well to reflect on the background of the groups she purported to represent at the beginning of her political career and her record has become tarnished in recent months with a number of political scandals, including the code of conduct fiasco against her protege councillor in the Central Ward and the latest revelation of a culture of withholding information from elected representatives and the public. No doubt we are going to see another power battle over the running of public transport in the city in coming months. We need an end to the gravy train for central city property owners.

Post-local-election thoughts [2]

So a look this time at some of the Ecan campaigns, the issues they ran into and so on. First one was Aaron Campbell’s campaign in Christchurch West for Ecan. It almost looked like he might have been worth voting for if I had lived there, however I since discovered that he was Dalziel’s campaign manager, something he certainly kept quiet during the elections. He missed out on being elected. Rik Tindall failed to fire in Christchurch South / Banks Peninsula ward, coming in last place, a long way down from his 2016 campaign where he came in at fifth place in what was then the four-seat constituency for the whole of Christchurch. My advice to Rik would be to quit politics altogether, given he seems to have large differences with the major political groupings in Christchurch. Axel Wilke made quite a good effort in Christchurch Central but came in 5th place and so was not elected. In my opinion this is attributable to the fact that his campaign crossed over from regional to local issues a number of times in advocating transport solutions for the city, as well as an intensive housing development proposal in Middleton. He reportedly earned ire and de-endorsement from Lianne Dalziel when he campaigned on opposing the takeover of public transport by the city, something that should perhaps have been kept under wraps during the campaign given how much support there is from Labour supporters for this course of action.  However it is quite good that Paul McMahon, James Dann and a number of other Peoples Choice Ecan candidates missed out, but as Phil Clearwater was the leading candidate he is very likely to be the next chairman and to be keen to continue greasing the wheels for a City takeover.

Tane Apanui is the key pro-rail campaigner to win election to Ecan, which he did on a populist platform by drawing support from a range of political groupings and campaigning on a typical NZ First/PTUA plank of adding rail to existing transport networks, rather than addressing the need for car use to be reduced. We find his stance difficult to reconcile with an admittance that road construction materials are environmentally unustainable. Likewise, campaigns for rail have to be credible. A passenger rail service from Waipara or Amberley into Christchurch is not credible because these areas are so distant – Waipara is 63 km from the city and Amberley is 52 km, compared to Rangiora at 30 km. The populations of Amberley and Waipara are pretty small, unlikely to be able to support a train service. Likewise, the idea that one day trains will run to Christchurch Airport or that the powers that be will go for a really cheap train service are irrelevant. They are interesting ideas, but given the scepticism in the professional rail community over any type of commuter rail service, they won’t gain much ground. Much better to gain a consensus on a starting point such as a Christchurch to Rangiora service, as even that will require central government assistance to establish. Ecan cannot get any services off the ground on its own because they do not receive the funding to do so, and the fact that campaigns so far have focused on blaming Ecan and other local authorities, have been quite misplaced. However these types of campaigns have been very popular with Peoples Choice who have used this as a lever against Ecan to argue they should be in control of public transport. For these various reasons plus the involvement of PTUA in Auckland with their small support base, lack of success in their own campaigning,  and being widely disliked outside the rail community, we do not expect to see any real progress with this campaign, especially if the City Council takes over public transport.

The impact of CCC taking over the public transport is likely to be very negative for rail as Council will have additional levers with which to oppose the establishment of rail services, which it would have no control over. These finer points have been completely lost on the politicians in Wellington with their obesiance to local government. However there is a proposal in place at the moment from Government to allow for urban intensification along major corridors such as transport and CCC has submitted in opposition, claiming there is no housing shortage and that other priorities are more important, specifically rebuilding the CBD. It is apparent that the attempts by CCC to have the CBD dominate, which is well known to be a chief cause of the Mayor and certain Councillors who represent big business interests and wealthy landowners in the City, are resented in other parts of Christchurch, and this position for a Labour mayor contrasts quite noticeably with her predecessor who seems to have been the one who let a lot of the CBD be devolved into the suburbs. The submission from CCC is really business as usual in that it represents property owners’ interests above those of the common people. If they claim there is no need for additional housing then it heads off the possibility of the government moving to build affordable housing in the city which would impact property values. Likewise intensification is opposed on the basis of “loss of amenity”. As we have stated elsewhere we supported controlled intensification along transport corridors which we believe will create affordable housing developments that are needed for people. But Middleton may not be a good starting point. The Main North Line remains the most important corridor to focus on as it is already heavily residential and there is room to develop further north between Rangiora and Kaiapoi. So these Government proposals could aid the development of a rail service but as they are busy kissing local government’s butt most of the time it is an open question whether anything will actually happen and as we have said elsewhere, the Government has focused on greasing the wheels for territorial councils that Labour controls to be able to take over public transport, rather than actually making an effort to fix problems with additional funding.

Christchurch Transport Blog will probably wind down a bit in the coming year. We have worked with Chat Club to contribute to some of the work they have been doing. Essentially we do not expect the government to make any serious effort to promote meaningful commuter rail development in Christchurch City unless they are prepared to push in and intensify along the rail corridors, but they have gone so slowly so far (and so ineptly in government overall) that they are not likely to get anything in place before they inevitably lose an election. We do not of course know if they will repeat their promise for the next election but they have a serious credibility problem in any case. As such there is little to be achieved by further campaigning and with the assumption CCC will take over the bus services these will be swallowed up in to the rest of the Council and there will be no real improvement in them as Council does not actually listen to most of the people who actually use the services even now, as has been amply proved over the past decades.

Public transport routes and infrastructure shouldn’t be decided by territorial councils

Last Friday the Papanui-Innes Community Board decided to allow the installation of new bus stops in Innes Road, which is a major thoroughfare in Christchurch and part of the route of a major bus service, the Orbiter. The placement of the new bus stops raised concerns, and two members of the Board, a minority, chose to vote against the placement of the stops. A third member of the Board who has opposed bus priority measures in the ward was absent from the meeting. If he had been present and chosen to vote against the proposal then it is possible the proposal could have failed completely.

As a community board member has highlighted, the key issues are related to the need to make public transport services a viable alternative to vehicle usage and the placement of stops is very important in order to improve access to public transport services. The Orbiter is a high frequency service that is one of the most popular bus services in Christchurch. Improving PT services is very important in northern Christchurch because of problems caused by matters such as the development of the new motorway which will create significant issues for people in the area with high volumes of road traffic entering and leaving the motorway.

The community paper article identified the concerns given by submitters opposing the bus stop siting as being: a loss of parking; bus stops located over driveways; hazards to motorists pulling out of their driveways; littering; and traffic problems. The overall tone of these issues is a bias against public transport. Further, the views of the dissenting board members claimed there would be an issue with siting bus stops outside a school, and concerns over traffic problems in the area.

All of these issues are fundamentally caused by a car-centric transport culture that prevails at all levels of the Christchurch City Council. Most of the issues raised in opposition to the proposal are ones that are much more likely to be experienced due to the high volumes of vehicle traffic that travels down Innes Road. Therefore the biggest transport problem is simply that there are too many cars on the roads. The arguments about buses being a safety risk around schools ignore that most traffic problems are caused by parents driving to and from school to pick up or drop off their kids.

The biggest issue is not just that CCC is car centric but that councillors and community board members can do such a poor job of promoting public transport. The same Papanui-Innes community board a couple of months ago was handed the job of helping to find a new route for the 44 Shirley bus because of the Orbiter having to be re-routed away from a retirement village in the area. The Community Board sided with local residents in blocking the route change to the 44 bus service thereby ensuring the retirement village residents have no nearby bus service they can access any more.

This blog/page is personally opposed to Christchurch City Council’s long standing campaign to take control of Christchurch public transport services. It’s become clear to us that the councillors, especially the 2021 Labour/Green bloc, have no moral backbone and cannot be relied upon to prioritise public transport, but are beholden to the car lobby in many cases. The government has also refused to hand over control to CCC since at least 1899, so they have got a good handle on the advantages of having it in regional council control.

How PT fails in NZ due to geopolitical consequence

Last blog I wrote about how PT has struggled in Christchurch because of the bitter politics between CCC and Ecan (and its predecessor, CTB). Actually it goes a lot further than that if we go back in more depth. I frequent a number of pro-rail groups, and we often compare the fate of rail PT services around the country. Now it in fact so happens that once upon a time, Christchurch and Dunedin did in fact have their own suburban train services. The Christchurch ones disappeared because Christchurch Tramway Board ripped up all their tram lines and replaced them with diesel buses, then being unencumbered by the former limitations of their physical track, they decided to justify their existence by running publicly funded bus services in competition with the trains. This started in the mid 1960s when a road tunnel was opened to Lyttelton and gradually whittled away the passenger numbers on the Lyttelton trains (and one presumes the other routes as well) until these services finally ceased.

Dunedin also had suburban passenger trains untl 1981. I don’t know exactly how their demise was achieved. I believe Dunedin City Council ran the bus services in the area at the time. I hope someone down there can fill me in on the specifics.

In Auckland whilst they have had trains throughout, there have apparently been attempts by some politicians to close down their network. I am unsure of the details but apparently John Banks was implicated in one proposal (he was first elected mayor in 2000 which was around the time that the rail network in Auckland was being negotiated for buy-back by the Government). If correct, this would have been pretty standard form following the example of Christchurch and possibly Dunedin, which seems to be the nasty venal self-serving modus operandi of politicians of large territorial authorities around NZ, which is simple: if you don’t control it, try to take it over or shut it down. I don’t quite know all the details for Auckland or how it was stopped, but probably the fact Auckland was not then a “Super City” means that the other local territories would have been able to gang up on ACC to prevent them from implementing such a proposal, in which it was suggested rail tracks could be replaced by busways.

The same kind of politics where the PT system is shared between several large territorial authorities side by side is also seen in Wellington, where WCC or even GWRC would find it hard to shut down the train networks there, because Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, Kapiti Coast and all benefit a great deal from the Wellington suburban rail network and would stop either of those bodies in their tracks. We are now seeing this same dynamic at work in Hamilton where the city council has succeeded in getting a trial together for a train service to Auckland. Likewise the interest in and commitment to the Capital Connection train service from Palmerston North to Wellington mostly comes from Palmerston North; Wellington has very little interest in promoting such an operation.

The situation in Christchurch is that we lost many elements of our previous PT systems because of indifference by Christchurch City Council, purely on heaping spite on a system they did not control, out of venal self interest. However Christchurch Transport / Tramway Board also have dirty linen to wash. The tram tracks were ripped up because the Tramway Board did not have the funds to maintain them, but since most PT services these days are subsidised by around 50%, it begs the question of whether the financial basis for PT operations in the tram days was the same as it is today. The fact that CTB decided it was justified in running in competition with the suburban passenger trains instead of cooperation is a black mark against them that led to the demise of these services. 45-50 years later the cost of re-establishing these services is much greater than it would have been if all the suburban stations and signalling still existed, and part of the northern rail corridor has been taken over by CCC for a cycleway. Every call for CCC to plan for future PT networks with infrastructure provisions (such as retaining the triangular link at Addington) have fallen on deaf ears, to say nothing of the woeful lack of funding in their ten year plans. I haven’t criticised Ecan as much because they had to comply with heavy regulation by National governments within the times they have been in office and seem to be stepping up to the new environment of increased funding by the Labour coalition government by producing a new and forward looking RLTP. However, there is a great deal of question associated with that plan’s rapid transit corridors that are proposed in more or less the same directions as the rail corridors and just happen to stop on at the city limits. How did these corridors get put into the plan and why is there no reference to rail services as being means of operating these corridors?

The fact is that if suburban rail is important to us in Christchurch then we need get Ecan taking up the charge of getting the money from the government for the feasibility study to take place because that is what will have to happen to get things moving that way. I’m personally mode neutral – I can see why there is the attraction of establishing these corridors on the basis that a BRT network could be established. However, I believe CCC has pushed for these corridors on the basis that it would give them a lever to claim the right to administer the services that operate on them. And as such this means CCC are not going to be very interested in supporting a train operations study because they can’t control the train services. So if rail supporters want to get this feasibility study moving I think they have to go back to Ecan and try to get the conversation resumed. My belief is that CCC will not create the rapid transport corridors unless they are central government funded. We will not see a cent of financial or political commitment from CCC to these corridors now they have realised the new government is not going to hand over control of the bus services to them, because bulldozing these corridors through existing neighbourhoods will be very unpopular.

Public transport in Canterbury not well served by political parochialism in Christchurch

In my last post I wrote about the NZTA cycling and walking survey and concerns that it showed a much lower level of engagement with bus services in Canterbury than either of Auckland or Wellington. There are a myriad of possible reasons why public transport uptake is lower in Canterbury and I will attempt to explore these below. The main reason is a long-running (around 120 years) political dispute between Christchurch City Council and a succession of regional public transport bodies over who runs the network in Christchurch City. A lesser reason is the effect of the quakes on PT service demand and another reason is the post-EQ reorganisation of the network. All of these issues need solutions that are currently lacking in the operation of PT by Ecan which under a council that is only partly elected, has become “business as usual”.

Historically, public transport around the country has been organised on a regional basis with a local, elected body which organises the network. In Christchurch the role was originally held by the Christchurch Tramway Board, which became the Christchurch Transport Board. This body was completely independent with its own elected members and operational structure, and was never under the control of any other local authority. With the reorganisation of local government in 1989, CTB’s functions were taken over by the new Canterbury Regional Council (trading as Environment Canterbury, or Ecan). Several years later the newly elected National government deregulated public transport and forced regional PT operators to contract out their bus operations. This resulted in the buses being sold to Christchurch City Council as Redbus Ltd, a situation that is essentially the same today.

Ever since the very early days of tram operations CCC has wanted to operate the PT network itself, and there has been even in the time I have lived in Christchurch, endless whining and griping from CCC against the regional council, which clearly CCC thinks they should be running. The latest regional flashpoint is over the allocation of artesian water supplies. CCC politicians have been vehemently opposing Ecan’s management of the water resource as contrary to the interests of the city. Apparently the city is the centre of the known universe and no one else out there exists in any shape or form. However Ecan is responsible for a very large percentage of the South Island as the Canterbury region covers from Wharanui in the north to somewhere south of the Waitaki River these days, and Christchurch City only occupies a small portion of that territory. Much of the productive land is used for farming, and there has been no end of whining against dairy development and its irrigation demands. However these farms are large economic activities that contribute significantly to regional and national economies. The amount of hysteria over a water bottling plant in Belfast has been shocking but it is yet another example of CCC politicians bullying the regional council and, by implication, their smaller rural counterparts.

So what is to be done? Well the move back to a fully elected regional council is a step in the right direction but they also need strong leadership to stand up to CCC. The last elected leader I can remember doing this was Sir Kerry Burke, a former Labour MP, and the last time a Commissioner was effective was when Dame Margaret Bazley called out the council as incompetent liars over the failure to install superstops at Northland and a bus lounge at Riccarton for the “new network” that was introduced in 2012. We need strong leadership at Ecan to ensure the PT needs of the region are properly promoted because CCC is indifferent to anything to do with a PT network they do not operate. The Joint Public Transport Committee has been constructive in developing the new Regional Public Transport Plan but has also been hijacked as a soapbox for the latest CCC mayoral campaign against Ecan’s operation of the network. This is getting quite tedious especially now it is clear that the Government has rejected yet another approach. Another possible initiative for trains to Rangiora and Rolleston will not happen unless Ecan takes up the cause strongly which they have not done so far and this needs to be addressed in the upcoming elections.


NZTA Survey – Understanding attitudes and perceptions of Cycling & Walking

NZTA recently published a survey with the intention of validating their recent policy focus on investing and promoting cycling and walking as transport modes of choice. In 2014 the government created the Urban Cycleways Fund, followed by the Urban Cycleways Program. The information about the survey is available at Urban New Zealanders’ Attitudes and Perceptions of Cycling. This involved a scientific polling / survey process of over 2000 residents, made up of around 500 from each of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and around 200 from each of Hamilton, Tauranga and Dunedin. The importance of a scientific survey process such as this cannot be underestimated. It enables a counter to be made to the vociferously vocal car lobby which has vehemently opposed the construction of cycleways around New Zealand. Christchurch in particular recently embarked on a cycleways programme costing over $200 million to date.

Here is a summary of some of the key survey results. You can access the full report at the link shown above, which shows all of these results graphically.

Regular modes of transportation nationwide (multi choice)
  • Private/company vehicle 68%
  • Walking 53%
  • Bus 19%
  • Bicycle 12%
  • Train 7%
  • Motorbike/scooter 3%
  • Other 2%
  • E-bike 1%
  • Ferry 1%
  • None of the above 4%
Regional variation in transport modes

This is unsurprising since rail transport is only available in the North Island. Wellington had private vehicle use at 60% and Auckland was the next lowest at 67%. Christchurch had the highest level at 75% which is a key concern given that we have a bus system that should be achieving more to get people out of their cars. This is also reflected in the bus statistics in which Christchurch with 14% was well behind Auckland and Wellington with 26% each.

On the other hand, Christchurch had the highest regional use of cycling (17%) which was comfortably ahead of Auckland (10%) and Wellington (8%). Obviously there is no rail usage possible outside the two North Island main centres, but in both of those, the much higher rate of bus usage shows that it is not just rail that makes up a successful PT system, and that the bus system in those centres serves the public need better.

Walking frequency

72% walk and 63% walk at least once a week.

Cycling frequency

46% have cycled in the last 12 months. 32% cycle at least monthly and 17% cycle at least weekly. Although there is a small percentage drop in the overall  statistic over two years (from 48% down to 46%), there has been a significant increase in the percentage of those cycling at least once a week. Aucklland has the lowest regional percentage of cyclists.

Urban cycling

The percentage who are urban cyclists has risen significantly causing a drop in the percentage who are cycling for recreational purposes.

Regional cycling stats

Auckland has the highest percentage of non riders (60%) while Tauranga has the lowest percentage (48%). Christchurch has 50% which is a good number. Hamilton has the highest percentage of urban riders (40%) and Dunedin the lowest (28%); Christchurch has 36%.

Cyclist demographics
  • Significantly higher percentage of males
  • 40% are under 35 years of age
  • 37% earn more than $100K.
Barriers to cycling
  • Not safe because of car drivers behaviour 52%
  • Not safe cycling in the dark 44%
  • Not enjoyable because of weather 38%
  • Not enough cycle lanes or physically separated routes 35%
  • Always have too much stuff to carry 34%
  • Live too far away for practicality 30%

These numbers vary little by region.

Overall state of cycling
  • Don’t Know 7%
  • [0-4] Poor 22%
  • [5] Fair 16%
  • [6-10] Good 55%

The regional variations saw Auckland have the highest percentage of Poor scores – its total of 27% was double that of Dunedin or Christchurch. There was little variation in Fair scores (13-17%) , and a small variation in Good scores, with Auckland having the lowest (51%) and Dunedin and Tauranga the highest (60%), Christchurch had 57%.

Support for cycling in the community
  • Don’t Know 3%
  • Very unsupportive 7%
  • Unsupportive 5%
  • Neutral 12%
  • Supportive 22%
  • Very supportive 51%

Regional variations gave Auckland the highest percentage of Very unsupportive and Unsupportive combined (16%), most other centres came in at around 10-12% for this measure. This meant the combinations of Supportive and Very Supportive inversely paralleled this trend. Christchurch’s percentage of net Unsupportive was middle of the road at 12%.

Perceptions of cycling infrastructure (percentages of net agreement)
  • Investing in cycle lanes is important: 71%
  • Cycling great way to get around town: 68%
  • Cycling becoming more popular for people to get to work, study or the shops: 57%
  • My town has a well connected cycle network: 39%
  • More people using bicycles is better for drivers: 38%
  • Satisfaction with cycle paths/lanes availability in local community: 37%
  • More/better cycle paths/lanes in local community: 35%
  • Cyclists sufficiently separated from traffic: 22%
Influence of infrastructure on cycling

There is a regional variation; the total net agreement is 49% and actually varies from 45% (Wellington) to 56% (Hamilton).

Overall safety of cycling
  • Net unsafe: 40%
  • Net safe: 38%

Substantial regional variation exists, with Auckland having the lowest safe percentage at 30%, and Hamilton the highest at 49%. Christchurch was middle of the road at 42%.

Perceptions of safety
  • Public road with no cycle lanes: 21%
  • Public road with cycle lanes 61%
  • On footpath 53%
  • On quiet local roads 68%
  • On shared path or cycle path 69%
  • At a park/domain 84%

Little regional variation but Aucklanders more likely to see cycling on a public toad as unsafe regardless of whether it has cycle lanes or not. There is some ambiguity due to the lack of distinction between painted cycle lanes and those with physical barriers.

Overall state of walking

Net supportive 78%. Regionally varies from 72% Tauranga to 86% Dunedin; 77% in Christchurch.

Reasons for walking
  • Keep fitter 76%
  • Fun / enjoy walking 57%
  • Enjoying the weather 47%
  • Cheaper / save money 46%
  • Avoid parking hassle 32%
  • More convenient than driving / PT 24%
Safety barriers
  • Poor weather 38%
  • Unsafe in the dark 34%
  • Too slow 34%
  • Always have too much stuff to carry 29%
  • Live too far away 29%
  • Takes too long 25%


Regular walking

53% walk at least once a week.

Key Findings in relation to PT

The way the survey was conducted is important for countering the vociferous car lobby brigade and the way that they have the supportive ear of many local authority politicians. The greatest concern for Christchurch is the relative level of disinterest by the Christchurch City Council’s elected members in supporting public transport as such; the main focus of many of these members over a lengthy period of time has focused on the political goal of taking over the operation of the city’s public transport system, rather than improving the system with greater infrastructure support. This in turn has flowed through into the prospects of future rail passenger development which has only lukewarm support at a local level. This blog does not support the contention that political control of the PT system in Christchurch, as CCC mayors and members allege, is necessary to ensure better PT infrastructure. Instead, the main reason for the poor level of PT support is an overall trend of pandering to the car lobby. The only serious local government campaign for PT in Christchurch recent years has been CPN’s standing of candidates at the last council elections on a platform of free buses. If CPN have a local government campaign in Christchurch next elections and have a pro-PT policy platform then I certainly will be encouraging people to vote for this.

Christchurch roading strategies need to be re-examined

This article from TraNZport Blog raises some important questions about the development of roading around NZ main centres, including Christchurch. The real question is do we need a continued development of Brougham St and is that actually going to be beneficial to the city as a whole.

The obvious question for example is how much traffic is moving from Port of Lyttelton by road and could this traffic go to the Inland Port at Rolleston and be taken out of city streets (except for local deliveries). How about another freight terminal at Middleton to take the traffic off local roads. Middleton was a major depot until such a time as Toll bought out TranzRail and got all their depots. When the Government renationalised, it never took back the depots from Toll. So there has been no public freight terminal at Middleton for many years. Is it time we had one of those again? However that may require a major shift in Kiwirail’s focus as until now it has been content to effectively outsource freight terminals to the big logistics companies like Toll, Mainfreight and Daily Freightways.

Ratepayer, resident groups across New Zealand to set up national organisation

I can understand the sentiment behind this in some respects. The problem is that both Labour and National have tended to treat local government as their political football. In Labour’s case, they tend to pass laws to give local government unlimited powers with little accountability, while National are fond of offloading as much central government responsibility as they can onto local government, while at the same time passing legislation to tightly control and regulate the way local business is done.
The fact that in many cases central government has been quick to step in to help local councils avoid legal problems caused by contempt and disrespect for people’s rights. Some examples which come to mind:
  • Taieri Aerodrome – the local aviation club set aside a large land area for future development of the airfield and put it into trust with the local council, who then went behind their backs proceeding to subdivide and sell it for business development. Rather than face accountability, their actions were retrospectively validated by an Act of Parliament.  
  • Christchurch earthquakes – decades of allowing unsuitable land to be subdivided without regard for the possible hazards led to the possibility of the CCC being sued by insurance companies. Instead, the Government stepped in to bail out landowners with the red zone offers.
  • Kaipara – the district council was forced out of office and replaced by commissioners having failed to manage a sewerage project originally costed at $17 million which blew out to more than $60 million. An Act of Parliament in 2012 retrospectively validated the ratings demands.
Of course, many of these issues would not be occurring if local government was competent or accountable; something we cannot take for granted. Competence is the major one, as the ability and competence of many elected members is often dubious. Most of them would not have a clue at a national level, so those rejects end up around a council table where they can supposedly do less damage.
Part of the accountability problem, apart from at its core being an issue of not very good quality of elected membership, is that local government politics is so local. The more local you go with issues, the greater is the amount of self interest. Councils pander to relatively small but well organised local lobbies and the core focus for many residents is to live in a desirable neighbourhood so as to sustain or increase the value of their residential property and local government is seen as having a core role in enabling that. But also the controls on what local government can do are so limited compared with what central government can achieve. And at local level councillors often don’t stand on any particular ideological platform. There have been very few local government politicians who have the guts to implement policies to control spending, because most of them are always campaigning for increases to fund their particular politicial bandwagon.
In short if this campaign reflects a key concern about local governance, it is probably well founded; but it ignores that you simply cannot expect the kind of radical reform that Margaret Thatcher and Co rammed through in the UK, because that would be political suicide. That particular ideology was motivated for political and ideological reasons, in the same way as the New South Wales State Governments have repeatedly meddled in the formation of local governance in Sydney, for example. Because of the way in which central government uses or implements its own agenda through local government, this campaign is unlikely to achieve much, and should be seen for what it is – an attempt by certain groups to advance their own political elitist agenda, and really just another lot of useless politicking.

Consultation on speed limit changes at Hospital Corner, Christchurch.

CCC will hold a hearing November 21 concerning proposed speed limit changes on sections of St Asaph Street, Hagley Avenue, Riccarton Avenue, along with Oxford Terrace / Antigua Street (around Hospital Corner) in the southern central city. This is because significant opposition to these changes was received during the submission process.

This section of road is important as it provides for people accessing the hospital complex as well as pedestrian and cyclist traffic through Hagley Park and around the riverbanks. The important consideration is pedestrian and cyclist safety. But as usual we get motorists demanding they have priority over every other mode and someone has whipped up a pro-motorists campaign of opposition to these changes.
  1. Proposed reduction of the current 50km/h speed limit, to 30 km/h on St Asaph Street (from Madras Street to Hagley Avenue), Hagley Avenue from Selwyn Street to Riccarton Avenue, and Riccarton Avenue in front of Christchurch Hospital (and including the planned emergency vehicles entrance to the new acute services building).
    Responses: support 261 (35%), do not support 473 (64%) and 3 not indicated (0.4%)
  2.  Associated new speed threshold gateways to slow traffic approaching these routes and areas.
    Responses: support 251 (34%), do not support 474 (64%) and not indicated 12 (2%)
  3. Proposed 10 km/h (reduced from the current 30km/h) on small sections of Oxford Terrace and Antigua Street (north of Tuam Street) around the new Outpatients Building.
    Responses: support 296 (40%), do not support 421 (57%) and not indicated 20 (3%)

The full detail of the submissions has been released on the summary web page and it is a bit breathtaking to read the quality of the opposing submissions. It seems pretty clear to me that the submissions in favour, in most cases, were quite well thought out, whereas most of the opposition was either quite flippant, or selfish. Most people opposing were only concerned about maximising their speed of transfer across what is a fairly short distance, and therefore their negativity was quite disproportionate to the impact of these changes over a short section of roadway. The map below shows the affected sections which specifically are mentioned above, outlined in blue. I haven’t distinguished between the two different areas but as listed above, most of it is 30 km/h and only a small part of it is 10 km/h (the hooked part around Oxford Terrace / Antigua St). 

We have to keep these changes in context because as it turns out, most of the CBD is already restricted to 30 km/h so the new section of St Asaph St proposed for 30 km/h extends this area by just one block. The 10 km/h section is only extending off the rest of Oxford Terrace that is already limited to 10 km/h.
So as you can see there is a long piece of St Asaph St that is proposed for restriction at 30 km/h and this is one block south of the Bus Interchange which can be seen as a red rectangle centre right but it is only a one block extension of the existing 30 km/h area as mentioned above.
No doubt there will be a lot of vehement opposition from the usual sources in relation to St Asaph St in particular which has been very controversial with the installation of the cycle lane and reduction in parking. I can’t however see how this is going to majorly affect businesses but people will claim that it is a big deal for St Asaph Street as a through traffic route. However we are seeing a lot of pushback from motorists against the Accessible City and this could result in the Council caving in on the opposition just as they backed down on some of the original design of St Asaph St (which was found by traffic consultants to be properly designed and implemented but was changed by the council anyway, after they made sure to blame Otakaro and CERA for not caving in to the opposition in the first place). This is the pattern we now see in Manchester St as well, which was constructed to enable bus priority and also support pedestrian and cycling modes in support of the Accessible City plan, which is now being watered down to give through motor vehicle traffic more priority and will also disadvantage the City Tram.
Also of relevance is that a submission was made under the name of Bus Go Canterbury opposing the 30 km/h and 10 km/h speed limits but not opposing the gateways. The submission has claimed that it will slow down buses unnecessarily in the areas. However I think that this is nonsense because of the short distances involved and that the average speed of buses, due to having to service stops, will not be impacted by more than a small amount. The context also has to be seen because a lot of other bus route areas are already impacted by 30 km/h speed limits around the CBD already which I doubt has a major impact for the same reasons I mentioned above. The overall impact of the Accessible City is pro PT and therefore this has to be taken into consideration. I have noted that Bus Go Canterbury opposed the development of super stops and the Riccarton bus lounge, so whether they have the ability to understand an overall perspective of public transport needs in Christchurch is in question and is one reason I am not involved in their activities.
I would guess the rest of the opposition is coming from the same groups that made the most noise previously over the changes to St Asaph St like the local business associations including a new one that was formed around that time two years ago which specifically campaigned in relation to St Asaph St. The opposition caused the Council to back down that time when they consulted on reducing the speed limit in St Asaph St so it’s not immaterial to suggest there will be more craven caving this time either.

Here are some more specific details relating to the current consultation:

  • Submissions in favour included the following:
    • Call for the 30 km/h zone to be further extended such as more of Hagley Avenue and some side streets.
    • More active enforcement of lower speed limit needed
    • NZ Property Council suggests that the boundaries of the 30 km/h zone change in the other boundaries while incorporating St Asaph St as the southern boundary.
    • Submissions noting the opening of Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery School on the St Asaph / Colombo Corner referring to the speed limit to ensure the safety of students.
    • Some traffic signals are already set to a 30 km/h progression speed.
    • 10 km/h zone is very safe for disabled/injured hospital patients as well as being part of the river precinct.
  • Submissions in opposition included the following:
    • Slower speed limit would deter people coming into the central city (I guess this is the business associations submitting)
    • St Asaph St is a major east west traffic route and should remain at 50 km/h as should other one way routes.
    • The school zone around Ao Tawhiti should be 40 km/h like other school zones
    • 30 km/h is too slow
    • Would cause congestion and accessibility problems in the area
    • Would impact on journey times to the hospital. (Emergency services were consulted and felt this was irrelevant)
    • Car parking should not be removed at the gateway threshhold points
    • Spokes (cycling advocate group) does not support the Antigua St gateway and want more carparks removed to allow a separated cycle lane. They also asked for an extension of the 30 km/h area.
    • 10 km/h opposed by Spokes as too slow for cyclists. Also opposed by motorists.
    • Oxford Terrace proposed 10 km/h section should be completedly closed to motor vehicles.
    • Enforcement needed for 10 km/h limit to be valuable.
Much of the opposition to St Asaph Street being a 30 km/h speed area has revisited the changes made in the last two years and called for the changes made then with the installation of cycle lanes to be reversed.  This of course is part of vehement orchestrated motorist opposition to the Accessible City, in particular cycle lanes, bus priority and the 30 km/h limits. Spokes is about the only group who have claimed that the Accessible City didn’t go far enough and didn’t consider cyclists specifically. This is also a nonsense claim and I do not agree with it or believe it can be taken seriously. Property Council is a standout supporter of the proposals because there has been so much business opposition from other groups. CDHB is also a notable supporter and I believe their submission in favour of the 10 km/h limit is likely to carry considerable weight. The AA submission expressed concern about loss of the subway crossing under the streets (I personally used this subway in 2009 when we were visiting a family member who was in the hospital over a period). The subway was damaged in the quakes and apparently has not been reinstated for public use but only as an accessway for hospital services such as steam pipes. The AA is particularly concerned that there will be a lot of traffic going through the affected section of Oxford Terrace where there will also be pedestrians. AA evidently consulted with Spokes when making their submission.  
My personal view overall, apart from supporting the proposed speed limit changes,  is that piece of Oxford Terrace from Hospital Corner to Antigua St and Antigua St from Oxford Terrace to Tuam St be closed entirely. As there is an exit from the hospital into Oxford Terrace this should be preserved but only for the section of Oxford Terrace going from there to Montreal St, blocked off by kerbing to ensure the adjacent closed section remains safe for pedestrians. I have great concern about Spokes opposition to restrictions on cyclists moving through the area. There is risk to pedestrians if cyclists are unable to slow down to 10 km/h in the area and perhaps it should be closed off for cyclists as well and they should be limited to a separated cycle path alongside the traffic exit from the hospital.
Long term there are already grounds to be concerned about the pushback against the Accessible City, the caving from sections of Council already on parts of it, and the prospect of further attempts to downgrade it in the future. Most of this is very small minded about wanting to use convenient shortcuts along city streets for going through the city and not a lot has much or anything to do with people accessing parts of the CBD.