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.

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)

 

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.