It’s been announced on 4th October that a “new transport hub for eastern Christchurch [was] given the green light. The Stuff article states that the “transport hub” will be included in the forthcoming annual plan.
The so-called hub consists of two open bus shelters with real time timetable information (RTTI) displays. This is the new definition of a “suburban bus interchange” in the thinking of the city transport department these days. Riccarton’s bus lounge was apparently a one off never to be repeated anywhere else ever, despite the recognition better facilities are needed city wide and the Eastgate site being the third busiest in Christchurch. Furthermore, council staff suggest “it could be years” before the work is completed.
At this stage it appears the only substantive improvement could be a pedestrian crossing, which if signalised, could be similar in operation to the one on Linwood opposite the Chelsea Street intersection. This is a combined foot and cycle crossing next to U-turn lanes and works very rapidly once the controls are operated to stop oncoming traffic. There is a big island in the median strip and it works very well. This would have to be the minimum standard of design.
The best plans that have come up over the years for Eastgate are about 10-15 years ago when the design of suburban bus interchanges (passenger lounges) was first investigated in depth for the council. It was almost certainly not the first proposal. But council staff kept putting provisions for them into the annual plan and every year the councilors would axe them from the plan.
The site of where the bus stops are now in Buckleys Road has a history of complaints from residents. In 2016 they asked for the stops to be moved. There are more than 750 passengers that board buses at the stop every day. The article stated “the council is exploring options for building a covered integrated bus exchange at Linwood”. Adshel which owns the bus stops at Eastgate subsequently replaced the two stops on the mall side of Buckleys Road with a larger single shelter.
In May 2017, at a CCC meeting, Cr David East and Cr Yani Johanson went to a City Council meeting and asked for the bus stops to be moved into Cranley Street next to the Eastgate Mall but the Mayor sided with council staff in a copout that there would be too many problems to relocate bus routes and the passenger facilities into the streets behind the mall. Ecan is said to have opposed changing the bus routes. The solution of the upgraded bus stops was touted as a real answer to the issue and this is the proposal that is now being considered currently.
The reason the Mayor did not want the stop moved is she did not want to fund another bus lounge with the expense of employing security staff but the actual costs are pifflingly small especially if there is only a single lounge (the solution implemented at Riccarton has two separate lounges which need a security guard in each one but a better option would have been a single facility on a street behind Riccarton Mall which all buses could have passed through, like the Princess Margaret Hospital combined stop).
But the real reason it cannot go ahead is the council have given carte blanche probably through non notified consent to Eastgate Mall to expand its site further into the area which will swallow up Cranley Street. The mall recently purchased several sites near the corner of Cranley Street and Linwood Ave, as well as some other sites on Linwood Ave nearby. They have also asked Ecan to take the few buses that go down Cranley Street off the route (the 145 service is going to be stopped soon) and also applied to buy the former City library site on Cranley Street from CCC, which has been turned into a carpark for the mall. Considering the amount of development now occurring around the mall it is time to question their present expansion and how much land they now own around the Eastgate intersection apart from the main mall site. What is almost certain is that Cranley Street will soon be closed and sold to the mall and therefore unavailable for any use of bus operations. The Linwood Ave sites referred to are on a part of Linwood Ave not directly outside the mall and therefore raise suspicion that the mall owns a number of other sites in the area and has been behind some of the development of these areas.
Essentially we are given the same old excuses about the council not being able to spend money on better bus service passenger facilities out in the burbs (this is a pretty busy hub) when we deserve better. The fact is that the Joint Public Transport Committee can and should do a better job. All of the other land around the mall that could have been used for an interchange that was vacant after the quakes has now been developed. This is something that the council could have easily recognised and addressed a long time ago if they had a clue about bus services, which clearly they don’t. They don’t pay any attention at all to any type of transport that isn’t a car. It makes a mockery of their claim they should be running the bus services.
Some of these malls are rabidly opposed to bus passenger facilities. As far as I know Eastgate Mall has been relatively quiet but I have yet to see if they submitted on any of the proposals to date. The establishment of better bus stop facilities in Athelstan St outside Barrington Mall ran into vehement opposition from the mall and other business operators such as the medical centre. However in spite of the blatant scaremongering the stops outside the medical centre have gone ahead but there is only one very small open shelter provided. The shelter on the opposite side has a more enclosed design with an automatic RTTI display. It may well be that the medical centre stop is more up to date now but these stops are actually some distance apart.
However good the Barrington stops may have been intended to be, Barrington failed as a combined bus stop site because not all of the bus routes use it. The Orbiter service does not use these stops; passengers have to walk to and from the Orbiter stops on Barrington St which involves up to 300 metres of distance and potentially crossing a busy major traffic route. The 120 bus route also does not use Athelstan St. Currently, routes 145 and 60 use it but 145 is going to be stopped soon. Eastgate does fare better because the main routes, Yellow Line, Orbiter and 80 all go up Buckleys Road but the 140 route does not use these stops as they go down Cranley and Chelsea Streets.
Next time I will be looking up some of these CCC reports just to see what excuses were made and what costings were suggested.