Who, Why, Where, What?

Here is an introduction to Christchurch Transport Blog and what is proposed to be achieved from it.

The aim with this blog is to support transport focused activism mostly in Christchurch but occasionally there will be a focus on more national things. I have have a long term interest in a lot of different types and areas of transport over many years and I used to write a general transport blog which still exists at http://enzedtransport.blogspot.com/ and it essentially dates from 2007 and the last article was published only about a year ago. There are some issues with missing images and embedded maps that don’t work that I am not going back to fix up mainly because I migrated to a different Google account and closed down the ones that were used to publish most of the content. So really mainly of historical interest. Prior to this blog I was mainly active in rail history and preservation and online through various forums and had several sites but mostly these don’t exist now and that blog pretty much is the sum total of any record of online activity that I still have running today.

About the same time as that blog was first authored I also started up a project called NZ Rail Maps which has come about out of a small community of people who have been interested in updating some of the existing historical resources like the New Zealand Railway and Tramway Atlas. last published in 1993. After many discussions I decided to move forward independently in terms of creating electronic maps, starting with Google Earth/Google Maps. If you go into the blog at http://nzrailmaps.blogspot.com/ you can see the first article there dated 22 January 2008 talking about the start of the NZ Rail Maps project. An important transition in this project was made middle of 2012 i.e. seven years ago at the time of this writing, because the focus was changed to drawing the maps in a real GIS and using real data layers sourced out of Land Information New Zealand’s Creative Commons licensed resources. With Linz bringing their Retrolens project online in the last couple of years we now have a large volume of freely downloadable historical aerial photo data available that can be overlaid onto the Linz contemporary georeferenced tiles and hence traced over for historical features. The project continues and has various other resources attached to it, linked off the blog.

The latest activity is this blog and associated activity. The key focus is, of course Christchurch and rail provides an important backdrop to that, but is not the only component. The real issue is to get a level of momentum going on pushing for a better transport system in Christchurch and this is something I have been considering in one form or another since about 2012. As you know, in Christchurch, we have had the big and life changing earthquakes in 2010/11, which has changed the city in quite a far reaching way, and there have been similar far reaching opportunities to change the city’s transport networks over that timeframe. But these opportunities have not been realised in any major way. At central government and local government level it has been business as usual and apart from a few token efforts, the transport networks of Christchurch have followed preset agendas and the opportunity for meaningful improvements have been missed. In 2012 the bus network was restructured due to Government funding cuts resulting in significant reduction in the services and due to the ongoing impacts of the government agenda called the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) the bus network continues to operate at a lower service level with the focus being to commercialise these services so that they need less subsidies. This is still in effect today because there have been neither the legislative or funding changes implemented by the Labour-led government that would revitalise the public transport network. Only in the last few months has there been any commitment from the Transport Minister and NZTA to bring about any changes. So that is one level of central government agenda that has created problems and that is mostly due to the agenda of the National Party with a focus on using taxpayers money to build more roads and slashing taxpayer funding of other transport modes like public transport. About the only good thing that National achieved was to fund new cycleway development of which more below. The proposed “Accessible City” plan that came out of the earthquake recovery process was changed to fit what National thought and they took the opportunity to grant themselves far reaching powers to literally dictate everything that went on in the City over a period which is still in force today.

So that is the impact of central government. Whilst that has been overarching in the last nine years since the first quake, local government has had great opportunity but has not realised that opportunity, and in all probability without a great deal of lobbying it never will. I have been observing local government contributions over a period of about thirty years from the time when I was first old enough to be politically aware and to be able to start voting and it has not been an impressive record. However in about that timeframe we had local government reorganisation by Labour that put public transport responsibilities into the Canterbury Regional Council and I think we can say that when central government finally caught up with funding and support for public transport improvements in the 1999-2008 term, the public transport system in Christchurch went ahead in leaps and bounds under Ecan’s management and improved in a big way on the pre-1989 public transport system in the City. But from 1990-1999 and again in 2008-2017 we have gone backwards because of National governments’ interference and meddling and running down anything that isn’t a car or truck. The problem is the elected politicians of the Christchurch City Council are always taking a very weak line on public services regardless of whatever affiliation they aspire to politically. The track record in particular of “Peoples Choice” (a coalition of Labour/Greens and other parties) or Labour-affiliated “independent” has been in effect to establish itself politically but not especially to stand for any particular platform or to have any sort of consistent track record on public transport or cycling/walking modes that gives these modes a consistent improvement over a timeframe.  The Council’s efforts in transport as in all of its areas tend to amount to opportunities for political grandstanding and vote grabbing rather than implementing any sort of policy platform so you have supposedly left-leaning politicians voting for new roads and car-centric transport improvements and against public transport initiatives in a way that contradicts the values they claim to guide their lives by. Hence we find that the Christchurch City Council poses the biggest threat to the development of public transport and its related supporting corporate and individual modes which are needed to address environmental impacts of mass car use.

To summarise, the key issues associated with this blog and the overall impact of this campaign are as follows:

  • Support Labour’s campaign promise for rail passenger services between Christchurch and Rolleston and for this to be extended to Rangiora.
  • Support the continuance of regionally focused integrated development of public transport across Greater Christchurch and oppose political efforts to divide the public transport system across territorial authorities.
  • Support better roading networks in Christchurch including increased safety focus at level crossings in the city.
  • Support better walking and cycling networks especially at the busy highway corridors that tend to divide communities.
  • Support development of increased public safety and convenience focused infrastructure development in the public transport system
  • Support route development and other modes similar to the current JPTC’s regional plan except that this must be focused across Greater Christchurch.

In order to achieve this I am not affiliated to any political party and the blog does not set out to achieve particular political objectives. The general aim is to bring together a grouping of people into some sort of umbrella body to lobby on all of the key transport modes: rail, public transport, cycling and walking that it is necessary to foster in order to improve the focus of public transport in Greater Christchurch.

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