Leave Canterbury University in Ilam

Last updated 05:00 02/12/2012

WHY NOT? John Stringer's proposed route for a light rail or tram system.

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Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker wants to move Canterbury University.

I don’t agree. The prohibitive cost outweighs any benefits when the aims can be achieved in more cost-effective ways.

I’m a graduate of Victoria University, the New York Film Academy, and Wellington Polytech, but Christchurch is my home town and I’ve had an office at Canterbury University. My middle-son is mid-stream in English literature and history at the Ilam campus.

Mayor Parker’s concerns relate to the aging population of Christchurch and wanting to fill the CBD with young people to enhance its vitality (city vitality is about people, not theoretical hubs or buildings). People need reasons to be there beyond work. We need shoppers and residents in our CBD. It should be people-centered more than a business centre. Times Square, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly are all people-focused.

Parker says, “we are on a direct path at the moment to become New Zealand’s most modern and attractive new rebuilt resthome”. His solution to the age group crisis is to relocate the university back inside the four avenues.

The university is already close enough to the CBD, you can walk there through Hagley Park and up Riccarton Rd. A good walk, but quite achievable.

Instead, I would:

- Run a 15-minute looped light rail or the existing trams from Cathedral Square to Ilam campus.

- Have only four stops (Ilam, Riccarton Mall, Christchurch Hospital, Cathedral Square).

- Loop the service back on the same rail to save cost with small passing sidings every kilometre or so or at the main stops or just run one long return service every 15 minutes.

- Ensure all ground-level Cathedral Square buildings are cafes and shops, no real estate agencies or banks.

- Leave levels 2 and up for student apartments and managed boarding houses.

- Introduce a strictly enforced no public drunkeness policy and alcohol ban in the Square, like in America.

- Establish a dedicated Cathedral Square, tram and Ilam campus security service that rides and patrols with the people as an auxiliary to police (like the New York red beret subway Guardian Angels; citizen patrollers – there’s some employment right there, or community service for retirees).

- Consider linking the rail to CPIT (the polytech) as well.

- Have a five-year, no fees moratorium underwritten by central Government to help Ilam get back up and running and prospering again, or perhaps a one-year no fees rebate on completed degrees in Christchurch.

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- Establish free or subsidised travel on the trams with university cards and cheap rates for local residents, especially ratepayers.

- Set up a dedicated bike lane alongside the rail to encourage bike hordes. Christchurch and Hagley Park are perfect for this. Some creative thinking and initiatives to encourage this culture. John Key, let the Greens at that as a potential 2014 coalition Government project.

Residents and students alike would use the tram service and interact.

Idiot behaviour might attract a time-limit tram-pass ban, to ensure the service is enjoyable and anti-social idiots or drunk students, walk or bike to preserve the integrity of the service for everyone else who knows how to behave in public.

Most of the journey is along the Hagley Park sidings anyway (a beautiful ride). The land is there, unencumbered, which reduces cost, and is a good public use of the scared park space. It would be low impact on the environment and the trams would actually enhance the aesthetic. A tram rail has a tiny footprint.

Students would live and love in the CBD, which would become a flourishing hub, but study at Ilam.

There would be no dead all-day student parking cluttering the CBD.

It would create investment opportunities in the CBD with guaranteed ongoing tenants.

Light rail is expensive, but we already have trams. It works fabulously in big congested cities. Some cities' public transport is now completely electric or on 100 per cent alternative fuels. The benefits of ferrying people in and out of our CBD adds to the bustle and vitality, and makes accommodation and study in Christchurch attractive to generations of new minds who will establish a lifelong affinity with Christchurch through their student years. That has huge flow-on and unquantifiable, but obvious, benefits to our city’s life and culture.

I would keep the tram loop simple, uncomplicated and quick, serving a dedicated purpose: to help students live and love in Cathedral Square; feed Ilam campus and the CPIT with a reliable all-weather service that other residents can use; that travels alongside our attractive Hagley Park as a city showcase. Huge tourist potential there too. It is really just a more practical extension of the existing CBD inner tram service that existed before, with a more utilitarian function.

Who wouldn’t want to live in central Christchurch, study at a gorgeous Ilam campus, and travel between lectures via a dedicated door-to-door historic quaint tram service?

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