New Orbiter-type bus service for Chch

INFO ON THE GO: A new app for smartphones gives information about Metro bus services.
INFO ON THE GO: A new app for smartphones gives information about Metro bus services.

A new high-frequency bus service, similar to the Orbiter, will launch in Christchurch next month.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) has unveiled its new service, the Blue Line, which will run between Belfast and Princess Margaret Hospital every 15 minutes, starting December 3.

The Blue Line will stop at ''hubs'' along the way, including Sydenham shops, Northlands Mall and its turnaround point of Princess Margaret Hospital.

These hubs will initially be shelters in lit areas on the sides of the street, but eventually some hubs will be upgraded to off-street bus terminals.

As well as the Blue Line, some bus routes in the north and south have been given new numbers and will stop in different places.

Affected suburbs are; Cashmere, Beckenham, Barrington, St Martins, Sydenham, Merivale, St Albans, Bryndwr, Papanui, Casebrook, Redwood, Belfast and the Waimakariri  district.

Environment Canterbury programme manager for transport Robert Woods said this was the first step in upgrading the bus system to meet the needs of a modern city.

In about 18 months ECan would look at introducing two lines, similar to the Blue Line, to run east to west across the city.

At that stage, suburban hubs would be developed at centres, including Riccarton and Eastgate.

ECan commissioner Rex Williams said one of the main aims behind the change to the Christchurch Metro network was to get people out of their cars and back onto buses.

''Before the earthquakes, the rate of growth in passenger numbers on Metro had begun to flatten off and so we had begun thinking about how to improve the service and to be more innovative to attract more bus users,'' Williams said.

''When the earthquakes happened, passenger numbers fell as people no longer were able to access the central city.

The places where people worked also changed and bus services no longer were able to get people where they wanted to go.

He hoped the new service would attract more people to use the buses.

''We have done intensive research into what we need to do to provide a more effective service so bus travel is seen as a reliable and convenient way to travel. The research, which has included consultation with the public, has resulted in this new model being put in place.''

Williams said within the next 18 months ECan would look at how Blue Line had been working and, depending on the feedback, would probably make further changes in 2014.

Metro is also making it easier to get information about bus services.

As well as an improved website, a mobile-friendly version has been created, enabling commuters to find out when the next bus is due by typing in a bus stop number or street.

The Press