New Christchurch transport plan praised
Christchurch's new transport has met with approval from politicians and advocates, winning praise for having taken on board pleas from residents.
A revamped public transport system, improved cycling and pedestrian networks and a lower central -ity speed limit were yesterday welcomed by prominent city figures.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the plan captured many of the wishes the city expressed during its Share An Idea campaign last year.
"If we were looking for words on what the people of Christchurch said then, they said they wanted a clean, green, safe and accessible city ... with this plan's release, we see that vision taking some reality."
The council was "very pleased" to be associated with its launch, although she conceded it was a plan many people had been waiting a long time to see.
Rob Woods, Environment Canterbury's (ECan) earthquake recovery and transport programme manager, said the plan included everything the regional council had been lobbying for.
A focus had been on the public transport system, which had been "a happening thing before the earthquakes, so we want to get back to there and improve it".
Concerns about "nose-to-tail buses" in the central city had been addressed by limiting the number of buses travelling through the centre of town and forming bus routes to travel through the central business district and then carry on through the suburbs, he said.
ECan hoped to implement further traffic management plans to ease congestion that caused buses to fall behind schedule, particularly in heavily congested areas such as Riccarton Rd.
"What we're hoping for here is looking at traffic-light phasing and giving maybe buses a hand at traffic lights, or looking at some bus laning along the road," Woods said.
Canterbury-based Green Party MP Eugenie Sage applauded the cycle-priority routes, provisions for cycle parking at the extended bus stops, and improved access around the city for pedestrians and people with disabilities.
"It's good to see the response to public submissions," she said.
However, she believed the plan should be rolled out to the suburbs to encompass the entire city.
"We need to see constant provision for improved cycling, walking and public transport across the city; it's no good just doing it in the CBD," she said.
Labour's Christchurch transport spokeswoman, Megan Woods, said the plan had taken too long but there was "some good stuff in there".
She had some concerns about keeping most of the city's one-way system intact. which would put pressure on many road users, especially emergency services.
She liked the slowing down of the central city, which essentially becomes a 30kmh zone.
She said Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had wasted too much time in refusing to release the plan earlier and she "just want to see it happen now".
CONCERN OVER LACK OF PARKING
Real estate entrepreneur Stephen Collins said there was a ''lot of good stuff in the plan'', but detail on one major issue was lacking.
''In terms of parking ... it's just not clear who is leading what nowadays. The bottom line is carparking remains a key issue and the plan doesn't fully address it,'' he said.
The Accessible City plan says parking will be provided within private developments, but is not compulsory.
''A maximum [parking for private developments] has been prescribed to manage the number of vehicles overall within the zone consistent with the pedestrian-friendly focus,'' it states.
Parking buildings will be located on the perimeter or outside the new core CBD and will have ''active ground-floor frontages''.
However, the timing of their development and their exact location will match demand and development in the central city, the plan says.
Collins said in that time the CBD would not be able to compete with malls.
''The reason the malls are so successful and the central city was in decline [before the earthquakes] is because you can go to a shopping centre, park right outside, you don't have to pay and it's easy.''
Collins said he would continue pushing for long-term certainty over parking.
''While I'm all for having better public transport ... and a pedestrian-friendly CBD, people are not going to stop bringing their cars in,'' he said.
Canterbury rich-lister Philip Carter last month said he had lost tenants because Christchurch City Council inaction over the Crossing parking building in Lichfield St was holding up his City Mall development next door.
Ballantynes managing director Mary Devine recently told The Press the city would struggle to attract retailers and investors until there was "long-term certainty around parking".
Current parking facilities were coping, she said, but there would be an influx of people into the area in the coming months as construction of the justice precinct, bus interchange and private developments got under way.
A spokesman for Brownlee said parking was much more of a council issue than a Crown one.
A Christchurch Central Development Unit spokeswoman said it was important the council took the lead on parking because Cera would "not be around forever".
INNER-CITY RESIDENT WELCOMES 30KMH LIMIT
Simone Pearson is now "excited" about raising her young family in Christchurch's transforming inner city.
The Chester St East Residents' Association chairwoman said it was pleasing the transport plan appeared to have taken into account requests from the public.
"It's a very cursory glance, but it looks quite similar to the draft," she said.
With two young children, Pearson has long been an advocate of a pedestrian and cycle-friendly inner city.
She was "delighted" to see the introduction of a 30kmh speed limit, the "good, gutsy bus stops going in" and the improvements to the cycling network.
However, she thought other arms of the central city's one-way system, which she likened to "big motorways rushing through the city", should also be removed.
"I don't think the changes to the one-way system go far enough. In my view, the one-way system system - Madras, Barbadoes, Montreal, Durham - all create this big thoroughfare ... instead of taking people to the city, people use these to go through the city."
Pearson said the parking strategy needed further attention to have fewer parks available in the long term.
While a long period of roadworks ahead would undoubtedly have a big impact, she was looking forward to being at the heart of the transformation - and her children were too.
BUSINESS LEADER 'FULLY SUPPORTIVE'
Inner-city businesses could cash in from the Government's transport plan, Central City Business Association chairman Antony Gough says.
"I think they'll [the changes will] help [businesses] ... It's a really good result. I'm fully supportive of it," Gough said yesterday.
The property developer said he backed the plan as it was "sending all the right messages out" - creating a more pedestrian and cycle-friendly central city, and more inviting space.
He felt the 30kmh speed limit was a "great idea" and would help make cyclists and pedestrians feel safer, as well as create a "calmer" atmosphere.
Gough believed the lower speed limit would also stop people using the inner city as a shortcut thoroughfare.
He was also pleased to see Salisbury and Kilmore streets converted into two-way streets, which were "more desirable" for businesses and retailers than one-way streets, and would further slow traffic.
But he was concerned there was no mention about addressing the inner-city's lack of parking.
"Carparking is becoming a critical issue. It's a major worry for central-city businesses," he said.
Gough believed the council needed to now turn its attention to reopening a central-city carpark building, starting with Lichfield St.
LONG DELAY IN PLAN'S RELEASE
The Government has defended the delayed release of its Christchurch transport plan, saying it was only fair the newly elected city council laid eyes on the document first.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had been criticised in some quarters for not releasing the plan once it was finalised back in March after public consultation.
He said yesterday it was important the plan did not conflict with the local body election campaign.
"I think it was important we didn't leap ahead and start announcing plans then [during the campaign]."
It was "worthwhile" for the new council to see the plan first as it was an important partner, Brownlee said.
The cost-sharing agreement between the Crown and council was only formalised in July, too, "so it was important everybody knew what they were up for", he said.
New Mayor Lianne Dalziel and several city councillors fronted with Brownlee as he unveiled the plan and seemed to agree with his rationale.
But the delay did not wash with Labour's Christchurch transport spokeswoman, Megan Woods, who said Brownlee had consistently gone against the advice of his officials who urged him to release it earlier.
"We've been waiting for this for some time now and there's no real excuse why it has taken this long," she said.
Brownlee had"dragged the chain" when work could have started on plan features months ago.
The Cabinet formally approved the plan this week.