Lack of central Christchurch public transport a 'constraint' on city
A lack of public transport in central Christchurch is constraining its vitality and may be undermining investments made in the city, a report has found.
The report about the perceived lack of public transport in the inner-city's west was commissioned by Canterbury's public transport committee and written by staff from Environment Canterbury (ECan) and the Christchurch City Council.
It followed concerns about public transport dead-zones in parts of the central city.
The report also said steps to remedy the situation might need to be deferred while significant developments – including key anchor projects – were in "a state of considerable flux".
* Christchurch bus use still declining
* Changed approach to public transport in Christchurch
* Canterbury bus patronage drops 4.5 per cent despite new routes, bus interchange
* Bus use plummets, cycling rises in Christchurch
Following the earthquakes, ECan developed a "hub and spokes" network model, which centralised bus routes through a city interchange.
Combined with the Government-led An Accessible City (AAC) plan, which consolidated inner-city buses to several key streets, some major employers were up to 900 metres from the bus interchange.
It made public transport less appealing and may be contributing to lower than expected patronage numbers, the report said. It could also hamstring plans to move people away from using cars and make the city's attractions "somewhat dispersed".
"This potentially makes public transport less attractive for commuters and might potentially threaten the achievement of the AAC mode-share goals, leading to commuter traffic congestion and parking pressures," the document said.
Low bus patronage had been a lingering problem since the earthquakes. Numbers had not returned to pre-earthquake levels and had been in decline for several years, falling well short of long-term goals.
Around 3.7 per cent of people in Christchurch used public transport, compared to 8.4 per cent in Auckland and 20.4 per cent in Wellington.
There was demand for more transport options in the central city, but they were not being met, the report said.
Visitors in particular wanted ways to get around the central city, but the lack of options was "a constraint on growing central city vitality and potentially undermines the public and private investments made in the rebuild".
Projects such as the Durham St/Cambridge Tce roadworks, Manchester St enhancements and the Avon River precinct would allow buses to return to their designated routes, which might alleviate some concerns, the document said.
A wider review of the network was underway, which would be a good opportunity to look at central city access.
Central City Business Association chairman Brendan Chase said the hub and spoke model of bus transport "did not really work" if it meant journeys took too long.
"If they want to grow bus patronage, it's got to be an attractive proposition, not just in price."
He thought initiatives such as an electric shuttle and secure bike stands would help and would work in well with the public transport system.
One option to address the problem was to reinstate the inner-city shuttle, a popular service that ran from 1998 to February 2011.
In 2009, one million people used the free electric bus that circled the inner city.
According to a business case, bringing back the shuttle would likely have net benefits, but it was "unlikely to be viable without risks" until key anchor projects were built.
A decision about the shuttle had been on the agenda for 2018's long-term plan deliberations, but may now be pushed back to 2020.
Christchurch central city councillor Deon Swiggs said it was "absolutely crucial" to bring it back as soon as possible, .
Inner-city residents had made it clear to him there was a public-transport shortage.
"We're spending a lot of money on car infrastructure, such as parking buildings and things like that; there's a lot of noise about that, there's a lot of noise about cycle lanes, but not a lot of noise about public transport," he said.
"I think it's important we have all of that so everybody has a chance to move around the central city."
ECan might need to change its bus routes to better service the inner-city, he said.
It is likely a new bike-share system would be developed as one way of connecting people to public transport.
The Government announced in May that both Auckland and Christchurch were being considered for bike-share schemes.
A recent business case analysis found there was a "compelling case" for such a scheme in Christchurch. It could be used as part of a last leg for central-city commuters, linking to the new cycleways being developed.
A proposed scheme would cover 45,000 residents and 72,000 jobs from the central city to Riccarton and Ilam.
The next step would be to seek expressions of interest, both nationally and internationally, to develop the scheme.
The regional public transport committee would decide whether to proceed with the scheme on Wednesday.
* Comments on this article have been closed.