Cuts to bus network worries council

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Last updated 08:04 28/05/2014

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The Christchurch City Council is worried that plans to rationalise bus services in the city could leave some residents, particularly the elderly, without reasonable access to public transport.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) is part-way through a bus route review in which it proposes to shift from having many routes operating at low frequencies to having fewer routes operating at higher frequencies.

The changes mean that some services will be cut but ECan is hoping that people will walk a little bit further to get a 15-minute frequency bus instead of catching a bus which might go past their house but only comes every hour.

The city council is concerned that while the changes will save money, they will not lead to increased bus patronage. It is also worried the changes will leave some people without reasonable access to a bus service.

"The rationalisation of services will mean some residents have to travel further to access a bus route. This will be possible for some users and may be justified if there is an adequate level of service on that bus route when they reach it. However, it will also leave some residents without reasonable access to a bus service," the council said in a draft submission on ECan's plans.

It wants ECan to investigate options other than a fixed-route, fixed-timetable bus service for those residents, such as a dial-on-demand shuttle service.

It is also pushing for any money saved through rationalising services to be put towards improving the frequency of buses on the remaining routes.

On its five high-frequency core routes, ECan is proposing having 15 minutes between buses, but the council believes it would not be unrealistic to have buses every five to 10 minutes, effectively creating a "turn up and go" service.

In its submission, the council said research suggested frequencies of 10 minutes or less were optimal for providing an attractive, well-patronised service. It would cost more, but it was an important aspect of increasing bus patronage, it argued.

A higher frequency service would also make it easier to justify the council's investment in improved infrastructure for public transport, including bus priority measures.

Bus priority measures are considered critical to the success of ECan's bus plans but are the responsibility of the city council.

ECan public transport manager David Stenhouse said dial-a-ride type services as suggested by the city council had not been considered as most people would continue to have similar bus services available to them. For those in the few areas where less coverage was proposed, there were alternative routes proposed to be nearby.

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Submissions on ECan's metro bus services review close on Monday, June 16.

- The Press

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