Bus services split makes no sense

It was 5.10am and I was snuggled under the duvet half-asleep when my husband, who should have been out the door and on his way to work, came stomping up the stairs to tell me his car had been stolen from our driveway.

I can't quote him verbatim because there was an expletive or two, but after he had dragged me out of bed so I could see for myself that our driveway, which only a few hours earlier had contained a slightly battered Toyota, now sat empty, reality hit me with a bang.

This was bad, very bad - for me.

The 45-minute commute to work in Mid-Canterbury meant my husband would have little option but to take my car, which would mean I would have to embrace public transport until either the Toyota was found or the insurance company paid up.

I smiled bravely for the sake of my husband, who was muttering ominously about wanting "just five minutes" with the brazen thieves who had stolen his car, as I went online to check out the bus timetable and plan my commute.

Luckily we live in an area well-serviced by buses so getting to and from work proved a surprisingly simple, but eye-opening experience.

On my twice-daily bus ride I got to see the problems the buses experience along Riccarton Rd and grew to empathise with the crowds of passengers waiting in the cold at the busy bus stops outside the shopping mall.

Having attended many council meetings where the construction of a new superstop for Riccarton has been discussed I had a theoretical understanding of the problems, but not necessarily a first-hand understanding.

From my seat on the bus I could see how traffic banked up because buses had to queue to get into bus stops and I could spot the section of road where the drivers have to keep slightly right in order to avoid hitting an oversized verandah.

It left me in no doubt that better bus measures are needed along Riccarton Rd as well as a permanent, indoor bus interchange where passengers can wait in some degree of comfort.

It also reinforced my belief the current arrangements for public transport in Christchurch - whereby Environment Canterbury (ECan) is responsible for providing public transport services and the city council is responsible for providing the infrastructure to support those services, such as bus stops, shelters, and interchanges - is wrong.

The provision of the services and of the infrastructure should be handled by the one authority to ensure alignment.

As it stands, ECan can make changes to Christchurch's bus network, but if it wants new stops or shelters to support those changes it has to go cap-in-hand to the city council, which may or may not decide to do what ECan asks.

It is an unnecessarily complicated arrangement that seems to benefit no one and that often results in network changes occurring without critical infrastructure being in place. Christchurch's public transport users deserve better.

The Press