OPINION: There shouldn't be many disgruntled city users and commuters if the proposed Accessible City transport plan's principles for Christchurch are anything to go by - unless you're a fan of light or mainline rail, that is.
The draft transport plan, released yesterday, was a priority for the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) in its second 100 days after the release of the central city blueprint in July.
There isn't a mention of how existing lines could be employed or light rail introduced, though on one or two of the Accessible City's maps, a forlorn railway graphic meanders along the baseline, with nowhere to go to or come from as far as commuters are concerned.
But if you walk, cycle, drive or strap-hang on buses, it's all good news, really. Walkers and cyclists are particularly fortunate, with dedicated routes and roadways respectively to call their own, and rumble strips, kerbs and even green plantings to separate them from motorists.
Fewer bus routes - just seven - but a greater number of buses using them should ease overcrowding, and the new Bus Exchange, supported by two Super Stops on Manchester and Tuam streets will allow users to reach any business or retailer in the CBD without having to walk more than two blocks.
The irony is that if you drive, you won't have to walk even that far, with four of the planned 16 parking areas less than 100 metres from Cathedral Square, and two more less than 50 metres further out but within the city's Core.
Don't worry, the car parks being planned will not be the stark concrete edifices we see being dismantled around us at the moment. They'll have fewer storeys, will be placed mid-block rather than at intersections, and they'll contain retailers at ground level, adding character to their frontages and making them better to look at and use.
The most that motorists will have to do to adapt is to understand the changes to some one-way street designations and the re-establishment of some two-way routes. Drivers will also have to do a little more about their commuting speeds.
Inner city routes in The Core will be restricted to 30kmh (anywhere inside the Armagh St, Rolleston Ave, Manchester St and Cambridge Tce conduits), with 50kmh being applied to the four avenues and further out (The Frame).
If you think being restricted to 50kmh and 30kmh is a hard ask, when did you last reach such velocities on your daily commute?
Becoming a two-way, pedestrian and cyclist-friendly retail route, Lichfield St's previous eastward one-way duties will be taken over by Tuam St. Both Salisbury and Kilmore streets will take two-way traffic for the first time in decades, while the city Core's north-south one-way routing stays much the same.
The city's previous through traffic will be encouraged to use Fitzgerald and Bealey avenues, which should ease the load on new and existing one-way streets.
Thus far, there has been no move to force congestion charges upon motorists, or to encourage us to use smaller, cleaner and better-suited vehicles for commuting, and as yet, electric car charging isn't part of the plan.
So we'll still be able to drive SUVs and light trucks into the city if we really want to and while we'll be "encouraged" to skirt rather than drive straight through our city, who will be able resist carrying on the way we are, as the city transforms and becomes the lovely place we know it can be once again.
But further changes will come and who knows, they may even find a use for that sad under-employed old railway line. Moorhouse Ave would be a great place for a station.
We shouldn't be too dismayed when CCDU director Warwick Isaacs says this could all take a "couple of decades" as most of us will see big changes in three to five years - just as we have in the past 18 months.
As Rachel Hunter, would say: "It won't happen overnight, Christchurch, but it will happen!"
- © Fairfax NZ News
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