OPINION: Transport in the central city of Christchurch and further afield has long been a source of discontent.
One conjecture for the decline of the central city as a desirable place to visit and shop in the decade or so before the February 22 earthquake was the difficulty getting to it, by either private or public transport, particularly compared to the relative ease of getting to the large suburban malls. Proposals to try to improve the situation were thrown up regularly, but they tended, of necessity, to be piecemeal.
The radical rethink of transport forced by the destruction of the central city by the February 22 earthquake announced yesterday could almost be thought of, if anything can, as a silver lining. The proposal, which has been prepared by the Central City Development Unit along with the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury and the New Zealand Transport Authority, will be open for comment from the public until February 1.
It has obviously had to take account of the drastically different shape the central city will assume as it is rebuilt. Its title, however - Accessible City - is a fair indication of the elegant solutions it has devised to make that new city an attractive, welcoming destination for just about everyone.
For motorists, the idea of encouraging traffic crossing from one side of the greater city to the other to use the outer avenues rather than the one- way system and other streets in the central city, should make driving into the centre of town less of a hassle than it has been in the past.
The provision of 16 parking areas within easy walking distance of shops will enable central-city shops to be more competitive with suburban malls. The idea of providing for retail shopping on the ground floors of the parking buildings that are proposed should go some way to making those buildings less ugly and off-putting than the ones the central city formerly had.
Slowing traffic to 30 kilometres an hour in the central city will be no great hardship. Traffic rarely got anywhere near that speed anyway. That and the network of walking routes and better streets will make the central city easier and nicer for pedestrians.
Reducing the number of bus routes from the 40 that existed before the quakes to just seven core routes and increasing their frequency should make bus travel more agreeable.
The proposal also envisages two Super Stops on Manchester and Tuam streets, putting them within two blocks of any business or retailer in the central city. While that will be hailed by bus commuters care must be taken to see that the Super Stops are designed and controlled so that they do not become magnets for disorderly and anti-social behaviour. That has happened on a serious scale at the big bus and train stop in downtown Auckland and had occurred spasmodically at the Bus Exchange here.
Among the few who might be disappointed by the Accessible City proposal are those who pine for the resurrection of some kind of rail in Christchurch's transport planning. They should not have been surprised.
The Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, had already expressed his distaste for the notion and no matter how much the mayor, Bob Parker, or city councillors visited other cities seeking examples of its alleged success elsewhere, there was little or no evidence that it was anything other than an outlier of an idea and was more likely to be a hideously expensive white elephant.
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