OPINION: WARWICK ISAACS , director of the Christchurch Central Development Unit, responds to published criticism of a proposed design for a new Christchurch Bus Interchange.
Anyone dealing with the challenges of travelling in and around Christchurch right now knows just how important transport is to our everyday lives.
Public transport is a vital part of the big picture, and that is why the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority has, along with its partners the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury and the New Zealand Transport Agency, made a priority of developing a new Bus Interchange for the city.
Construction of the $53 million facility will begin later this year and we expect it will be operating around the middle of next year.
SUPER-STOPS AND HUBS
The facility is being designed to link services with new super-stops in the city and suburban transport hubs, and to cater for projected passenger demand as far out as 2041.
The facility is designed to be user-friendly while also creating opportunities in a wider Bus Interchange Precinct for the likes of retail and hospitality which bus users and others can enjoy.
The new Bus Interchange will also fit nicely with changes being made to the central city roading network, under the transport chapter of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, to make the city more accessible for all forms of transport - whether that be car, bus, cycle or on foot (more on the transport chapter is at ccdu.govt.nz).
Following the recent release of the preliminary design for the new Bus Interchange there has been plenty of discussion - including some in the pages of this newspaper.
ISSUE OF BUSES REVERSING TACKLED
Some of it has been criticism of the intended layout of the facility, in particular the plan to line up buses in angled parking positions where they will need to reverse out before driving out of the interchange. There has been a view expressed that people will be at risk from the reversing buses, and I want to be clear that these concerns are taken very seriously and are being addressed.
The measures we will be employing in the interchange will ensure the facility is safe to use.
Firstly, the space in which the buses will be reversing will be kept clear of bus users. Bus patrons will board the buses from dedicated passenger areas at the front of the buses and will not have access to that reversing area.
LAYOUT LIKE AN AIRPORT
The layout will be not unlike that of an airport where passengers board the aircraft, and the area where the aircraft reverses out before going onto the runway is always kept clear.
On top of this, we are looking at systems such as lights to indicate when it is OK for a bus driver to reverse, and to avoid any two buses reversing into the same space at the same time, and fixed cameras and mounted screens that allow the drivers to see what is at the rear of the buses before they depart.
Working bus drivers assisted in the field testing of possible layouts and we listened to their advice on space and have allowed plenty for bus movements.
As a result there will be a 7m wide designated backing lane that is separate from the 5m wide bus circulation lane.
Some people have also made comment about what they perceived to be a pedestrian crossing that passes through the area where the buses reverse and circulate.
Again I want to be clear that this will not be for public use. Only trained Bus Interchange staff will use this crossing where required in order to access those buses or areas of the facility they need to.
The key factor about this layout we have opted for is that it allows for a much greater volume of bus movements and therefore greater opportunity for the bus user.
7500 PEOPLE PER HOUR BY 2041
By 2041, we expect there will be about 7500 people per hour using the interchange, including bus passengers and those using the interchange to reach the other central city precincts, and we have to make sure we can cater for that demand.
There has also been comment in this newspaper and elsewhere about the amount of consultation that was done with groups in putting together the preliminary design.
I can assure people that Cera and Environment Canterbury have been in contact with a range of groups that include bus users, bus companies, business and neighbours of the new interchange to get their feedback.
As I mentioned above, the bus companies and drivers gave us valuable insight in the design process.
As we move from the preliminary design into the detailed design prior to construction beginning, we will continue to take on board feedback from those groups.
I'm confident the end result will be a world-class facility that works well for bus users and the city.
- The Press