Christchurch city councillors keen on CBD shuttle if joint committee rejects service
Christchurch city councillors want the free CBD shuttle back.
From 1998, the popular yellow electric shuttles ran every 10 minutes on a set loop around the central city, until the February 2011 earthquake. The hop on, hop off service was free to use.
In August 2016, the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Committee, which includes staff from Environment Canterbury (ECan), the Christchurch City Council and the NZ Transport Agency, commissioned a report on reinstatement options.
One year and two reports later, ECan, which runs city bus services, put out a Request for Information (RFI) to companies that could provide the service, on behalf of the joint committee. A feasibility study is due in front of the committee in October.
Central ward councillor Deon Swiggs said he understood the report was "recommending that it not happen".
If the committee decided against reinstating the shuttle, he would push to see how the city council could make it happen.
Swiggs said he did not buy the argument the rebuild was not far enough for a central city shuttle.
"Ideally I think it should have happened for the Christmas season this year, seeming as we've got a lot starting to open in the city."
Councillors and the public supported the idea, Swiggs said.
The Central City Shuttle options report, given to the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee in February, estimated the service would cost $500,000 a year to run, using three small diesel shuttles running on a 5-kilometre loop about every 10 minutes.
The cost would double if the service included a second loop to take passengers from park-and-ride sites outside the central city.
Using electric buses would cost about $700,000 a year for the small loop and $1.3 million to include the second loop.
One-off infrastructure costs of up to $400,000 would be required, the report said.
The report warned the fragmented nature of the rebuilding central city was a possible barrier to restarting the service.
Swiggs said if the city council was to take on the shuttle, it would become a service to the city. Rates would probably pay for it, but it had not been looked at yet, he said.
Riccarton ward councillor Vicki Buck did not have huge hopes the committee would bring back the shuttle, but would be "happy to be proved wrong".
If ECan did not pick it up, she would support the city council taking on the project, subject to finances and the buses being electric, she said.
Buck said it was "unbelievable" the committee's RFI did not require electric shuttles.
Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said walking around the city was "not as easy as you would think". The shuttle would "add to the connectivity" between places like the innovation and retail precincts and New Regent St.
The city needed to do support those who invested in the rebuild.
"The last thing we want to do is kill off those businesses," Lonsdale said.
ECan acting chairman Steve Lowndes said everybody wanted the shuttle to happen, but it was early days and public transport use was not growing.
"If we could see greater uptake and use in public transport, that would make the equations much more healthy."
Red Bus chief executive Paul McNoe was keen to help make the shuttle happen, but understood revenue from passenger numbers was "down across the board".
Red Bus would not recommend an electric option at this stage because most options were right-hand drive and there were "fundamental construction issues" with converting them to left-hand drive, such as doors being on the wrong side, he said.
* An earlier version of the story did not make it clear a decision on the shuttle would be made by the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Committee, which is made up of staff from several organisations including ECan, the city council, and the New Zealand Transport Authority.