It might be time for Brian Rudman to get some new glasses as in his latest piece he seems to have been confused by various route maps in the draft Regional Public Transport Plan.
What is alarming is the fate of Queen St, which in 2007 got a $40 million makeover, complete with nikau palms and Chinese granite paving. It is now marked as “Rapid Transit”. Presumably that means a busway rather than railway – the proposed tunnel to run further west under Albert St.
The golden shopping mile is also identified as part of the “frequent service network”. Seeking definitions, we’re told “rapid services … have exclusive access to their own rights of way along high-density corridors”.
As for “frequent services”, the draft explains “the core element of the new system will be the frequent service network which will provide all-day high- frequency services at least every 15 minutes”.
In other words, Queen St, including Queen Elizabeth Square, is being identified as having an exclusive busway inserted into it.
To be honest I’m not entirely sure where he gets the idea from that Queen St will become a busway as there is nothing I can find in the plan to suggest that being the case. There is only one service listed as using Queen St and that is the City Link, the same as what we have now. There are only two reasons I can think of as to why Rudman suggests that there is a busway plan for Queen St. The first is that due to maps needing to be big enough to cover the city that it appears that routes in the CBD are on Queen St when in fact they are on neighbouring streets as in the map below
The second option is that perhaps he has confused the Britomart interchange symbol as being an RTN route, here is a close up of the schematic map.
Either way it is incorrect that there are plans for a busway along Queen St and the appendix of routes (page 65) confirms this. The very reason buses were moved off there in the first place is that it takes them about the same amount of time to get from Britomart to Aotea Square as it does walking due to the number of lights that are prioritised for pedestrians (as they should be on this street). However while he is wrong about a busway along Queen St, he is correct about the need for the CRL due to the number of buses that will eventually be in the CBD, he had this to say:
For anyone who doubts the need for the inner-city rail tunnel, this draft public transport plan is the document to change your mind.
The plan is to increase the percentage of peak period trips to the central city by public transport from the current 47 per cent to 55 per cent by 2022 and 70 per cent by 2040.
Overall, it’s planned to double public transport trips citywide from 70 million to 140 million in the next 10 years.Of course not all of those extra commuters will end up in the CBD, but without increased capacity on the trains – the loop will double the number of trains able to use the downtown Britomart station – the vast majority of those who do will have to squeeze into buses to get there.
If you think parts of downtown are unpleasant places in peak hours because of noisy, diesel-belching buses, imagine double the number in the same space.
The reality is, there are only so many buses and cars that can fit on to the streets of the city. When the government rejected the business case for the CRL the former minister of transport asked a series of questions that he wanted AT/AC to answer. The biggest of these was a ‘multimodal evaluation of need for improved access to city centre’ and that spawned the City Centre Future Access Study (CCFAS). The CCFAS should answer just how many buses and cars we will be able to get in and around the city is being completed in conjunction with the NZTA, Ministry of Transport and Treasury so we should hopefully get a fairly strong consensus around this.
My understanding is that the initial phases showed a clear need to improve access to the city centre and then moved on to look at a wide variety of options how that could be done. An update to the transport committee last week said that the options had been narrowed down to just three that are now being analysed more closely. Incidentally these happen to be the same options looked at in the original CRL business case and are the CRL, a bus tunnel or more buses on the surface. A draft version of the completed study is meant to be finished this month with the final version going to the government along with the final versions to the other questions they asked in November. It will be good to get an answer once and for all on just how many buses the city can handle.