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Guest Post: Christchurch Suburban Bus Exchanges

This is a guest post from William Stewart in Christchurch.

In 2010, I wrote a short article about the need for Public Transport integration with shopping centres and the need to consider this integration when granting resource consent.

I love the idea of having public transport as part of the mall, not just tacked into the side of a building, or 5min walk away across several streets with heavy groceries. Here is what I consider essential to the uptake of public transport, and making PT relevant and usable for everyone that uses shopping centres.

  1. Routes – All PT routes near a shopping centre should stop at that shopping centre. The stops/stations should be as close as physically possible to each other, and different routes should use the same (where possible) stops, not different stops blocks away.
  2. Access – Stops / Stations should be conveniently located to main entrances to the mall. They should not be located outside the carpark, but rather right next to the door. There should be undercover access to the stop/station
  3. Station Quality – Stops / Stations should have enough seating for the majority of shoppers using PT. The station should be undercover, and have windbreaks and where possible should be inside the building (like the new Christchurch Exchange lounge) but unlike the Invercargill Bus waiting room (which is about 200m from most of the bus stops.Stops should have the complete time tables displayed for all routes in the area (including routes which may depart from other nearby areas). Additionally electronic signs must be visible and display the next 5 buses or so on the way (Christchurch is pretty good for this)
  4. Integration with the Mall – Public transport times should be concurrent and relevant to the hours of the shopping centre. The shopping centre should display time table information within the mall, perhaps in the food courts or at a high traffic zone which is further away from where the stop is.

Westfield Riccarton Shoppingtown is one of the largest malls in New Zealand. Unfortunately, while it sits on the busy and congested Riccarton Rd, near the heart of Christchurch and with over 10 bus routes, integration with transport is woeful. There are 4 bus stops which service Riccarton Mall. Of those the closest, the minimum distance to walk is 50 metres from the mall exit , which is unsheltered from wind or rain. The stop on the other side of the road is another 100 meters away. There is no in-store mall signage for public transport to advise people where the bus stops are, nor to advise the times of services.

Chch suburban bus stops 1

Additionally, from around this time or prior, the Christchurch City Council (CCC) has been fighting an up hill battle to try and install bus lanes on Riccarton Rd, a core arterial route through one of the biggest shopping areas in the city for many bus services, but also very congested. Until recently, they have been defeated by shop owners waging short sighted battles against losing their car parks.

I’m happy to announce that recently it was announced that this section would be redeveloped to add in bus lanes, that the bus stops would consolidated, moved closer to the mall entrance and a suburban lounge would be built.

It should be noted that while you would assume Westfield would be supportive of enhancing access to their shopping centre and eager to provide better facilities for their customers, this was not the case.

“[Christchurch City Council] then looked at the possibility of putting the interchange along Westfield shopping centre’s prime Riccarton Rd frontage but it had to drop that plan because it could not negotiate a satisfactory ground lease over the 10 parking spaces required for the project.”

“Cr Paul Lonsdale agreed the Westfield frontage was the best location for the interchange but said he had been privy to some of the negotiations with the shopping centre’s owner and it was clear to him that option was closed.

“They (Westfield) are trying to hook us into something we cannot do. The only option we have is this option. I’m disappointed it is the only option but it is the best of the options we have,” Lonsdale said.”

“This is by far the best interim option we have had. It needs to serve the bus users right now. We can’t afford to have our bus users waiting in the rain for another winter,” Clearwater said.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that we can not rely on corporate interests to choose the best deal for the benefit of the public, nor should we let those short-sighted interests continue to hold back progress, as the last 5 years have done. But enough of that sour note because this is a celebratory post as the CCC has planned, overcome and delivered and further below are the pictures of the first Christchurch suburban interchange, followed hopefully soon by our new road layout.

Chch suburban bus stops 2

I would also like to acknowledge Generation Zero for their “Get Riccarton Moving” campaign which saw them encourage the public through an email campaign and an “80′s Dance Party” event to collect public submissions on the improvements, sadly the wonderful work they do doesn’t often receive credit.

Thanks to everyone who signed and shared the petition. There’s no mention of it (or our submissions) in any of the articles the Press has published, but I went to the end-of-year Public Transport Advisory Group meeting last night and was told first hand that the petition was brought up numerous times by councillors in yesterday’s Council meeting where they made the final decision. It had a real impact apparently! – Rosalee Jenkin, Christchurch Gen Zero”

Before we show you the final results, here are the plans:

Chch suburban bus stops 3

Chch suburban bus stops 4

Chch suburban bus stops 5

Chch suburban bus stops 6

Chch suburban bus stops 7

Chch suburban bus stops 8

This success story has been 5 years (if not longer) in the making, and it’s easy to see how much this development will improve the lives of the thousands that use these bus routes. I’d also like to bring pressure on other shopping centres that have poor public transport integration and challenge these destinations to embrace changes like these.

Chch suburban bus stops 9

For just one example of many, here is the Palms shopping centre in Shirley, Christchurch. Note the distance from the mall entrances (green). Below is a photo of the closest bus stop to the mall – doesn’t make public transport a very appealing choice does it?

Chch suburban bus stops 10

32 comments to Guest Post: Christchurch Suburban Bus Exchanges

  • Excellent post, thanks William. As a side note, numbers using Sylvia Park Station in Auckland have been growing very fast since service improvements on the line with the new trains and increased frequencies. And as that station pretty much only serves the mall, unlike say New Lynn which also has a nearby mall but many other attractions especially a big bus interchange, we can assume that this represents big increases in people using PT to shop and see movies etc, this no doubt will not escape the owner’s notice [Kiwi, not Westfield]. Surely this retrograde attitude by the mall owners in CHCH will change in the face of evidence, where it is possible to better integrate stations and stops with their assets. Note Sylvia Park Station still requires an uncovered walk across the carpark to access the only destination so its location is OK but not idea, and is completely separated from bus services by the mall.

    Last year’s data: http://transportblog.co.nz/2015/08/05/2015-station-boarding-results/

    • George D

      Stuart wrote a good briefing paper on Sylvia Park as an integrated development. We’re kind of getting there. It will take a while before retailers who drive realise that Gen Y (and a good number of Xers and Boomers) are actually quite interested in taking the bus or train to their spending destination.

      Sylvia Park’s train access is one reason it’s currently about to undergo a massive expansion. I wonder how long it will take for the Carbine Rd industrial property owners to tap into the adjacent market.

  • Reminds me of a certain large Metropolitan Centre in Auckland that is having a bus interchange built (well trying to) five minutes away from the mall that already has major bus stops right outside the primary entrance of that said mall…

  • Anthony McBride

    Lived in Christchurch and had to transfer at the previous Riccarton Mall Bus Stop. The one thing I noticed is how people had to run across the road to get to the next bus stop because getting to the the bus stop safely involves waiting at two lights. I saw a woman get hit by a car this way last winter and 6 near misses, despite this, because I missed many buses I ended up crossing the road as well.

    The Palms also has a horrible carpark that makes getting to the bus stop unpleasant.

    Might pay to note that Riccarton Mall Stop is used by about 3,500 people a day.

    • Hi Anthony,

      Yes this is a big improvement to having to run across a busy arterial or walk 50m to the end of McDonalds, cross the road and walk back. It’s nice having the lights right next to the lounge and I think there might be another lounge going in on the other side.

  • Lindsey

    St Lukes is dire. The St Lukes Rd bus stop “shelters” face south into the weather. I have seen people standing behind them trying to keep oit of the wet or the wind. The Morningside Drive ones are well removed from the main shopping area. There should be a transport hub in the Mall. The Mall provides under cover Taxi waiting places but they obviously do not care about Quaxers.

  • Gabe

    Embarrassing typo first sentence (!)

  • Ellen Blake

    Great to hear that public transport stops will improve in this area – many malls are poorly designed and have the great blank walls to the public streets that you show. Walkability is important in shopping areas including malls and plays a key part in how accessible public transport is.

  • SDW

    Number 4 is a very good point except I would expand it to show real time service boards within the mall. Its something TfL advocates (and can usually secure) for a range of development across London, not just malls but also incorporating into large office or residential buildings. Knowing when and how far away the next service is has shown to reduce ones perception of the total waiting time thereby making PT a more attractive option.

  • JBM

    Sylvia Park could be improved 100% if they actually connected the Mall to the station via the cross bridge for pedestrians. At the moment, passengers have to do the big walk up the stairs (or lift) and then the big walk down the stairs (or lift) and then cross the road to get to the Mall. They could cut this all out by just connecting the Mall to the second floor of the Mall via the pedestrian bridge.

  • Whilst it may be true that Westfield Mall did not allow the interchange to proceed on their land this is far from being the only issue affecting it and CCC are far from being the white knights you seem to portray them as. The reason we did not get bus lanes earlier was some spineless councillors kowtowing to people lobbying against them. These councillors were from the Peoples Choice movement and I was told that because the local residents and business owners did not want the bus lanes they should not go ahead. Public transport and their users did not get a look in.

    Local bus interchanges have been proposed by council staff for at least the past 10 years but the councilors keep removing them from the annual plan because they do not want to spend any money on public transport which is pure petty spite against Ecan because CCC have been fighting for the past 115 years to take over running public transport in the city. This suburban interchange has only happened because the Ecan councilors were sacked and replaced by commissioners who instead of beating about the bush like the councilors always do, starting beating the CCC up over their lack of cooperation. But now CCC has bit back by asking the government to remove public transport off Ecan.

    So the whole saga is just a lot of stupid and petty political bickering over who does what. Just let Ecan run it, they have been doing a great job of it for the last 20 years, and Christchurch Transport Board for 95 years before that.

  • Guy

    That picture of the people waiting by a blank wall at the Palms is pretty shocking. It should have had a decent waiting area designed into it – and the Council should have had the guts to insist on it. There is no excuse really – CCC Urban Design staff need to pick up their game and just stick their oar in until the developers play ball (and not just CCC either – Council staff anywhere in the country need to insist that PT is adequately catered for).

    • Greg N

      The Palms has always had a fuck you attitude to its surroundings ever since it was first mooted, then built, then expanded, then expanded again. This is over a 40+ year period. Its not a recent thing, and no doubt council design rules have got tougher, but the original design and structure is still there underneath it all.

      I read recently that they want to expand the mall further north, because they say that since the ‘quakes “people don’t want to park in multistorey buildings anymore”.

      [so presumably want to repurpose the existing car parks into 2 level mall space, and then sprawl their at grade car parking needs all over Shirley.

      The Palms is a shitty mall, with bad internal layout and doesn’t really work. Westfield Riccarton suffers from a similar problem – they’re both just “crusted accretions” of buildings with no conherent form or structure.
      A colony of mussels on a rock has more structure and efficiency that either of these malls have.

      • TheBigWheel

        Sadly it’s not just the awful malls but the whole of Christchurch that suffers from inefficiency and poor structure.. and the rest: it’s all just soooo dull these days, tilt slab corporate grey dull. What was once the “Garden City” is now a ghastly sprawling provincial town servicing the gigantic intensive farm that we still, nostalgically, refer to as the Canterbury Plain. Dust and traffic fumes in summer, fog and traffic fumes in winter. Like the once mighty ribbon rivers, most of the vitality has been sucked out of it.

  • The other point omitted from this point is that Westfield Mall was prepared to give up some of its site if the council would give them another site nearby they were interested in. This is a council service centre and public library, quite a small and old building down a side street, that is landlocked on three sides by the mall. The council refused to consider swapping that site for one in the mall for the bus shelter and that is a large part of why the mall decline to give the land for the bus interchange.

    The information about this was contained in the same news article which was quoted above but obviously has not been included in this post even though it is relevant.

    • Greg N

      As I recall Patrick that land swap issue was deemed a non starter by council because the building (and the land) that Westfield wanted (and no other land was acceptable to them I add), was legally encumbered in various ways which meant a simple like for like commercial swap could not occur.

      Now I’m not privvy to all the ins and outs on that one, but the issue is not as black and white as you portray.

      Without a doubt none of the parties here, Westfield, CCC, or eCan have covered themselves in any glory over this issue.

      Riccarton Road Bus lanes is like bus lanes on any 2 lane arterial anywhere, subject to a lot of competing demands for road space. But everytime I drive that road (and I avoid it like the plague if I can) its usually chock full of parked cars on the leftmost lane in both directions.

      But maybe the best option is to start with peak direction bus lanes (both ways as the road is used equally in both directions at the AM peak at least) and go from there to full time bus lanes.

    • I personally feel that as by far the biggest benefactor and traffic creator, the cheek of westfield to demand a land swap for something that adds value to their business is ridiculous. Westfield should have to dedicate X amount of resources towards catering (to)/promoting public transport. They have a horrible behemoth of a carpark and nothing at all for all their many many customers that use public transport.

  • Richard

    I thought Christchurch had right hand drive buses? A little dangerous for passengers alighting in the centre of the road…………!! (draughting glitch in illustrations)

  • Your posting is mistaken in premising that a mall location will always be the best situation. The Westfield Mall option for Riccarton has never been the best option for that part of Riccarton Road as determined by consultants’ reports to the Council. It ended up being a fill in option that wasted a whole year of the project when the Riccarton-Wigram Community Board caved in to business opposition to the first site at 119 Riccarton Road. The site which has now opened at 123-125 Riccarton Road is right next door to the mall which makes the nature of your opposition quite moot. These are in any case all short term sites for five years or so pending a more suitable permanent location being identified. The best option for integrating into Westfield Mall in the future is in the way that has been implemented at Northlands where it is built into a future extension as this is easier to develop from scratch rather than trying to graft something into the existing layout, which would have been unsatisfactory for several other reasons unrelated to Westfield itself.
    http://enzedtransport.blogspot.co.nz/2016/01/riccarton-public-transport-hub.html

    • The best location for a bus stop for a mall is in the mall. The fact that there are riccarton road shops doesn’t change that the mall is by far the largest cause of traffic. Interesting about Papanui, thanks for the link.

  • kelvin

    The otahuhu interchange should have a mall on top of it.

    • Dion

      I’ve had similar thoughts, but at the same time, that particular part of Auckland isn’t exactly a retail desert what with Sylvia Park just two stops (eventually to be just one stop) away.

  • Chris

    How do they stop these getting trashed or is the homeless issue not so bad in Christchurch? Seems to be a big problem in Napier and Wellington.

    http://www.hawkesbay.co.nz/general/17071-crackdown-on-homeless-at-napier-bus-terminal.html

    • Euan

      There are many street beggars in the area during the day and this will likely get worse if CCC continues its plan to ban begging in the CBD. I think there would be some issues.

  • Euan

    The oddest thing about the stance of Westfield is that the mall would be tapping into the thousands of carless students that live around the University just a short bus trip away in Ilam. I know anecdotal evidence is not much to go on but as a student at the uni the mall is the ideal place to go when shopping, however if its raining, too cold or too hot there is no way I am going to get on a bus to go there with the current layout of the bus stops.

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