4 Feb 2016

Chch council votes for unified transport approach

12:33 pm on 4 February 2016

Christchurch City Council's transport committee has recommended a new super committee be set up to help fix the city's public transport woes.

Currently the council is in charge of building bus stops while the regional council, Ecan, controls bus routes.

Christchurch's new $53-million bus interchange

Christchurch's new bus interchange Photo: Christchurch City Council

A council report last year blamed "inefficiencies" in the way public transport was planned on a "contest for control" between Ecan and the city council.

Today the council's transport committee voted in favour of a joint transport committee made up of city and regional council members and those from the Selwyn and Waimakariri councils.

The new committee would enable decisions to be made collaboratively and is seen by some city councillors as a first step towards setting up a stand alone Transport Authority.

The committee, which has already been approved by the regional council, will be voted on at a full meeting of the city council later this month.

Old divisions between the Christchurch City and Canterbury Regional Councils have been blamed by transport watchers for delays in the rolling out of new bus routes and a lack of ambition when it comes to looking at the possibility of building a rail service.

Christchurch's new $53 million bus interchange is one of the few examples of progress when it comes to public transport in the city.

Putting the city council in charge of bus stops and Ecan in charge of bus routes, was never going to work, according to professor of Transport at Lincoln University, Chris Kissling.

"The Environment Canterbury side of it seems to think that the City Council's very slow in responding to the needs for the infrastructure.

"And I think the City Council looks upon Environment Canterbury's requests being a bit outrageous at times and the expectations they can be done overnight."

The Riccarton Road bus lounge, which was finally delivered late last year, a year late, was just one example of the problems that arose under the current set up, said Mr Kissling.

"The authority that has to implement the infrastructure has to deal with the businesses in that area and get the flack from that and deal with the public, whereas the one who proposed it says yes, looks good from a network point of view, we need it."

Last year's council report suggested sorting the city's woes by setting up a joint transport committee involving the Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn councils and the regional council.

Such a committee would be able to take a proper look at the possibility of introducing rail, something Ecan has never really seriously considered, said Canterbury University's professor Simon Kingham.

"We know rail will always attract more patronage than buses, just because of the nature of it.

We know with rail you can actually pay for some of the costs with the increase in value of the land and you can't do that with buses because people don't have confidence the buses will be there in 10 or 20 years."

Christchurch City councillor Phil Clearwater, who supports a Joint Transport Committee.

Christchurch City councillor Phil Clearwater, who supports a Joint Transport Committee. Photo: RNZ/ Conan Young

Both Mr Kingham and Mr Kissling believe the councils need to go further and set up a separate transport authority with responsibility for all aspects of public transport delivery.

A joint committee could be a first step towards doing just that, said the chairperson of the Christchurch City Council committee in charge of transport, councillor Phil Clearwater.

"It's something I know a lot of people would like to see happen.

"At the moment, we would need new legislation, which I understand from the report, will take about two years to put into place.

"So we have to do some preparatory steps, and this is a big beginning one."

Professor of Transport Chris Kissling wants the council to set up a separate Transport Authority.

Professor of Transport Chris Kissling wants the council to set up a separate Transport Authority. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Mr Clearwater is also a fan of rail.

"In the longer term future, we could have, certainly where our current bus lanes are, we could have some light rail.

"That will certainly be there in the future as Christchurch expands."

Ecan has already voted in favour of a new joint transport committee.

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