Regional Public Transport Plan approved by Joint Committee

The Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee approved the draft Regional Public Transport Plan 2018-28 at its meeting on Monday December 3, accepting the changes suggested through the hearing committee process, and recommended that Environment Canterbury approve the Plan.

A significant component of the Plan relating to Greater Christchurch has been developed by the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee agencies. The draft Plan was put out for community consultation in September.

Joint Committee member and Environment Canterbury chair Steve Lowndes said the consultation period was comprehensive, engaging a high number of people.

“At final count we received 726 submissions, along with 8,944 quick polls taken across the community,” he said.

“Most pleasing was the high level of youth engagement, traditionally a group less likely to submit on these sorts of things. We had 71 submissions from young people, reflecting their sense of ownership and desire for a future focused public transport system.”

Following the consultation stage, the Joint Committee formed a hearing committee to review the submissions and hear from those submitters who wished to speak to their submission. 55 submitters chose to support their submission by presenting to the hearing committee, which comprised a representative from Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, and the non-voting independent chair.

The hearing committee compiled a summary of the submissions and a series of recommended changes to the draft Plan, which were considered and adopted by the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee on Monday.

The recommended changes are detailed below, and in full in the Hearing Committee Summary of Submissions and Recommendations.

The final Regional Public Transport Plan, incorporating the changes suggested by the hearings panel, will be submitted to Environment Canterbury for consideration at its meeting next Thursday December 13.

Key submission themes and recommended changes

There was a strong theme from submitters on the role of rail-based solutions in the draft Plan. The draft Plan includes providing for rapid transit in its future vision and no single mode of transport is preferred or ruled out. The NZ Transport Agency, Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, Selwyn District Council and Waimakariri District Council are working together to investigate advanced rapid transit technologies which could include rail, through the Future Public Transport Business Case process.
Service improvements
There were a significant number of submissions relating to requests for service improvements through route changes or scheduling amendments, as well as for the hours of service for public transport to be extended, particularly in the evenings and during weekends. These requests have all been noted by the hearings panel and referred to Environment Canterbury to be considered as part of the network review process beginning in 2019.
While the majority of submitters generally agreed with the proposed vision for the future, there were some valid suggestions that it does not effectively cater for the vulnerable groups in society such as the elderly and those with disabilities. The panel recommended the vision be amended to reflect the need for public transport to be inclusive of all members of the community.
Bus priority
Submitters want a greater commitment from the responsible agencies on the delivery of bus priority measures, noting that increasing bus frequency may not deliver a better public transport service if they are caught in congested traffic. Supporting infrastructure and bus priority have been included in the draft Plan, and partner agencies are committed to providing bus priority to ensure public transport functions effectively as the system grows.
Central city shuttle
The commitment in the draft Plan to restore a central city shuttle route in the CBD received considerable support in the submissions. There were many different thoughts on how this should be funded and the types of vehicles that should be used. The Central City Shuttle Business Case will be referred back to the Joint Committee for further investigation, including analysis on funding and route.
Zero-emission vehicles
There was strong agreement from submitters on introducing zero-emission vehicles to the public transport fleet. In fact, many suggested the draft Plan’s proposed timeframe of transitioning to zero-emission vehicles is not quick enough. The panel endorsed an ‘as fast as practicable’ approach to rolling out zero-emission vehicles, taking into consideration limitations around funding and competing considerations. It also noted that the Plan’s focus on achieving higher patronage, encouraging more people out of single occupancy vehicles and into alternatives like public transport, will help to reduce carbon emissions and contribute to environmental outcomes. The panel requested that the Plan be changed to reflect stronger wording – a move to zero-emission vehicles rather than encourage – and requested that Environment Canterbury investigate and incentivise the rollout of zero-emission vehicles as part of its procurement process.
During consultation, many different thoughts were presented on which groups are most deserving of cheaper fares, such as those with disabilities, lower-income groups and families, and students/youth. Maintaining fares at the lowest possible rate across the board is a key goal. The fare review signalled in the draft Plan, to be undertaken within 12 months of adoption, will take a closer look at the approach to fares and concessions. The panel also recommended increasing the age for the child concession to under 19, rather than under 18, to be inclusive of secondary school students who are over 18. Fare changes are subject to annual planning processes.
Funding impacts on the delivery of all the proposals in the draft Plan. How fast we can make this transition will depend on the rate of funding available. If this future vision is to become a reality, we are going to need substantially more investment from the early 2020s. The relationship with central government is important to deliver this, and local ratepayer contributions are also vital to provide an improved and better used public transport system.

The above is a condensed summary of the full hearings panel report to the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee. You can read the full report here

Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee

The Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee comprises representatives from Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council and the NZ Transport Agency. It was established in mid-2016 to foster collaborative and decisive leadership regarding the provision of public transport services and infrastructure in Greater Christchurch.