Previous Reports 4: Programme Business Case for Future of Public Transport in Christchurch

Previously I have written about the 2017 strategic business case for the future of public transport in Christchurch.

Now I’m going to summarise the next step of this – the programme business case. This was completed late last year. It considers the problems and benefits that were identified in the strategic case, then recommends a programme of works that will address these.

The first half includes some more good graphs and statistics that further describe the problem we find ourselves in. I quite liked this graph of predicted population growth by distance from city centre.


It shows the bulk of the growth happening between 6 and 10 km from the city centre, and big chunks out in Kaiapoi, Rangiora and Rolleston as well. The central city (2km) will also roughly quadruple from a low base of 5,000 to close to 20,000 residents by 2048.

This one shows where employment growth is predicted to be – mainly in the central city.


This chart of housing density is quite interesting. Brendon Harre spoke at the rail workshop about different housing densities here (have a look at slides 53-58). He spoke about how the new Hobsonville development in Auckland is roughly 5 times the density of our new Longhurst development here in Christchurch. This table shows that, even if you only consider our key centres, there is still a wide range in densities, with Riccarton being twice as dense as Hornby and Shirley.


The case considers the following components. It notes that congestion pricing is outside the scope of consideration for this study. It also identifies 5 benefits to try and achieve.


It then recommends a 3-stage approach:

  1. Foundations – initially increase bus frequencies, upgrade vehicles and stops, make minor bus priority improvements, trial demand responsive transit. This is sort of what we already doing but investing more so that we can do it better.
  2. Rest of Network – Increase number of core high-frequency routes from 5 to 9. Try to make the bus lanes better (more continuous) on the Riccarton and Papanui Road corridors, identify and protect rapid transit corridors, multi-modal interchanges (park’n’ride, bike share and bike parking), more vehicle upgrades, higher frequencies and extended operating hours, and demand responsive transit. Building carparking facilities to offset the parking losses due to bus lanes is also mentioned.
  3. Mass Rapid Transit – it is stressed that this is mode-agnostic. It also states that, although the “corridors” are fixed as per the diagram below, the “alignments” may change, which is understood to mean that the existing rail corridors are not being ruled out. Capture

Here is the timing for the three stages.


Here are the costs of the three stages.


Here are the benefits of the investment (as calculated according to the Transport Agency Economic Evaluation methods).


Combining these benefits with the costs, means the benefit-cost ratio will exceed 1 as long as mode share of 5.1% is achieved by the time it is finished. Currently public transport in Christchurch carries around 2.25% of trips, so that represents slightly over a doubling. For context, public transport carries 4.5% and 5.7% in Auckland and Wellington respectively.


Stage 1 (the Strategic Case) – considered the question “Is there a case for change?” The answer was yes there is a case for increased investment in public transport in Christchurch.

Stage 2 (the Programme Case) – considered what programme of investment should be considered (i.e. what type of investment is needed). The answer given is Rapid Transit to the north and south-west, and improved bus services to the rest of the city. Whether Rapid Transit uses the existing rail lines, existing roads or a brand new corridor will be considered in the next stage.


Do you think this network is what Christchurch needs? Or would you like to see something different?

6 thoughts on “Previous Reports 4: Programme Business Case for Future of Public Transport in Christchurch

  1. I think that it is about right. Most cities start off with very focused rapid transit plans, and for a city of Christchurch’s size and where it is at in terms of growth, it seems about right. The last thing you want is a grand scheme that is far too elaborate and unfocused that just gets kicked around for years.

    They are two of the most developed and busy corridors in the metro area, plus lead off to the high growth regional centres, so it makes sense to prioritise rapid transit on these routes and focus on improving buses elsewhere. I think that is a very sound foundation, and the next step is, as planned, mode choice and implementation (which go hand in hand).


    1. You’ve spoken before about trying to do too much with one solution. Do you think the south-west and north corridors are falling into this trap? E.g trying to serve a dense narrow built up corridor like Riccarton with the same tool that we’re using to serve a sprawling low density satellite town like Rolleston? Or would we be better separating them and using two different tools (e.g. heavy rail and light rail)?


      1. It depends on whether they are building this into their considerations, during the next phase, for mode choice, and how rapid transit might be implemented. Using two different modes might better suit the respective needs of the two different urban environments, particularly in the short to medium-term, and doesn’t necessarily preclude integration further down the line if that proves to be desirable. It could also give the high growth satellite towns better public transport much sooner.


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