Christchurch City Council is consulting on improvements to Victoria Street.
Cycling Christchurch wrote an article about it here. The author openly says that the whole situation is a little confusing. Michael Hayward wrote an article on Stuff – the comments suggest most readers there are confused about what’s being proposed. I have to admit I’m a little confused too, so thought I’d outline what we know.
Victoria Street is one of the city’s busiest public transport routes, with most of the buses from the north entering and exiting the CBD here. Every day, just over 300 buses move up and down Victoria Street, shifting somewhere in the order of 5,000 people a day (for context the street carries about 5,500 cars per day).
In 2013 the Accessible City Plan recognised this, identifying Victoria Street as a street that needs to be prioritised for public transport, as well as walking and cycling.
Victoria Street currently suffers congestion because it is used as a rat-run for drivers who don’t want to use the arterial pair of Montreal and Durham Streets, combined with Bealey Avenue. This congestion imposes delays on buses and makes them slow and unreliable along this stretch.
Three years ago, in May 2016, Council proposed a plan to address this problem, which aligned with the Accessible City. This plan proposed stopping through-traffic from using Victoria Street by installing a “bus-gate” at each end, and retaining vehicle access only for people accessing the shops and businesses in the area. The plan also included removing some car parking.
This went out for consultation. I wasn’t privvy to all the conversations that went on, but my understanding is that some business owners weren’t too happy with removing through traffic and parking.
Following consultation, a new compromise plan was proposed in September 2016.
It was a compromise because it allowed through traffic in one direction but not the other. It would result in some improvements for buses, but not as much as the original plan would have. This compromise plan initially got the go-ahead, but then later was put on hold, apparently due to some business owners still not being happy with it.
For three years the project has been on hold. Now Council has proposed a new plan. It is very different though. The scope has been drastically reduced, so it no longer includes any of the key intersections – just the mid-block sections of Victoria Street.
It includes some beautification (intermittently wider footpaths, trees, traffic calming) but in terms of transport there are no significant changes. Through traffic will still be free to use Victoria Street, meaning congestion won’t change from what it is now, and buses will still get stuck in it. There will likely be no improvement for bus users. There are basically no improvements for cyclists – just a lick of green paint in some parts of the on-road cycle lanes and the generally lower vehicle speeds.
The intersections really are the crux of the problem for the whole street – it’s the intersections that determine what traffic can get in and out, and it’s mainly them that are responsible for the delays to public transport along the route. So the decision to exclude these intersections from the project is the main reason the project seems to be not really changing anything, and sort of ignoring the problem that it is meant to be addressing.