I had an experience of Christchurch Car Culture this year. Earlier in the season my daughter started playing netball (in between various lock-downs). Netball starts shortly after school finishes on a Friday afternoon. She plays for her school team located at the red dot below, and the team plays at the netball centre located at the blue dot below. The pink line shows the Route 60 bus, which leaves the school at 3:32 and arrives at the netball centre eleven minutes later at 3:43. This timing couldn’t be more perfect for the netball game.
Everyone was aware that it would congested and difficult to find a car park at the netball centre. So how do you think the team chose to travel?
I suspect you guessed it – every single one drove. Some shared so I think it was five cars for the team. None of us caught the bus. I’d guess there would have been a couple of thousand people at the netball centre that day. Judging by the parked cars filling the streets for several blocks, it seems almost everyone else drove too.
I thought it was an interesting insight into the psychology of travel.
Catching the bus would have been faster. It would have been cheaper. It would have involved less walking. It would have resulted in less carbon, less congestion, and would have kept parking spaces available for those who really need them. In my mind it would have been simpler, less stressful, and more fun. I had suggested catching the bus to another parent, but she wasn’t keen.
I don’t think anyone was particularly anti-bus. It was more just that it didn’t even occur to anyone that the bus was an option available to them. And it was incomprehensible that it could actually be a more attractive option than driving. Most people in Christchurch are so used to driving that it’s just second-nature to jump into the car whenever you need to go anywhere. There’s no weighing up of the different options going on in people’s minds.
I sometimes wonder if the best way to get more people using the bus is to just do a gigantic marketing and information campaign. This would aim to make people aware driving isn’t the only way of getting everywhere. People do have choices when they travel and sometimes those other choices will be preferable. But it has to be really easy to access the information to make the best decision.
I suspect most people in Christchurch wouldn’t have a clue what buses go where at what times, and have no idea if bussing is a better option than driving or not. I think we probably need to invest more than we currently do to change this.