Bus Time Quick Wins

I caught the 60 bus into town the other day and was appalled at how slow it was. Luckily I’d GPS tracked my trip, so can have a closer look at the numbers.

I boarded the bus in Hoon Hay at 8.30am on a Thursday and rode just under 5km to the hospital. It took half an hour (average speed 9.4 km/h).

Here is a map showing travel speed (green fast, red slow, orange medium).

You can see red blobs as the bus slows down at each bus stop and most intersections.

Here is a graph showing distance over time.

This graph shows that actually 90% of the trip was fine. There was just one part that had big delays: a 200m stretch between Redruth Street and Coronation Street, which took an excruciating 12 minutes to traverse (average speed 1km per hour – literally slower than a baby crawling).

Here’s an aerial photo. The bus comes north along Selwyn Street and has to make a right turn. Not only does the bus have to give way to traffic on Coronation Drive, but it also has no bus lane so it has to sit in a queue of vehicles waiting before it even gets to the stop line. When Coronation Drive is busy (which it often is) you can be waiting a long time for a gap.

To my mind there is a simple solution here. The road is plenty wide enough for the bus to bypass the traffic jam, it just couldn’t because there were one or two parked cars in the way. If we painted yellow no stopping lines to keep it clear, and shifted the bus stop a few metres north, then the bus could get past the stationary cars pretty much to the front of the queue.

This road layout would have saved me close to 12 minutes on my trip to the hospital, almost halving the travel time. If we assume that my trip is typical of a weekday peak hour trip (although I’m not certain it is), then the travel time savings can be quantified as somewhere around $9 million over a forty year lifespan. (30 x passengers per peak hour bus, 4 buses per peak hour, 250 weekdays per year, $20 per hour travel time value, discounted at 6% over 40 years).

I’m guessing the costs might be something like $50 paint, $200 labour, and $5000 temporary traffic management.

From these you can estimate a benefit-cost ratio of something in the order of $1,700 travel time benefits per $1 invested. In other words an obvious no-brainer.

There are more significant investments planned around Christchurch to speed up buses on our busier routes and we definitely need to keep plugging away at those. But I reckon there would be a lot of smaller intersections around Christchurch like this one where we could spend next to no money yet get some pretty decent benefits.

What do you think- is this kind of thing worth pursuing further?

5 thoughts on “Bus Time Quick Wins

  1. Yeah I’d go for that. On the rare occasions I don’t ride a bike to work, I am usually one of those drivers backed up along Coronation.

    Ultimately I choose Coronation/Selwyn in my car to get into the CBD because the alternatives are Barrington then Brougham (clogged even worse at that time), Lyttleton then Lincoln (a bit out of my way, also clogged) or a big dogleg around Milton and emerging into Gasson St… no matter how you slice it, crossing Brougham, using Brougham or avoiding Brougham all come at a penalty. Without changing actual streets and roads, making public transport better is probably the only thing that can work here to get more people moving through these chokepoints.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea it’s generally very difficult to increase capacity for vehicles in built up areas- requires demolishing houses to widen roads. The best we can do is give people options for travel and try to insulate those options from the effects of congestion.


    2. There used to be a mini roundabout at that intersection which worked just fine but for some unknown reason it was replaced with the present set up. Which a dog!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, there are lots of little barriers to PT and local knowledge and tracking buses with gps should be able to identify those problem areas to remove them. Surely a bus driver survey would catch most, but also having the data to back it up would be essential. On my regular bus route, #7 (when I don’t cycle), the largest problem area of Moorehouse/Lincoln Road is thankfully being fixed. The small length of the trip usually takes well over half the journey time from Halswell to/from city, so looking forward to those works being finished. Last week I bussed 3 days of 5. There was an issue one of the days and it took to 16 minutes to travel ~ 400m from Lincoln Road southern motorway underpass to the Lincoln first bus stop on Lincoln Rd. Most days it is faster, but still the roughly half hour bus ride is usually slower than my on a bicycle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is definitely worth pursuing. But there are many more examples of this sort of thing. One of the problems of buses and their flexibility is that roads are not optimised for particular bus routes.
    I suggested to the city council that a systematic review of all bus routes should be pursued. It only really needs a few people carefully observing the obstacles that hold buses back or doing the sort of analysis you did. From there traffic engineers could then suggest how we could speed up bus lines, with the express aim of making journey times on buses more reliable and quicker, even if it is to the detriment of general traffic flow. I could suggest a few places to start (Orbiter!!!). If is a simple solution such as eliminating a few car parks, then it is even more worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s