The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
November 23, 2010

Bus Lane

In honour of the upcoming opening of the Manners Mall buslane, which has taken away a (to some) treasured pedestrian walkway, and replaced it with a (hopefully, much faster) route for Wellington’s buses, we present to you some buses. One of our regular readers and sometime correspondent Seamonkey Madness (the greatest of all non-de-plumes, surely?), sent us these pics a while back, and I’ve been storing them up just for a day like this. Have a gander at this: its a Bendy Bus in Wellington!

Well, if you’re a bus-lover, then that will have got you excited. So much so, that we’ll save the other pic for further down the page.

But the Bus Lane in Manners Mall thing has got some people all very hot and bothered, and others rather excited. There’s that ‘political busker’ chappie, who took a sledgehammer to the tarmac (spectacularly unsuccessful mate – you’ll never get a job with Fulton Hogan). There’s also a friendly, albeit slightly manic woman who has been campaigning for the Buslane NOT to happen here in her beloved Manners Mall. Not a murmur of support from the Emos – in fact, perhaps all the Emos have died off, as I haven’t seen a touch of black cloak, neon highlights, hanging around the front of Burger King for many months now.

The two lead campaigners mentioned above, have been pestering the Council regarding two things – whether the roadway is wide enough for the buses to actually pass safely in Manners Mall / St, (which some argue the simple answer is No), and another one that struck me as quite a potential screw up – the entry of the buses into Willis St from the top of Manners. If, on Monday morning, there is a series of head on smashes between buses, we’ll know that he was right all along, and Council should profusely apologise. On the other hand, if things progress smoothly (as in, if buses progress smoothly down the Street like a squeezing out toothpath), then perhaps the intrepid campaigners should stand up and say sorry for wasting the Council’s time?

Time for a treat: here’s another pair of buses. Look: bendy buses, pre-MFC ! I am impressed.

Yes, it seems to be turning down Cuba St, swinging past the old Town Hall.

I really don’t think that the people of Wellington seem to be too saddened by the loss of Manners Mall. It had been progressively savaged by a bad case of ugly concrete block disease, and the metal cages encasing the trees had never really worked. It was glorious for about an hour a day, when the sun poured down the street, but it is not as if there were carefully sited seats in the middle that we could sit down on, or lay down on.

The key thing that we need to hold the Council to is to get an applicable amount of quality pedestrian walkways in return. We will be watching ‘lower Cuba’ very closely indeed…

Greenwelly
23 - 11 - 10

Loewr Cuba will be very interesting indeed, especially as it is now “reversed flowed”. Entry is west along Manners street past the Opera house, then right turn across the southbound buses and into Cuba Street,

To be honest the “waiting bay” for traffic turning into Cuba is going to impede Northbound buses, and I suspect will be eventually dumped, hopefully this will allow the full continuation of Cuba mall Northward.

Yvonne Weeber
24 - 11 - 10

It looks like the bus stop outside Burger King has no seats (or at least this was the case yesterday). As this used to be the most frequented bus stop with the highest number of users going in an easterly direction why is there so little waiting comfort for bus users being provided? Not that I am saying I liked the Adshel bus shelters I just would apprecaite a seat of three facing in the right direction under sufficient cover to get a bus. This is espeically relevant when waiting for buses at night and in the weekend and it could be anything from half an hour to an hour till the next bus.

Denny
24 - 11 - 10

Nice pics though they’re a bit rough in tunnels… – check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G283c3DAC3c

Maximus
24 - 11 - 10

Yvonne raises a good point, regarding seating in the new Manners St. While the old seating in Cuba St was a bit too obtrusive, it did provide some very good protection. The new tiny seats (cos that’s all there is room for) that are being scattered around the street show just how tight the room in the street really is. But also, that in terms of design values being adhered to, this Manners route is simply bland and unexciting. There are some fantastic precedents for good crisp urban seating in Wellington, but it’s not evident here. Let us hope that whoever is designing the new shared space in Lower Cuba St does not suffer from the same lack of budget / imagination.

Commuter
25 - 11 - 10

Wellington’s bus system is crazy – have you ever taken a close look at how many people are on the buses passing through town, especially off-peak? There must be a better way, with no need for quite so many full-size buses to be lumbering through the CBD throughout the entire day. Reducing the number would have a huge effect on the pedestrian-friendliness of the Golden Mile.

Rather than bigger, bendier buses, what about more frequent, smaller buses for off peak? Or maybe a hub at each end of the CBD where big buses stop and smaller ones take over, perhaps running like a continuous shuttle? Efficiently run, this would be great – and if we’re not getting light rail through the CBD any time soon, why not improve the bus service?

Some might moan about a transfer, but why not encourage people who don’t have to go far on their CBD trip to do it by foot instead? Good for the life of the streets, good for the health. People clearly walk from the railway station into town – why not from a bus hub? Some services could still run on through-routes, but a reduction in the number of them would be a huge plus for the city.

The system would still need to be able to handle peak demand, but it seems crazy to build a skinny street and fill it up with fat buses all day long. Things shouldn’t continue to be done the same way just because that’s the way it’s always been.

Maximus
25 - 11 - 10

Commuter, you’re a woman after my own heart. (Assuming you’re a woman, which for some reason i do). Theyhave exactly that system of small buses in Hong Kong, where there is an endless stream of Hino minibuses, about 15? seats each, which works a treat. Very small, very frequent, always very full.

Andy Foster
28 - 11 - 10

Good points as always.
Commuter – there is work being done at the moment by GWRC with involvement from WCC on what we refer to as the ‘hub and spoke’ model for public transport. You are absolutely right that because essentially all bus services run right through the CBD many of them run well below capacity. The ideal is to have fewer – fuller – buses running through the CBD.

Some core services are very heavily utilised. Others have lower patronage. The concept being looked at is to have more frequent services circulating through the ‘hills’ feeding travellers into interchange hubs like Miramar or Kilbirnie etc, where frequent (5 – 7 minutes frequency I’d expect)services would run (express ?) into the city. It’s looking very positive. Obviously there is a HUGE amount of work in what would be a massive review of the entire system, including public consultation, rearranging commercial contracts etc.

One other important aspect is that such a hub and spoke model would fit perfectly with light rail which would be much more viable if it took patrons from those interchanges rather than have all buses running through the CBD.

Warmest regards

Andy Foster
Transport Leader
Wellington City Council

Maximus
29 - 11 - 10

thanks Andy. Looking forward to that Light Rail feasibility enquiry being kicked off soon! Let’s just hope that someone thought to put in a sub-base in Manners Mall strong enough to take light rail loadings….

in the mean time of course, the last protesters are predicting “traffic chaos”
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington/4396434/Protester-predicts-traffic-chaos

“For unemployed political busker Benjamin Easton, yelling out at passers-by is only one way to get attention. Decked out in a “human bus” sandwich-board, he stands at the crossing beside Manners Mall, railing against Go Wellington “doubling” its fares at the top of his voice. While some people scuttle past embarrassed, others stop and talk to the small group that make up The City is Ours activists. Easton first became involved in trying to “save” the mall in 2008 and since then his various legal battles have gone to the district court, High Court and Environment Court. But while he represented himself, the council has had to pay more than $270,000 in legal fees. Despite being ordered to pay the council tens of thousands of dollars in costs, he plans to go to the Court of Appeal.”

This guy is becoming a real pain. He may have a point – he’s made his point. It’s time to let it go now…

Maximus
29 - 11 - 10

But no… the article goes on to say:
” “I’m not going to yield because the safety matter hasn’t been fully disclosed to the public. It’s unconscionable that they are putting buses in [Manners Mall].” Easton is adamant pedestrians will be sprayed with glass from broken wing mirrors and, because there is no alternative route, accidents will create traffic chaos.

“The whole city will lock up as they clear the blood and guts off the road. They’ve planned gridlock.”

You may even see him in Manner’s St tomorrow.

“I’m probably going to stand on the road until the bus driver beeps his horn. I want it to be between me and the bus.”

John H
29 - 11 - 10

There is a Parkwise chap with a DSLR mounted on a tripod in Manners ex-Mall today raking in the cash by photographing naughty car drivers cutting through the bus-only stretch. One I saw being snapped was obviously a semi-lost out-of-towner and I thought it a little unfair as the signage at the Eastern end (outside the Oaks) is not as “loud” as it perhaps should be. More of a concern (but not to Parkwise unfortunately) was the number of buses I saw which were plainly exceeding the 30kmph speed limit through the bus-only bit.
A hub-and-spoke system is fine as long as it is not used by Go Wellington to rort commuters even more than currently. Tickets HAVE to be transferable between buses.
The other thing that many overseas public transport systems have that we don’t is that they are CHEAP. Bus travel is getting ludicrously expensive in Wellington and it is no surprise that more people are abandoning using them in favour of driving cars instead. One you have two people in a car, it makes better financial sense to drive into town and pay for parking than it does to catch the bus.

Maximus
30 - 11 - 10

ah yes, the signage. Road signage is surely one of the banes of the life of an urban designer. There will be some roading engineer who will want to stick a giant fluorescent sign saying No Entry with lots of clauses, vs the urban designer who would like some smaller, more subtle signage directing the cars away.

But I must say, I am surprised at the lack of signage so far. Specifically at the end of Courtenay Place looking west, where the road splits into Dixon St (for cars) and Manners St (for buses only, really, despite a few cars). There is just a green light giving the go ahead. As Greenwelly says in the first comment up here, hopefully over time (and hopefully a very short period of time), they will stop cars going up Manners, and slipping down through lower Cuba. It is just not necessary. Restrict it to delivery vans only, and allow parking for motorbikes and pushbikes only.

Over time therefore, I would expect just a big green arrow pointing leftish for cars, and a big green B pointing straight ahead for buses only…

Naughty
30 - 11 - 10

“There is a Parkwise chap with a DSLR mounted on a tripod in Manners ex-Mall today raking in the cash by photographing naughty car drivers cutting through the bus-only stretch.”

I thought that there were a few days of grace before they actually started ticketing? That Parkwise guys might be only there to give warnings at the moment.

Maximus
30 - 11 - 10

Oh dear – a second person has been whacked by a bus. No deaths yet.
But: one yesterday, and one today: not a good start.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4406088/Woman-hit-by-bus-in-Manners-Street

“A second pedestrian has been knocked down on Wellington’s altered Manners St, less than three days after it opened. A woman was this afternoon loaded on a stretcher and taken to hospital in a neck brace after being hit by No. 2 Miramar bus on Manners St. The accident happened just after 2pm this afternoon, on the section of the street between Willis and Victoria streets, which was previously one-way, but is now two-way. The woman, who appeared to be in her thirties, was treated by ambulance staff, put in a neck brace and loaded on to a stretcher.

One nearby shopkeeper did not see the incident but said he heard a thud as the woman was hit. Yesterday, a teenage boy was knocked over by a bus on Manners St.
Eyewitness John Ong said he saw the bus hit the teenage boy, who was looking the wrong way at the new crossing on the intersection of Manners and Cuba streets.

“He dusted himself off and he looked like he was fine, so a lucky escape I think.”

JTH
30 - 11 - 10

Perhaps some more signage is needed, not less? Like a massive LOOK RIGHT –> sign along the edge of the footpath all the way through Manners St?

Still, at least people in Manners have got the benefit of a kerb on which to stand and look both ways. The lower Cuba St ‘shared surface’ concept is looking well-dodgy now…. notice to Council – amend it BEFORE deaths occur…

Alan
30 - 11 - 10

Surely the issue is the newness of the road and layout, rather than the concept. I mean, the new Manners Mall road is no different to Willis St or certain stretches of Lambton Quay, which already have two-way bus traffic, and where pedestrians and traffic co-exist quite happily (apart from the occasional iPod listener or Blackberry addict that manages to miss seeing the multi-ton vehicle trundling towards them).

minimus
1 - 12 - 10

I think the issue here is the number of buses in such a tight space. From the beginning of this proposal I had no problem with the conversion to a bus lane – BUT just one lane. The area in front of old bank of lambton quay works perfectly fine, and it even has cars in the mix. There is a shared surface with no curb – this should have been the model for manners mall. Buses in 1 direction only – 1 lane. That would have left more room on the foot path for pedestrians, it would have not necessitated looking both ways. There is simply too much going on in a crowded space. Two opposing lanes of buses was always asking for disaster.

Kent Duston
1 - 12 - 10

Maximus – Yes, it would be sensible to remove the private car access into lower Cuba, but it simply won’t happen. Part of the rationale for the Manners Mall changes was that the Council will raise ~$200K per annum from the parking charges, despite there being no evidence additional parking is needed in the area. (See the under-utilised James Smiths car park for reference.)

It’s the same reason cars are still cluttering up Dixon Street, thus missing the opportunity to connect Pigeon Park with … well, anything. The Council is addicted to the parking revenue, the retailers think they all run drive-through businesses, and the traffic designers are stuck somewhere in the mid 1960s. Urban design or a high-quality walkable environment comes a distant last place.

minimus
1 - 12 - 10

And as to the bus hub and spoke model – I’m all for this, I think it sounds great. a central spine that smaller feeder buses feed into would be preferable. How many people actually ride the full length of the bus route? A good model to look at would be Denver Colorado and its 16th street mall. It’s a pedestrian mall with shuttle buses down a mile long corridor from Union Station to the State Capital. It links in with two separate light rail routes. The shuttles are free, hop on hop off and come every few minutes. If you miss one, you can literally see the next one coming. The fact that they are free encourages people to go further up or down the street than they would otherwise. I could see a similar thing working from the train station to either the embassy theatre, or possibly down to the basin (more room at the basin for a bus terminus). Seattle also had a bus tunnel which operated the same way with terminals at either end, all though the tunnel (always planned for light rail) has now been converted. In both cases when you were in the central zone, the bus/shuttle is free. You only pay to leave the central zone – so avoids the hassles of transfers. Plus if you know the bus is free, it’s easier to park in one place and take the shuttle up from courtney place to lambton quay and back instead of trying to look for parking in both places. Sure walking would be preferred, but not everyone is perfectly ambulatory, not every day is sunny, etc.

minimus
1 - 12 - 10

sorry – Meant to include some links to the 16th street mall in Denver.
The planning was done by IM Pei’s office in the early 80’s. It’s a very successful urban space and transit system.
Andy Foster I hope you’re reading this – the council needs to visit and see how it works. It’s a fantastic model. Portland Oregon also has a similar system that works well. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. I’ve just provided 3 models that have done it- have done it for over 20 years, and it works. It’s not revolutionary.
http://www.rtd-denver.com/FREEMallRide.shtml
http://www.downtowndenver.com/Business/DevelopmentandPlanning/16thStreetPlan/tabid/174/Default.aspx
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/16th_Street_Mall

a map of Denver’s Light Rail system showing how the 16th street mall integrates (mall shown in black)
http://www.rtd-denver.com/LightRail_Map.shtml

Maximus
1 - 12 - 10

Kent, but that parking layout was agreed under the watch of a very pro-car mayor. The new mayor we have is certainly not very pro-car.

I’m hoping that she may be able to make some changes in her 3 years here…. to both Lower Cuba, and to Dixon.

Incidentally, and re cars: – have you heard anything more about the Basin Bypass / Over pass ? Its still very quiet on that subject….

Kent Duston
1 - 12 - 10

The Basin Reserve is very quiet at the moment – which is probably not a good sign. The gossip is that NZTA will be announcing designs in the early part of next year, but we’ll just have to see.

But while we’re on the subject of our favourite rogue agency, NZTA have just appealed District Plan Change 72 to the Environment Court. According to the submission from their lawyers, they are opposed to the heritage protection provisions in Mt Victoria and Mt Cook, they want homeowners to be forced to pay up for their own sound insulation to protect themselves from excess road noise, and they want power of veto over certain types of consents so that childcare centres don’t inconvenience speeding trucks. It’s the most astounding piece of pro-roading bigotry I’ve ever seen.

davidp
1 - 12 - 10

Max>I’m hoping that she may be able to make some changes in her 3 years here…. to both Lower Cuba, and to Dixon.

I’m quite pleased the way Manners Mall has turned out. The pavements are nice and wide and in my opinion it isn’t any worse a space than it was before.

But Lower Cuba is an ugly street. No matter what you do at street level (and I think it needs to be closed to traffic, not shared), it’ll still be lined with ugly buildings in a state of disrepair. I’m not sure what to do about them either, altho a lick of paint and tearing down the ugly gray one with the roof garden that Max likes would be a start.

Oh, and I’d be happy to kick in $20 to start a reward fund for any bus driver who runs over Easton. That’s got to be cheaper than paying for his idiocy thru my rates.

John H
2 - 12 - 10

Another observation regarding the ex-Manners Mall bus-only strip. Yesterday I needed a quick feed before going out for the evening so I decided to give my support to that unfortunate burger-bar owner who has been struggling with the road changes. I was there at about 4.30pm and ate at one of the little tables by the entrance. The burger was yum and the price very reasonable but the noise, filth and stench I experienced from the diesel buses in the area was the worse I have ever experienced in Wellington. I think it is a combination of the narrow road and that there are no cars “diluting” the mix. There seem to be far more diesel buses about than trolleys which doesn’t help. The black soot pissing out of some of those buses is unbelievable and although the exhaust-pipes are generally on the “starboard” side of the buses, the narrow road means pedestrians are sprayed with the stuff and it drifts into shop entrances. Similarly, the days of enjoying the ambience while eating a kebab at one of the little tables around the entrance of Abrakebabra are over and I’ve noticed several shops keeping their entrance glass swing-doors closed to probably reduce the noise level.

davidp
2 - 12 - 10

John H… I recall a bus-only street in a UK town I used to live in had air pollution levels significantly higher than other streets where measurements were taken. I suspect it is something to do with engine technology and with the age of most buses.

I know coaches aren’t buses, but some of the Greyhound coaches that run around Australia have been on the road 15 years or more. They’re working 20 hours a day and mostly at open road speeds. They must have greater than 8 million km on the clock. No matter how well maintained they are, they’re not going to be as clean as the equivalent-passenger-number of late model cars.

Maximus
3 - 12 - 10

Oh No ! More ! this is really bad PR for the Council:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4418058/Manners-St-buses-claim-third-victim

“A young woman has serious injuries after being hit by a bus on Wellington’s new Manners St bus route – the third casualty in just five days. A woman in her early 20s was hit by a Go Wellington bus on Manners St, near the intersection of Taranaki St, at 7pm last night and knocked unconscious. Her face was badly cut, leaving a pool of blood in the gutter.”

” “She faceplanted into the side of the kerb, and her face was pretty cut up.” The woman did not appear to have seen the bus as she crossed the road. Ms Ihikara said the bus had been going at a fairly fast pace down the block, which is part of the new Manners St bus route which opened on Sunday. Until the new route opened, buses travelled only one way down the block where the woman was hit.”

So: two things. Firstly, that protester Ben Easton’s words are coming true, which is irritating, as he is a bit of a dick, but it has to be said: he does have a point.
And secondly, that people are getting hit – NOT in Manners Mall (former), but in the other two parts of the route, where buses were formerly coming only from a single direction.

Look both ways people….

erentz
3 - 12 - 10

The signs are on the wrong side of the road IMO — those *tiny* look left/look right signs need to be about 10 times bigger, and on the other side of the street facing across the street. i.e. so you look across the street to see them, at least for me, this is where my eyes go at least when I’m thinking about crossing… Heck, just put them up on both sides, facing both ways. Also, bus drivers are clearly not driving to the conditions, there’s a lot of risk at the moment of confused pedestrians in that area, so they need to be told to slow down for a couple of months, ~15 Kph maybe.

It’s been real interesting reading comments in the paper about these accidents though from NZ Bus and the like. They seem to think humans are some kind of programmable machine that just need to do as they’re told.

Re: hub and spoke model — I think this would be excellent. But difficult to prevent all those busses that are meant to be at 3 minute headways from clumping up. It’d be great to make it a trolly-only line though.

Re: Max’s mention of converting Manner’s to LRT — any comment from Andy Foster on this feasibility? Because all those services, fire hydrants, manholes, etc that are in the way of where the rails need to go would need to be moved. Unfortunately they weren’t moved before all that fabulous concrete was laid down… Also it looked like there’s not much depth before the concrete-base-o’-dhoom that was laid down, so that may mean raising the level of the road surface.