Christchurch: A New Transit Hub

It’s almost five years since Christchurch, New Zealand was devastated by the February 2011 earthquake.

A new downtown is under construction in the blocks just south of the ruined cathedral, and one of the first buildings to be opened was the new hub for the transit system.  It’s a fine building: spacious, well-lit, with a little cafe as well as great information, both human and automated.

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What will strike a North American visitor, though, is that it does something that we consider impossible.  Buses pull into terminal bays, and then must back out.  This is common in stations for long-distance buses — where the trips are infrequent and dwell for a long time — but it’s very unusual for a high-frequency urban system, where buses arrive and depart constantly.  It makes the waiting area more compact, with shorter walks between buses, but it requires a very wide bus roadway.  It’s easiest to see from the bus side:

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Most North American transit operations people would say that you should never have to back up a bus in normal service; it’s just too cumbersome and dangerous.  To be fair, here they’re backing into a bus-only roadway, where only trained drivers should be present.  Each driver also has a screen in front of them showing what’s behind them.  At first, though, it looked like they could have close calls, such as here between the two blue buses, one backing up as the other passed it.

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But it’s ok, or seemed to be.  Drivers back up only into the lane nearest the building, and then circulate only using the other lane, so if everyone’s heads are up there shouldn’t be a problem.  There’s also a control room in the middle of the bus loop with view of it all.  Controllers there direct which bus is assigned to which bay, and watch the whole dance.

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There are more routes than bays, so a route may not always go from the same one, but that’s fine; there are many redundant displays and announcements to direct you.  This “dynamic bay assignment”, also a way to make transit facilities more compact, has also been declared impossible in other places I’ve worked.

A feature that’s not unusual, in this part of the world, is the platform door, to maintain climate control and protect riders from fumes.  A complete glass wall separates the bus roadway from the waiting area, and each bay has doors, lined up with the doors of a bus, that slide open when the bus is there:

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For comparison, here are some 2010 images of the old facility, destroyed in the 2011 quake.  Even it was impressive to me at the time, with the platform doors, waiting area, clear info displays, and location right in the center of things.  But it was very cramped, too, with bus zones spilling onto crowded streets all around it, and couldn’t have handled much growth.

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The new one, certainly, is much more spacious, with room to grow as the service expands.  It feels a little sterile and empty now, partly because it serves a city that is only now being rebuilt.  It will be interesting to see whether other agencies look to these pull-in-back-out bays — and the dynamic bay assignment — as a way to make transit hubs more compact, so that they fit better into the center of things, where transit needs to be.

UPDATE:  Among the great comments below, see those of Brian Smith, who had a role in the design!

36 Responses to Christchurch: A New Transit Hub

  1. Bjorn Swenson November 30, 2015 at 4:25 am #

    It is too much risk of an accident waiting to happen to have buses reverse in revenue service, which is as you note why nearly all transit properties prohibit their operators from doing so. Unlike in a car, a bus operator has no rear-view exterior mirror to glance at, and is dependent on side mirrors and/or spotters for positioning.
    In the picture above, there are many hazards waiting to happen:
    -People running after buses in places where they shouldn’t be, who end up behind a reversing bus.
    -Cars or delivery vehicles, supposed to be there or not, on the same roadway that are unfamiliar with bus operations. If the car is right behind the bus, the operator may not be able to see the other vehicle.
    -Even transit employees on foot trying to talk with a spotter. The operator may see the spotter and assume it would be safe to reverse but be unaware that the other employee is present.
    The major exception to “never back a bus”, ironically, is during training; the DOT test for a Commercial Driver’s License requires prospective operators to back up in a straight line, into an adjacent ‘lane’, and around a corner into an ‘alley’ (which makes perfect sense if you have reverse a semi truck into a loading dock, less so for buses).
    One place I’m aware of buses have to reverse in revenue service is here: https://goo.gl/maps/3aQginBJ8NM2 The bus comes from the foreground and veers left, reverses around the corner to the right, makes a service stop, and exits left to the foreground. You can see the backup lights in this link: https://goo.gl/maps/kq6AtQMKtn52
    In this instance, all it would take is an child from the adjacent residential neighborhood unaware buses can reverse darting after their ball to turn what is “ok, or seemed to be” into a tragedy.
    Akron, OH has an absurdly large transit terminal where buses have to reverse. Judging by the lack of fluid stains in all bays, it doesn’t appear as though the terminal is used near capacity. https://goo.gl/maps/DJ2HfVVcBCT2 (A training video I had to watch used scenes from their terminal; I seemed to recall that spotters are used, but do not recall well enough to be certain on this point.)
    For potential terminal locations more square than skinny, the CTA’s pull-thru terminal layout may be safer and higher capacity. Bus operators appear to unload their customers, make a left turn into the lane assigned to their route, take their recovery/layover/break, and then pull forward to load outbound customers. Pedestrian conflicts are reduced to a single crosswalk where buses would be travelling at walking speed, no reversing is needed, and unlike a sawtooth bay, pull-thru bays can accommodate a range of vehicle lengths without blocking other buses or wasting space. An example on the Orange Line: https://goo.gl/maps/sKefYn1cK3K2
    Don’t take unnecessary risks!

  2. Dave November 30, 2015 at 5:46 am #

    I am curious why there is dynamic assignment of bus bays. Is the bus schedule not fixed? I’ve only seen this in the UK at most stations and I believe it may be used in Australia and perhaps NZ but I never see it elsewhere in Europe and in my limited experience in US train service. In my opinion it is an unnecessary hassle for the transit customer having to wait in front of monitors to see where your train will be each day. And seemingly unnecessary unless the trains or buses don’t run on time. Drive in back out bays are a good solution for compact spaces (assuming safety can be managed using cameras and other means) but can someone explain why the bays are dynamically assigned?

  3. Matthew November 30, 2015 at 6:35 am #

    The New York Port Authority bus terminal also has some gates that require the bus to back up while operating in revenue service. Particularly the gates in the 400 range (top floor). They’re not used for high-frequency services, as far as I know — those buses are served by more conventional gates that allow the bus to proceed forward at all times.
    All of the gates have doors intended to keep fumes out of the waiting area, and climate conditioning in.
    Whether they succeed at that goal is another question…

  4. Adam November 30, 2015 at 7:25 am #

    Buchanan Street bus station in Glasgow, Scotland has a similar pull-in, back-out arrangement. It works very efficiently from the passenger perspective, particularly because the stops are close together. The bus station serves long-distance coaches but also many high-frequency suburban services. I’ve usually seen staff there to help the buses back out safely.

  5. Pete B November 30, 2015 at 10:36 am #

    This style of bus station is very common in the UK. They seem to operate safely, access to the bus side is prohibited to the public. Buses entering the station must give way to buses reversing off a bay. Here are some images of the bus station in Bath which has arrivals and departures every few seconds, a mixture of interurban routes and city routes:
    Bus Side:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Bath_Bus_Station_First_66729_WX54XCO_42910_WX05RVU.jpg
    Street Side:
    http://cdn2.vtourist.com/19/4613145-Bus_Leaving_The_New_Bus_Station_Bath.jpg
    http://www.keytothecity.co.uk/images/transport/bus-station-bath-14e-lrg.jpg
    Inside:
    https://www.directenquiries.com/images/coachstations/4003/800/o4003-0102498.jpg
    Here is a Google Street view of a typical small town bus station, in this case Chippenham in Wiltshire:
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4571533,-2.1143124,3a,75y,149.1h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1slBcVz-EwgE2qfurBIxqBhg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

  6. john smith November 30, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    I haven’t been here, but when the plans were discussed my comment was, in summary, ‘this looks to be wildly overdesigned and inappropriate in relation to the need.’
    Christchuch is (or would have been) perfect for a bunch of pendulum bus routes, with a north-south bunch and an east-west bunch crossing in the central area, and appropriate on-street interchange facilities at the crossing point.
    Using sawtooth, back-out bus bays for through-routed buses is particularly weird.
    More detailed comments at http://transportblog.co.nz/2014/03/08/the-new-christchurch-bus-interchange/#comment-101170

  7. Charles November 30, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    It’s worth pointing out that NZ has safety and health law/bureaucracy that sometimes way over the top. If this design was approved it means the safety case was very thoroughly vetted. Certainly the bus roadway is designed to be sterile of people and other vehicles.
    Christchurch does have some pendulum routes (and some that don’t pass through the centre too) but through journeys are not all that common I suspect. And having an indoor place for the main transfer location is a VERY good idea. (I don’t live in ChCh, but have used the interchange.)

  8. Anthony McBride November 30, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Might also pay to note that there is an automatic alarm that goes off when there is an unapproved vehicle or person in the bus-sterile zone. All buses are halted when the alarm goes off.
    Said Bus Station also now has a travel centre, a dumpling shop, a cafe and a gelato shop going in. As well as 100 bike spaces, clean public toilets, a shower and lockers for public use.

  9. Jarrett November 30, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

    Thanks for the comments and updates, including the detail about shutting down operations when the bus roadway security is breached. It’s unorthodox but they seem to have thought it through.
    I definitely disagree with john smith that on-street operations would have been adequate. Most of the lines do flow through the CBD and onward (“pendulum” in UK english, “through-routed” in North American) but there is no place in the CBD where you would want a huge volume of people trying to change buses onstreet.

  10. Smithcorptweet December 1, 2015 at 4:42 am #

    I was closely involved in the design of this bus station and its predecessor. I’m a transit hub specialist based in Sydney Australia and I’ve got a bus operations background. I can shed some light on a few things:
    Reversing buses – agree than in general driving buses forward is preferred, but we had a specific and challenging brief to create a people-focused, compact off-street bus station that was primarily a part of the city’s fabric as a ‘place’ in a prominent main street. It was the first anchor project in the city’s rebuild. Reversing operation allowed a very compact bus station for passengers and fitted in a form that created an l-shaped active retail frontage to two key streets.
    The design has some key features that help to make it safe – pedestrians are fully segregated from bus movements by the locking glass doors that line up with the bus doors and the bus roadways are wide as JW pointed out – these were extensively field tested to make sure they worked. The circulating lane is a generous 5 metres because it curves and the reversing lane is 7 metres wide.
    The sawtooth bays are a particular innovation I’m proud of. The relaxed angle and left-in operation (bus doors on the left in NZ) allow the passenger lounge walls/doors to be brought very close to the bus bay. This means that passengers step straight from bus to lounge and vice versa. You don’t load or unload from an open air ‘outside’ finger like in most bus stations with sawtooths and/or reversing operation; and consequently there’s less potential for people to be walking on bus roadways. I’m surprised this approach isn’t used more widely (there are many reversing bus stations in the UK and the Hamilton NZ bus station has operated this way since the 1990s). The risk of minor damage to the structure or bus is far outweighed by the passenger safety and amenity benefits.
    Yes it is fairly rare for reversing bus stations in urban bus operations, in NZ and Australia but we have found it adds no appreciable time to operations. As stated, we tested the design in the field, using the range of bus types that would use the bus station and drivers from the operators’ depots. We had a mix of highly skilled and inexperienced/low skill drivers. These latter are the ones that teach you most about the resilience of the design. None had regularly reversed buses but within an hour they were operating like old hands through a range of challenging scenarios. Operations are controlled by positioning lights, cameras and screens that display rear views for reversing drivers and allow them to check the way is clear. A management system controls the bus movements to and from the bays.
    Dynamic stand allocation – actually its semi-dynamic. Routes are grouped geographically into 4 groups of 4 stops. Individual stops are dynamically allocated within the groups of stops (so passengers know their bus will always go from the same area but the actual stop used may vary). This is needed because as the city’s road network is rebuilt after the quake, bus services can be highly variable.
    The system needed to be able to cope with seriously out of order buses. Christchurch has had effective real time bus tracking since around 2000. The system tracks buses on approach to the bus station, monitors bay use, stages of loading etc in the bus station and assigns stops to approaching buses based on route number, direction (all the routes are through routes so you can have buses with the same route number operating in opposite directions) etc. The driver gets the info at a screen at one of the entrance driveways and the same info goes to waiting passengers via the real-time info system. The system is particularly clever because it can ‘borrow’ spaces from adjacent stands so the normal stand of 4 stops can be 5 or 6 if needed (as I said they get terrible late running and bunching because of the post-quake roadworks and bus routes having to be changed in response to roads being opened or closed).
    The bus station’s operating at about 50-60% of its bus capacity, so it has room to grow.
    The previous bus exchange was shoe-horned into a small site donated by a developer, but handled twice the bus flows in less than half the spaces of the on-street terminal it replaced, because of off-site layover, stop sharing and semi-dynamic stop allocation. But because of improvements in bus services and infrastructure like the bus exchange, patronage growth significantly outstripped the forecasts the bus exchange had been based on. Customers demanded the new bus station have the same high quality waiting space they had in the original year 2000 bus exchange.
    Christchurch’s current strategy will see double-deckers brought into service on core routes, to get greater capacity from the same headway, with no change required in the bus station footprint.
    Overall the customers were key to the design. They got a a high quality, safe, comfortable and active space, right in the heart of the CBD, which is all part of promoting bus as a serious, modern mobility option. The city got a bus station that is part of the city’s main street and is a building that contributes to getting the city working again as a destination, workplace etc. Bus operators got a facility that they knew they could operate safely in with the supporting smarts to make sure it functioned efficiently.
    Brian Smith

    • Max Wyss January 5, 2016 at 11:33 am #

      Question: Does Christchurch have articulated buses, or all standard buses?

      Were any considerations given to trolleybuses (or are trolleybuses out of question anyway)?

  11. Smithcorptweet December 1, 2015 at 4:49 am #

    A quick PS – drivers are trained for the bus station using virtual reality. One of the guys at my previous employer (where I worked on this project) made a detailed 3D simulation of the bus station, surrounding streets, and its bus control systems.
    It’s like a computer game. The drivers wear a VR headset and sit at a PC steering wheel and pedals and drive through the bus station in a virtual environment. In this way they can experience the reversing and the operating rules before they do a live drive. Was reported quite a bit:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p030q209
    Brian

  12. The_ararar December 1, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    On the gate allocation issue: in my country there are more train lines than places to stop the train, but the track is still always the same, only rarely changed if there are serious delays, in which case it’s automatically announced through the PA system, in addition to showing on the screens as usual.
    In Italy instead, they have dynamic allocation, because the trains are always delayed and there are wild service fluctuations (although when there are no disruptions at all they always end up on the same tracks, so the baseline is static), which is what smithcorptweet says is what will happen in this bus terminal as well (due to the situation of the city and not a chronical lack of maintenance, investment and culture of punctuality).
    The system is oppressive because you have to run up and downstrairs if they suddenly change the assigned track.
    Having a semi-dynamic system (as long as the waiting areas or “terminals” are indicated beforehand) in a one-floor station fixes all these complaints, since you can calmly walk to the general area and wait there.
    One question I have: it seems like all these bus terminals shown on humantransit don’t allow access to wheelchair users or aren’t in general as comfortable to use as stops where the platform is at the same level of the vehicle floor.
    Why are there never kassel kerbs or similar devices?

  13. Ian Mitchell December 1, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    Considering that backup cameras, including ones with wide angles, exist and can be retrofitted to vehicles, why are we pretending that buses cannot safely reverse?

  14. Smithcorptweet December 1, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    I think they can, but a lot of attention needs to be paid to pedestrian safety.
    In a dedicated facility, with *effective* modal separation, reversing can unlock some substantial benefits. However, given pedestrians’ willingness to put themselves at risk of death or serious injury to make tiny perceived time or distance savings, we need to think hard about how to avoid pedestrian-vehicle conflicts in planning, design and operations.
    I think there will be an increasing need for active management of bus stations and interchanges to maximise efficiency and safety.

  15. Bjorn Swenson December 1, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    Reversing a bus is still incredibly unsafe and should be avoided as much as possible:
    http://www.safervehicles.co.uk/reversing%20accidents.pdf
    “Figures produced by the Association of British Insurers suggest that about 17% of accidents involve reversing.
    HSE research indicates that 25% of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur while vehicles are reversing.
    When the University of Huddersfield carried out a survey among 60 vehicle operators in 1998, the results suggested that about 25%
    of accidents involved a reversing manoeuvre.”
    From the US transit industry operator training program TAPTCO:
    http://taptco.com/taptco-bus-driver-training-products/transit-operator-development-course/
    “Backing represents less than ¼ of one percent of all miles driven, yet it results in nearly 10% of all accidents!”
    A news article about the new Christchurch station:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/69457515/13-crashes-at-new-Christchurch-bus-interchange
    “The accidents caused $5000 of damage to buses, including rear panel damage, a broken window, a broken rear vision mirror and various paint scrapes.
    “The Amalgamated Workers’ Union (Awunz) raised concerns over the interchange’s design last March.
    ‘Bus drivers were led to believe automation and computer systems were going to resolve sole reliance on rear view mirrors, he said.
    ‘They have blind spots directly behind them where they can’t see anything.’
    Chappell said the systems were meant to ensure only one bus reversed at a time. However, up to three buses sometimes competed for space.
    ‘It’s like a dodgem track in there.'”
    For readers who haven’t driven a bus before, the best analogy I have is that backing a bus is like texting while driving. Yes, you *can* text and drive, and millions of drivers somehow manage to do it without crashing, but reversing a bus, just like texting while driving is still risky and should be avoided to the maximum extent possible.

  16. Smithcorptweet December 1, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    Bjorn, there were of course the usual teething problems immediately after opening as drivers got used to the new interchange. The article you quote, with the union rep’s rhetorical flourishes, was three weeks after opening.
    About three weeks later the same newspaper was concluding “Accidents ease at Christchurch Bus Interchange” and “there had been no incidents since issues at the interchange were publicised in mid-June”.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/70031190/accidents-ease-at-christchurch-bus-interchange
    Yes, reversing is trickier and there is a potential for crashes, but planned, designed and managed properly, reversing operations can work well and allow real customer benefits.

  17. EJ December 1, 2015 at 5:58 pm #

    @Smithcorptweet, so, to summarize the article, there were a variety of minor technical and organizational problems, management and the union sat down together and worked out solutions, and now management, the union, and the customers think it’s getting back on track and are optimistic? Wow, New Zealand really is the paradise everyone says it is.

  18. Rick Robinson December 1, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    Thank you Jarrett for explaining pendulum routes for us ‘Murricans! I had never heard the term, and googling it brought up only discussions relating to container ships – not a transportation context with obvious applicability to urban transit! (And the maritime meaning seems slightly different: apparently it applies to ships that cross an ocean, touch at several ports, then cross back and do the same on the other side, for each round trip.)
    Good looking bus hub, and thanks also to Brian Smith for outlining how the technical and safety issues are handled.

  19. TimR December 1, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    I now live in Auckland (great to have your contribution here Jarrett!) and have visited and admired the new CHCH station. It’s a great experience, better than it looks as well.
    In the past I also regularly used another UK example of note – the Eldon Square station in central Newcastle. The current version replaced a horrific version located under and extensive city centre mall – dark, dank, badly ventilated and with serious personal safety concerns. The new version managed to relocate it to the adjacent mall exterior, squeezed in between a rather fanciful spiral car park structure and the mall.
    The sawtooth design resolved lots of movement patterns in a complex reading pattern, while allowing passengers to directly access the mall and street via an airport style gate space similar to Christchurch. The customer experiences were like chalk and cheese – following link to google image search shows old and new…
    https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=eldon+square+bus+station&client=safari&hl=en-nz&biw=320&bih=529&prmd=minv&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjR49z4rbzJAhXHVZQKHVH9CT04ChD8BQgFKAI

  20. David December 2, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    I remember in the 1990s when I lived in Vancouver. The West Vancouver and North Shore buses used to terminate at the Inter-city bus station that used to be on Beatty Street. They pulled in and back out just like they do there in Christchurch and that seemed to work well.
    When the bus station was closed (the inter-city buses now operate out of the Pacific Central Station on Main Street), the city buses began operating for a new street-side terminus.
    That remains the only example I know of in Canada of city buses backing out of a stop on a regular basis.

  21. David December 2, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    Dave – on the dynamic bus bay assignment. Christchurch bus services are deregulated, just like in the UK. This means the operator schedules the buses. Therefore, if there are not enough bays for each route, then routes have to share bays – and it is possible that buses from two different lines may arrive at the same time. Likely there is no coordination between the operators on scheduling.

  22. ajedrez December 2, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    There’s bus terminals in the U.S. that require buses to reverse. Offhand, the 165th Street Terminal in Jamaica, and the Hempstead Bus Terminal on Long Island do that (and because of that, there’s signs on the rear doors reminding passengers that the rear doors won’t open at said terminals).

  23. Robert Wightman December 2, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

    In Hamilton Ontario, 60 km west of Toronto, the regional commuter operator, GO Transit, has a bus station that is drive in back out but the buses turn left to get into the platform and the loading is on the right side of the bus away from the station that you would normally find. This is the result of converting an unused rail station into a train bus interchange station where the buses use the area that used to be for express trucks. Unfortunately all the streets around the station were converted to one way so the only way to get into and out of the stations was with left hand turns which also left the station on the left side of the buses. It looks awkward but it does seem to work.

  24. Brent December 2, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    Peterborough, Ontario also has a downtown terminal with a drive in / back out pattern. It’s for city buses, although at a relatively low frequency.
    https://goo.gl/maps/R65wZDBaGMo

  25. Brent December 2, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    In reading the discussion about the Christchurch terminal, it’s definitely helpful to see the site plan:
    https://cyclinginchristchurch.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/bus-interchange-ground-floor-plan.jpg
    When you see the plan view, it really reinforces Brian Smith’s comments about the compactness of the design. With traditional bus bays, it is really challenging to fit in terminals when the platform is on the outside of the “L” shape… I am guessing they would only be able to get 4 bus bays, maybe 5, in the conventional manner, without adding a second platform on the inside of the loop.

  26. Smithcorptweet December 2, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    @Dave – Christchurch buses aren’t deregulated. They have a contracting model, but Environment Canterbury (regional Govt) actively schedules the bus services that the contracted operators will deliver.
    When I first worked there in the 90s, I thought they were deregulated too – they had simultaneous departures scheduled on busy routes. When the 5.10 bus filled up, they scheduled another bus at 5.10 on the same route. They called them “assists” and they resulted in the unusual situation of one bus corridor having 8 buses departing each hour, but 4 of them all left together at 5.10 and the next 4 at 5.40.
    My first recommendation was to stop doing that and run a regular frequent headway down the corridor!

  27. JJJJ December 3, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    What stood out to me more than anything is the use of the yellow guides for the blind – common in Japan, Brazil, and some other countries, but completely non-existent in the US.
    ADA really sucks for the blind.
    As for the station itself, it reminds me of the one in Nottingham somewhat.
    Also, as mentioned previously, the Port Authority bus station in NYC uses the back-out model, and trips are not infrequent at all. During rush, some lines operate every 10 minutes, so its pull in, load, pull out, while 30 other gates are doing the same.

  28. Federico December 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    I present you my city’s bus station:
    https://www.google.com.ar/maps/@-26.8357007,-65.1941978,1015a,20y,270h/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=es-419
    In rush hours long distance buses leaves the station every minute, medium distance buses every 2-3 minutes and the local buses every 15 to 20 seconds.
    In the east side of the building you have sawtooth bays. From north to south the firsts are used for cargo, next, long distance, medium and the last ten bays of the south for locals with a headway of 7 minutes or less.
    In the south side of the building you have 3 more bays for 7 minutes or less buses and two islands for less frequent locals (these routes ends/starts here and drivers get off the buses to refresh themselves for aprox 5-8 minutes so people does not have to run to the bay to catch the bus). Here and there are a pair of parking places for delivery trucks and vans and for transport authorities.
    Lanes doesn’t exceed 4 meters, the buses don’t have rear cameras and 50-55% of the users are poor people from a third world country with a poor high school education. Even so there are no intrusion of the lanes and bus collisions are extremely rare, about 1-2 per year, and only involves some scratches to the paint and a broken windshield.

  29. john smith December 6, 2015 at 6:00 am #

    I acknowledge the good features of the interchange in carrying out the brief. My concerns were about whether the brief was appropriate.
    A bus interchange is not a destination. I would argue that buses should be on the street, as close as possible to where people want to go, and a bus interchange should have the smallest possible footprint consistent with handling the demand (to bring people closer to their actual destinations, and to create the density of activity that gives the mutual surveillance that is very important for people’s sense of security at low use times).
    The central area of Christchurch handles about 70-75 arrivals (morning) or departures (evening) in the peak hour, almost all through-routed. That’s about one bus every three minutes to each point of the compass.
    I respectfully suggest that that does not require a 10,000 square metre interchange with 16 departure bays. That’s 10,000 square metres of valuable central area land that can’t be developed in ways that would actually become a destination.
    That modest demand would be easily handled by a single kerbside stopping point facing each point of the compass at a suitable central intersection. Or maybe two inline stopping points, if you don’t want to have too many different routes leaving from one spot. [note 1]
    Place the stops logically on the upstream or downstream side of the intersection, and you have two L-shape bus stops opposite each other. The three possible transfer movements are: same direction: wait at the same stop. Change direction: either walk 20 metres around the corner or cross two streets to the diagonally opposite corner (not ideal, admittedly, but not much of a problem if you can close the intersection to other traffic).
    Your information services, toilets, café etc go into the ground floors of the corner buildings diagonally opposite each other, directly beside the stops.
    If the size of your Central Business District suggests having more than one north south or east west trunk route through it (Christchurch is probably on the cusp of this), then you have more transfer points, but note that any individual rider only uses one of them, so there is no need at all for all transfers to be brought together at one point.
    What proportion of CBD boardings are expected to be at this bus station, anyway? In a CBD of 1 square kilometre, with stops each 200 metres at each major intersection (which is appropriate), if the whole area is developed to roughly equal density, you would expect about one fifth of central-area-origin boardings (not including transfers) to be at the central station. For a CBD of that size, having suitable facilities at all stops in the inner area, and a rational network and scheduling that facilitates short trips with transfers, is also important. [note 2] Requiring all buses to pass through a central station may well inhibit that.
    Note 1. And to reduce the risk that a second bus can’t enter the intersection because a downstream stop is occupied. I’m assuming that for through-routed buses layovers and recovery time happen somewhere else.
    Note 2. Especially considering the Council’s aspirations to grow the inner city residential population.

  30. john smith December 7, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    I acknowledge the good features of the interchange in carrying out the brief. My concerns were about whether the brief was appropriate.

    A bus interchange is not a destination. I would argue that buses should be on the street, as close as possible to where people want to go, and a bus interchange should have the smallest possible footprint consistent with handling the demand (to bring people closer to their actual destinations, and to create the density of activity that gives the mutual surveillance that is very important for people’s sense of security at low use times).

    The central area of Christchurch handles about 70-75 arrivals (morning) or departures (evening) in the peak hour, almost all through-routed. That’s about one bus every three minutes to each point of the compass.

    I respectfully suggest that that does not require a 10,000 square metre interchange with 16 departure bays. That’s 10,000 square metres of valuable central area land that can’t be developed in ways that would actually become a destination.

    That modest demand would be easily handled by a single kerbside stopping point facing each point of the compass at a suitable central intersection. Or maybe two inline stopping points, if you don’t want to have too many different routes leaving from one spot. [note 1]

    Place the stops logically on the upstream or downstream side of the intersection, and you have two L-shape bus stops opposite each other. The three possible transfer movements are: same direction: wait at the same stop. Change direction: either walk 20 metres around the corner or cross two streets to the diagonally opposite corner (not ideal, admittedly, but not much of a problem if you can close the intersection to other traffic).

    Your information services, toilets, café etc go into the ground floors of the corner buildings diagonally opposite each other, directly beside the stops.

    If the size of your Central Business District suggests having more than one north south or east west trunk route through it (Christchurch is probably on the cusp of this), then you have more transfer points, but note that any individual rider only uses one of them, so there is no need at all for all transfers to be brought together at one point.

    What proportion of CBD boardings are expected to be at this bus station, anyway? In a CBD of 1 square kilometre, with stops each 200 metres at each major intersection (which is appropriate), if the whole area is developed to roughly equal density, you would expect about one fifth of central-area-origin boardings (not including transfers) to be at the central station. For a CBD of that size, having suitable facilities at all stops in the inner area, and a rational network and scheduling that facilitates short trips with transfers, is also important. [note 2] Requiring all buses to pass through a central station may well inhibit that.

    Note 1. And to reduce the risk that a second bus can’t enter the intersection because a downstream stop is occupied. I’m assuming that for through-routed buses layovers and recovery time happen somewhere else.

    Note 2. Especially considering the Council’s aspirations to grow the inner city residential population.

  31. Kathy December 9, 2015 at 10:55 am #

    It looks so clean!

  32. Kirsi Louhelainen December 21, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    For those critizising the safety of this kind of arrangement, I’d like to note that there already exist systems like that and their safety is well proven.

    In Finland’s capital Helsinki is the country’s largest local bus hub in Kamppi center, in what is basically the basement level of a large shopping center. It has similar terminal bays, also with monitoring screens, and in the ten years of operation there has not been a problem with security.

    The people, of course, will not be flocking in the bus area but are also separated by glass walls and doors which only open when the bus is on the dock. However, for efficiency reasons, leaving passengers when arriving to Kamppi center is on a shared platform en route to actual docks. There’s space for 3 buses at a time, they make a quick stop, and then either go to their next dock or to a the “waiting” parking spaces in the center of the hall.

    I had never even thought this would be a problem security-wise because we are so used to the system. It works well, exhaust fumes are not a problem, and it serves well the local needs. Nearly all commuters who use buses to get to the center use this terminal.

    Images from the terminal can be seen with image search “kamppi bussiterminaali”.

    Sadly, the terminal will cease operations within a year as the new metro line opens. The options to what to do with it are still open.

  33. Kirsi Louhelainen December 21, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

    I’d like to also note (as a response to those saying the passengers should not be separated from streets and shops) that while this is a basement floor, the large shopping center is actually built on an uneven ground. So while the bus station is underground, you actually get to exit the shopping center in fresh air on the same level on the other end. This means that there are plenty of stores and cafes right in front of the docks but also on your way out on the same level. That makes entering the terminal simple, no need for taking escalators or lifts.

  34. Darren December 26, 2015 at 11:55 pm #

    Interesting overview, one minor point and one major point as a user of the new interchange. The major point is that it’s a block or two too far out from the cbd (especially as much of the office space drifted west of the river whilst the old cbd was being demolished) with thousands of parking spaces bring provided between the interchange (or superstops) and the cbd. A minor tweak that would help is running the Barnes dance every other stage rather than once per cycle at the signals around the interchange. At the moment the majority of peds just Jay walk rather than wait a minute. No through routes here so peds should have far more priority.

  35. RGD January 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    My first thought is that this would result in the entire stopping procedure at this hub to be very time consuming and time inefficient for the bus and any passengers making through journeys. How does Christchurch deal with this (or do they)?

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