Take a seat – any seat – as I reveal Christchurch’s best kept secret.
Or perhaps glance out the car window as you remain stuck at the lights while another one goes past.
What is it? It’s the city’s bus service.
I know. “Accessibility” might be the buzzword but to many people (including me up until recently) a bus is more like a giant obstacle on wheels.
Under a drive for a more “accessible city”, the council plans to upgrade the travel network. With glorious green spaces, Manchester Street will “support key bus routes”, while “enhanced one-way systems” will get us around the city more efficiently. We will even have “super stop” bus facilities to complement the new Bus Interchange.
Sadly, for now, the bus service remains a secret. Why? Because no one takes it.
Bus starts and stops
At peak time, I have my pick of seats, which is frankly amazing. After leaving the pressure of Melbourne and embracing a better life in Christchurch with my family, I know a good thing when I see it.
In Melbourne, public transport is the only practical way to get to work in the city. I’m used to being squeezed in like a sardine, squashed into the last remaining centimetre of space by the door.
Granted, the Christchurch bus timetable is still navigating a few speed humps and an occasional slow road to safety in some suburbs (an occasional Riccarton bypass). The online mobile journey planner could do with a total overhaul too (Dear Metro and Environment Canterbury, please see Sydney’s outstanding transports apps (https://transportnsw.info/apps) for inspiration. Apparently Transport NSW made its live data available to the public in April 2016 and it revolutionised access to travel information across the city).
Back to Christchurch, despite those challenges, the more dedicated bus lanes the better, I say. I much prefer reading my choice of news on a bus than slowly navigating the tedious traffic home.
World-class urban life
As a working parent, I’m increasingly seeking ways to efficiently manage my time. Dinner? My Food Bag. Gym sessions? Personal trainer and spin classes. (Brilliant. I just turn up and follow the instructions.)
The bus fits perfectly in that model. I see driving – at least to work and back – as a waste of time when I can be multitasking. I prefer to “outsource” the driving to someone else.
Christchurch has a stylish, new world-class bus hub – the equal of any top-notch bus station in the world. The buses are clean, the drivers are helpful and friendly and, on the whole, my fellow passengers are easy travel companions. And they always thank the driver in a friendly, community kind of way.
As more organisations pour back into the central city, parking will be at a premium and more people will turn to alternative forms of transport.
Ironically, while I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to step on to the bus (and more people will mean even better services), I’m not quite ready to give up all my space. I’m rather relishing my peak time seat.
Still, perhaps it’s time you got on board with a ticket (or bus pass) to ride, relax and let someone else do the work.