Bus hub challenges

Public transport is essential in any major centre and now Dunedin faces its own challenges with the release of the long-awaited central-city bus hub plans.

The Otago Regional Council is seeking community feedback on the hub planned for Great King St, near the central police station. It includes five parking bays on each side of the street.

Even a casual observer will know Dunedin buses can go from nearly empty to standing room only in a short period, depending on the time of the day.

Tinkering with bus routes to encourage increased patronage is part of any operator's plan and the regional council has been involved in that activity recently.

The first major transport change happened on July 1 last year when a more direct southern routes service was introduced, providing an express bus service to central Dunedin via a Green Island super stop.

The super stop, which is hard to identify to a casual user, brought benefits for some but sparked criticism from others, including the Greater Green Island Community Network. The network called for direct links between Green Island and South Dunedin to be restored.

Now, the council has revealed its full intention for the bus interchange, or hub, which will have more advanced bus shelters, and eventually be provided with real-time electronic displays showing when buses will actually arrive.

It beggars belief a city the size of Dunedin does not already have at least some electronic displays showing the arrival times of buses.

Passengers standing in exposed conditions around the city during winter watching for their buses should have already alerted the council to the need for some sort of electronic timing equipment placed strategically along various routes.

With most people having mobile phones, an app alerting passengers to their bus would be preferable to nothing. Given the aim of reducing car congestion in the city along with increasing bus patronage, some thought should have by now gone into using the gigacity infrastructure for the bus network.

There are times when buses go missing in action and passengers are left pondering how they should react - wait and hope or abandon the journey.

Christchurch has been rebuilding its transport hub following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and not everything has gone smoothly.

Despite Riccarton Rd being a main network for buses, the new passenger stations have been the subject of vandalism and now, security guards are employed inside the stations to try to stop bad behaviour.

The idea of a Great King St hub cannot be taken seriously if people are going to be forced off one bus and on to another in quick time.

The council need only think of the schools on the upper side of the Octagon to know more parents will be asked to take their children to school.

Dunedin's central area is the Octagon and the regional council needs to recognise the need to keep buses flowing through the Octagon.

There are several things the council can do immediately to signal its serious intent in improving services to its ratepayers.

A start can be made finding somewhere in lower Stuart St for a bus to stop on its way to the Octagon. Turning buses from Moray Plc to lower Stuart St and then Cumberland St are causing traffic difficulties for both motorists and pedestrians - something to be urgently revised. Smaller buses may be the answer for the inner-city routes.

Examining the cost of installing electronic bus alerts needs to be done in earnest as it will provide a major incentive to people to use buses.

It is important the public, particularly bus users, take the opportunity to make their views known to the regional council. Otherwise, money will be wasted with no improvements seen.

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