The bus hub is proposed by Otago Regional Council to be built in Great King St behind Farmers department store and outside the police station. It will not be a bus terminal or a bus station, as in a large building; instead it will be a row of perhaps tidier than usual bus stops down either side of the road.
this discussion is the personal view of a couple of Bus Go Dunedin members, to facilitate debate, and is not the formal policy of our organisation. Comments (you can add these below) are very welcome...
Bus Go Dunedin supports the idea of a hub and we think the proposed location is workable, but there are still some concerns:
- bus stations look great when they are brand new but they have a tendency to get gradually more and more neglected and become dark, smelly, dingy places several years later.
- Transferring between buses has not been a particular feature of the Dunedin bus system up to now. If a great deal of effort is made to make transferring more convenient, but at the same time the changes happen to make the journeys that are already being taken much less convenient, then the present users could be put off using the new system and rider numbers could decline.
- If the hub is elaborate and expensive, the cost of the hub could result in money being diverted from running bus services, so we could be left with a nice new hub but with fewer bus services than we had before (this has recently happened in Christchurch).
Looking at these concerns one at a time:
dark and smelly years laterEdit
We have outlined this concern to the Regional Council in informal discussions. They have assured us that the hub will not be a building, rather a street given over mainly to bus stops, presumably made of glass following present designs. So it won't be "dark" as such. Regional Council staff have also told us that there will be an ongoing budget for maintenance and cleaning.
transfers at expense of through journeys (this one's a biggie)Edit
This is a major concern. We want people to still travel on the through bus routes that have been built up over so many years: St Clair to Normanby, Brockville to St Kilda and many others. These routes are long established and we are aware of people who have bought houses on one end of a route to work at another end. There is a very real risk that the hub will introduce a long delay in the middle of each through route, which could make it far less attractive to through passengers. So here we need to stop and look at the concept of hubs...
so what is a hub anyway?Edit
Will the hub be a "hub" in the full sense of the word? In many industries (particularly the American airline industry) a "hub" refers to a large gathering of many vehicles (such as planes) that converge on one place (such as an airport) and remain there for quite some time so that the last passenger off the last plane to arrive has time to change on to the first plane to depart. To some extent the model is now considered outdated: more recently, some American airlines have been "depeaking" their hubs, to create "focus cities".
A well-meaning Regional Council could adopt a classic "hub" model for Dunedin buses, allowing a generous period of waiting time so that a perhaps elderly or disabled passenger can move slowly between buses and everything is held until she or he is safely on board a departing bus. It would be hard to criticise such a regime as it would have been implemented with the very best of intentions. But let's consider the implications:
- Buses from every bus route in the city would have to line either side of one city block. There has been a campaign over many years by Octagon property owners and retailers, using emotive language such as "clutter" of buses with "belching" exhaust fumes, to reduce the time spent by buses waiting in the Octagon. Their campaign has been a success (indeed the campaign could be said to have culminated in the complete removal of buses from the area to the proposed new hub, a victory for all users of the Octagon who are not also bus passengers). In many ways, the Octagon has been "depeaked" - the Regional Council has gradually tweaked the timetable over several years so that most buses now pull in only for a short time before moving off.
- Consider the streets that are shared by several routes (from Cargills Corner or The Gardens for example), called "common corridors" in public transport jargon. Along a common corridor there might be three routes that have a bus every half hour, to combine to produce a high frequency service every ten minutes along the shared part of the route. But if the Regional Council was determined to maximise transfer opportunities at the hub, convoys of buses would roar three or more at a time along each of the the streets leading to the hub: the classic "banana bus" complaint that "there's no buses for ages then they come in a big bunch."
Let's be very clear that the idea of all buses passing through the same point to maximise interchange opportunities is a very very good idea. So how should it be implemented?
1: Pop in and drive straight out Let it be a "focus" but not a "hub" (in airline jargon). No, it doesn't matter what they call it, but let's have all the buses passing through the hub but NOT attempting to exchange every last passenger. Providing transfers to every last hypothetical passenger will alienate several very real, non-hypothetical ones. Bus Go has repeatedly asked the Regional Council to minimise time spent by buses at the hub: a "pop in and move straight out again" system. We don't want buses to have to wait there because they are running early: they should be scheduled in such away as they are just getting in to the hub when it is already time to depart. We accept that this means that many buses will be slightly late leaving the hub, and we have asked that time to catch up with the timetable be allocated only at the outer ends of routes (such as at St Clair or Portobello).
2: Continuous stream of arriving and departing buses Let's have buses on a variety of routes arriving and departing every few minutes throughout the day, not a huge crowd of buses once or twice an hour with desolation in between. This will allow buses to be spread evenly on all routes into and out of town and maintain a constant vibrancy at the hub but without crowding it out either.
3: Design "cheap and cheerful, light and airy" We support the idea of a lower-cost hub consisting mainly of good quality bus stops rather than an elaborate terminal. Many of our friends are surprised at this as they though Bus Go would be glad for Dunedin to have some sort of big flash bus station but the way we sum up our position is "nice, but we would rather the money was spent on public transport" (see footnote*).
4: OK, not idealised for maximum transfers, but still a nice place to wait Yes, cheap and cheerful but we still want:
- electronic bus information displays that are accurate and constantly updated
- these signs could also be located inside a nearby pub or cafe, preferably both, so people can enjoy a refreshment while waiting for their bus
- A waiting room. This gets tricky as a facility like this is particularly vulnerable to neglect, yet also vulnerable to being occupied by persons whose intended use (to put it politely) might be other than waiting for the next available bus. A waiting room will have to balance competing political views.
*Footnote: "nice, but we would rather the money was spent on public transport"Edit
A great example of cities that have taken money out of their transport budgets to build "temples" of transport is Auckland who closed and demolished a perfectly reasonable "through" station to build an $800 million "cul-de-sac" station (Britomart) and now need to spend $2.5 billion to convert it into a through station again (with the underground city loop) - if they had improved the rail services (with electrification and new trains) to the (admittedly isolated) station they had in the first place, the city would have developed around the original station and they'd now have $3.3 billion of spare cash to build a cross harbour tunnel and North Shore rail line.
Another example is Christchurch, where the un-elected, Government-appointed regional council have introduced an unbelievably flash new bus station at the same time as they have slashed bus services and made passengers on most minor routes change buses at outer parts of the city if they want to get to the centre)