Christchurch City Council has ambitious plans for bus priority. In 2006 ViaStrada (Traffix) was engaged to design bus priority measures for the #70 Queenspark corridor (Gloucester Street, Fitzgerald Avenue, Whitmore Street, Hills Road, Shirley Road, New Brighton Road, Bower Avenue, Queenspark Drive and Broadhaven Avenue). This was an exciting project, pushing the boundaries of urban traffic engineering measures.
Hills Road is a section of the corridor where in the afternoon peak, buses are queued with other vehicles and when pulling out of a bus stop can encounter drivers unwilling to let them back into the slow moving traffic stream. ViaStrada suggested the trial of bus boarders along this section of road to overcome this problem, as the corridor ahead of a stopped bus clears out, so buses leaving a bus stop have a clear run.
'Bus boarders' are built out bus stops allowing the bus to stop in the traffic stream. There are some bus boarders in NZ, however they are all on multi-lane roads, where drivers can overtake the bus in the second lane. The trial on Hills Road showed that motorists in Christchurch were not comfortable with this type of treatment. A positive result was that the community saw a bus lane as a better result, as bus lanes are more effective for bus priority (but have a higher impact on adjacent residents and shop keepers).
The ViaStrada team also investigated options for other sections of the corridor and came up with innovative traffic signal solutions to aid bus priority and also investigated the possibility of signalising an existing roundabout where buses experience delays in the morning peak due to unbalanced traffic flows.
Consultation was key to the success of this project and ViaStrada helped the Council develop material, attended Community Board and Council seminars to help explain the issues and options, and also assisted with analysing the feedback from the stakeholders.
Axel presented a paper at the IPENZ transportation conference in 2008 on how bus priority was introduced successfully in Christchurch and the importance of communication in the development of this project.
Councillors approved the project for implementation in June 2008.