The Main North Road bus priority project in Papanui: an overview

Analysis: In late 2017 the Christchurch City Council consulted the public on a proposal for roading changes in the Papanui area, with the objective of improving public transport reliability and travel times along Main North Road. This article gives an overview of the changes being made, the anticipated benefits, and the status of the project at the time of writing.

MNR bus lanes web'

I curate the Think Papanui community engagement initiative, and have reported on the progress of the bus priority project for several years now, observing a high level of public interest through that time.

What changes are coming?

Details of the project can be found on the Council’s website. Changes are being made along Main North Road from the Harewood/Papanui Rd intersection through to Sawyers Arms Rd. The Council’s summary of the changes to be made is:

  • A full time bus lane running north from Winston Avenue to Grassmere Street.
  • A signalised intersection at Grassmere Street.
  • Walking and biking improvements.
  • Layout change to the Northlands Shopping Centre car park entrance.
  • More trees on Main North Road.

What’s the background?

Close to two hundred submissions were received during the consultation period, with more than half supporting the project either with some concerns or in full (1). Key concerns raised by submitters were associated with intersection changes at Grassmere Street and parking removal, especially in relation to the full time northbound bus lane (2).

Following the consultation period, a delay to decision-making was announced, while the project team investigated a number of suggestions put forward during consultation. A report and recommendations was presented to the Waipapa/Papanui-Innes Community Board in August 2018, but it was left on the table until the Board’s 14 September meeting.

The staff proposal put to the Community Board was approved on 14 September with two amendments:

  1. a request that staff install an additional P5 car park on the north side of Winston Avenue at the Main North Road end, and
  2. that the northbound bus lane begin on the north eastern side of Winston Avenue (thus retaining on-street parking on the north side of Main North Road between Harewood Rd and Winston Ave) (3).
MNR bus lane final approved design.jpg
The approved design, showing the northbound lane commencing after Winston Ave (image credit: Christchurch City Council)

The Board’s recommendations were subsequently approved at the 4 October 2018 meeting of the full Council (4).

What are the anticipated benefits?

The project website lists a range of improvements, but I’ll cover the public transport benefits specifically, given the focus of the project.

The Council’s report shows (5,6):

  • northbound evening peak time savings in the order of 3-4 minutes for the design as approved, and
  • ‘bus travel times will also become more consistent with less extreme values, thus improving reliability of the public transport network’.

Note that for the northbound bus lane between Harewood Rd and Langdons Rd (as proposed by staff, but not approved), both sections (Harewood to Winston and Winston to Langdons) equally contribute to an average evening peak time saving of 84 seconds (7). The Community Board’s recommendation (approved by Council) to retain parking between Harewood Rd & Winston Ave therefore shaves 42 seconds of the benefits, while retaining parking for customers of local businesses – a change described by Board Chair Ali Jones as ‘something the majority of the board saw as a good compromise” (8).

What’s the status of the project?

In May 2019, the Council announced on the project website that detailed design was complete, with a contractor to be appointed and construction planned for July to November 2019. A subsequent update in August advised of a delay due to uncertainty of NZTA funding, with work not starting before 2020.

In late September 2019 the Council advised that it had received confirmation of NZTA funding, with work expected to commence early in 2020.

Question for readers

What do you think of the compromise struck by the Community Board and Council between the retention of car parking outside businesses and improvements to bus travel times and reliability? Leave a reply below.

About the author: Simon Britten was elected as a Papanui community board member in October 2019. This article has been written in Simon’s personal capacity, based on information published in the public record.

References & notes

  1. Agenda of the Waipapa/Papanui-Innes Community Board, 14 September 2018, item 8 paragraph 7.9
  2. Ibid, item 8 paragraphs 7.20-7.27
  3. Minutes of the Waipapa/Papanui-Innes Community Board, 14 September 2018, item 8
  4. Minutes of the Christchurch City Council, 4 October 2019, item 8
  5. Agenda of the Waipapa/Papanui-Innes Community Board, 14 September 2018, item 8 paragraph 4.3.1
  6. This figure for the northbound time saving for the project as approved is made up of 2-3 minutes between Halliwell Avenue and Grassmere Street, and 42 seconds between Winston Ave and Langdons Rd (ibid)
  7. Ibid 
  8. “Papanui-Innes Community Board Recommends Bus Priority Plan Change”, 24 September 2018, Infonews, https://www.infonews.co.nz/news.cfm?id=117086

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