|Our Environment: Issue 18 Autumn 1999|
Bright, stylish and environmentally friendly, Christchurch's shuttle buses are giving the City's public transport image a lift.
The distinctive yellow buses are a big hit with the thousands of workers, shoppers and tourists who travel on them.
Running from early morning to late at night, the three electric buses pull into their own colour co-ordinated stops near Victoria Square, the Casino, Town Hall, shops along Colombo St and Hoyts 8.
"I think the shuttle service is absolutely great," said satisfied passenger and consultant lawyer Colin McLachlan. "Firstly, it's going to the right places and I can avoid traipsing through the desert of Cathedral Square. The route is skilfully chosen. Secondly, I love the buses themselves because they are so quiet and look very special. Finally, they're free."
Mr McLachlan said the shuttle provided a genuine commuter service, which he really appreciated. Everyone he had spoken to about the shuttle was just as enthusiastic. "I think it's a winner."
The on-going popularity of the yellow buses reflects their success. More than 3,000 passengers travel around the City Centre on Fridays, the busiest day of the week. Even on the quietest day, Sunday, up to 1,500 people take advantage of the service launched on 12 December.
Operated by Christchurch Transport Ltd for the Christchurch City Council, the new hybrid electric buses run on an electric battery that is periodically "topped up" by a diesel generator. This leading edge technology gives the shuttles a quieter and smoother ride, and reduces emissions.
The buses, designed by Christchurch's David Thornley, were manufactured in Ashburton by Designline. Initial technical problems experienced before Christmas have been resolved.
Any remaining problems appear to be related to the service's popularity. Demand at peak hours is so high that some would-be passengers have been
left standing at stops. Groups queuing outside shops and clogging footpaths are also annoying some retailers. Mr Edwin Edmonds, manager of Stuart Dawsons, says the shuttle provides an excellent service but the siting of some stops should be reviewed.
Senior Transport Planner Stuart Woods says these problems of success are being investigated, as well as other issues to improve the service. "Some research has already occurred and more will continue to find out who uses the shuttle for what purposes, between where and when, as well as impacts of the new service."
Passengers have commented to drivers they are now shopping in different areas of the City because of the shuttle.
Businesses such as Big Fresh, Smiths City and the Casino report that the shuttle is bringing in many new customers.
In a recent survey, 42 per cent of passengers were shoppers and one third were tourists. The wide range of people using the buses also include inner city residents travelling to the movies and other activities, and children travelling to the heart of Christchurch.
The main objective of the shuttle service is to encourage easier movement for shoppers and visitors. It is hoped the buses will also promote the use of public transport.
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