City councillors have been told their underlying attitude to putting people on buses is revealed by the proposal to place a bus transfer station at the south end of Durham Street.
“I see from the physical choice from where you have shoved the bus interchange at the south end of Durham Street,” says Barrister Kate Barry-Piceno.
“And when you look at what options have been rejected, there seems to me quite a strong message that's being spoken, and it's the elephant in the room. Of those who uses the buses and what the bus interchange looks like – somewhat unattractive.
”We don't want it here. We don't want it in front of our fancy buildings or residential buildings, and we don't want it in front of our civic buildings - so we will shove it up the back of Durham Street - and therefore out of sight out of mind, but we will say that it's part of the CBD.
“That's quite brutally what I see is what has happened.”
Speaking on behalf of Durham Street property owners feeling left out of the council's consultation process about the proposal, Kate says it's not how transport systems are treated in ‘real cities'.
“In real cities, grown up cites, transit isn't a social service that's for the lowest rung of society, in fact it's supposed to really reflect the most important part of cultural diversity in our city because for some people the only time when they interface with their whole society and who's in their city, is in that public bus service.”
Kate told committee members during the meeting's public forum that she was representing a number of business owners that own properties at the southern end of Durham Street, who are alarmed at being left out of the consultation process on the proposed Durham Street interchange.
Kate asked councillors why they were shoving the bus interchange out the back end of Durham Street.
“Why are you not embracing it right in your civic heart to say ‘this is our people?'
“And if it's not who you like then shouldn't everyone be seeing that and doing something about that.
“And where is your bus service going in terms of trying to say if we want our city to offer a transit service that is going to be an opportunity for people, rather than just a bottom rung social service, then you need to make it something that you embrace whole heartedly as part of where your new city vision is going.
“And so that's the consultation that I think you should be having about looking at what is transit. What's its role over the next 30-40 years, where is your city headed if you want it to be part of people giving up their cars and saying it's not my right to hop in a car?
“It's actually a very viable option. Transit offers the opportunities to get to any place anywhere, if that's the vison with the regional council then make it happen by encouraging all those stakeholders to engage in what's the best opportunities for buses.”
Kate was speaking immediately after architect Brendan Gordon, who is suggesting a bus interchange can be located in the civic heart, crossing the block from Wharf Street to Hamilton Street at about the level of the alley between Baycourt and the library and exiting at the level of the Citizens Advice bureau.
Councillor Larry Baldock says the Durham Street location was chosen in case the Willow Street interchange had to move for the demolition of the administration building.
“And now it's got legs to where it's seen as that's where we are going. That isn't the case. It's been looked at.”
He says Kate made good points about why the council need to consult and that there is a transport study now underway to find the best transport options for the city.
In February the city council voted to spend $50,000 on looking at further options in addition to the Durham Street proposal.
At the time it was said that if the bus interchange is located elsewhere, then the part of Durham Street that has been designed to allow for the interchange could either be planted or retained as on-street car parking, or a combination of these two options.