Christchurch mayor Bob Parker wants to move Ilam University.
I don’t agree. The prohibitive cost outweighs any benefits when the aims can be achieved in more cost-effective ways.
I’m a graduate of Victoria University, the New York Film Academy, and Wellington Polytech., but Christchurch is my home town and I’ve had an office at Ilam University. Middle-son is mid-stream in English Lit. and History at Ilam.
Mayor Bob’s concerns relate to the aging population of Christchurch and wanting to fill the CBD with young people to enhance its vitality (city vitality is about people, not theoretical hubs or buildings). People need reasons to be there beyond work. We need shoppers and residents in our CBD. It should be people-centered more than a business centre. Times Square, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly are all people-focussed.
Bob says, “We are on a direct path at the moment to become New Zealand’s most modern and attractive new rebuilt resthome.” His solution to the “age group crisis” is to relocate the University of Canterbury back inside the four avenues.
Ilam University is already close enough to the CBD; you can walk there through Hagley Park and up Riccarton Rd. A good walk, but quite achievable.
Instead, I would:
• Run a 15 min. looped light rail or the existing trams from Cathedral Square to Ilam campus.
• Have only four stops (Ilam, Riccarton Mall, Hospital, Cathedral Square).
• Loop the service back on the same rail to save cost with small passing sidings every km or so or at the main stops or just run one long return service every 15 mins.
• Ensure all ground level Cathedral Square buildings are cafes and shops, NO real estate agencies, service industry or banks.
• Levels 2 and up should be packed with student apartments and managed boarding houses.
• A strictly enforced no public drunkeness or openly carried alcohol ban in the Square, like in America.
• A dedicated Cathedral Square, Tram and Ilam campus security service that rides and patrols with the people as an auxiliary to Police (like the NY red beret subway Guardian Angels; citizen patrollers – there’s some employment right there, or community service for retirees).
• Residents and students alike would use the tram service and interact.
• Idiot behaviour might attract a time-limit tram-pass ban, to ensure the service is enjoyable and anti-social idiots or drunk students, walk or bike to preserve the integrity of the service for everyone else who knows how to behave in public.
• Most of the journey is along the Hagley Park sidings anyway (a beautiful ride). The land is there, unencumbered, which reduces cost, and is a good public use of the scared Park space. It would be low impact on the environment and the trams would actually enhance the aesthetic. A tram rail has a tiny footprint.
• Students would live and love in the CBD, which would become a flourishing hub, but study at Ilam.
• No dead all-day student parking cluttering the CBD.
• A cheap 24 hour 15 min. service would attract students to live in Cathedral Square and go to Canterbury Uni. (whose roll has tumbled).
• It would create investment opportunities in the CBD with guaranteed ongoing tenants.
• I’d perhaps link the rail to CPIT as well.
• Perhaps have a five year “no fees” moratorium underwritten by central govt. to help Ilam get back up and running and prospering again, or perhaps a one year no fees rebate on completed degrees in Christchurch.
• Free or subsidized travel on the trams with Uni cards and cheap rates for local residents, especially ratepayers.
• A dedicated bike lane alongside the rail to encourage bike hordes. Christchurch and Hagley Park is perfect for this. Some creative thinking and initiatives to encourage this culture (John Key, let the Greens at that as a potential 2014 coalition government project).
Light rail is expensive, but we already have trams. It works fabulously in big congested cities. Some city’s public transport is now completely electric or on 100% alternative fuels. The benefits of ferrying people in and out of our CBD adds to the bustle and vitality, and makes accommodation and study in Christchurch attractive to generations of new minds who will establish a lifelong affinity with Christchurch through their student years. That has huge flow-on and unquantifiable, but obvious, benefits to our city’s life and culture.
I would keep the tram loop simple, uncomplicated and quick, serving a dedicated purpose: to help students live and love in Cathedral Square; feed Ilam campus and the CPIT with a reliable all-weather service that other residents can use; that travels alongside our attractive Hagley Park as a city showcase. Huge tourist potential there too. It is really just a more practical extension of the existing CBD inner tram service that existed before, with a more utilitarian function.
Who wouldn’t want to live in central Christchurch, study at gorgeous Ilam campus, and travel between lectures via a dedicated door-to-door historic quaint tram service?