© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Student fear over proposed bus lounge closure

Lucy Bendell
Screen Shot 2021 05 14 at 9.54.24 AM copy
The Riccarton Bus lounge   Lucy Bendell

The Christchurch City Council is in discussion to close down the Riccarton bus lounge, used by many students and residents.

The Riccarton bus lounge closure will put most bus users at risk, the youth council says.  

The proposal would save the council about $600,000 annually, including a $300,000 subsidy from Waka Kotahi/NZ Transport Agency. 

A response from the Christchurch Youth Council said young people in Christchurch needed a safe and warm space in the city when commuting to school.  

The Riccarton bus lounge is also often used by kids that use the mall to hang out with friends. 

“The closing of the bus lounge creates a significant barrier for people using the buses that pass through Riccarton, especially students,” chair Jayden Meads said. 

The bus lounge was important in making the journey safe and accessible for everyone, the youth council said. 

Safety is a huge issue with using public transport, and a survey carried out by the youth council said the largest barriers to using buses was their safety. 

Not only is safety an issue, but the Christchurch City Council put a lot of money into public transport for more people to use it, to reduce the impact of climate change.  

But the youth council says taking away the bus lounge would see fewer people using the bus service. 

"The council declared a climate emergency and closing the bus lounge is backwards steps in improving the public transport in Christchurch." 

Universities have encouraged students to travel by public transport to reduce their carbon footprint but this could mean Canterbury University students use the bus service less often. 

"Young people who rely on the bus systems to get around will be disadvantaged as they will be losing shelter, safety, warmth. This makes the use of public transport more unattractive. Young people may avoid busing in general." 

The youth council estimates it will impact all age groups, but especially those between 12-24, those with disabilities and the elderly.  

It is now calling for the city council to ensure public transport is safe and accessible for young people as a main priority. 

The money saved from the bus lounge annually is likely to be spent on advancing the central city bus exchange.  

It’s not only the youth council that disagrees with the change.

At the Riccarton bus lounge, young girls there said they wouldn’t feel safe, and they would be nervous to stand outside on the street while waiting for the bus. 

Christchurch resident Gavin Milllar made an Official Information Act request to the city council asking why it was shutting down the bus lounge, and asking the council to provide a breakdown of the money it will be saving.  

The $600,000 a year comprises mostly maintenance, operational and security costs. 

“Overall, in a long-term plan that proposes spending $96.7 million on public transport infrastructure and that highlights the importance of public transport as part of a climate change strategy, it's hard to see any justification for making the transport system less hospitable for its users. I'm keen to understand the logic being used here,” said Millar.  

A petition has also been made by another Christchurch resident, Jacob Savage.  

He asked, "what will elderly and children do in winter while waiting for their bus to arrive?”   

The petition has 123 signatures so far: https://www.change.org/p/christchurch-city-council-stop-the-riccarton-metro-bus-lounges-from-closing?redirect=false  

Some people who have signed the petition have said: 

“I think we should keep them as I use them often, people I know use them, and I have never seen them not being used” - Monique Thoen  

“I know a lot of people who use the bus systems. Old people, young people, people with health issues and no car. With the metro they will be sitting in the cool in winter” - Tracey King 

“People use it to stay out of the rain, elderly use it. It also increases bus use” - Grace Gooda Brieschke 

The youth council believes the city council should consult young people on this and work alongside them to make public transport a safe and better way to travel. 

The city council is yet to comment.