Shifting back into central Christchurch from a suburban office with free parking was a bit of a shock for lawyer Chantal Morkel.
Faced with a monthly parking bill of $300 she took advantage of a programme encouraging central business district workers to walk, bus or cycle instead of driving to work.
Her employer Cavell Leitch chipped in with a week’s free bus fares and Morkel is one of the 16 staff a day, on average, who now bus rather than drive.
That resulted in 626 fewer car trips in a month and, if kept up, annual savings could be worth more than $470,000.
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Morkel was surprised to discover the door-to-door bus trip from her Templeton home took the same amount of time as driving. Now her new car mostly sits in the garage.
“It’s all about change and new routines and you’ve got to embrace it. The bus interchange was so close to work it was a no-brainer. I prefer the bus to driving, it’s just so relaxing”.
So far more than 1000 staff from about a dozen workplaces have taken part in the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy (UDS) scheme, and project head James Young said long-term savings were potentially substantial.
He estimated that if the 16 Cavell Leitch staff kept bussing every workday for a year, more than $470,000 would be saved.
That figure was based on the cost of providing 16 spaces in a car-parking building, savings in parking fees and vehicle-running costs, extra bus fare income for Environment Canterbury, reduced congestion and health benefits from walking.
Young said most people were unaware of the savings they could make.
“Taking the bus to work daily is going to cost you about $1,200 per annum. Driving your car 8 kilometres and parking in a parking building could cost you $3,800 per annum.
“There are also the other benefits. People can use their time on the bus productively, checking emails before they reach the office, or sitting back and relaxing without worrying about traffic, detours or hunting for a park”.
Young said about 70 per cent of workers had indicated they were keen to leave their cars at home at least a couple of days a week.
Environment Canterbury’s latest metro monitoring report showed overall bus patronage was still 20 per cent down on pre-earthquake levels, but use of frequent-service routes was up. Unreliability due to congestion and roadworks and long travel times was deterring users.
According to Christchurch City Council transport operations, there has been a 21 per cent annual increase in people cycling into the city centre and on average of 1300 cyclists use the Hagley Park route each weekday.