"A well-formed and vibrant city centre produces economic and social benefits by bringing people together for business, cultural or social activities. The result is greater productivity, connectedness, development of human capital, sharing of ideas and a shared identity.”
- Christchurch Central Recovery Plan
With the first signs of regeneration beginning to show and the government’s Earthquake Support Subsidy supporting businesses to re-establish themselves, the next step in Christchurch’s recovery was to build private sector confidence. Establishing Christchurch as an ‘accessible city’ and supporting inner city travelers in getting to and moving around in the central city, whether by bus, car, cycle or on foot, was crucial.
For Liz Robinson, a long-time Christchurch resident and an Associate at Aurecon, supporting Christchurch work towards becoming an accessible city was fundamentally about facilitating how people move around the central city by upgrading the transport system to provide a compact, people-friendly core.
“The transport system needs to be affordable, resilient, environmentally sustainable and practical. The streets, cycle ways and walkways need to work well with the buildings and public spaces,” says Liz.
“The cycleways are designed not only for commuter cyclists but for those who want to appreciate what the city is all about. If we don’t get people back into the city, then we don’t have a central city, so we need to create this ease of connection.”
From inputting the urban streetscape to reconfiguring roads for cycle protection, expanded bus ways, curbs, surfaces and textures, planting, parking and tree pits to major cycleway routes, Aurecon has been heavily involved in the feasibility and implementation of the Council’s accessible city plans.
As businesses returned to the Christchurch CBD, a single storied, L-shaped building rose from the ground. The USD53 million bus interchange was the first anchor project to be completed in the central city and opened in October 2015. It offered an airport lounge style facility with retail and cafes around the edge, provided a sense of place for commuters and visitors, alike.
In 2013, Aurecon was appointed by CERA to undertake the engineering and transport components of the interchange, focusing on an integrated transport and land use solutions for the interchange and its surrounding environment. The interchange has been designed to handle up to 115 bus movements per hour and by 2041, is expected to be used by about 7 500 people per hour.
With tight constraints framing the new bus interchange site, a unique design was used to ensure the number of services could be accommodated. This required bespoke training for drivers to enable them to gain confidence in reversing out of the new parking bays.
Aurecon’s market-leading innovation in applying 3D modelling to visual training programmes prompted the creation of a virtual reality module for drivers to practice in a safe environment.
Simon Yorke, Aurecon’s Advanced Design Technologist, explains that a virtual reality headset together with a steering wheel and pedals allowed the creation of a virtual reality driving simulator. This was one of the first applications of virtual reality technology in the engineering industry.
The 3D computer model was developed by applying the software to the architectural drawings of the interchange. Then, using gaming engines, the model was adapted to allow for the virtual reality capability with more detailed aspects such as pedestrians, cyclists, and bus functionality coded in to produce the virtual environment. The result was future-focused training for a future-proofed city.
Christchurch bus drivers undertake next generation training.