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  • JLTP Consultation closes: March 20, 2019
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Author Topic: WECA Alphabet Soup  (Read 10657 times)
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« Reply #30 on: February 02, 2020, 08:07:02 am »

Dr Steve Melia of UWE has written a thought-provoking piece on JLTP4 for the Bristol Cable. He reiterates his view that it's not enough to provide better public transport; we need to reduce road capacity too

From that article - worth selectively quoting here.

This week, WECA published an updated Local Transport Plan, for Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) and North Somerset councils to approve. It includes £8.6bn worth of projects due for completion by 2036.

The proposals map (on page 128) shows new roads carving through the countryside around: Nailsea, Backwell, Thornbury, Yate, Keynsham, Stockwood, Whitchurch, Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell, Churchill, Sandford, Banwell and Barrow Gurney. The map is quite small; you have to look very hard and read through a long appendix to work out what they are actually proposing. The lines on the map are “indicative” they say; they might change; the whole plan remains under review, which offers some hope.

I am currently writing a book about transport protests over the past 30 years, from the anti-roads protests of the 1990s to Extinction Rebellion today. One thing I have learned is that most people only wake up to a threat when it’s too late. By the time an authority publishes a firm plan, it will almost always be too late to stop it. The WECA authorities seem to be facing a dilemma, so there may still be time to avert these threats – if people act now.

But what about other ways of getting around than cars - trains, cycling - and buses on all those new roads?

“To achieve carbon neutral transport by 2030 requires a substantial modal shift away from cars to public transport, cycling and walking,” the plan states. To be fair, there are lots of plans to expand public transport (and cycling, but judging by the quality of recent cycle routes, I wouldn’t take that too seriously)  They want to re-open rail lines to Portishead and Henbury, build new stations, extend Metrobus to surrounding towns and in the longer-term build a metro system for Bristol.

All of that will be great, if and when it ever happens, but better public transport, on its own, does very little to reduce traffic or carbon emissions. Cars and vans account for six times the distance covered by public transport, so if bus and rail use could be doubled, and every new trip replaced a car journey, that could theoretically cut car mileage by one sixth. But unfortunately, only a small minority of additional trips made by public transport replace a journey by car. And on congested roads, every car removed frees up a space for another car to take its place. In my last book, Urban Transport Without the Hot Air, I estimated that doubling bus use in England might reduce car traffic by around 1%.

“Initial modelling suggests that Bristol would have to reduce traffic by around 40% to hit their decarbonisation targets.
It is possible to reduce traffic by expanding public transport and reducing road capacity at the same time. London, Cambridge and lots of European cities have done that. But where an authority expands public transport and builds more roads, the net result is more travel and higher carbon emissions. New roads also cause other problems, such as noise, local pollution and severance of wildlife habitats.

Sadly, his figures on doubling bus use causing a reduction of road traffic by just 1% align with other data.  I've worked with a figure of doubling train use along a corridor accounting for less than a 2% reduction in road traffic - and with towns expanding as they have been [in Wiltshire in my example], a single step down of 2% is small beer compared to an annual increase of even 1% each year for new housing catered for in the same way we've catered for housing in recent years.   For sure,  2% of those new 1% may use the better / doubled bus.   In a decade:
* "Same old" - 10% more traffic
* "Same old" plus doubling of bus use, including newcomers - 7.8% more traffic
* Target - 40% less traffic (or cleaned up to be carbon free)

Commenting on one other element:

One thing I have learned is that most people only wake up to a threat when it’s too late. By the time an authority publishes a firm plan, it will almost always be too late to stop it.

I personally got into the whole business of campaigning for appropriate public transport for my town in 2005.  And one of the first things I was told is "You are too late. You have just missed the consultation. It closed a month ago and you should have responded then".  When the report came out "There were only seven inputs concerning services [on the TransWilts] and they were not unanimous in asking for more services".

Turned out the proposed reduction from 5 to 2 trains each way per day was two bullet points on page 70 of a 240 page document covering Paddington to Worcester, tp Weymouth, to Penzance and to Pembroke and all places between. And the suggestion that inputs were not unanimous was because someone who lives in a different part of the territory had suggesting pulling off all of our trains and using the rolling stock freed up to give his town a better service.

Cutting a very long story short, it was too late to stop that step back from happening.  But in that it helped strengthen our resolve and understanding, and begin a long, slow and at times frustrating process of building up more sustainable and healthier transport.   The five went down to 2.  We have struggled back to 8 and 9, but recently been reduced again to 8 (because of the timetable recast to get more and faster London trains!) and we still have a long way to go - 8 is minimalist, with a gap (for example) from 07:52 to 10:01 on the popular 10 minute journey into Chippenham, and the 25 minute ride to Swindon.  Passenger numbers are up from 3,000 to 75,000 journeys per annum but that's far from the limit and we need next to be up to around 13 services per day - plugging specific gaps and it can be done on line capacity.

Back to(wards) topic.  We learned last week that First bus are pulling out of their contract with Wiltshire Council  to run evening and Sunday buses from Bath to Melksham and Devizes as from 5th April.  That contract crosses the border from BaNES into Wiltshire.  The competing, victorious daytime operator on a similar route currently provides a service with a last bus at 17:40 - First run 5 later services, some of which are supported, and another is an depot run which takes passengers and has been routed to be useful.  At least one more gets a vehicle into place ready for the start of the evening's supports runs so is subsidy dependent.

Public Transport support passes from BaNES to WECA on 1st April as I understand it, though rather curiously the support for this cross-border service comes purely from Wiltshire (journeys, I estimate, are 50% cross border, 35% purely in BaNES and 15% purely in Wiltshire).  Too late, I suggest, and too much going on to attempt to redress the balance for 5th April;  to note at this stage, and also note that the next spoke of the wheel out from Bath - to Frome in Somerset, does have its evenings subsidised by BaNES rather than Somerset.

We are - just about - in time to have a replacement public transport service into Bath evenings and Sundays - if anyone bids at an affordable price to run it, and if Wiltshire Council goes ahead and places a contact to take up the bid.  There is no guarantee; we are mindful of 2014, when a parallel situation (and the same bus companies were involved) meant that the last bus from Chippenham to Melksham at 22:16 and several others were lost - the last bus is now around 17:35.

But Steve Melia is so utterly right - the community needs to get in early and make their "asks" - by the time plans become general knowledge they're very much someone's baby and it's very late - perhaps too late - to have a level playing field to fight them.  And, yes, I have some sympathy for the knoweledgable people who plan our towns and cities and getting around them who have to handle substantially more public input if the plan are shouted out clearly and early.  However, that gives those experts a chance to explain and test their suggestions far more fully, and to come up with a more robust and better supported way forward.

Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, and on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest.
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« Reply #31 on: February 02, 2020, 03:57:48 pm »

It’s a bizarre document; seemingly written by two groups of people with totally different views. One group says: all four authorities have declared climate emergencies; we must take urgent action to decarbonise by 2030. The other says: we must build and widen lots of roads to boost economic growth.
Gotta keep all your constituents happy! (In fact it's something of an achievement that the first group gets noticed, that's a relatively new thing.)

Initial modelling for Bristol City Council suggests that Bristol would have to reduce traffic by around 40% to hit their targets. WECA’s Transport Plan says they will consider congestion charging, but to make a big impact, the charges would have to be quite expensive. Good luck to any politician who wants to try that. 
Gotta keep your voters voting.

Tuesday had come down through Dundrum and Foster Avenue, brine-fresh from sea-travel, a corn-yellow sun-drench that called forth the bees at an incustomary hour to their bumbling.
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« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2020, 04:27:42 pm »

Gotta keep your voters voting.

Aye, there's the rub.
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