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Author Topic: How do we ensure a restart does not replace a health crisis with a climate one?  (Read 892 times)
grahame
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« on: May 11, 2020, 06:17:45 am »

As I am sure many of you have just seen, Boris Johnson has just reinforced this with a "take the car, even better walk or cycle, but dont use public transport unless absolutely necessary" message.

I have to say that this, coupled with the drastic reduction in capacity necessitated by the 2 metre social distancing rule, makes me greatly fear for the ability of public transport in the UK to come back from this in a form or scope that we would previously recognise.

The need for effective advocates to go in to bat for public transport as a result has never been so acute.

From the BBC



Private cars may be a very short term solution ... but the message needs to be healthy public transport - otherwise we'll just revert to climate, congestion, dwindling resources ... and a society with poor public transport for poor people who can't afford their own car, or are not well enough to drive. - Discuss ...
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2020, 08:39:11 am »

Oh yes. NO!
My wife is a reception teaching assistant at a primary school.
Reception and year 1 will be the ones to least understand social distancing.
They frequently ask for hugs, fall over, fall out with tears, etc.
Mealtimes can be 'interesting' and no social distancing....
That group should not return to school until September.

Year 6 have virtually finished, so little to be gained apart from farewells to each other and staff - but that can't be done with distancing!  They might be able to visit their chosen secondary school to see how it works and their new teachers from ...(September?).. but secondaries are still closed.
It's said secondary pupils, years 11 and 12 could return later for something - but like year 6, they've virtually finished middle schooling.

My wife and I have been in lockdown since schools closed. I did work the week after they closed, but then received the NHS text telling me to stay home as I was at high risk.
I continue my lockdown for another 6? weeks whilst my wife returns to work and could well potentially bring home the virus to me from school.
 Roll Eyes
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Reading General
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2020, 09:52:11 am »

We can't. We never really got off the ground with any plans to encourage bigger local public transport use before this, and any plans that were happening were piecemeal. The cities with key movers like metro or tram will probably see a steady rise back up to full use, those aren't going anywhere, but those large towns and cities without will probably see a big fall and never get back unless something drastic was to happen. The standard problem in the U.K, no politician wants to fully back public transport in urban areas as they don't want to upset the current crop of car users, and the pandemic has given them even more fuel (pun intended). Denying people use of the car is seen as denying freedom, so getting to the stage where we can provide an alternative choice for urban areas is something the taxpayer (which is generally all of us, I don't know why it's referred to as an exclusive club) doesn't want to do. "Why do I want to fund something I'm not going to use?", is the thinking and a cycle that is going to be exasperated by the fallout from lockdown and how taboo public transport will become in the next few months.

A discussion I had with a small group of people on facebook demonstrated to me that many are expecting simply cars to go electric in the future and that's that. This was not a broad cross section of society and nobody really considered a bigger picture of how that could be done, but over half of the people didn't really expect public transport to get any better or to be encouraged after this. So we will wait for the technology to improve with the private car, as we have done with public transport for a couple of decades, and nothing really changes except the amount of congestion and more calling for road improvements. Buses can go electric, if it is eventually affordable and present battery and charging problems ironed out, that's good, but it doesn't really change the amount of use, and as most remain commercial the companies providing our town and rural transport can continue to supply the minimum required. This leaves out the desired all day, all night available travel, another key reason public transport is seen as inflexible, and another reason it appears the case is not there to build something more permanent and greener.

Personally, as we are going to see enormous change in society, I think this really is the moment to bring about that change and start stifling car use in urban areas. As unpopular as it would be the cycle needs to be broken, we cannot be held to ransom by the suggestion that the private car is needed to retain local economy. More walking and cycling will be encouraged, and that's great, but those both need better public transport to provide the room necessary. It's the time for the government to have a plan for local public transport in large urban areas and admit that the way we live needs to change. They need to forget interurban travel for a few years and concentrate on local needs, that is the only way we are ever going to see a reduction in car use. Sadly though, I think the point is lost on many and I fear this will set anything back by years. It will be interesting to see what happens in the towns and cities in Europe with good transport systems.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2020, 11:16:37 am by Red Squirrel » Logged
Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2020, 11:30:20 am »

I wouldn't take as bleak a view as RG, but a couple of things stood out in that post that perhaps need more elaboration/ discussion:

no politician wants to fully back public transport in urban areas as they don't want to upset the current crop of car users, and the pandemic has given them even more fuel (pun intended). Denying people use of the car is seen as denying freedom, so getting to the stage where we can provide an alternative choice for urban areas is something the taxpayer (which is generally all of us, I don't know why it's referred to as an exclusive club) doesn't want to do. "Why do I want to fund something I'm not going to use?", is the thinking and a cycle that is going to be exasperated by the fallout from lockdown and how taboo public transport will become in the next few months.

I think this is an argument that applied more 20+ years ago than it does now. Many large urban areas have been discouraging car use for decades with varying degrees of success. It is not just a case of pollution and road capacity - there is no point whatsoever in driving into a large urban area if you cant park the car when you get there.

I have made the point on other forums in the past. If, for example, you could get an extra 10 former motorists as passengers in every bus going into Bristol, you've not only reduced pollution and congestion but you've also saved the need to build a dozen muti-storey car parks.

Electric vehicles will do their bit to reduce pollutuon, but they will do nothing to address the other issues mentioned above.

Quote
... as most remain commercial, the companies providing our town and rural transport can continue to supply the minimum required. This leaves out the desired all day, all night available travel, another key reason public transport is seen as inflexible, and another reason it appears the case is not there to build something more permanent and greener. 

There has always been a major difference between urban and rural public transport - it is nothing new. I moved from Chipping Sodbury to the Chippenham area in 1980, just before the bus equivalent of the Beeching cuts took place c.1982. The village in which I lived (West Tytherton) had 3 buses per day on 3 days per week only on the 232 service between Chippenham, Calne and Devizes. That had been the case for decades; it was never a profitable service for anybody, and it was only provided at all because of the through traffic that was also using the bus.

The same could be said of many railway stations. Nobody would have ever built a separate branch line to places such as Dauntsey, or Avoncliff, ot Tackley, or Bredon - they simply got a railway connection because the railway was on its way to other, more important, centres of population.

In major cities and large urban areas there is a market for public transport; in smaller towns less so and in truly rural areas not at all. Where the lines will be drawn will depend entirely on the individual circumstances of the areasd in question.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2020, 11:43:52 am »

These are interesting times.

If we were being optimistic, we might hope that people in towns have discovered what clean air tastes like, and enjoyed the peace and quiet that comes when tens of thousands of internal combustion engines are switched off. We might also hope that people notice the strong correlation between air pollution and the worst effects of coronavirus.

Electric cars will improve matters, but only up to a point - their rubber tyres emit micro-particulates, and they waste space almost as badly as their fossil-powered forebears.

I suspect politicians will find it hard to justify new spending on major public transport schemes for the next few years, and worryingly the huge cost of mitigating this virus may make it even harder to find the money after that. Fortunately, 'active transport' infrastructure is astonishingly cheap by comparison, so it may not be overoptimistic to hope that we will see some major changes here.

NO2 pollution, which mostly comes from road transport, killed 12,000 people in 2013. It's an odd quirk of human nature that we did so little to prevent that...
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Reading General
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2020, 11:57:08 am »



I think this is an argument that applied more 20+ years ago than it does now. Many large urban areas have been discouraging car use for decades with varying degrees of success. It is not just a case of pollution and road capacity - there is no point whatsoever in driving into a large urban area if you cant park the car when you get there.



Of course, but currently we haven't really aimed to provide an alternative after discouraging car use. Should we provide the alternative first before discouraging car use?

Increasing public transport use isn't about fully eradicating the car, that will remain a key vehicle for rural areas and different types of journey, it should be about choice and making the best choice for the journey you're doing, whether that is walking, cycling, public transport or the car.

Residents of urban areas using the car instead of other options to go to their town/city centre should be the first area looked at, then moving around that urban area. Of course the size and population of a place has a factor but, the larger a town/city/urban area, the easier it should be to move around by public transport on a turn up and go basis. The days of taking the car to town from a suburb should be over.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2020, 12:15:53 pm »


I suspect politicians will find it hard to justify new spending on major public transport schemes for the next few years, and worryingly the huge cost of mitigating this virus may make it even harder to find the money after that.


I would guess at the complete opposite Smiley

The economy will need a major kick start after this and infrastructure works are a good way of providing employment and providing something worthwhile by so doing. I suspect that some politiicians might find that Keynesian economic theory wasn't as badly thought out as they have been thinking for the last 40-odd years.

In that connection, it is interesting to note that HS2 construction work has still been going on over the last couple of months.

In time we will find out which one of us, if either,  is correct!
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2020, 12:52:23 pm »

Some towns and cities have been implementing various measures to encourage people to use public transport or walk and cycle, and measures to reduce car use (and possibly ownership) by their residents, but these are piecemeal and dependent on the authority and its leaders. The only thing approaching a national strategy for this is for central government to put pressure on local authorities – presumably because they (Westminster) see coming out and saying "we've got to stop driving so much" a vote loser. But without that national push, it's never going to work. Residents of car-dependent areas are not enabled to be car-free when visiting those places, just made to pay more for parking...
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2020, 12:59:39 pm »


I suspect politicians will find it hard to justify new spending on major public transport schemes for the next few years, and worryingly the huge cost of mitigating this virus may make it even harder to find the money after that.


I would guess at the complete opposite Smiley

The economy will need a major kick start after this and infrastructure works are a good way of providing employment and providing something worthwhile by so doing. I suspect that some politiicians might find that Keynesian economic theory wasn't as badly thought out as they have been thinking for the last 40-odd years.

In that connection, it is interesting to note that HS2 construction work has still been going on over the last couple of months.

In time we will find out which one of us, if either,  is correct!

I hope you're right!

I did specify new spending - not spending that is already committed, such as HS2.

For now, governments will spend with gay abandon. In a few years, their minds may well move on to thinking about how all this is going to be paid back, especially if the cost of borrowing goes up as it may well do.
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Rhydgaled
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« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2020, 10:05:12 pm »

Replace a health crisis with a climate one? No, we already had a climate crisis and it hasn't gone away. Now we have a health crisis on top of that which, the longer it goes on, is perhaps making the climate crisis even harder to solve (although the full lockdown did buy us a little time by temporarily reducing greenhouse gas emissions).

The big questions are whether Covid-19 can be 'solved' and, if so, what the risk of a new pandemic is seen to be. If the face mask and social distancing rules can be removed then, as Reading General said above, the cycle of private-car-encouragement needs to be broken. If however Covid-19 proves to be a more-leathal version of the flu or common cold (changing so much that we cannot develop lasting immunity), or we are constantly living in fear of the next pandemic, then I cannot see how public transport can recover.

In that bleak suituation, a transport system dominated by (electric) cars, is net-zero greenhouse gas emissions even possible? Even in that scenario, I would suggest that rail could still play an important role but it would look very different from today. Gone would be the passenger rail system as we know it, instead could we have motorrail trains, potentially transporting mostly vans (due to increased online shopping) and potnetially replacing HGVs. Not sure how the emissions would compare of running motorrail rather than HGVs so it might be a bad idea, but it's worth thinking about. Of course congestion will still be a massive issue (not sure if even people walking in city centres and park their cars in a ring of huge car parks around the edge of the city would do much to help that) and what happens to those who can't drive? Can bus operators still make a profit with social distancing? I doubt it, but I have no facts to base that assumption on.

I hope that isn't where we are headed and that it will soon(ish) be safe for the face masks to come off and the full capacity of buses (and trains) to be available again. But then we'll be back to infrequent services, poor interchange facilities and uncomfortable vehicles in many cases. Alot of work to be done to make public transport attractive AND provide capacity for modal shift. Most of that will, by necessity, have to come from buses because the railway immediately prior to the pandemic was sadly nearly full in many places with plenty of cars left to be taken off the roads.
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