Thursday, 31 December 2009

Resolution 4: Keep campaigning for better public transport in the city

This picture was taken on the day after Boxing Day, but it's not at all unusual for the city centre to be gridlocked.

We’re lucky that our city council does want to increase the car-free areas. They’ve made steady progress over recent years, as the next picture shows. St Stephens will be next. But what can be done to keep cars from gridlocking the roads that they will still be allowed to use? How do we get people to stop depending on their cars?

What about buses?

People don’t like using buses and I have to say that I don’t blame them. A friend with a young family said: “Buses don’t appeal. I’ve got no idea of the times when they will actually run, so I’ve got no idea of how long we’ll have to stand and wait. The bus shelters are a target for vandals. The buses are never clean and they are expensive.” He lives in a city suburb, 40 minutes walk from the city centre.

What about Park and Ride?

“That’s no good to me either. We live too far away from the nearest one. But when we go to Ipswich or Cambridge we always use their Park and Ride. They’re clean and efficient.”

So, in principle, plenty of people don’t object to the idea of buses. They just have to be a lot better – affordable, reliable and safe.

Part of my resolution is to bite on the bullet and use buses more locally. In London I use them all the time, partly because I hate the Tube and partly because nobody in their right mind would dream of driving in central London. But here in Norwich they are so confusing. Different liveries, no map, no integrated timetable… and they are not cheap. But if I don’t actually try them, how can I find out at first hand what would make them better?

I’m a big fan of trams, but I’m told that they are very expensive to install. (This one is in Istanbul, where they hurtle efficiently through narrow medieval streets. ) I’m not so sure – they must be cheaper than the proposed Northern Distributor Road. Another part of my resolution is to find out more about cities that do have trams. What was the business case? How did they make it affordable? There’s a great book and website on car-free cities that I must take time to research further.

Along with the Transport group, I’m going to continue to campaign for all the good bits in the county’s transport strategy – the rapid transit buses, improved cycle routes, more car-free zones, exploring the return to water transport and more rail freight. And I’m going to continue to campaign against the Northern Distributor Road. Join me at the barricades when they start to construct the Postwick interchange!


City gridlock, December 2009

Car-free city centre, summer 2009

Tram, Istanbul, August 2009

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