Wednesday 25 November 2009

Getting from A to B

Transport: of all the Transition challenges, this is the biggest one for me. I’ve made some huge improvements, but I have a long way to go (sorry) before I can describe my transport habit as sustainable.

What’s going well? I’m no longer stuck in city centre traffic jams like the one above, taken on a Saturday very recently. I’ve invested in a second-hand bike, which I use most of the time. If it’s tipping down with rain, I walk. I used to take the car without a second thought, because it seemed so convenient, but actually I get in and out of the city much faster by bike or on foot. Not to mention savings in parking tickets… I’m the type of person who is wildly optimistic about the estimated stay in a car park and then picks up parking fines.

I’ve cut down my weekly commute from an astronomical 1,000 miles a week commuting to London every day on the train to just the occasional London trip two or three times a month on average. That’s in no small part due to the recession, but I don’t think I could ever go back to that pattern of two hours there, plus half an hour bus to Westminster or wherever the project took me, bus back, train back… five hours minimum every day, without factoring in the frequent breakdowns and delays on the line.

What’s not going so well? I’ve tried to use local buses, with mixed success. I’m used to an integrated bus/train/river bus service in London; even better in Rome, I’ve used my travel pass on metro/bus/tram; best of all, in Istanbul, exactly the same ticketing across an amazing integrated network of metro/bus/tram/ferry across two continents. In those international cities everything is joined up pretty well. Here in Norwich, there are lots of buses with different livery – there’s no clear local brand and certainly no integrated bus map.

In the city centre there are very good digital displays alerting you to when your next bus is due, but there simply isn’t enough information further afield. This bus stop does at least tell you which service stops here, although many don’t even give that basic information. But which direction do buses take from here? And how often does the service run? If I pitch up at this bus stop, I have no idea.

I’m keen to campaign for better public transport in and around our city, including the commuter routes into the city. If other medieval cities can have trams, so can we. If they can have river buses and buses that join up to railway stations and important destinations like places of work and hospitals, so can we. If other cities can have car-free city centres and bus services designed to suit the citizen rather than the bus operator, so can we. But we won’t get these things unless we demand them!

The alternative is the way of the dinosaur – gas-guzzling cars on ever-expanding road networks. I haven’t even begun to mention road freight...

Pix: Saturday afternoon traffic in city centre

Bus stop, George Borrow Road

Vintage Chevvies in salvage yard off Unthank Road

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