Professor David Banister (Director of the Transport Studies Unit) was the guest speaker at the Guildhall on 15th April for the Mayor’s Annual Lecture, organised by the Worcester Civic Society. The title of his talk was: Transport Futures: Can Worcester Learn From Oxford.
Having got some good press coverage back in August 2013 when I suggested that we should emulate the transport policies of Oxford, I was particularly interested in this topic. Especially so since such an idea was dismissed out of hand by Conservative Councillor Simon Geraghty. The following is based on my notes from the night and my own thoughts on the matter.
Thinking about the future.
The starting point for considering how to improve transport in Worcester and the surrounding area is to look at how you would like to see Worcester in 20 to 30 years, then consider the role that transport will play in this. When they did this in Oxford they generated three key messages:
- Innovative public transport solutions required to respond to carbon reduction commitments.
- Interaction between stakeholders, e.g., City and County Council, businesses, university, community groups, etc.
- Greater priority must be given to modes of transport other than the car.
Simulation of possible futures.
Three possible futures were considered as plausible futures:
- Business As Usual: Rural areas dependent on the car.
- Clean technology, e.g., electric cars.
- Sustainable mobility, e.g., public transport, walking and cycling, less car use.
Sustainable mobility (option 3) was the favoured scenario. The next stage was to assess this scenario on five criteria: Environment, accessibility, local impacts, safety and economy.
From this analysis, a package of measures was drawn up. These included:
- Investment in public transport, including new routes and particular focus on having better public transport in rural areas.
- Improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
- Road pricing schemes and reduced/more expensive car parking.
- Increased park & ride capacity and locations.
- Better travel planning, e.g., for schools and businesses.
- 20mph speed limits in all major towns and 50mph on single-carriageway rural roads.
- More efficient car/transport fleet.
At this point David pointed out that there was no mention of any new road building. Somewhat different in Worcester!
Vision for Oxfordshire.
Oxfordshire LEP, together with businesses, councils, universities and other groups, put forward their vision of how they would get there. The aim is to better join up the homes and business centres of Bicester and Science Vale with Oxford in the middle. A new rapid transport system would link these areas, with new homes and businesses developing over time on the route.
A rapid transport system is a prioritised public transport system, which could take the form of a dedicated bus lane, a train/tram system, or a combination of these. It is a way of making it very easy to travel quickly from rural to town and from town to town.
So, how could this be applied in Worcester?
Five lessons for Worcester.
- Have a vision for Worcester in 20 to 30 years and see how transport can be used to get there.
- Positive role that planning and spatial development can have in helping achieve the vision – reducing vehicle miles travelled by car, promoting shorter distances and encouraging all modes of transport – walk and cycle.
- Technological transition to a low carbon transport system have positive impacts from reduced CO2 and other pollutants. However, car ownership is an issue, due to impact on congestion and parking. Park & ride and car share schemes can release space in town for better amenities, such as parks.
- Improving the quality of life in cities – conflicts between place, space and movement. Who owns the space within cities? If we have ownership, we can have a say. Reassign space from cars to people.
- Participation and acceptability is key, with increased sense of ownership and pride in city space. We want to create quality spaces that people want to spend time in.
- Closer links between councils, businesses and the community.
- Tackling big issues by thinking outside the conventional.
- Acting as a catalyst – creating networks of experts.
That pretty much sums up David’s talk. I did ask a question at this point concerning how Worcester gets from where it is now, with bus subsidies being cut and any talk of reducing car use seen as an attack on car drivers, to where Oxford and Oxfordshire are heading. It does seem to me that the County Council are currently moving in the opposite direction to where they need to go.
David’s reply was that the key task was to get all the relevant groups together – bus companies, councils, businesses, the university, Sustrans, etc. People need to accept that this vision of less car use and better public transport, walking and cycling facilities is for everyone’s benefit. Hence, they all need to be involved in looking at the future of Worcester.
My task, then, is to try and get all these groups together – I may need some help!
If you want to find out more about the Transport Studies Unit you can visit their website.