Transport- Encouraging use of alternatives to the car

 

Aim for a balanced, integrated transport system at the highest possible level, aiming for maximum improvement of the alternatives at minimal cost to motorists.

The conventional policy of trying to make driving less attractive is guilty of "lowest common denominatorism"- bringing motorists down to a common denominator.  We might achieve an equilibrium through this "carrot and stick policy" of improving alternatives and making life harder for motorists, but it will be achieved at a lower level than we may be able to achieve through improving the alternatives and not making life harder for motorists.  It also helps to generate an "us and them" attitude between motorists and other transport users instead of encouraging them to work together.

If improving the alternatives alone is not enough to bring about a balance, then by all means we should bring in "sticks" to put people off driving, but in that case we will only be doing it to the minimum extent necessary, instead of doing it to a larger extent than we may need to and resulting in an equilibrium at a lower level.

However, the pollution aspect of car use should be addressed in "carrot and stick" fashion right from the off, using fuel tax based incentivising (see policies on car transport).  This is because in the case of pollution we require a full-on shift, whereas to get a balanced transport system we only need a partial modal shift.

 

Take a look at how some European cities, for example Strasbourg, have sorted out transport.

Strasbourg is an excellent example of a city which has a good public transport system and been successful despite minimal attempts to deter car use.  Some ideas from such cities should be "nicked" and used in British towns and cities.  I have some specific suggestions below:

 

 

More bus services should serve a variety of routes rather than all of them going into city centres, giving more people access to quicker public transport when not going into a city centre.

 

Many people are often put off using buses due to the limited availability of bus routes to certain areas.  Providing a wide range of bus services can encourage more people  There may need to be some financial incentivising from the government to discourage the approach of cutting out bus routes that aren't effective at maximising profit to the bus companies.

 

 

Implement widespread park and ride facilities around the outskirts of towns and cities.

 

Park and ride facilities are very useful to accommodate the numerous trips into city centres, particularly straight A to B trips where the sole purpose is to do something within the central business district.  These can help reduce congestion around town and city centres, especially in rush hour.  Car parking at the park and ride facilities should either be free, or much cheaper than in the town and city centres.

 

 

Increase frequency of bus and train services in the rush hour, and consider extending platforms at railway stations to accommodate greater train sizes.

 

Many people are put off going on public transport during the rush hour due to overcrowding (a classic case where "maximum profit" philosophies fall down- maximum profit for companies is correlated with maximum overcrowding!).  Increasing services when there is the most demand, namely at rush hour, will encourage people to take public transport to work and school.  This will generally be more practical for buses than trains.  However, for trains, there is also the option of increasing capacity by extending the length of the shorter platforms.

 

 

Set up organised initiatives for public transport and walking to and from workplaces and schools, including school buses and the equivalent for workplaces.

A large percentage of traffic, and especially congestion, results from the rush hour drive to work and parents dropping their children off at school.  Generating voluntary initiatives like this will help to reduce congestion in the rush hour.  Yes, there are some people who enjoy the drive to work/school, and who wouldn't make use of them, but there are many others who would rather not drive, and who would thus take the opportunity to use an alternative.

 

 

Re-use disused railway lines.

Building a new high-speed rail network will take a lot of time and cost a lot of money, but we have alternatives.  The British rail network has reduced over the past century as rail transport has taken a back seat to road transport, but we can reinstate parts of the old rail network to increase the extent of the rail network.  Some local expansions to the rail network, such as the extension of the Tyne & Wear Metro to Sunderland, can also help.  

 

 

Modernise signals, thus allowing trains to run closer together, and crack down on the idiots who steal copper cables.

These proposals should both reduce train delays and increase opportunities for expanding the capacity of the rail network.

 

 

Introduce tram systems where appropriate in major cities.

Tram systems can in some cases be more effective than focusing on buses, as is demonstrated by many continental cities.  They are worthy of consideration.

 

 

Implement some communal, pedestrianised and/or semi-pedestrianised, play areas around housing estates.

This will allow a return to some element of people having areas where they can play out in the streets, while at the same time maintaining a decent road network for vehicles to pass through, separate from the play areas.  Semi-pedestrianisation initiatives can include cobbled streets, shared use layouts and 20mph zones like on the near continent.  

We have to strike a balance between giving people scope to play outside near to where they live, and not forcing traffic to grind to a halt.  Thus I don't propose that all residential roads should be subject to these measures- only some designated areas to serve housing estates, and no major routes.   I propose abolishing measures like chicanes and speed humps because they cause an unnecessary amount of aggravation, and make the general responsible motoring public slow down dramatically because of the minority who drive too fast- but some of the traffic calming measures that are more popular on the continent are well worth a look.

This policy is, in many ways, an extension of the idea of pedestrianising city centres- a policy that has proved highly successful, and which I think should continue to be used.

 

 

Introduce a comprehensive, well-planned segregated cycle network that connects town and city centres with each other and with residential areas.  This cycle network should be divided from pedestrian zones as well as roads.

Many sources argue over whether increased segragated facilities encourages cycling, or whether it's the other way around.  I strongly suspect that it's a positive feedback mechanism.  However, it is important to plan and layout these facilities properly, and where appropriate, give cyclists their own traffic lights etc. in potential accident hotspots, as poorly implemented segregated facilities have been known to increase accidents.

I do not propose making cycling on the road illegal, this is more a means of offering cyclists an alternative.  The Highway Code's current stance on it is fine: encourage cyclists to use the segregated routes but let them use the roads if they wish.

I am not a fan of shared-use layouts (except perhaps in the semi-pedestrianised areas of housing estates and city centres described above).  They might improve safety, but only by bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator- motorists have to slow down, pedestrians and cyclists have to keep watch at all times, and travelling becomes stressful for most.  Also, while the able-bodied may be able to adjust to allow for increased hazards and thus reduce accidents, the disabled, such as the partially sighted, are less able to do so, and are likely to encounter serious problems if shared-use is widely implemented.

 

 

Make a higher proportion of motorists' taxes go towards improving alternative forms of transport.

While it is unrealistic to expect all fuel and road taxes to be used to improve alternatives to the car, it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that a larger percentage should be.  I propose, in particular, that all money from congestion charges should go towards improving alternatives.

 

 

Impose limits on airport expansion and penalise short-distance flights, and introduce emissions based tax systems to encourage use of clean fuels for aircraft

Air travel is set to grow markedly over the coming decades unless something is done about it- and it is not sustainable.  I propose that there must be limits on airport expansion that take into account the environmental impacts of increasing air travel.  Tax based systems, as well as encouraging cleaner fuels, should also penalise passengers more for short distance flights, as for most short distance flights there is a viable alternative (or should be, if my proposals on alternatives come to fruition) while for long distance flights it would generally be impractical to travel by any means other than air.