Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Ideas to get Bristol moving
"we also want to hear from members of the public about their suggestions for how we can encourage people out of their cars. In particular, we want to find out about the little things which are stopped people from doing it - things which hopefully the Council can change."
"We are also keen for people to come forward with big ideas which could have a major impact.
So says Neil Harrison, who chairs the council's new Select Committee on Sustainable Travel.
So, says I, in a Statement to their first meeting tomorrow:
"I'd like to put the case for a single major interchange, so that virtually every journey into Bristol or across Bristol can be made with no more than one change, and that would be an easy one. I believe that this is one measure that would do far more to fulfill the objectives of this committee than any other 'hard' measure - and is far easier and cheaper to achieve.
For all but the simplest public transport journeys in Bristol, forward planning is a must, because the network is fragmented. What number bus to catch, from where, where best to get off, the best option to walk to, how long to wait, how much time to keep in hand, how much weatherproofing to wear. If there's a train journey involved, it gets a bit more complicated. Planning such trips involves the bus map, timetables on the web, and - before setting off - checking the real time information for my local bus stop. The return journey calls for the same approach.
This complexity, plus the unpredictability and discomforts of the changes en route, are always going to make public transport unattractive compared with jumping in the car. Likewise, for people arriving in Bristol at Temple Meads, it is unlikely that an onward journey into the suburbs can be done in a single leg; more likely it will involve more planning, walking and waiting at bus stops. Or getting a taxi.
Imagine either group, Bristol residents or arriving passengers, being able to complete their trip with just one, sheltered, safe, changing point where they can see all the options for taking them to their destination in one hop. That might well change transport choices
At Temple Meads, where the harbour, road, and railway systems all converge, there are already plans to transform the station for rail passengers. The Area Development Framework (which, for some unknown reason, is being prepared by SWRDA, not the council) describes a new ticket hall, with all the amenities of a major modern railway station; real time travel information, seating, shops, refreshments and so forth. That will be in what's called the 'Digby Wyatt Shed', part of the Old Station, currently used as a covered car park.
It seems incredible, but we do actually have an undeveloped site, within feet of the proposed ticket hall, that's ideally placed to turn Temple Meads into a first class multimodal interchange serving all of Bristol. The window of opportunity is limited, and once lost it will be gone virtually for ever. I'm referring to what's being marketed as Plot 6, the strip of car parking that separates Temple Meads from Temple Quay.
The bad news is that - so far as I can see - there is no planning blueprint to designate any of Plot 6 as a transport interchange. There's a recommendation for a protected line for a rapid transit system, but that's all. The area immediate outside the new ticket hall will, if present plans go through, accommodate two more blocks of flats, not a rail/bus exchange.
As the Authority for land use planning and for transport planning, also having obligations for local residents 'wellbeing' and for limiting climate change impacts, the council really must grab this opportunity before it's too late.
The proposal has recently been floated in the Evening Post, where it met with a 100% positive response, and is also the subject of a petition placed on the council website; it's early days yet, but it looks to enjoy popular support. Perhaps equally important, I've yet to hear a word in opposition.
I hope this committee can make it a key, and urgent, recommendation, and that the Cabinet and Council will want to follow suit on behalf of all Bristol's travelling public.