Is there room for a major bus station on part of the Plot 6 development site at Temple Meads? The question was asked in a comment on a recent Bristol 24-7 article, and the answer is crucial to Green Party proposals to turn the city's transport problems around.
Here, I've taken screenshots from Google maps of four sites, all on the same scale, so that 'land take' can be compared
The questioner mentioned, in particular, the coaches using the present Marlborough Street bus station, but it's used by all the routes that extend beyond the built up area of the city.
The bus station has a tolerably comfortable and safe waiting area, an understaffed information/ticket office, and displays that owe more to the official printed timetables than to when buses might actually come. But that's by the by..... The apron also provides some'layover' space for buses not in immediate use. Passengers step pretty much out of the waiting room onto the bus (good), which has to reverse out of the bay (bad).
Next, Plot 6 at Temple Meads. Could that take Marlborough Street plus city buses?
Here, the long central roof is the Digby Wyatt shed, built to extend the Old Station but now just a car park. It would provide a concourse for the interchange, with ticketing, real time information, seating, catering etc. Buses would use the area immediately outside, the four rows of cars being a part of Plot 6. Beyond that there's Pipe Lane and the Friary, giving road access. There's also an option to use the main station approach ramp, as the 8 and 9 services do now. It's equally accessible from the Digby Wyatt shed.
London's Victoria Station is also a key bus/rail interchange, plus the tube and, a few hundred yards away, the coach station. Here, there's no real waiting area, just the bus shelters, and passengers have to cross bus lanes to reach their stops. The high service frequency makes real-time displays unnecessary. No need for reversing manoevres, and no boarding delays (prepaid tickets only) Buses flow through in one direction (left to right), taxis go mostly right to left!.
Middlesbrough's bus station serves the town centre, but not the rail station. It's different in it's horseshoe shaped, with passenger boarding points continuously along both inner and outer edges, all within easy reach of the main covered concourse at the centre of the horseshoe. The 'outer' bus path is ramped, rising to the right, so that passengers don't have to cross any tarmac (or go outside) to reach their buses. A very effective design, that would be more efficient with smart ticketting to encourage quick throughput. On the (semi-pedestrianised) road just north of the bus station, there's a cab rank visible.
So... does Plot 6 offer the extra capacity to provide a really good transport hub, served by all the key city and country buses and allowing bus/bus and bus/rail interchange in comfort and safety? I'm convinced that we could have something that's not only a showcase for modern transport, but actually works enough to bring a step change in the way people get round this city.
(Added 13/3/10) Stephen Petter's 2007 vision of a Temple Meads hub is worth a read.