Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Buses in Space

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.


SteveL of Bristol Traffic said...

The bus station also has an implicit overflow of buses on the left lane of the two lanes coming off the James Barton roundabout; locals know this and usually choose a different route over the junction: RH lane (for A38) before the roundabout, middle lane as they curve round, and then RH lane of the two lanes after the roundabout, as it is only once you get round the corner that you will see any bus tailback.

Two hazards:
1. sometimes there aren't buses there, and you need to cut left over traffic that can actually go straight on.

2. visitors do not expect the bus (there's no roadsign for "ignore the lane markings expect a bus round a blind corner"), so come round the corner, see the bus and will swing out without warning. You need to plan for that, assume that any vehicle in the left lane other than a bus will swing right once they get over the roundabout and encounter a bus.

Tim said...

Ok, so I admit there is enough available space on the Plot 6 site. However, I still think this is the completely wrong place for a transport hub, purely from a city planning point of view. This area should be built up and pedestrianised, to create high-quality pedestrian links towards the north and west (which I think are the main desire lines). Something like in the Overview doc in Appendix 5. I'm still in favour of the transport hub idea, I just feel that the planners have got it right(ish) and you've got it wrong in this case. If you put a bus station on that side, the station will be surrounded by heavy traffic (given that it seems both unlikely and undesirable that the current station concourse will be fully pedestrianised). Coaches and busses should go somewhere else, somewhere around the cattlemarket road side of the station (plenty of areas to be redeveloped on that side as well).

Pete Goodwin said...

Tim: I agree that traffic levels around the site, and the quality of walking to and from Temple Meads, and the influence of lots of buses on the neighbouring road system (as with SteveL's example), are all important factors. I don't pretend to have all the answers about a hub at Temple Meads, but it seems to me that the prize of a really good interchange, enough to actually get people to take that huge step of using public transport instead of cars, really makes it worth investigating.

I'm banging on about Temple Meads because I'm picturing a real multi-modal interchange; bus to bus, bus to rail, bike to coach, BRT to walking, whatever. Anything else is a half measure. I think Temple Meads is the only place where that's possible. Shelter, warmth, somewhere to sit, the knowledge of what bus/train/BRT is coming when, information, refreshment, security, light... your ordinary bus stop, even in the city centre, scores badly on all these.

You suggest that most people walk either west or north from Temple Meads. Clearly, that's towards the Centre and the shops, but it's also towards all the buses that don't go anywhere close to Temple Meads, like to the south/south-west, and the east. Lots of people must choose those directions because they have no other choice (apart from cabs). That said, the walk north alongside the floating harbour is getting much better, and the 'Brunel Mile' route is pretty high quality apart from the main road crossing. I don't really see how a Plot 6 hub would detract from either.

As for the Cattle Market site, bring it on! As a hub, I don't think it's got the advantages of Plot 6, but it's certainly got potential, with that superb water frontage to the feeder basin. The Mail Sorting Office that stands there now is a disgrace to the city, and especially to the owners. I'd love to take a wrecking ball to it!

In practice, it may not be easy to associate it with the train station. My understanding is that neither First nor Network Rail would want to develop an entrance on that side of the station (for the worst of reasons.... people would have to be paid to staff it!).

There are quite a few interesting insights into the possibilities (and the stations development history) in Appendix D to the Area Development Framework (not a formal planning document, just the proposals from the landowners). I'm sure there are plenty of opportunities to make use of the split levels of the station to ease pedestrian - and possibly motorised - movement. At the moment the station's not the best place for anyone who can't walk significant distances or get up and down steps.

It occurs to me that they're very keen to justify new roads on the basis that they'll save drivers a couple of minutes. If only they'd apply that principle to a transport hub.

Anonymous said...

Tim, the only way it can be in totally the wrong place is if you are assuming that Bristol only needs one single hub in the city centre?

For Bristol this is probably impractical. There is clearly a need for two or three interchanges and to suggest that Temple Meads shouldn't be one of these is wrong, its the only location for a rail/bus interchange in the city centre!

Should they use plot 6 for the hub? I'm actually undecided. What I am clear about is the need for significant layout changes around temple circus and along Redcliffe way. The junction is too complicated with far to many lights, crossings and entry exit points. In short its a mess.

If the layout was altered then I think its perfectly feasible to have the bus interchange at the front of the station, however you the BRT interchange or stops have to go on plot 6.

This is what I would do:

1) Bus only interchange at the front, enlarge pedestrian forecourt in front of the entrance
2)Make temple circus a cross road, removing the north bound carriage way that goes round the back of the island site
3) Create a prominent new north entrance on plot 6 (directly north of the west end of the Digby Wyatt shed (the point where the levels change. Perfect for pedestrians.
4) Extend the concourse to the new north entrance and change digby wyatt into waiting/ticket hall (therefore new entrance can provide access to both ticket hall and concourse)
5) Improve the existing north entrance to temple quay, glass end and remove of existing control building.
6) Create new dedicated public space north of old empire and commonwealth/new entrance
7) Frame public space/walking route to portwall lane/island and Victoria street with new L shape building along the Friary, and north of original TM archway, with a decent route for pedestrian and cyclists
8) Move all car parking to end of the Friary (on a like for like basis). Shield the new car park building with another building
9) Install bus lanes going in (south bound) and out of temple meads (North Bound)Along temple gate.
10)reduce Redcliffe way to be one way for general traffic towards St Mary's accessed only from north bound carriageway.
11) The anticlockwise bus loop to be allowed to use portwall lane through the island to access temple meads forecourt. This allows one set of lights to stop the traffic at the cross roads allow pedestrians to cross and allow buses to pull out.
12) Provide cycle route through from portwall to new entrance and then along the friary to exiting north entrance on on to new meads reach bridge, along side BRT
13) Provide office space as part of new entrance building running back to the existing north entrance, but allow sufficent space for BRT Stops for services going in/out the back of temple meads.
14) Provide taxi/kiss and ride north of the station on the Friary.
15) Extend the concourse south in to the post office depot site. Provide a taxi/drop off point off cattle market road.

Eventually BRT will stop running in a anticlockwise loop when other though lines are built. It can't go round the loop one and half times and still be rapid for through services. The proposals to pedestrianise the northern end of the centre indicate that at spur along Baldwin/victoria street to TM, just like the Manchester Metro spur to piccadilly station will be provided. leaving the main north south axis via princes street/the centre/Lewins Mead.

To avoid the need for an interchange for BRT north of the centre a route would have to continue out the back towards St philips/callington road, maybe to South Bristol or maybe to east Bristol

Given the current bus route review, surely the layout should be altered to reflect the desired route pattern, a likely combination of through routes and a city circular route stopping at a temple meads interchange.

Sorry for the long rambling post

Tim said...

PJ, interesting post! Sorry if I wasn't very clear - I was just talking about which side of the station a transport interchange should go (IMHO) *if* such a thing was to be built there. I don't think it's possible to use Plot6 for this and at the same time create a pedestrian/cyclist- friendly environment given the heavy traffic this would entail, so that only leaves the other side of Temple Meads or somewhere around the gyratory in vicinity of the future BRT stop (abandoned petrol station, anyone?).

I agree that one interchange isn't enough; and even if there was only to be one, Temple Meads wouldn't really be the natural/ideal location for it.

Can't wait to see that entire area redeveloped though (Redcliffe Way, the gyratory, the island site, Plot 6, and the Cattlemarket road area).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying Tim.

I just wanted to correct my previous post "To avoid the need for an interchange for BRT north of the Temple Meads (not the Centre as I said) a route would have to continue out the back towards St philips/callington road, maybe to South Bristol or maybe to east Bristol"

I think the important issue is segregated provision of bus and BRT access to Temple Meads and the removal of complicated and unattractive pedestrian/traffic light arrangements.

Between Bath Bridge and Temple way there are five sets of lights north bound. In reality this could be two, maybe three max.

I've been waiting for the redevelopment of this area for a long time too, Just getting frustrated with the lack of progress before the downturn and lack of an integrated plan for the area.

My worry is the lack of strategic thinking for this area. Once that opportunity is gone we are stuck with it. At the moment I'm not that confident that the Council knows what their ultimate aim for the area is and what the building block are for its delivery!

Now that BRT is almost underway it provides some certainty that the Government, if they have any cash, will continue to support the Council to provide routes. Does the Council or WEP have any idea what routes they will provide beyond the BRT3? The initial anticlockwise route with stop on temple circus is surely not the end game for the city centre, so what is and how will Temple meads be integrated and therefore developed?

I hope that the answer isn't after the RDA and private developers build sites that determine what if any improvements to public transport access can be provided. I live in hope

I'd happily offer my services if their short of a few ideas.

"A green steam" said...

Hi, the Council started a consultation for changes to the Bristol Development Framework - Core Strategy. Is this a suitable moment to renew the pressure on using Plot 6 for a more convenient Coach Station and Transport Hub?

Stockwood Pete said...

Thanks for the reminder, Green Steam. It's prompted a further blog post here