Thursday, March 20, 2014

Trains and Transport–Part 1

I came across this Tweet the other day and it got me thinking, it wasn’t really quite what I would have guessed.

It is a chart showing the number of people a 3.5m wide lane can convey using different modes of transport in an hour.  It comes from a Paper written by H. Botma and H. Papendrecht in 1991 called Traffic Operation of Bicycle Traffic. It is a well cited paper and is used by the European Commission presentation – Cycling; the way ahead for towns and cities. It seems to apply to the Urban environment, which, at least for me, gave me the context to understand it. (An example of its citation is in this paper – Review of Basic Research in Bicycle Traffic Science, Traffic Operations, and Facility Design.)

Just to re-iterate the numbers:

Mode                 No. people crossing a
                     3.5m-wide space in an
                     Urban Environment in
                     a 1-hour period

Car                           2,000
Bus                           9,000
Bicycle                      14,000
Pedestrian                   19,000
Train                        22,000

There is quite a range, but I guess if you look at a city like London and see how important the Underground, the Buses and the railways are it makes more sense. Not to mention the crowds of people you see walking on places like Oxford Street.

There are other considerations of course, trains need stations, cars and bicycles need places to park when they are not in use,  motor vehicles create pollution (air and noise). On top of that you have other considerations such as the speed and convenience factors. Much as I like cycling I wouldn’t want to commute 120 miles a day into London and back on my bicycle.

Even so I would not have guessed that cars were so appallingly awful in terms of mass urban transport. They are both inefficient and costly in terms of space consumption and accident risk.  On Page 17, Table 1.1 of the report  – Cycling; the way ahead for towns and cities highlights some of the downsides of different transport modes.  One example of the awfulness – “How your daily rush-hour commute could increase you chances of heart disease” – it found that prolonged exposure to car pollutants caused the heart’s right ventricle to increase in mass and volume, which is directly linked to cardiovascular disease, heart failure and cardiac arrest.

So to put it simply, cars are a dreadfully awful form of general transport for urban areas. Note I am not saying they should be completely banned, they have their uses.  However it seems pretty clear that to efficiently manage transport for growing urban centres the use of the car needs to be strongly deprecated. So any transport strategy for a growing urban centre will need to grasp the nettle and embrace a networked transport system based upon a non-car paradigm.

It is no secret that Cambridge and the surrounding areas are going to undergo a massive increase in population with developments within and around Cambridge -  South Cambridgeshire 19,000 homes plan to be scrutinised by government.  (Larger than the 15,000-home garden city to be built at Ebbsfleet with fantastic infrastructure such as the high-speed rail line into London.)

Most people would agree that Cambridge is pretty crappy when it comes to urban congestion already.  Yet the presentation of Local Transport Plan (Slide 6) seems to indicate that the motoring levels will remain and increase will be absorbed by switching to other modes of transport.  The predicted increase in traffic growth is 40-50% between 2001 and 2013.

It seems to me that the strategy is far more tactically than strategic. Talking about tactics – how would you encourage more people to switch to Park and Ride and so not drive into the City. Well Cambridge County Council has decided that charging for parking is the way to do it. The “spin” seems to be to blame the people who “Park and Walk” or “Park and Cycle”.  It seems to be a very mixed message though. Perhaps the County Council and the City Council have some disagreement?

Meanwhile in Budget News, Cambridge has been given “£500m grant for transport and housing”. The bad news – it is to be released of 15 to 20 years under a ‘city deal’. It is to bankroll massive investment in public transport and cycling links.  it sounds a lot – although some warn that it “may not be enough to prevent gridlock in Cambridge”. Well we already get gridlock don’t we.

What would £500m buy? – well a third of the A14 upgrade, which can only increase the traffic flow into Cambridge. Is some of the money already ear-marked for things like the Cambridge Science Park train Station – er opening date pushed back to 2016 - £30m.

You would imagine that the rail system would be at the heart of the County’s plans and that it would be cheaper building in the sticks – except the re-opening of the Wisbech to March rail line might be to expensive at £50m. A big chunk of that cost is a bridge over the A47 at £15.6m.

Another chunk of road planned for the region – the Ely Southern by-pass - £30m.

You might say well the budget money is to sort out Cambridge not Cambridgeshire.  Well it seems to me that part of the reason we got the money is to drive economic growth.  I reckon one way to do that would be to have a vision of Cambridge being akin to the London of the Flatlands. It seems to be the trajectory we are one. Well London works as a commuting city. If that is what Cambridge is heading for then we ought to be focusing on the sorts of infrastructure that effectively support the inevitable. An efficient and effective transport system, capable of shifting people effectively (and with dignity) into the areas of employment.  Then we might end up spreading the economic benefit without compromising the area as a place to live.

This means a lot more than a new station – for instance the Kings Lynn line needs to be a fast line, there needs to be a fast East-West railway line and its instigation needs to be as a matter of priority rather than the bitty progress that is being made at the moment.  At least some (Julian Huppert)  are also thinking how new rail lines also provide opportunities for opening up cycle routes. It seems to work on the Cambridge Guided Busway – except for the flooding. It provides a corridor for cyclists to get to the stations as well. (Boris wants one for the HS2 line).

CGB – with a cycleway alongside

Personally I would rather see more people able to work effectively from home, but given that our economy seems to be built on commuting lets at least get it right.   The whole journey needs to be considered, with encouragement to cycle and walk at each end, with cars no longer getting the priority – they have to many downside. Also if we clear a bunch of the commuters  of the roads it can also make it easier for those who really down need to drive.

How not to to cycle parking at a |Railway Station – Cambridge

Sleepy railway line – Cambridge to Ipswich

Ex-railway line – Cambridge to Mildenhall

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