17 Sep 2010

Glos Transport Plan will fail us

This last week I have been reading the Transport Plan - otherwise known as LTP3 - on Tuesday night at the local Green party meeting we also had a discussion on it. This plan really does need alot of work if it is to be fit for Gloucestershire 2011 to 2026. Indeed while it acknowledges climate change it seems to completely miss what we need to do.

Below are my notes that I hope to shape into a personal response - they maybe useful pointers to others - the local Green party will also put a response in but I urge others to add their voices.

See the Transport Plan here where you can also complete a questionnaire in response - but needs to be in by 14th October.

So to my comments:

Before looking at some of the details I note that the LTP3 consultation process has failed to fully set out the urgency of the need to move to low carbon. Councils need to take a leading role: without that the results of the consultation are likely to underestimate the need to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport. Furthermore quite a number of the multiple choice questions are unintelligible or confusing. For example:

- There is a question about the introduction of 20 mph zones in accordance with current guidelines developed by GCC yet there is a scrutiny inquiry looking at 20 mph limits on all residential areas as a better approach.
- Another says 'Contributions towards public transport and community transport will be determined using the 'Guidance on contributions relating to Accessibility''. What does it mean? Well it means you have to read the guidance to understand and even then it becomes an issue about what aspects of the Guidance could be made better.....

I accept it is not easy to engage on these complex issues but the way the questions are framed really doesn't get to the heart of the matter.

1. LTP3 talks about reducing CO2 and supporting economic growth but doesn't really spell out how this challenge can be faced. The cuts needed in CO2 are huge. Since the major source of transport CO2 is from cars any realistic reduction in CO2 will have to address car useage. It would be useful to have some quantification and timescales regarding CO2 reduction plans.

2. This plan is to 2026. LTP3 recognises uncertainty over fuel prices but this does not seem to influence the plan. Indeed most fuel commentators believe that the only uncertainty is how high prices will rise, it would seem sensible to plan for further increases in fuel prices.There is no mention of Peak Oil in LTP 3. Peak Oil is not recognised. See for example this comment piece:
http://peakgeneration.blogspot.com/2010/08/major-reports-point-to-oil-supply.html

Here’s one quote from that piece: ‘Modern society has been built on the back of access to relatively cheap, combustible, carbon-based energy sources. Three factors render that model outdated: surging energy consumption in emerging economies, multiple constraints on conventional fuel production and international recognition that continuing to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will cause climate chaos.’

3. There is no longterm vision to move towards electrification of the transport system. This is a serious failing in the plan.

4. There are some welcome statements in the Plan like the commitment to supporting and implementing the Stroud District Cycling Strategy (soon to be published), and the adoption and improvement of the cycle trail. However there is talk about tackling congestion but few specific plans about how this will be done, in particular how we can shift to more walking, cycling and public transport. LTP3 does not sound committed to these modes of transport when words like ‘promote’ are used rather than hard targets. There is mention of an indicator for walking and cycling but no indication of what it might indicate.

5. LTP3 mentions Smarter Choices which can have a significant impact on the number of journeys undertaken by car, but it is doubtful if this will be maintained if the road network and public transport provision is not pleasant.

6. LTP3 could say more in relation to 20 mph limits like the significant reduction in casualties and the research showing it leads to more people walking and cycling and using public transport. LTP3 looks at the piecemeal approach of 20mph zones rather than whole residential areas which can have a significant impact on communities and start to change the way we see roads. Another example is regarding maintenance and other schemes: LTP3 could spell out how these are an opportunity to incrementally improve the network for vulnerable road users.

7. The economic benefits of reduced congestion due to a shift to more walking and cycling have not been quantified: improved physical and mental health, improved perception of community safety due to more people being about etc. Given that increases in walking and cycling would meet most of the aims of LTP3, and many of the counties other aims around sustainable communities, community cohesion, healthier communities, noise reduction surely walking and cycling are more important and this should be stated.

8. There is also no recognition of the barriers to walking, cycling and using public transport and how these can be addressed. Here are some examples:
- improving our very poor bus timetabling,
- insisting all travel shops keep all transport providers time tables,
- a commitment to fix smaller potholes that discourage cyclists,
- moving towards more single entry and exit roundabouts,
- the use of the Manual for Streets for all residential areas regardless of road class,
- the deletion of the Chalford / Brimscombe canal path improvement scheme, there is no 'ring fencing' of expenditures to make it easier/safer/more direct for pedestrians and cyclists, or to keep bus services in operation.

9. There is no mention of extensions to bus running hours, not even as an aspiration. If bus are to be used more heavily they need better operating hours. The use of small minibus services to be considered to increase the timetable. Any reduction in services will impact on vulnerable members of our communities.

10. LTP3 does not note the limit on flights from the airport or reaffirm the need for one. See my letter posted today on this blog re latest developments at Staverton.

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