5B) Public Transport

Public transport is important both for social equity and the environment. Those of us who live in cities might take it for granted but for many places the quality of public transport is poor and getting worse. This is crucial to the millions who don’t have access to a car and for whom public transport is a lifeline, enabling access to jobs, shops, services and friends. And yet since buses were deregulated in 1987, ridership outside London has declined by 37%. In London by contrast where buses remain in public ownership usage has risen by a third over the same period.

The British Travel Survey shows that pre- Covid only 6% of trips and 5% of kilometres travelled were by bus – 62% lower than it was in 1950. There were, however, some positives. Public transport use in London (pre-Covid) was growing for both buses and the tube. Light rail and tram use was growing elsewhere in the country, and the use of trains was also increasing.

All this has changed in 2020 and the extent to which travel pattern will return to these pre-covid levels remains unclear. However, on the assumption that it will never be possible to do everything within 10 or 15 minutes of home, it is important that public transport provides an alternative to the car.

This raises wider political issues about the way that public transport is controlled. Rail services are once more under public control and most of the tram systems built in recent years are in public ownership. Places like Greater Manchester are also lobbying to take back control of buses.

Locally, the issues relate to the location of public transport stops and the frequency of services. Generally planners consider that every home should be within 400m (5 minutes) of a bus stop or 800m (10 minutes) of a tram stop. Most existing towns and cities achieve this. The problems come in urban extensions and new settlements which are still being built without adequate public transport links.

What You Can Do

Communities

Encourage people to use the bus! In areas with poor public transport links and particularly new development, lobby for the provision of a service.

Developers and Designers

Don’t build unless all the property you are planning has access to a bus stop or other public transport service, unless you are prepared to invest in the provision of new services and routes. This should be done for a sufficient period of time to ensure that the service can become established.

Councils

Consider public transport accessibility as a central part of the land allocation process in the local plan. Set a public transport accessibility standard and insist that developers provide contributions to ensure that this is met. Lobby regionally to bring public transport back under public control.

Case study

5B) Nottingham, (The Meadows)

Nottingham is becoming known as a city with sustainability at its heart, and a key component of this is the council’s commitment to developing and delivering excellent public transport connections.

The extensions of the tram lines and the strengthening of the bus network support this.

Nottingham has set very stringent carbon reduction emissions targets and sees transport as a key aspect of this. Supporting and strengthening public transport to be a viable and attractive option for its residents continues to be a key driver in their sustainability and carbon reduction commitments.

A neighbourhood where this can be observed is The Meadows. Located about two miles south of the city and near the River Trent, it benefitted from a tram extension and may also look to benefit from more recent plans that would see a whole new route for the network that could eventually reach Gedling Borough.

The Meadows neighbourhood is also home to a new development by Blueprint (igloo), which has been guided by the best practice design principles laid out within @Footprint, a leading sustainability policy developed by Igloo Regeneration Fund and URBED. Blueprint imposed stricter building standards on themselves early on in the process across a number of infill sites. Blueprint’s ambitious vision for the sustainable regeneration of the Meadows has been a huge success. A number of post- occupancy surveys across their schemes show a very promising split between transport modes and confirmed that the extended tram line was attractive to buyers.

In a recent interview (March 2020) to the Nottingham Post, Councillor Adele Williams – portfolio holder for local transport at the city council and representing the Sherwood ward for Labour – said: “Our established tram network is something that the city can be very proud of, and it’s no surprise that other neighbouring areas are keen to see it extended, so more people can see the benefit and increase their transport options. Currently, close to 19 million journeys are taken each year, and this figure continues to grow, with 30% of tram trips formerly taken by car or park-and-ride.”

Photography: ©Grosvenor, @PL Chadwick (Geograph), @Ed Webster, CC image from Flickr,