A huge expansion of Park & Ride capacity is being proposed on the south-west edge of the city, either at a new site near Hauxton or by turning the existing site at Trumpington into a multi-storey car park. But this is tackling the effects of congestion rather than the cause. It is at odds with the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s objective to reduce the volume of private motor traffic in and around Cambridge – because using P&R still involves driving to Cambridge.
We all hope that cycle ‘greenways’ to all the local villages will be open well before this proposed P&R expansion, and Cambridge South railway station should be in operation by 2025. With these transport alternatives, will we also need yet another huge car park? Consider the expense too: potentially £34.5m for 2,260 spaces: that’s £15,000 per space! For that much money, we could give each P&R user thirteen years of unlimited bus travel throughout Cambridgeshire.
Where’s the data to support this massive investment? Who uses the existing site? Where are they travelling from? Where are they going to? Do they go on by bus, cycle, or on foot? Who is the expansion aimed at?
If we had this data, for Trumpington and Babraham Road P&Rs (both of which serve the Biomedical Campus), we could see where express bus services from rural travel hubs would work best – without adding to congestion around Cambridge. The money for P&R expansion could build a number of rural travel hubs and support high quality express bus services to serve them for as long as necessary.
If the quality and perceived cost of these services were similar to using P&R, they should be attractive to many existing and additional P&R users. They would also attract people who currently drive all the way to their destination.
Reduced congestion in and around the city would make buses more reliable, which means the same numbers of buses can run more services, reducing cost. It would also reduce transport-related CO2 in the area, making it more sustainable. And it would be more socially equitable, serving people who don’t have a car – young and old, poor and disabled.
Let’s be smarter. Don’t just do what worked 20 years ago.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 12 December 2018.