This is the Smarter Cambridge Transport response to the City Deal on the 8 Point Plan to reduce congestion in Cambridge:
Better public transport and Park & Rides
We fully endorse this ambition, but with some caveats:
- Park & Rides on the edge of the city compete with and undermine rural bus services. They also cause localised congestion. The research identifying these effects is covered in our paper on Travel Hubs in the section The hidden costs of park-and-ride. We have therefore concluded that Cambridge would be best served by just three large-scale Park & Ride sites on the periphery:
- Trumpington (where currently sited)
- Stow-cum-Quy interchange
- Girton Interchange (with connections to the A1307/Huntingdon Rd, A428 and A14 west).
- South Cambridgeshire residents would be best served by travel hubs, with excellent cycling and walking links to the surrounding area, a pick-up/drop-off area, and other amenities. This is set out in detail in our paper on Travel Hubs.
- Any scheme to improve public transport must be assessed against the objective of achieving significant modal shift. Improving, for instance, bus punctuality will not necessarily lead to significant modal shift, and must therefore not be used as a proxy objective. This is covered in our papers on Buses and Can we do better than bus lanes?
Better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure
We fully endorse this ambition. However the indications to date are that large-scale new or upgraded cycling infrastructure is only considered justifiable as part of road schemes. Creating a well-connected, safe cycle network should be a top priority, independent of building new busways.
We would like to see a network of cycle and footways around the city and connecting up the villages, constructed to the best of Dutch and Danish practices.
Workplace parking levy
We support the principle of this as a means to incentivise employers to support their employees in making more sustainable travel choices, and for the money raised to be invested in improving public transport and infrastructure for cycling and walking.
Peak-Time Congestion Control Points
We fully support the objective of reducing congestion in the city centre. However, we believe that the six control points proposed are too draconian. The negative side-effects have been widely articulated, so we will not attempt to summarise them here.
We believe that the primary objective of decongesting Hills Road could be better achieved with the following control point locations:
- East Road, south of Norfolk Street
- Lensfield Road, at the Trumpington Road junction
- Bateman Street, at the Trumpington Road junction (to stop rat-running through New Town)
These would also serve to reduce traffic on Mill Road, and would isolate fewer residents and businesses, meaning far fewer exemptions would be required. This is illustrated in our paper on Buses.
Further control points could be added to de-congest most of the inner ring road:
- Northampton Street
- Victoria Avenue, on the bridge
- St Peter’s Street (to stop rat-running around the Northampton Street control point)
The Fen Causeway and Queen’s Road would likely remain congested. As it would be unwise to divert a large number of vehicles onto the M11 at peak times, this will probably have to be addressed in a different way – most probably as part of a city-wide road-pricing scheme.
We endorse the experimental approach recommended by officers in their report to the board on 24 May 2016 (Paragraph 45: “Given the challenge of accurately predicting how people will respond, and the fact that there is a pressing need to address current congestion, it is considered that an experimental approach is the best way to take this element of the proposed package forward.”) We take ‘experimental’ to mean in the scientific sense, where interventions are made in a controlled way so that the effect can be measured reasonably precisely. This requires that:
- Each permutation of control points should be trialled for a fixed period (e.g. four weeks) when traffic levels are relatively steady.
- Detailed traffic flow data must be captured before, during and after each trial.
- A trial should be abandoned if the effects are significantly more disruptive than predicted.
- Temporary signage and mobile ANPR cameras should be used to enable agility at least cost.
- There must be a simple, well-publicised and well-structured system for people to provide feedback on how each trial affected them.
We recommend first trialling only one or a pair of control points in locations where the diversion is relatively short. This will serve to test the system and raise awareness without provoking a backlash, which could undermine councillors’ confidence in the scheme.
Although control points may be the most suitable method of reducing city centre congestion in the short term, we believe the City Deal should explore two further options for the longer term:
- Making the inner ring road one-way, with a contraflow bus lane, as set out in our paper on Buses. This is premised on the idea that all express buses entering the city would circulate around the inner ring road, making it possible to interchange to any other express service at any point around the inner ring.
- Road pricing, where day permits are priced in reasonably close accordance with need and environmental impact, rather than simply ability or willingness to pay a fee. An equitable system would see that someone providing a social service requiring use of a vehicle pays a low fee; a builder’s van incurs a modest fee; and a diesel HGV incurs a high fee. Factors that determine the level of the fee might include:
- commercial benefit derived from driving during peak hours;
- social benefit the driver is providing (e.g. a health worker);
- the driver’s need to use a vehicle (e.g. health-related);
- environmental impact of the vehicle.
On-Street Parking Controls
We fully endorse an expansion of parking controls beyond the existing residents parking zones, in close consultation with local communities to ensure that controls are tailored to local need. This is set out in detail in our paper on On-Street Parking.
In addition to what the City Deal Smart Cambridge programme is already committed to, we would expect the City Deal to be investing in:
- integrating all the traffic signals on arterial roads in and into the city with an upgraded SCOOT traffic management system;
- co-locating the signals and road monitoring teams.
We would like to see the City Deal partner with a leading journey-planning system provider to create something that is state-of-the-art and continuously improving. Ultimately it should provide comprehensive information on all permutations of travel, and the means to book and pay for them: rail, bus, community transport, taxi, private car, parking, cycling, cycle hire, and walking.
Enhanced public space and air quality
We fully endorse this ambition. To date though, the City Deal has paid only lip service to this. We need highly accomplished and creative urban designers and landscape architects to lead schemes if we are to enhance public space to its greatest potential and ensure good stewardship & care of this historic city.
To improve air quality we must reduce the number of motor vehicles, especially diesel-powered, entering the city and villages. We need the City and South Cambridgeshire councils to produce co-ordinated, long-term plans to accelerate:
- reduction in over-all traffic levels through sustained modal shift to public and active modes of travel;
- transition of buses to being all-electric;
- freight consolidation with electric vehicles performing ‘last mile’ deliveries;
- transition of licensed taxis to being all-electric;
- incentivise residents to own smaller and electric vehicles, to share cars more, and make use of car clubs (such as ZipCar).