Smarter Cambridge Transport
Queue of cars illustrating traffic congestion

Meaningless targets risk dragging us back to the 20th century

Meaningless targets are worse than having no target at all. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s Local Transport Plan, for which they want our feedback over the next fortnight, makes this mistake. And here it is, on page 56: ‘Our key transport metric and target is for residents to be within a 30-minute travel time of a major employment centre.’

Let’s pick apart this nice-sounding statement. A 30-minute travel time sounds meaningful, but doesn’t factor in parking, pollution or local congestion. In fact, it sounds like licence to build motorways across the county.

Never mind that you’ll be stuck in a traffic jam, under a cloud of smog, trying to get in or out of the car park, like people in the Science Park. The officers at the Combined Authority could shrug their shoulders and say: ‘but we delivered you to an employment centre’.

Speaking of which, the metric doesn’t specify which employment centre. They could simply say ‘you are near an employment centre’ and if it doesn’t happen to be the one you work at, too bad!

We should also ask why everything is being designed around commuting to work. The National Travel Survey finds only 15% of trips are commutes; the other 85% are trips to see friends and family, go shopping, see the doctor, check on caring responsibilities, take part in leisure activities and many other examples of important parts of life that are completely ignored by this metric.

The Local Transport Plan does not even suggest increasing the proportion of trips taken by foot or cycle, even though those are the best ways we know to decrease congestion, improve public health, boost local high streets, reduce social isolation and increase public access to parks and the countryside.

If we don’t respond strongly to this consultation, we will end up with a plan that will be relentlessly trying to drag us back into making the mistakes of the 20th century.

Then you can say goodbye Cambridgeshire, hello endless sprawl and traffic jams.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 11 September 2019.

Matthew Danish

Matthew Danish is a research computer scientist who studies ways of verifying complex software models. In his spare time, he volunteers for various voluntary organisations such as SCT, Camcycle and Camsight, and he advocates for safer, fairer and nicer streets for people. This generally means working towards better walking, cycling and public transport conditions for people of all ages and abilities.

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