Smarter Cambridge Transport

Only Connect: a pretty good motto for public transport

Before Victoria Coren claimed ownership of “Only Connect,” it was E M Forster’s, extolling humans’ need to for connection. It’s also a pretty good motto for public transport: we spend a lot of time talking about cars, trains, buses, bicycles, but not so much about how they connect.

A single bus service from, say, Cambourne can serve only a small minority of people whose journeys happens to begin and end close to the bus route.

We and the City Deal want to see a big increase in the proportion of people using public transport. To do that, we need to make connecting between different bus services and other modes of transport a heck of a lot less painful than it is today.

So how do we do that?

We need a network of transport hubs, places that are easy for people to walk, cycle or drive to, and which feel safe and comfortable. They don’t necessarily need a big car park: train stations like Shepreth are popular without one: kiss-and-ride instead of park-and-ride.

But the defining characteristic of a hub is it’s where you can connect with other services. Here we need to do three things:

  • Minimise wait times, which requires services to either run frequently – turn up and go – or be scheduled to connect. The new Bus Services Bill will allow timetables to be designed to connect with other bus and train services.
  • Remove cost penalties, e.g. by issuing tickets valid on any bus for, say, 90 minutes.
  • Use clear and consistent maps and signage to direct people to connecting services.

In Cambridge itself, rather than having lots of hubs, we’ve proposed having most buses circulate the inner ring road. That effectively makes it one big hub: hop off anywhere and catch a bus headed to any other part of the city.

If short-hire bikes were also available at a few locations around the inner ring road, then people would have even more flexibility in how they reach their destination.

Making connections easy is absolutely key to achieving the City Deal’s “better bus journeys”.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 14 December 2016.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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