September’s traffic chaos in Cambridge was a wake-up call. Had the Greater Cambridge Partnership invested in smart traffic signalling technology in 2016, the network would now be more resilient to roadworks and seasonal variations in travel demand.
Although smart signalling is not a long-term solution to congestion (it ekes out a little more capacity from the network, which will fill again), it would buy GCP time to deliver other projects. At the moment, it’s just an add-on to the Histon and Milton Rd bus-and-cycle lane schemes. Like other interventions Smarter Cambridge Transport has campaigned for, it needs a status upgrade.
So, what should the priorities for investment be?
Clearly, upgrading and integrating traffic signals and variable message signs on all arterial roads in and into Cambridge is an urgent priority. The system should be tuned to protect the most critical junctions from overload and to prioritise buses.
Instead of pouring the majority of resources into building three new busways, concentrate on smaller, tactical interventions, such as a bus/cycleway connection between the A10 at Milton P&R and Orchard Park using the ‘spare’ A14 underpass behind Cambridge Regional College.
Instead of hoping new busways will increase bus patronage in the future, invest now in bus services. Use partnership agreements with operators to integrate the bus network and secure best value for taxpayers. Use New Homes Bonus and S106 money as seed funding, and implement a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) to provide some of the long-term funding. Respond to employers’ valid objections to a WPL with targeted discounts, rebates and a graduated introduction.
Instead of building huge car parks around the city, build travel hubs throughout South Cambridgeshire, starting with Cambourne. Work with parish councils and interested bus operators to identify the best locations, and design amenities to meet local needs and ambitions.
Accelerate the Greenways cycle network programme, and continue the engagement process started with Madingley Rd to design a complete cycle network for the rest of the city.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these interventions could be delivered quickly – if county, district and city politicians set their mind to it.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 25 September 2019.