The appeal of a Citizens Assembly is it brings together people from all walks of life to try resolve a problem too knotty for politicians. Members listen to evidence from all sides and debate the issues and trade-offs in an atmosphere of collective endeavour. That is what happened last year at the Citizens Assembly organised by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to consider how to reduce congestion, improve air quality and provide better public transport. Its concluding message to GCP was, “Be brave, be bold and take action.”
Seven months later, GCP has published a response. It draws attention to measures it committed to in February, which include: extending bus service hours and the electric bus trial, and piloting targeted fare reductions; piloting access restrictions for motor traffic and road-space reallocation; providing more cycle parking; funding a lease scheme for electric and cargo bikes; and developing a pilot for more efficient deliveries to shops in the city centre. Although progress has been disrupted by COVID-19, access restrictions and road-space reallocation are starting to be trialled.
The assembly’s recommendations to franchise and reorganise bus services falls to the mayor’s office to deliver. An idea proposed by Smarter Cambridge Transport (SCT) that especially appealed to the assembly is “lollipop” routing of Cambridge buses around the inner ring road, instead of squeezing ever more buses into and through the city centre. GCP refer to a report by SYSTRA that explores this. However, it just sets out options and challenges for further consideration. GCP and the Combined Authority need to get on with commissioning trials of new routes and services.
GCP’s response on improving access to coach services misses the mark: a much more ambitious plan is needed – such as an airport-style coach station at the Girton Interchange. On smart traffic signals (which SCT asked to be prioritised in 2015), GCP continues to downplay the benefits and overstate the difficulties. Simply ensuring traffic lights don’t turn red as a bus approaches would save minutes on bus journey times.
It’s great to see GCP taking the Citizens Assembly recommendations seriously. Now let’s see some action.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 22 July 2020.