Smarter Cambridge Transport’s vision for ‘travel hubs’ – a term we coined – is fundamentally distinct from that of Park & Rides, which have one principal function: to lure car users onto a bus to complete the last few miles of their journey into a city.
The defining feature of a Park & Ride is a large car park, which grows over time as usage increases (e.g. 274 spaces being added at Trumpington, and 650 more planned for Longstanton). No village parish council wants to have one built on their doorstep. Not only is it an ugly waste of space, it’s a traffic magnet, exacerbating local congestion in the morning and evening peaks. Park & Ride has an important role, but it’s no longer to reduce car trips by people living in Greater Cambridge.
A travel hub, on the other hand, enables rural buses to run more directly (faster and more cheaply) to major centres of employment, retail, leisure and culture. This provides a more attractive and competitive alternative to driving than traditional rural bus services, and better serves those without access to a car.
A good location for a travel hub could be close to a village college or GP surgery. The primary modes of access would be walking, cycling, local and demand-responsive buses, and pick-up/drop-off by community transport and private cars. Any car parking provided should be a local decision based on local need. The travel hub might have spaces only for disabled drivers. If a larger car park is needed, perhaps because the travel hub serves a collection of villages, the space could also be used at weekends for a farmers’ market or craft fair, or by mobile services (e.g. public library, health screening, or drop-in advice sessions by the Police, Fire & Rescue Service or Citizens’ Advice Bureau). Demand for parking spaces would reduce as first/last-mile connections by foot, cycle and public/shared transport improve – unlike with Park & Ride.
Using terminology precisely and consistently is important in public debate. ‘Travel hub’ is not a euphemism for ‘Park & Ride’; it’s an essential part of connecting rural communities to public transport that can compete with private cars.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 24 July 2019.