Let’s get realistic about the transport problem facing us. What do we need to do in the next ten or so years before the first ‘metro’ line opens?
Between 2012 and 2017, there was a 13% increase in personal trips into Cambridge: up 9.5% by car; up 40% by train; up 24% by cycle; up 12% by foot; but down 10% by bus.
Looking forward ten years, growth in population, employment and tourism are likely to sustain this rate of growth in transport demand, which could mean 27% or 25,000 more trips every day into Cambridge by 2028.
On top of that, the Greater Cambridge Partnership has an objective to reduce traffic in the city by 10-15% from 2011 levels. This would decongest the city centre, enable buses to move freely, and improve air quality. But it means shifting another 20,000 daily car trips to other modes.
Taken together, that’s quite a challenge: to get an extra 45,000 daily trips into Cambridge to be made by train, bus, cycling or walking.
Cambridge North will make a significant contribution; as will the cycling greenways, and adoption of e-bikes; but probably most of that growth will have to be absorbed by buses.
How might Park & Ride help? Capacity at all seven sites, including St Ives, Longstanton and planned expansion at Trumpington, is 7,022 cars. For Park & Ride to make a 50% contribution to those 45,000 extra daily trips would require fifteen more Trumpington-sized sites, with a total area of ten Parker’s Pieces.
There are no published figures for bus trips into Cambridge, but guestimating from figures for Park & Ride and the Guided Busway, it’s probably 10–15,000 daily, of which 4,200 are Park & Ride. For rural (non-P&R) buses to make a 50% contribution to the 45,000 extra daily trips will require at least a tripling of services.
Both options are daunting, but the social and environmental benefits of radically improving rural bus services far outweigh the damage of tarmacking more green belt and choking necklace villages with traffic to and from Park & Rides.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 15 August 2018.