Park & Rides are the wrong solution for Cambridge’s transport problems, yet they are being made the focus of them.
Take the P&R car park proposed for Hauxton: about 80,000 square metres of space (eleven football pitches) will be cleared to park 2,150 cars. But the Greater Cambridge Partnership is aiming to reduce the number of cars entering Cambridge by about 20,000. Do they eventually plan to announce five more? Or ten?
By taking up so much space with an unpleasant land-use, it is likely that the car parks and bus services will be far away from where people might walk. Some people might cycle to them, but why, when they could just continue all the way in? What kind of public transport are we creating where access to it requires a car in the first place?
And the cost is heart-stopping.
The Cambridge South East Transport Park & Ride proposal will cost £132 million, in the hope of attracting 917 additional bus users. That’s £144,000 spent per new user.
The Cambourne to Cambridge project is even worse, at £180,000 per new user. That one will also serve the existing Cambourne community, it’s true, but that can be done at far lower cost, as it should have been from when the town was built. Subsidised bus services running every 6–8 minutes during the day, and upgraded bus stops with proper walking and cycling paths, would have cost less than has been spent so far on consultants alone.
This would attract hundreds of new riders on every route, which in turn would create support for in-highway bus priority measures around Cambridge, such as Inbound Flow Control. These could yield most of the benefit of a dedicated busway at a fraction of the cost.
That’s why I have signed the petition at smartertransport.uk, and I encourage everyone to do so. We need cheap, frequent buses serving actual communities, not greenfield car parks. We need an extensive high-quality active travel network, and a workable solution for reducing traffic in the city.
Our new councillors and mayor have a chance to deliver on their election promises here.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 23 June 2021.