At a recent council meeting, rural councillors voted to suspend the rollout of residents’ parking schemes in Cambridge, even ones already agreed by residents and funded by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP).
At the same time, Stagecoach and the Combined Authority are committing to increasing the frequency and coverage of bus services in Cambridgeshire. Stagecoach (now under new management) has an aspiration to run buses 18 hours a day, 7 days a week over a wider network. But, the greatest obstacle to all bus operators is congestion caused by car commuters. Just a hundred solo-occupancy cars can create a queue a mile long, delaying buses by over 15 minutes.
Furthermore, GCP is funding expansions of Park & Rides (soon to exceed 7,000 spaces) at huge expense. It and the County Council are heavily subsidising people to use them by not charging for parking.
None of this was mentioned by councillors deciding the fate of residents’ parking schemes.
18% of households in Fenland and 13% in East Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire have no access to a car. Even if a household does have a car, not everyone can necessarily use it or get a lift when they need or want to. Far more people are dependent on public transport to reach jobs and have a social life than politicians realise.
Policies that favour car drivers do nothing for people who don’t have access to a car; worse, they actively disadvantage them: more cars means more congestion, which makes running reliable, frequent, affordable bus services increasingly difficult.
Residents’ parking schemes are an essential part of the strategy to reduce peak hour congestion in and around Cambridge, as they compel people to consider alternatives to driving: taking a bus, using Park & Ride, car-sharing or cycling. That benefits people who have to use the buses as well as those who choose to. In time that creates a virtuous circle of buses being an increasingly attractive and affordable alternative to driving.
If you care about having good bus services, tell your county councillor to support more funding for buses and residents’ parking schemes.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 18 March 2020.