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Transition Bath’s thoughts on current B&NES Transport Policy and what we would do?

There is a lot of activity in terms of transport policy in Bath currently. Transport seems to be one of the council’s main policy priorities; with separate parking, coach parking and air pollution consultations taking place, the release of a ‘prospectus’ which forms the economic justification for an A36-A46 link road, ANPR monitoring of traffic to help understand air pollution and other initiatives. As outsiders, we are concerned that this work appears to lack coherence, there seems to be a piecemeal series of independent potentially contradictory initiatives rather a single holistic approach to solving Bath’s vehicle congestion and resulting air pollution problems.

From Transition Bath’s perspective we would like to see the council apply a carrot and stick type approach to encourage a modal shift in transport from vehicles to cycling, walking and public transport. We feel that many of the larger more capital-intensive initiatives like the A36-A46 link road, the Bathampton Meadows P&R and new railway stations, won’t bring benefit for many years if at all and distract from cheaper, short-term mechanisms for reducing vehicular congestion and pollution. We also feel that cross-party political consensus within the Council is required to avoid the yo-yo political point scoring of the past, and provide a longer term more stable strategy, independent of the 4 year political cycles.

We would however like to give the new Councillor for Transport, Mark Shelford credit for starting to promote a significantly less car focussed policy. We also feel more background information and statistics is required in order to make informed rational decisions; Transition Larkhall’s recent analysis suggests that about 50% of Bath’s traffic congestion is from the school run, B&NES put this figure below 30%. It’s difficult to prioritise transport policy decision making if you don’t have a good grip on the statistics, and the reasons for people travelling through Bath and their modal choices. If we were defining policy we might propose the following:

  1. provide economic incentives to reduce the number of and pollution from cars travelling into the centre of Bath, including:
    • Ensuring it is always more expensive to park in the centre of town than on the outskirts – by increasing town centre parking costs, and charging for the P&R tickets on a per car rather than a per person basis (like Portsmouth Council)
    • Differential parking charges for the most polluting of vehicles – so both resident and visitor car parks charge more for diesels (like Westminster Council)
    • Extending parking zones, so residents who cause the majority of the congestion and drive short distances across town aren’t provided with free parking outside the central parking permit zones
    • Introduce a system of workplace parking charges with revenues reinvested in public transport (like Nottingham Council)
    • Discourage cars from driving into the centre of town (aka a ‘Heart of Bath’ restricted central zone)
  2. Deal with the school run
    • Subsidise school buses: improve the quality, capacity, and timings of the existing services
    • Put ‘safe’ exclusion zones around each school to make it more difficult for parents to drop their children off at school by car
    • Invest in safe walking and cycling routes to school
    • Encourage secondary school children to go to their local school – rather than travelling across town – this perhaps can only be achieved by investing in the academically weaker local schools, and is a politically difficult subject
  3. Invest in walking, cycling and public transport. Encouraging residents via education to partake in a healthier, less car dependent lifestyles
  4. Invest in permanent ANPR infrastructure to understand current vehicular movements, and the impact of policy changes
  5. Stop retail and other deliveries in town from delivering during peak hours of congestion. Consider a Deliveroo-like bicycle based last mile distribution system for local non-food deliveries
  6. Get public buy in for all of the above, explain why changes are being made, and how the strategy might work, perhaps rolling out the changes in car parking charges gradually, but signalling the long-term intent
  7. And then in the longer term – setup a low carbon/pollution/congestion zone in Bath, add additional park and ride capacity, consider trams, add extra railway stations. Consider reducing central Bath parking capacity by for example replacing a proportion of the Charlotte Street car park with much needed affordable housing

We would be interested to hear your thoughts on this transport@transitionbath.org

Posted in Transport.