Smart Transport

Political will is 'biggest barrier' to buses

Buses are a simple, affordable, proven way of allowing really dense use of city centres, which is economically powerful, says Simon Jeffrey, report author of Centre for Cities.

He adds: “Congestion is the under-supply of road space. You have to reduce the demand from inefficient users in city centres – cars.

“Everywhere that has congestion should have a distance-based congestion charge.

"All cities want great buses. They know they have to give up road space to buses and they know that reduces congestion.

"The lack of financial benefit from doing politically difficult things is stopping them making those choices.”

The benefits are wide-ranging, according to Claire Haigh of Greener Journeys:

“Research by the University of Leeds showed that a 10% improvement in bus speeds nationally would be associated with 50,000 more people in employment.”

Increasingly, buses are required to accommodate passengers with the widest range of additional needs.

Universal accessibility adds cost and time. 

“It presents opportunities,” says Transport for London's Gareth Powell.

“We see it like this: the more sustainable choices we can provide to more people, the more the city can grow without dependency on inefficient cars which slow buses down.

"The more we can get equal access to public transport from all kinds of people and from all parts of London, the better the city will function. 

“We work to a headline target that 80% of journeys should be by public transport, walking and cycling.

Central London is already above that, but outer London is not, and that’s where the challenge lies to make it a sustainable city.”

Ultimately, political will is the “biggest barrier” to buses, claims James Freeman, managing director of First West of England.

“The politicians just can’t bear the thought of reducing road space, because drivers are votes,” he says.

“The only people who stand against it are either very brave or unlikely to seek re-election.

"When we talk about bus priority, the counterpoint must be less space for cars. Buses should be for winners, not for losers.

That’s how we convince politicians. If you’re a winner by making a positive decision about your lifestyle and having an impact on your environment by travelling green, you are making a positive choice.”

Read the full article on the role bus in the future of public mass transit from the Smart Transport Journal


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