Thursday, February 26, 2009

City transport concerns

An interesting meeting this afternoon, bringing together representatives of several of the Countdown 2009 focus groups, with the purpose of moving forward on the infrastructure strategy for the city centre, and linking together with other projects in the city centre. We were meant to be reviewing matters under the headings of transport, public realm and wayfinding, but so much came up under transport, we spent the entire meeting on that subject alone.

From all sorts of spheres of interest, transport problems seem to dominate - problems relating to the control of taxis, legal and illegal, road closures to do with large public events, congestion on routes into the city centre, goods deliveries into a pedestrian zone, parking security, pedestrian safety, especially for the disabled. My small contribution concerned the lack of buses early enough to bring in worshippers and retail workers on Sunday mornings. The instant reaction was 'not enough demand', but I felt confident enough to point out early public transport for Sunday workers had the potential to remove their cars from the congestion equation. What's good for retail is also good for the church. We may be different businesses, but the same needs are there.

It's clear that thinking about the broader picture of urban transport infrastructure in the Cardiff area is now taking place, with additional pressure from the re-launch of the city centre's shopping amenities this autumn. To my mind this is ten years too late. Now it's driven by necessity, and the solutions will all be compromises. Infrastructure is boring stuff, not exactly the most alluring thing to invest time or energy in, until it's too late and you realise you don't have enough capacity. Congestion has always been a problem in Cardiff. It's got worse as the car owning population has expanded. Will the ambition to become a carbon-lite city lead to few vehicles on the road, less congestion in the long term? I doubt it. We not good at thinking ahead, despite all the visionary rhetoric and ambitions of the moment.

The meeting took place in one of the recently restored tower rooms of Cardiff Castle. That was an experience in itself. One of these days I really must do a full tour. With a wife who works as one of the casual guides there, you'd think I'd have done it by now, but not so.

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