Thursday, April 02, 2009

Changing local travel habits and other knotty problems

After the Eucharist this lunchtime, I had to leave in haste to arrive at the Castle just in time for the second meeting of the Transport, Public Realm and Wayfinding sub-group of the Countdown 2009 process. I had managed to fulfil my small task from the last meeting, and report on the various Sunday start times of the various worshipping groups in the City centre. Many people coming into town use cars because they feel they can't rely on public transport to get them there in time.

Sunday transport services are not the same as the other days of the week, despite Sunday now being a trading day. We changed the time of our main service from 9.30 to 10.00am, and have seen a sustained increase in attendance because a few more people have found they can now use buses. The increase of buses is geared up to the later shop opening hours. Fine.

Long term City policy is to encourage short term useage of city centre parking, by pricing and time regulation, to suit shoppers, not workers. Sunday workers will tend to use their cars to come in and stay all day, unless public transport and/or Park & Ride allows them to arrive ahead of opening hours to prepare for the day, and is more cost effective than parking in town.

Those who come in for worship may not stay as long as the average shopper. Many of them would prefer to travel in by public transport, as many are bus pass holders - if only buses delivered people consistently and early enough where they want to be ahead of the start of services. The City wants to reduce congestion around the centre, and reducing the need to use the car with timely transport 7/7 not 6/7 has to be part of the answer. The 'no demand at present' responders worry over costs, and don't look at how to influence essential future developments to benefit everyone.

I made my little report and attempted to say that earlier services wasn't just a Faith Group issue, but concerned all who needed to get in early, whose habits of transport were determined by need not being met. Getting lots of people to make the switch, even if there are better services, will not be easy because old habits die hard, but efforts must be made in promotion and incentives to make changes of habit possible.

Questions about cleansing in relation to public transport came up as well. It seems to me that everyone who should make proper provision, whether on the streets or in bus and train stations and on vehicles makes the effort, but the outcome is still far from satisfactory. Like running in front of an avalanche - of rubbish. I just had to pitch in and say that were were failing because there were no curbs on producers of rubbish, the careless consumers on the one hand, and those who supply them - fast food joints and convenience stores - on the other.

More bins, more sweepers - these are not preventative measures. Yet everyone goes quiet and looks down if you start talking about sanctions or enforcement - except the people not at the meeting, who labour daily with the problem of the credibility gap generated between the messages the city gives out and the mess that never quite goes away.

I was surprised to learn that 1900 vehicles are licensed for private hire i.e. taxis, across the city, yet there are only 70 (was it really only 70?) spaces for them to occupy legally while waiting for fares throughout the centre. There are so many problems, because not all taxi drivers will accept passengers going too short, or too long a distance. They aren't supposed to pick and choose, but they do, and often won't take a short distance ride, because they don't want to lose their taxi rank place and have to queue again for a more lucrative job. Now that's a headache for someone to sort out. There's a big meeting of all interested parties, hosted at Central Police station tomorrow. I'd love to be there but can't.

I also learned Cardiff in-town vehicle performance at traffic lights is slower than the national average, and this contributes to congestion. It could be linked, so it was said, to signage being poor or badly placed, leading to slower responses as people work out how to get where they want to go, even if they aren't first time visitors with lie-ing sat-navs.

After the meeting I had time on my hands before a wedding rehearsal, so I spent some time clearing rubbish from the various locked churchyard gardens - first find the right keys, then a bag, then get to work, picking up, and fighting back anger at the evidence of six-packs demolished on the street outside and tossed over the fence, when even leaving them on the pavement would get them swept away within hours. Some of that stuff has been there since before Lent. I'm glad I got aorund to it at last.

Sister Wendy showed up to talk with Philip about the vigil event she is planning for Good Friday evening at St John's, just as my wedding rehearsal was starting. This was a stroke of good fortune, as I was able to tell her about the taxi meeting tomorrow, knowing she has a keen interest in 'taxi justice' because of her experience among clubbers.

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