Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Keeping Cardiff moving

Another meeting of the Countdown 2009 executive board this morning, reporting back on all the different components of preparation to re-launch the Cardiff as 'capital of shopping' this autumn. Much of the meeting was devoted to transport concerns - inevitably given the inadequacy of road infrastructure to cope with growing demand, and the need to make the centre as accessible as possible for workers and shoppers - worshippers as well.

Public transport won't be able to benefit the public if congestion from cars and taxis make punctuality impossible. Since de-regulation came to the taxi world, the numbers plying their trade has escalated. Regulation of their competing efforts to provide a public service has not kept pace with growth, despite the best efforts of Council and police. Those who issue taxi licenses in the Borough don't seem to understand the impact of their actions on other road users, nor the meaning of sustainability in a city which is paying dearly now for failure to implement far reaching infrastructure changes thirty years ago.

Changes there must be, and everyone will complain at having the change their habits of mobility. Unfortunately, current thinking is based on predictions of growth presuming little will change from the trends of recent years, yet already change is on the horizon. World recession could contribute to long term change in spending habits, especially when (rather than if) energy costs, and therefore transport costs make car use and ownership less attractive compared with the cost of public transport.

In my view, the sooner public transport becomes fully competitive, altogether more attractive than private transport (cars and taxis), the better for all - less congestion, less pollution. The City's forthcoming carbon reduction strategy is going to throw down the gauntlet on this issue, sooner rather than later. Yet, I sense that many of those wrestling with problems of today and tomorrow, if they are aware of what's coming the day after, are denying attention to things that could contribute radically to an effective longer term solution even earlier.

In the past five years Cardiff Bus has done well to improve services. A great start has been made. Lots more development is needed to prepare citizens for a different kind of (low carbon) future - more bus lanes and synchronised traffic signals, new vehicle designs catering for those on wheels, and those who don't cope well with being shaken around, by stop-start, weaving through traffic movement that can make bus travel an ordeal for both the very young and the elderly.

If only we could go for a light tram network ... if only.

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