Friday, 13 April 2007

Local transport

Yesterday, I said I had some ideas for reducing Lewes' traffic problems.

They're not revolutionary ideas, but we need to do more to encourage people to use cars less. We already do enough discouragement.

First, we need to have some proper joined up thinking about transport. For example, we need to ask ourselves why parking charges are enforceable on days and times when buses aren't available.

buses


We need to run buses to the railway station, in particular to get people home from the station in the evenings. Perhaps a shared taxi-like service would do. Airports in the US, for example, run minivans, that will take half a dozen people, and drive them to their destinations. It's more convenient than a bus, but cheaper than a taxi.

Buses need to run later at night. Its ridiculous that only handful of local buses run after 5:45, and none at all after 6:30, and none on Sundays or bank holidays. Several people have said to me that they'd take the bus to work in the morning, if only they could get home at night.

Buses might also be used more frequently if people could find out when they run. None of the bus stops on the Nevill estate have timetables on them. Nor does the Tesco bus stop. Countryliner bus drivers can't give you a timetable - I got the last one off one driver when I asked. Another driver told me they weren't given timetables. They are available online: Countryliner, Brighton & Hove. There's even real time information for the 28 and 29 at Lewes Prison, for example. None of that is any use if you're at the stop, though.

car shares


As well as public transport, people need to be encouraged to share cars. As I walk past the queue of traffic to the Prison crossroads every morning, I see that almost all the cars queuing have no passengers - just the driver. If just 20% of those cars took a passenger, maybe there'd be no queues. There are car share schemes out there, but they need better publicity, and better incentives from the council and from employers.

car clubs


Car clubs could help, too. There are some informal car clubs operating in Lewes, using Google Calendar to book the car - which is a nice innovation. I've also looked at all the large car clubs that operate around the country. There's at least one (City Car Club) in Brighton, for example.

So, how do they help? Well, for every shared car, about 30 club members are required. Of those 30 members, about six will sell their second car, or even their only car. So, each shared car frees up about five residential parking spaces. Some large employers participate in car clubs, using the cars during the day, while residents use them in the evening. That means that essential car users don't need to bring their car to work, so it encourages use of public transport. In fact, if you have to book and pay for every car journey, then you're more likely to consider using the bus or train instead. Finally, it's cheaper to share a car, because you share the license, MOT, servicing, depreciation and so on.
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