Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Belfast's Bus Balls Up.


Being a member of the Green Party you may have just assumed that I'd love to carpet every city with bus lanes and, to an extent, you'd be right. However, bus lanes aren't a congestion solution, they aren't a solution to climate change and they aren't a solution to public transport under funding. What they are is a small part of a whole solution and unless you employ all parts of that whole solution in tandem or in sequence, then you will fail to achieve the objective, whatever it may be.

From what I understand, the objective behind the introduction of the new bus lanes in Belfast was to reduce city centre congestion and encourage public transport use. It was bound to fail from the start because the logic was so incredibly flawed. If it's to reduce congestion, then DRD must recognise that congestion existed. If it existed then it stands to reason that people still preferred congested traffic to using public transportation. The next logical question for most people would be - 'how can I improve public transport to make it more attractive?'

Not the logical question for DRD though. Instead, they settled on 'How can we force people to use the public transport system they have so emphatically rejected?' Surprise, surprise, they preferred the stick to the carrot. And surprise, surprise, the people did not like the stick one little bit.

I've bleated on and on (to anyone that will listen) about public transport before, but the issue is still there so I'll bleat on and on some more: we need ridiculously unprecedented levels of investment in public transport before it's a viable alternative to driving. The fact remains that, even with the bus lanes making congestion worse in Belfast, it's still more attractive to drive and in some cases, still remains the only option.

It's impossible to measure the value of being able to have your own, secure, private method of transport available whenever you like. To compete against that you have to make all of the objective variables so, so much more attractive. Only when you get the combination of fare price, accessibility, frequency of service etc right can you mitigate that immeasurable appeal of driving.

Still, it's only been a couple of weeks so maybe things will settle down and maybe people will come to like the DRD's big stick and will indeed start using the bus & train to get to Belfast (which would be great) and I'll be proved monumentally wrong. I hope so. I really do.




10 comments:

  1. Give people a good affordable and reliable bus service when THEY wish to use it and they might be in with a chance.

    Allen H

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  2. I'm with Allen,

    I'd prefer to ditch my car and use public transport, but Translink are so unreliable that it isn't possible.

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  3. The ridiculous thing is that someone in DRD thinks that to service public transport needs, you just need to pop down to B&Q and buy a bit of paint. Nevermind the farcical solution they actually painted which just adds to the insult that is cycle paths and bus lanes elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

    With the upcoming cuts in transport investment, it is clear that no-one within the coalition government respects public mobility for social or economic reasons. The most recent bill to be debated on this, "reduction of speed in cities to 20 mph" just makes me gag in the utter uselessness of the idea. What will it mean in practical terms? Nothing. It's driver attention (where the hell did that bus lane come from?) rather than speed which is a danger to pedestrians.

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    1. 20mph speed limits in built up & residential areas are, like bus lanes, part of the whole solution and are, like bus lanes, being implemented without the sum of all parts of the solution. There is no real strategic thinking within government on public transport. It is mostly left to DRD when in actuality it is just as critical to outcomes in Education, Health, DETI, Agriculture etc.

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  4. Nice logical argument there Ed. A free or cheap extensive public transport system is the only way to help people to break habitual behaviours. Like most people, I do the sums and consider the (in)convenience and I can't make it work for me, and I'm pre-disposed to do it since I believe the science of climate change, peak oil and the like.

    I live in the country, a few miles from a village that has a decent bus service (Hillsborough) but it's simply easier and as cheap to take the car. Nuts. Particularly when you compare Belfast to somewhere like Amsterdam. I doubt I'd even think twice about taking public transport.

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    1. Yes, there are some fantastic lessons to be learned from other countries, but in nearly all cases it starts with the investment in infrastructure which, unless there is a massive shift in political thinking, won't be forthcoming for some time.

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  5. I use public transport. I hate it. It's not cheap, it's not clean, it's full of school kids, buses are too full and drivers are surly. I like to walk, I do walk sometimes, but I have to walk 2 miles in the opposite direction for the school run, then 2 miles back again plus an extra 2 miles into city centre. I would cycle, but it's too dangerous. Lisburn Road is not safe for cyclists, ESPECIALLY in bus lanes. Why would you put the smallest thing on the road in the same lane as the biggest thing? Why not have cycle lanes on the footpaths? Walking is sometimes not feasible, the danger for cyclists (with kids especially) is too great and the buses are unreliable horrible places to be. Now that I think about it, I'm going to START driving...

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  6. Karen, I have a particular issue with the terrible cycle infrastructure and I'm looking to put together a small group to effect very local and very specific change to demonstrate that it can be improved if the will is there.

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  7. Still not going to vote for green, but good comments.
    In general, there's way too many offices in the city centre - because office space there is cheaper then outside (!) . Now govt, should not touch anything closer to that - but I'm sure it will get its dirty hands in that pit too.
    Surprise surprise, traffic got worse - and I don't even drive to city centre. But it affects me too.
    I wonder who will get sacked for it, and who will revert it back, and do it as soon as possible.

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