We have a ‘1 million trips a day’ challenge in Greater Manchester – which we can only solve if we stop driving short distances

In this in-depth post I set out compelling evidence why…

    • our climate and health crisis can only be solved with dramatic cuts to car use
    • leaving cars at home for short journeys is now critical, almost obligatory
    • we therefore need a massive programme of measures to disincentivise car use and induce behaviour change including

 

If Greater Manchester is to meet its environment, civic, and health commitments  – the city region’s transport challenge is very clear.

About one million MORE journeys EVERY day need to be made by foot, bike, bus, tram or train* by 2040, instead of by car.

The trouble is – no-one likes to talk about the last four words of that sentence. 

Our current strategies assume that this massive transformation of our daily habits will just ‘kinda happen’ as a result of new infrastructure, public transport investment and a bit of ‘awareness raising’. 

But a new report from the influential Transport Select Committee makes a clear set of recommendations that spell out this is a car-reduction challenge which must now be tackled head on.

The report emphasises that the only way to ensure this ‘modal shift’, is to bite the bullet and actively make driving less convenient.

This is the transport time bomb no politician has wanted to go near.

It’s why Andy Burnham left cars out of the GM Clean Air Zone, it’s why ‘reducing car use’ is not mentioned explicitly anywhere in the Greater Manchester Environmental plan, and only ONCE in the entire 119 pages of the Greater Manchester Transport Strategy.

And it’s why – for instance – more than £9m is being spent on a redevelopment of Great Ancoats Street in Manchester that removes cycle lanes and does absolutely nothing to reduce car use – and will in fact encourage it, with the creation of a massive 400+ space car park.

To get clear on this, I need to dig into a bit of data.

GM’s transport strategy, in its single explicit mention of cutting driving, says the region commits to ‘a reduction in car use to no more than 50% of daily trips by 2040’. 

And it’ll do this by largely maintaining current vehicle traffic levels and increasing travel by sustainable modes by that 1m a DAY.

Greater Manchester Transport Strategy modal shift

 

If you poke into these figures, it seems there are some big assumptions.

It assumes there’ll be 200,000 FEWER vehicle journeys a day (3.4m to 3.2m), and  1m MORE  sustainable journeys (ie 2.2m to 3.2m), than now.

(That will take our daily journey tally from 5.6m to 6.4m).

However – crucially – it does not spell out where those 1m more sustainable journeys a day will come from.

As far as I can understand it, the only way we can achieve this feat without massively reducing current levels of car use in the population (a step the report avoids), is that almost all the 800,000 more journeys (aka people) that it predicts will take place by 2040, will be people magically opting to use sustainable modes instead of a car.

This seems an unbelievable leap of faith – given our reliance on cars is increasing  and all of us just switching to electric cars is not the answer either.

In reality, these 800,000 more journeys (aka people) –  and those assumed 200,000 fewer car journeys – are going to need a huge behaviour change – to get people out of cars. 

(Later on in this piece, I set out some solutions to this Behaviour Change challenge

Until Burnham, the other 10 council leaders and their executives, and TfGM face up to the need to reduce car travel  – this ‘1m a day challenge’ – and any chance we might meet our environmental commitments – will remain but a pipe dream, as policy makers and planners blithely plough on building urban spaces that prioritise cars over people and health. 

This is no longer acceptable and is now utterly irresponsible given our very civilisation is under threat if we do not reduce carbon emissions immediately and dramatically. (Transport account for 25% of all carbon emissions in the UK (and 31% in GM) – with road travel 90% of that – and the vast majority of our toxic air pollution).

CHANGE THAT’S NEEDED: LEAVE CARS AT HOME FOR SHORT TRIPS 

It is now crystal clear, thanks to this select committee report and others, that to induce ‘modal shift’ (aka ‘fewer car journeys’), a significant programme of car-relegation measures are required at national, regional and local levels. It’s simply too convenient to drive.

Before we all throw up their hands in horror, let’s look at the nub of the problem: Short journeys of two miles or less.

As the table shows, nationally a staggering 60% of journeys of between one and two miles are taken by car. 

And of all journeys of 0-2 miles, the overall figure is around 70%. 

Transport Select Committee - modes of transport over different distances

 

(More detail on these figures here)

Yes – we’re not talking about long commutes where people have little choice.

We are talking about journeys that would take between 5 – 30 minutes by foot, or 1 – 15 minutes by bike.

We are talking about journeys that are entirely feasible to walk, cycle, scoot or use another alternative**

Indeed, there is an even more startling figure in GM – that ⅓ of all journeys of one kilometre or less are driven. 

Those are journeys we all make regularly – like popping to the shops or doctors, or dropping kids at primary school (where almost all pupils live, by definition, within the 1-2 mile catchment area), driving to the gym to…exercise.

If we ONLY focused on policies on flipping the ratios between walking and driving for short journeys – our transport emissions’ reductions – and many of our health targets – would be virtually in the bag.

It’s also important to look at the other end of the distance scale – where it also seems surprising that for journeys of 10-25 miles, barely 18% choose to use public transport. 

We clearly are addicted to cars.

Yet our leaders seem barely even bring themselves to talk about it honestly, so fearful are they of riling the biggest elephant in the room – the freedom to drive motor vehicles whenever and wherever we like.

The pro-car lobby like to run distracting interference on this so its it’s really important to dispel the myths – for instance the less well-off are the LEAST likely to own a car and the most likely to suffer from its pollution but are often used to justify pro-car measures (such as the Clean Air Zone not including cars).

No – it’s time to call a spade a spade, namely that it is not possible, but neither desirable nor justifiable, to invest in walking and cycling, to improve public transport, and for car use to remain at current levels.

This select committee report finally blows that attitude clean out of the water.

‘It is now clear that to increase levels of walking and cycling people have to be encouraged to choose to travel on foot or bike instead of by car,’ it states categorically.

‘The greatest benefits are only achieved if people choose to walk or cycle instead of driving’ 

The report also makes it clear that ‘interventions’ will be required to trigger this behaviour change.

To demonstrate the fact that this has to now be about stopping doing something (driving short distances), not just increasing something else (walking and cycling) – the report quotes a 2017 public survey where 40% of people agreed that many journeys of less than 2 miles could be easily walked (and 33% said could be cycled) – but weren’t. 

‘This clearly illustrates the potential for modal shift,’ (ie people would do it – but are not currently incentivised enough).

The whole report is stark proof of recent governments’ woeful track record on walking and cycling – including the fact it has no dedicated funding stream in the DfT and is not even recorded in its annual budget.

But it may be that the select committee’s most valuable contribution is on this single finding; that car use has to be de-incentivised to enable even the government’s own walking and cycling targets to be met (never mind carbon emissions cuts).

Indeed, MPs wiped the floor not just with the DfT’s current funding arrangements but also these targets (which the DfT is going to miss ‘by a massive margin’) – and recommended it urgently set out a clear programme for how it would move people out of cars for short journeys and into other forms of transport.

‘Despite being published two years ago the government has failed to produce any significant detail on the progress of delivering its strategy’. 

To focus their minds, the report recommended new targets based on the number of journeys made by the various modes of transport over 1,2, 5 and 10 miles, be set for 2025 and 2040.

‘The government must set targets for this modal shift and bring forward specific actions for how (they) will be achieved. These targets should ensure at the very least the Climate Change Commission’s assumption that there will be a 10% transport mode shift by 2050’.

Most importantly – it’s walking which needs most attention (‘this strategy needs to spell out the overwhelming importance of promoting walking’) – which is worrying as it doesn’t seem at all clear to the DfT how to make more walking happen… 

The report also highlights, if it was needed, the absolutely paltry funds given to enable this behaviour change (despite strategically calling for it) – with just 1.5% (or £400m) of annual spending given to walking & cycling schemes.

Furthermore, this £400m a year is drawn from a mish-mash of budget lines and short-term grant pots, and has to be cobbled together by determined Local Authority planners (in GM this was short-circuited by Burnham allocating almost the entire £250m Transforming Cities fund into Beelines).

Even furthermore, this £400m a year is  not even guaranteed to be spent on walking and cycling – three quarters of it is basically down to the whims of individual Local Authorities – who can siphon it off for any old project with no strings attached.

‘It’s disappointing that having developed the guidance for local authorities to create Cycling and Walking Local Plans and encouraged them to do so, the government has not created a clearer mechanism for the delivery of these plans’ 

That is diplomatically put to say the least – one can only imagine how demoralising it must be for even the most ardent walking and cycling transport planner working in local government offices in the face of this obvious national DfT disdain.

Indeed, I don’t need to imagine because many have told me; in fact they have told me that the worst part is not the funding – in GM Burnham and Boardman have teamed up to sort that, for now anyway.

No, the schemes they’re encouraged to draw up often risk going nowhere not due to lack of funds, but because the councils are forced to work with an archaic and outdated set of planning guidelines (called webTAG) that means any plan which negatively impacts vehicle flow gets canned.

So yes – you heard it right.

We’re asking transport planners to work up walking and cycling schemes with not one (no dedicated funding) but two (don’t touch cars) hands tied behind their backs.

While in GM, the funds arm was untied via the Beelines phase one £160m, the ‘red tape’ arm remains firmly locked in a half nelson.

For instance, traffic flow is cited as one of the reasons why the Great Ancoats Street scheme has been designed as it has – to keep traffic movements as they are now. Even though clearly it’s a nonsense to try and do so if we’re to cut 1m car journeys a day within 20 years.

(A TfGM officer told me a very straightforward Beelines roundabout scheme had only finally been approved because dedicated team members had traced some of the specific guidance in webTAG back to its beastly origin – which turned out to be a research paper from the 1970s!!! (when there were about 12m cars in the UK compared to 30m+ now…).

So – to close this section ..as a result of this report and in light of the city region’s own environmental strategy and climate emergency..

I call on the Greater Manchester boroughs and Transport for Greater Manchester to adopt these recommended ‘modal shift’ metrics – right now.

I can on them to set a series of targets for each mode of travel, that creates a pathway to the stated goal of 1m fewer car journeys by 2030 (10 years sooner than the current plan of 2040), and show by which modes people will make those journeys instead, and therefore where funding and policies across all departments, should be prioritised.

To ensure this mission is truly embraced and these targets are front and centre, I call on TfGM, led by its new Head of Sustainable Journeys (a new role being recruited right now) to restructure its entire operation around this central goal of Sustainable Journeys. 

To do that, GM will have to move responsibility for the Highways from Local Authorities into TfGM so that ALL transport can be planned in the round. 

Otherwise – councils will carry on spending money on DfT-driven road expansions, while TfGM – who are responsible for the overall strategy – try to bolt Sustainable Travel on top.

Instead, what is required is for all departments, from Communications to the Beelines team, to strategy and infrastructure, to the council’s Highways teams – to all team up together to achieve this massive ‘modal shift’. 

(In case you assume they do already – they don’t – for instance it has been said  that the Metrolink part of TfGM worry that increasing cycling might hit their bottom line in reduced tram passengers…).

(And of course for good measure we can throw in the changes outlined by Burnham as part of Our Network like taking back control of buses and  trains)

Here’s an example of the kind of  table we need, to get the new Sustainable Journeys skipper started.

graph showing modes of transport in GM - now and future

Once the above targets were finalised, funding would be allocated in priority according to the volume of travel – a move which would see fossil fuel cars placed last and after, say 2025, receive no funding (or subsidy) at all.

(The reason for the need for funding to be explicitly tied to metrics is illustrated at a national level – where funds for the infrastructure needed to support ‘modal shift’ sits with the capital-rich DfT and yet it has no responsibility to deliver the ‘rewards’ of which other departments need, such as  the Health department who have been increasingly desperately asking the DfT for greater investment in Active Travel)

In the next section, I cover how our revamped TfGM could tackle this behaviour change challenge.

Q; HOW TO CHANGE PEOPLE’S BEHAVIOUR?”

A: SHOW PEOPLE THE BEHAVIOUR THAT IS EXPECTED!

At this month’s Climate  Conversation convention in Leeds – where 60,000 of the 77,000 car commuters coming into the city every day are lone drivers (just think of the Co2 saved if half jumped in with the other half) – a chap from sustainable property developer Citu shared a story about his and other colleagues’ ongoing campaign to create a ‘carbon zero commute’.

 To start with they wanted to know the size of the problem – so they surveyed all 115 staff in Leeds office and asked

      • Where do you travel to and from
      • What method of travel do you use
      • They then calculated the Co2 for each journey 

The study had some surprising results.

    1. Far more employees drove than had been expected (for an environmentally aware workforce) (Car (76%), Walk (9%), Bike (6%), Bus (6%), Train (3%)
    2. Each person’s commute was contributing 1.25 tonnes of Co2 a year –  far more than they had thought
    3. But most surprisingly, the distance each person lived away from the office, had no effect on their decision to drive, and indeed, those who lived the closest were among the most likely to drive.

‘This made us realise, the problem is not logistical, it is cultural,’ he said.

Distance (miles) Car Bike Bus Train Walk
0-5 19 4 4 0 8
5-10 21 3 3 0 1
10-20 18 0 0 1 0
20+ 18 0 0 2 0
Survey of 115 Citu Leeds employees, presented to Leeds Climate Conversation, 16th July 2019

The chap and his team-mates then brainstormed what they could do to find a solution: ‘with no budget, no need for sign off and no desire to focus on problems’. They then set about doing the following:-

    • Sharing survey data with staff
    • Giving each team its own ‘carbon commute budget’
    • Asking for a carbon champion from every team
    • Rewarding teams for making a change / reducing their carbon footprint
    • Celebrating when team members walked or cycled
    • Having a company celebration to share people’s stories on Clean Air day .

They did not spend any money on it, they did not do any ‘awareness about the benefits’ – just showed what the company’s values were.

This point is absolutely crucial and one that so far our leaders, policy makers, planners and communicators in GM seem to have  misunderstood.

That large scale behaviour change comes from demonstrating to groups of people what is socially acceptable, not expecting individuals to demonstrate to groups what is socially acceptable ie it is a push not a pull.

To date, solutions seem reliant on a capital spend (eg cycle infrastructure) followed by a ‘pull’ from people (use bike lanes) – to create an impression with wider society to create a ripple effect.

This is useful – personal choices around LED light bulbs, flying, driving, recycling, food – these all might be enough if change could happen really slowly and we could just let good practices spread.

But it is entirely insufficient and misses a vital ingredient when change needs to happen deeply and quickly – which is where we are now (45% cuts in global emissions by 2030 to avoid catastrophic consequences which even then might be too late and for those emissions to peak by 2020.)

It misses the behavioural push that’s needed to move people to the new infrastructure. 

There is no better example of this than Stevenage, which benefited from extensive cycling infrastructure being built in the 1960s – but which was roundly ignored by its inhabitants, who preferred to drive.

To really explain what I mean: How often have you heard this exchange:

Q: ‘How do we solve x?’

A: ‘We have to change people’s mindset!’ 

Q: ‘How do we do that?’

A: ‘Education! Training! Awareness!’ (delete as appropriate)’

Wrong.

Actually most evidence shows that simple awareness / educating people – and in the case of Stevenage even giving them an easy alternative  – is not enough. 

That is because it assumes the problem is caused by people not being aware of the facts, or people being ready to change if only a new option presented itself.

Unless this is true (and it almost never is the case for large scale societal change) – ‘awareness’ schemes are barking up the wrong tree entirely and can be a huge waste of money.

So far in GM we have

    • money being spent on walking and cycling infrastructure (although while £200m+ has been allocated, almost nothing has been actually built yet so the benefits have not yet been realised).
    • some new hire bikes coming
    • a passionate and persuasive champion in Chris Boardman
    • a fantastic manual of how to design great infrastructure from Brian Deegan
    • a growing band of transport campaigners (such as my group WalkRideGM).

But these things will not, on their own, be enough to effect behaviour change. 

There is no ‘pull’.

The car will still be too convenient, will remain the main way of travelling for all journeys in GM.

We have almost nothing to signal that driving short journeys should be no longer acceptable.

The answer is this: we need to create an explicit and extensive behaviour change plan that includes both carrot and stick:

    • stick – policies, spending decisions, marketing to dis-incentivise car use
    • carrot – policies, spending decisions, marketing to signal the behaviour we expect in our citizens

With both of these firmly trained on the target of making driving short distances less convenient, less acceptable and more uncomfortable.

How do we do that? 

Well – the overwhelming evidence on behaviour change is that the secret is to overtly show people what is seen as socially acceptable through a range of policies (carrot and stick) and visual design cues (called nudging).

Put simply, to show people ‘this is how we do things round here’.

Busking and having a bad day? Put some pennies in your own hat – or better still get a friend to do it while others are passing. Watch the donations increase.

Want to increase towel recycling in hotel rooms? Signs that say ‘75% of people choose not to keep their towel for another day because it’s good for the environment’ are twice as successful as signs that don’t mention other people. (this example is taken from a great talk about the realities of behaviour change versus the myths and this one here.. )

There’s a well-known psychological reason for this – humans are social creatures and have a deep-seated fear of being isolated because in early evolution a great risk to life was being shunned by a group and left to fend for oneself alone.

This human trait has been exploited by advertisers and product designers for years to make us want to buy stuff – it is now time to turn it to far more important and positive ends.

Sadly – our transport planners and strategists seem to have not caught best practice on this – for instance  the Transport Strategy section dealing with Behaviour Change (p69) seems to think the following will be enough:

‘Dependent on the circumstances, techniques will focus on providing support and advice*** to encourage more sustainable ways of travelling or to reduce the number of trips (for example by homeworking); travel at different times, such as adopting flexible working hours to avoid travel in peak periods; or choosing a less busy or less polluted route’.

***{as I’ve established – support and advice will be almost completely useless for this type and scale of change} 

Alright then – if we know we create behaviour change by showing people the behaviour we want to see…

… how would we do it? How would we trigger people to choose not to drive short distances, in massive numbers?

Well, let’s start by asking – what are we currently saying to people about ‘how we do things round here?’

Clearly – pretty much all the signals around us are saying loud and clear: ‘driving is what people do around here’. 

More than that – non-vehicle users are actively marginalised, under-funded, under-supported, under-protected (despite the vulnerable position of eg people on foot, using mobility aids or bikes).

image showing how much sttreet space is given to non-vehicle users
Makes you think doesn’t it?
Image courtesy of @thinkcritical12 on Twitter
  • Take street space – vast proportions devoted to cars versus walking and cycling 
  • Take pavement parking –  cars unused for more than 90% of the day, often littering spaces meant for more vulnerable users with no legal enforcement of laws supposed to protect the rights of those users to that space
  • Take language – in DfT jargon pedestrians haven’t fully counted as ‘road traffic’
  • Take funding – DfT values motorists at £22 per hour, yet pedestrians at £17 ph
  • Take advertising – fossil fuel vehicles endlessly glorified
  • Take traffic light priorities – wait your turn walkers – vehicles are more important than you
  • Take the cost of parking versus public transport – no bonus and often an actual financial penalty for choosing sustainable travel instead of the car
  • Take the rundown state of the interiors of many of our trains and buses – versus our plush, comfy cars (described by the disillusioned chap who built Stevenage as ‘our living rooms and our coats’)
  • Take new housing developers – merrily whacking up concrete islands reliant on the car to link to all other amenities.
  • Take the DfT’s annual spend on various modes of transport (see chart below)
Annual transport spend (England) 
2017  (actuals)
2020  (if only……)
Spend in £bns
% spend
Spend in £bns
% spend
National Roads
3.4bn
30.3%
2.7bn (↓£5.4bn)
10%
Local Roads
4.7bn
Local public transport
2.1bn
7.9%
4bn ( 1.9bn)
15%
Rail
15.5bn
58%
16bn ( £0.5bn)
60%
Other
0.6bn
2.2%
0.6bn (↔ ) 
2.2%
Walking/cycling
0.4bn
1.5%
3.6bn ( 3.3bn)
13.8%
Total:
26.7bn
27bn

So, those are all the types of things we’d consider in a society looking to switch people out of their cars and onto their feet (to get bus, train, tram or walk/cycle) at scale – and 1 million journeys A DAY is BIG.

Some of them will cost a lot of money – but by no means all, as the chaps at Citu found.

So here are some ideas for a huge programme that would address this (not all are new but almost none are actually happening in GM, at least at any scale);-

Stick – disincentivise short-distance driving

    • Close many urban streets to cars (create ‘filtered neighbourhoods’ or ‘mini Hollands’ (euphemisms to avoid confronting the fact they involve blocking up streets to vehicles while enabling foot and bike traffic) 
    • Close city centres to cars/vans – it can’t all be done overnight – but car-free days can be done immediately – and also signal ‘this is how we do things round here’ (as Leeds and Edinburgh are started doing ) 
    • Remove city centre parking / and make that which remains, far more expensive
    • Introduce residents-only parking in residential areas 
    • Add fossil fuel cars to a revamped Clean Air Zone focused on city, town and urban centres in GM
    • Ban fossil fuel car adverts from public spaces and before the TV watershed, in the way tobacco ads were

Carrot – show what our community values

    • Introduce 20 mph in all residential areas – enforceable by local authorities
    • Ban pavement parking by default 
    • Ring fence fines from 20mph, pavement and residential parking enforcement for local community enhancements
    • Make cycle / walking routes across suburban neighbourhoods deliberately quicker than driving – time them & show these times prominently on signs
    • Change traffic light priorities to put people on foot first – set road lights to red as default except on main and arterial roads
    • Invest in shared urban spaces to create pleasant outdoor environments – bring back town squares
    • Link green pockets with lovely tree-lined, green traffic-free routes 
    • Rewild all non-concrete space
    • Allow dogs walkers and bikes on all off-peak public transport including trams and buses
    • Require new housing developments to be sited near amenities and link to them via Sustainable Travel modes 
  • Carrot – celebrate what our community values
    • Create and run a mass public engagement campaign over an entire year
    • GREATER MANCHESTER’S CARBON ZERO COMMUTE CHALLENGE
    • This would take the form of inspiring and yes challenging ppl to stop driving short distances
    • (Think 10,000 steps minus your personal Co2 emissions = ✅ )
    • The challenge should focus squarely on journeys of 2km or less, asking all individuals, families, schools, businesses and communities to sign up
    • It’s message would be created and led by children – youth climate strikers and environmentalist pupils at the forefront
    • Manchester’s digital creative industry would design a carbon calculator app to show everyone their annual / monthly /weekly transport footprint
    • Families would work out their weekly ‘car commute carbon budget’ that they try to stay within
    • The challenge would be for each to see how much they could reduce it 
    • There would be posters, billboards, radio, print, TV, digital
    • They would be innovative but direct – this needs to become socially unacceptable
    • Businesses would reward people who bought goods on foot or bike with small discounts or incentives – perhaps walking loyalty cards to come back the next day
    • Employers would reward employees who walked or cycled with a day off for every tonne of Co2 saved
    • Trams would offer free travel at weekends to people going two stops or less (ie short journeys)
    • There would be a massive publicity campaign to highlight the scale of short distance driving and the terrible damage it causes
    • Schools would hold ‘walk to school’ weeks and each class encouraged to add up its ‘Co2 saved’ tally for the week
    • Sports companies would offer free trainers
    • BBC North West Tonight and Granada Reports would run ‘carbon challenge totaliser’ updates in the evening bulletin
    • There would be a social media campaign for people to share tips on how to avoid using the car – from getting ready earlier to parking further away from their home
    • People would be given incentives to scrap their second car 
    • Electric cars would be freely available for demo drives 
    • Car shares would be advertised on the morning radio stations 
  • Sounds quite fun doesn’t it? 

It could be (and imagine what some actual professionals might come up with it they put their mind to it)…

But it would also be really clear – that this is non-negotiable; we’re risking our and our kids’ health, safety and future wellbeing – and that of our very civilisation – for the sake of (largely) ….

…Jumping in the car to drive round the corner and back.

(I firmly believe this will become as unacceptable as smoking in front of babies in years to come.)

We aren’t even talking about giving up some thing which has that many benefits either.. 

There are almost no wellbeing benefits to driving – except for avoiding the physical danger of the roads one is oneself making more dangerous by driving …. and even then in the case of pollution, it’s a little-known fact that toxicity levels are far higher INSIDE the car.

No, it’s simply a convenience, and a status symbol, that like cigarettes in movies, has had its day.

Think we can’t do it?

It seemed plastic bags were a convenience we couldn’t kick – but once we really saw the damage – we made it harder (less accessible/have to ask/total ban) and more expensive (a small charge) – usage dramatically declined across the globe

When the charge was introduced in England, usage dropped 90% virtually ‘overnight’.

The really important point to understand here is that the charge was so small (5p) that it clearly it wasn’t a financial penalty – it works because it is a clear signal ‘this is not what we do round here’.

Trouble is – plastic bags are horribly polluting and dangerous to flora and fauna, but stopping using them isn’t going to address our climate crisis.

Cutting our car addiction totally will. 

And all it would take is a bit of leadership, creativity and some mild inconvenience.

CS, 29th July 2019.

(*These types of non-car methods get lumped into a job-lot description known as ‘Sustainable Travel’, with walking and cycling modes called ‘Active Travel’).

 (**Future walking, cycling, public transport and urban design needs to embed the needs of mobility scooters, visual and audio impaired people (who are a growing % of the population) from the start. Therefore I propose these type of journeys have their own targets in the ‘1m a day Sustainable Journey’ plan).

 

2 Replies to “We have a ‘1 million trips a day’ challenge in Greater Manchester – which we can only solve if we stop driving short distances”

  1. Time perhaps to view the trip generation delivered by any development in the same light as its requirements for water, sewage, electricity and other utility connections. Take any large site , especially Council offices, Unuversity campuses, Hospitals, and we might be talking 20,000 or more trips per day.

    Imagine say 60% of trip-makers use a car, and if you’re lucky car occupancy is 1.2 people per car – so you’ll need to find parking on (or around) the site for c.5000 cars. There is :
    1) an opportunity cost for this, the current figure I hear is £1200/space, or say £6m ‘loss’ against using the land area more ‘profitably’ (or not having to buy land for a car park).
    2) the cost of building a car park – a multi storey building typically costs £15,000-£25,000/space, and ‘difficult’ sites can climb to £83,000 PER SPACE , with annual service costs c. £1000/space
    3) the benefit in kind to staff (tax-free as it rarely shows up as such on any pay package) – based on rates for most regional cities, an off-street parking space is worth £2000-£4000/year. For London most popular commuter station car parks are now asking c.£1500/year for a (discounted) car park season ticket, yet many regional commuter stations still have free parking!

    Let’s look at those numbers again, and the cost that is generally being borne by the ’employer’. How can they cut that damage to the bottom line. One way is to work with the bus, tram & rail operators, who would probably be delighted to gain say 20% of the 20,000+ trips per day a site generates. Well 20 years ago Southampton University did just that with Unilink public bus services – designed and registered to serve key traffic generated by the University (removing personal car trips, costly private minibus shuttles etc) and guaranteeing the sale of 3000 student bus passes (in a deal option linked to accommodation fees) to underwrite the new services. Modern bus ticketing is such that a staff or student i/d card, or e-mail address, is sufficient to register a cashless account for seamless (and auditable) bus, tram, (and train?) travel – potentially growing from the Manchester University/Stagecoach free trips between set points on Oxford Road for University i/d card holders.

    Much more to offer here – how the relatively short amount of time that (car) condestion seizes up the city streets us very closely linked to the availability of spaces in the huge reservoir of city centre car parking, which ALL fills and empties at the same times, through a limited number of possible ‘gateways’ – whilst at an optimistic 10 cars per minute, 1000 drivers are going to take 1 hour 40 minutes to clear the queue through a single lane. Transpose this onto the 40-50,000? car parking spaces in Central Manchester, and the 20 or so ‘gateways’ to get in or out through, and the duration of the peak hour congestion can practically be predicted. Remove that car parking, with a variety of tools, including a tax to reflect the excess roads capacity the costs money to provide, yet sits empty & idle over 75% of the time, and we begin to start effective trip consumption accounting. That ‘tax on parking’ (ie WPL) then can be used to mitigate the ‘pain’ for those who claim public transport cannot meet their needs, by delivering measures such as free and very frequent electric bus (or tram) services over core routes. Free because , as with the current 2 Manchester Freebus services, with the delays of collecting fares and single doors for getting on & off, the service would need more buses and drivers, and deliver slower journeys at greater cost if fares were charged.

    Closing points, and an offer to do something bigger for the blog and Bee the Change movement if resources allow.

    Most households in the GM conurbations could be £2000-£3000/year in pocket, if they also embraced the concept of buying transport as a resource, and paying only for what they use, especially that car which on average sits idle 95% of the time. The poorest households have worked out the a taxi ride, when required is often much cheaper (by a factor or 3 at least) than running a car, and examples abound of people who enjoy a car-light lifestyle, yet drive a ‘new’ electric or low emission hybrid available 24/7 from a car club or hire operator, when they need one.

    Much more to develop – based on my own 43 years since I last owned a car – will e-mail

  2. Amazing post. One thing the DfT must do is bring in dynamic road user pricing (time of day, road, car type). Oregon, USA created a scheme that refunded your fuel duty http://myorego.org but charged you for the miles you drove.

    The UK could do something similar, ramping up fuel duty, and provide a fuel duty rebate scheme for anyone signing up to road user pricing. A minimum charge could be applied to any journey making any journey under 3km expensive.

    Our current approach makes the opportunity cost of cars too cheap. You pay for fuel once per month (or more) and you really do not recognise that cost when you get into the car.

    I would also suggest that citywide parking control with a workplace parking levy are critical to the process of removing car ingress from cities and particularly removing internal ‘opportunistic’ car travel within cities. This also provides long term funding for walking, cycling, and public transit projects.

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