22nd November 2019
Dear Cllr Thomas & Cllr Wild,
The enclosed paper contains the recommendations of Cardiff Civic Society (CCS) for policy on transportation and mobility in the city. We have drawn our conclusions from the two events run in conjunction with Cardiff University:
The Transport Future of Cardiff City : 2026 and beyond, March 2018
Carbon Emissions & Air Pollution – Implications for Urban Mobility, October 2019.
These events are both documented on the CCS website; our policy recommendations are based on the key learning points recorded by us to capture the expertise shared by the presenters and in the discussions. We are grateful for your encouragement to run these events, and hope you are open to the conclusions we have extracted from them.
We understand that Cardiff Council is now ready to make major statements on plans for future mobility in the city to be included in a White Paper. This follows the preparatory Green Paper last year which showed support for such initiatives, the creation of TfW to deliver the regional Metro and your initial work on actions to reduce NOX pollution.
In the light of recent publicity, including a ‘climate emergency’, we urge you to go beyond the minimum necessary to respond to the legal challenge on air quality and accept our recommendations to create a green city. Todays declaration by Manchester to commit to an early achievement of net zero carbon emissions shows the way, and we would like Cardiff to be in the vanguard of this drive for a truly green transport city.
The challenges are very large, and we offer our support to help secure a carbon free and clean air city as soon as possible.
Cardiff Civic Society
Joint CCS and Cardiff University Debates on Transport and Urban Planning 2018/19
Cardiff Civic Society Policy Conclusions
The two events from which these conclusions are drawn are documented on the Cardiff Civic Society website.
This analysis is based on the key learning points recorded in each of the above documents.
CONTEXT OF THE DEBATES
The twin challenges of the 2050 goal to reduce carbon emissions to net zero and the growing public health crisis as a result of air pollution require a response from governments and councils that will involve decisions delivering transport, mobility and urban planning. Business as usual, involving gradual change, is not and will not deliver results fast enough.
Cardiff is the fastest growing city and has the poorest air quality outside of London. There are no safe levels of air pollution. Yet the transport network is still based on mid-20th century standards and new housing development is still advertised as ‘only a short drive from the city centre’. A city designed for less than 200,000 inhabitants and for the horse and cart era presents formidable challenges to achieve its ambitions as a thriving and attractive place to live and work.
We are grateful for the encouragement of Cardiff City Council to set up these debating events and offer these conclusions as a contribution to the next round of Local Development Plans. The preparatory work done by the council in a Green Paper in 2018 shows widespread support for action, and the recent White Paper has proposed an ambitious programme of infrastructure changes based on the Metro network that, if confirmed as policy, could transform the city.
This report offers policy guidelines that would ensure this network would deliver on the two critical goals. The Cardiff Civic Society (CCS) has long supported the ‘Liveable’ city concept and believes that the conclusions below would contribute to a future Cardiff that could justifiably be described as a model 21st century liveable city.
MOBILITY AND THE FUTURE ROLE OF THE CAR
It is widely accepted that the freedom of access we have given to cars in cities cannot continue. Congestion is inhibiting efficient business, releasing growing amounts of CO2 and causing pollution that is concentrated at the roadside and in houses and schools. Action in Cardiff is being taken only in response to a legal challenge on pollution levels, this is not enough. The scale of the problem can be illustrated in London, which is unable to achieve or plan to achieve legal maximum levels of pollution despite substantial congestion charging and low/ultra-low emission zones. Diesel- and petrol-powered cars are heavily polluting, yet electric vehicles (EV) are not yet able to offer a sufficiently low polluting solution, and the move to automated vehicles (AV) may lead to more journeys not less, technology has yet to prove that it is the answer.
The debates concluded that restrictions to car access in the city, combined with a major upgrade of the public transport network is the only way to keep the city running and achieve the carbon and air pollution emission goals. This is not a question of stopping access of only the most polluting vehicles but stopping virtually all vehicle access to the city. The issue then becomes how this might be achieved.
ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF TRAVEL INTO THE CITY
Discouraging car use as the principle means of access to the city centre involves offering alternatives that are perceived as efficient, affordable and convenient. Rail use has the benefit of delivering workers into the heart of the city, and has seen substantial growth in recent years, but the convenience of the car is unlikely to diminish. Intercepting cars at the edge of the city, at large scale Park & Ride transport hubs on the edges of the city is the model of choice, with a shuttle service offering rapid transfer into the city centre. This could be by electric bus or, preferably, light rail such as offered by Metro. A travel time and cost that is competitive to the car has been shown to work elsewhere.
Cardiff has currently some 90,000 daily commuters by car, a successful P&R network should cater for most of these who cannot switch to other forms of public transport from the Valleys and other surrounding areas.
Transport Orientated Development should become the norm for all future development so that the car is not the mode of choice.
RESTRICTING CAR ACCESS TO THE CITY
Since habit is the main obstacle to changing behaviour, some form of disruption to habitual means of access is appropriate and needed to accelerate change. To achieve progress towards the goals of zero net carbon and clean air it may be sufficient in the short term to discourage only the most polluting vehicles but to achieve both these goals as fast as possible. The option of creating car free zones by converting city centre roads to pedestrians and cyclists with carefully managed public transport/taxi access is preferred. Shared space is not ideal however and needs careful design. Two streets in Cardiff are critical in this regard, Castle Street and Westgate Street. Closing Castle Street to all private cars would be cheaper and cleaner than the current plan to halve traffic lanes, this is the main tourist hotspot in the city and clean air here is a reasonable expectation. Restricting Westgate Street to access only (as planned) with a major review of the stadium entry plaza would benefit all and offer a better experience of the city to tens of thousands of sports fans. Other ‘at high pollution risk’ High Street locations could be added to these two streets.
The consequence of these changes means establishing routes around the city for those who choose to use cars; this needs to be planned by well signed and protected ‘red’ routes. Reducing street parking along these ‘red’ routes will be difficult, but the alternatives of public transport, cycling and walking and EV rental/car clubs must offer a solution.
DISCOURAGING CARS IN THE CITY
A variety of tools are available to discourage car use if the public transport service is sufficient, all should be used:
- Workplace Parking Levies with revenues hypothecated to public transport
- Low Emission Zones in small local retail areas in the suburbs (under local councillor control)
- 20mph zones across the whole city and enforced
- reduction of parking places (especially at public service locations)
- dedicated cycle routes
- increased rapid charging facilities
- EV car rental options
- cycle storage at transport hubs
- car free zones outside schools
- priority routes for walking and crossings to schools, medical centres and major work locations
- encouragement of AV for low cost ‘last mile’ trips from hub to destination
- focus on connectivity between transport modes
- putting people first in all urban plans using the ‘reclaim the streets’ principle
- focus development at transport hubs by creating new vibrant suburban centres
- embrace technology using digital control methods in an active route management system.
We have created a car dependent society, we need now to create an alternative model of urban mobility. Making changes and measuring the results quickly can change habits without stopping the city from working.
Adopting the SW Metro as the backbone of the future transport network for SE Wales is an urgent and necessary condition to create the basis of a future system that, combined with the policy options outlined above, can create a successful very low carbon transport network and deliver a safe and clean environment.
CCS has offered the council support for the application of a road user charging system, conditional on
- Boosting public transport to carry a significantly increased load.
- Closing Castle Street and Westgate Street to set up a car free zone with clearly signed and protected alternative routes.
- Increasing P&R.
- Implementing Metro based on a light rail system as a priority.
- Enlarging and enforcing a city wide 20mph zone.
- Accelerating the transition to EV.
Solving these issues is more important than suffering the inconvenience of more difficult travel into and around the city.
Cardiff Civic Society