Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Centre - Alternative Routes

The proposals to restrain general traffic passing through the Centre will inevitably have knock-on effects for other parts of the road network and it will be the capacity of the wider network to absorb displaced traffic that will limit what can be achieved in the Centre. That is not to say that all the displaced traffic will have to be accommodated elsewhere. Some displaced car trips will be made by other modes instead and some will not be made at all, but a proportion of displaced trips, particularly those made by vans and lorries, will still need to be accommodated somewhere.

View City Centre changes - Dec 2009 in a larger map

The map above attempts to identify the alternative routes that will bear the brunt of the displaced traffic. As well as taking out the option of linking from Baldwin Street to the Centre the map shows Prince Street Bridge as closed to motor traffic as is already planned to accommodate the Ashton Vale BRT. The net effect is that journeys by car, van or lorry between the Clifton area and the south of the city become very constrained compared to what is currently possible. There will be almost no practical means of passing between those areas between the Cumberland Basin to the west and Newfoundland Circus (Cabot Circus) to the east.

In the south to north-west direction it appears that a couple of other routes will remain open (shown light blue on the map) along sections of one-way street, via Union Street in Broadmead and via Small Street and Nelson Street (although this latter is very circuitous). Union Street is frequently congested anyway and is an important bus route so it's unlikely that extra traffic can be accommodated there. In the other southbound direction one or two routes are possible but so circuitous as to be impractical, except perhaps the Bridewell St - Pithay route shown yellow which I suspect will need to be closed off to prevent it developing into a major rat run.

Elsewhere we can see that Park Street will become less attractive as a through route since it will lead only to St Jame's Barton, which can be reached more directly via Park Row - Marlborough Street. Indeed this might pave the way towards closing Park Street itself to motor traffic and diverting traffic via Jacob's Wells Road, but that's another story. Clearly Park Row - Marlborough Street will take displaced traffic and given how congested that corridor already is that must present problems.

From St James Barton round to Newfoundland Circus, Old Market (above) and Temple Circus will also take displaced traffic. In addition this is the planned route of the BRT going anti-clockwise around the city centre so there are more capacity issues there. Something has to give if these changes are to be pushed through. That something should not be the economic vitality of the city and we have to recognise that motor traffic, particularly commercial van and lorry traffic, has an important role there.

So that just leaves the private car, the elephant in the room that we all know is the root of the problem but few will dare criticise directly. Yet the relative ease with which cars pass around the city must change quite dramatically if any real improvements in the quality of the urban environment are to be achieved. Politicians like Jon Rogers have the unenviable job of trying to persuade a population, wedded to a myth of personal freedom through car ownership, of this simple reality.


SteveL said...

I'm -1 to diverting traffic onto Jacob's Wells Road/Triangle. Popular by bikes already.

Tim M. said...

Regarding the alternative routes map: keep in mind that the stated aim of both The Future of Redcliffe and the powers that be / your planning officers is to (re)develop the area between Portwall Lane and Redcliffe Way, increasing/restoring density there and reducing Redcliffe Way to a low-traffic area, possibly even with the roundabout at St. Mary Redcliffe removed. I'm not sure what the time line for that is though (hard to say in the current climate I guess, but things might come together faster than one might think once the BRT stop/interchange for Temple Meads takes shape). But in any case, the Redcliffe Hill - roundabout - Redcliffe Way route is unlikely to be a viable alternative route in the medium run, so possibly not even by the time the city centre changes take effect. This means IMHO that if you come from the A38/A4174 area in South Bristol, you'd have to go westwards via Clarence Rd or York Rd.

However, it only really gets interesting once you put your starting point a bit further south. Then you get traffic either going via the Parson St triangle westwards along Winterstoke Lane, or eastwards through St.John's Lane (!) and then down Luke Rd (!) or up to the A37.

Anonymous said...

An expensive and pointless waste of money to puff up CVs of traffic engineers and Jon Rogers

Chris Hutt said...

SteveL, I'll come back to that one in due course, but there is an awful lot to gain by displacing traffic from Queen's Road and Park Street.

Tim M, thanks for reminding us of thee aspirations for Redclife Way. As you say the principal traffic route will probably switch to the roads beside the Cut to Bath Bridge, although I don't think that makes much difference to what happens between Temple Circus and Queen's Road, Clifton.

South Bristol looks very problematical for BRT running to me. Few opportunities for segregated running (and one of those, the Malago Greenway, ruled out) mean it must mostly be on street and displacing general traffic, especially from the A38 corridor.

Chris Hutt said...

Tim M, I've modified the map to take account of your points about Redcliffe Way. Thanks.

Chris Hutt said...

Bristolwest Paul, thanks for the link. I'm sure others will wish to comment on your site.

For my part I find it very disappointing to see you coming out against this. You profess to be in favour of radical improvements for walking, cycling and public transport yet when the Council put forward a practical proposal to that end you criticise it for reasons that seem to be based on little more than political expediency.

How do you suppose improvements to walking, cycling and public transport are to be brought about other than through schemes of this sort? Do you perhaps have a magic wand that can create some utopian new order overnight? Change only comes about through small increments of the sort that the Council are now proposing for the Centre.

Cllr Mark Wright said...

Interesting analysis Chris. As you can imagine, this has given us Cabot councillors a few sleepless nights, as it is smack in the middle of the ward and will be the biggest change I think in a generation.

I think the plan is radical and would lead to a substantially improved regime in the centre. I hope it gets support of the public, then we can really change this city. I do have some concerns, which I have spoken to Jon about, regarding those that live directly in the centre.

For the most part, those just wanting to get from north of the city to south and vice-versa can take the wider alternative routes. However, for those living in the city-centre, such detours would be relatively huge, as the plans effectively cut the ward in half for traffic.

For example, if someone who lives on Brandon Hill does their shopping at Asda East St, their new journey becomes a nightmare, requiring negotiating traffic at the M32 or Cumberland basin. The solution for such people, I suspect, is to shop somewhere else or pay £5 for online delivery.

Do you have any suggestions of how I might advise people with similar problems when they contact me? Perhaps a serious argument (but hard to sell on the phone - believe me!) is that their quality of life will be so improved by the reduction in through traffic in their neighbourhood, that it's well worth the journey difficulty...

Chris Hutt said...

Mark, you're quite right to highlight the predicament of people who live close to the Centre and find themselves cut off as motorists by something like a Chinese wall stretching from the Cumberland Basin to Newfoundland Circus.

There's no getting away from it, some of them are going to experience a big change in their route options which will impact on the shorter journeys especially.

A good example might be from the Council House to the new Museum of Bristol, a mere 600 metres as the crow flies but almost 5 km via Newfoundland Circus, compared to 2 km via currently available road links (but much less the other way around).

The problem is not merely the longer distance to be driven but the increased likelihood of getting caught in congestion, especially when so many key junctions (St Jame's Barton, Newfoundland Circus, Temple Circus, Bath Bridge, Bedminster Bridge) have to be negotiated.

I think something would have to be done to reduce congestion on the remaining through routes. The obvious thing is road pricing but that's an even hotter potato.

On the plus side such Centre dwellers they will find themselves living in a pleasanter environment with less through traffic (e.g in Park Steet which should benefit your Brandon Hill people) and so less noise and pollution. Their options for walking and cycling locally will be much improved and they will be well placed to make use of the improved public transport options.

Beyond that there will be consequences for their property values which are difficult to predict, but some aspects like those mentioned should increase their values.

I hope the longer term effect will be to make the city centre in general feel like a more civilised place which will surely make local housing more desirable (less anti-social behaviour).

Perhaps there needs to be some further enhancement of the local residential area to act as further compensation for the restrictions. A 20 mph limit and revised street parking arrangements might win favour with local people.

Cllr Mark Wright said...

Property values! Good call... :-) Residents often find that satisfying (if they own their home).

On a serious note, it's a lucky thing that most of the city centre residents are students (in halls) who generally wont see this change as an issue.

I worry that a small number of centre residents will find this a major change to their lives and come gunning for us as a result (e.g. a mum who drives the kids from Brandon Hill to St Mary Redcliffe School). I hope that we can persuade them that alternate arrangements will work.

Chris Hutt said...

Brandon Hill to St Mary Redcliffe looks like a pleasant 20 minute walk to me, maybe 7 minutes by bike. Wouldn't the parent in question welcome not having to ferry the kids around? Surely we need to sell the positive aspects, the improved opportunities for cycling and walking and greater independence for children?

Mrs Taylor said...

Dear Councillor Mark Wright,
Thank you very much for putting forward the views of people who will actually be affected the most by this proposal... local residents. It’s no coincidence that the majority of people in favour of this proposal are either already using cycling/walking for the majority of their journeys or live well outside the city centre area. They have everything to gain, with nothing to lose.

Speaking to many local residents of the City Centre/Park Street area, the majority when moving to City Centre/Park Street area, did so, fully knowing it was a busy city centre commercial area with traffic and associated pollution. Not one of them complained about this. Being city centre residents most have local amenities within walking distance and did so. Not one complained about the walk being unpleasant.

What this proposed change effectively does is cut the city centre off from the south of Bristol for residents who chose to drive to their destination. A detour to either Cumberland Basin or Newfoundland Way would have to be made, both already over congested at the best of times.
With regard to property values in the area increasing. I find this comment rather short sighted, even professionals cannot predict what property prices will do, so to say property prices will increase is neither here nor there. Will the Council make up the difference if property prices decrease?

I’m all for improvements to areas,but why improvements always come at a price to some parts of society. Surely the Council can come up with suggestions that do not make life harder for residents?

Cllr Mark Wright said...

Hi Mrs Taylor, thanks for your comment. Cllr Woodman and I intend to put a section inviting comment to us in our next "Cabot News" leaflet, so that we can understand what resident issues this plan might cause.

I also wonder, would it be possible to modify the plan in any small way to take account of central resident movements? Can anyone think of a way, that doesn't just lead to massive use by commuters?

Mrs Taylor said...

Many thanks Councillor Wright, I look forward to the next instalment of Cabot News.

It looks as if the only way not to cut off the city centre from the South of the River is to leave Colston Avenue (linked to St Augustines Parade) in place for all modes of transport.

On a complete side note. Most of the congestion in the centre is caused by one Junction. The X marks the spot Junction in the centre that links Colston Avenue, St Augustines Parade and Rupert Street is responsible. Buses and other long vehicles (through no fault of their own) are allowed through traffic lights only to be stopped by the lights on the other side. As a result they sit across the whole junction stopping any other vehicles crossing and missing a whole sequence of lights. If this junction could be planned intelligently I believe you would see a vast improvement.