Traffic jam chaos

It has been reported that Birmingham drivers are spending an average of 21 minutes stuck in traffic jams every rush ‘hour’ each day. Only Cardiff has worse traffic problems. Many Birmingham commuters report that in the last few year the morning rush ‘hour’ has extended to stretch from 06:30 to 10:30 on many days.

Birmingham city council are suggesting suspending bus lanes as a step towards solving this problem, Councillor Len Gregory cites the suspension of the lane on the Tyburn road as a resounding sucess, those on the ground are less positive.

A major lesson from the last 40 years of transport policy in this country is that if you provide more roads as a measure to relieve traffic problems any relief is short lived, you rapidly get back to the same situation, or worse, as more and more people take to their cars. A more creative solution is needed.

On the bus vs cars debate it should be noted that a double decker bus takes about as much space on the road as 3 to 4 cars (possibly only 2 cars if drivers lefts the correct braking distance between their cars) yet carry upto 20 times the number of people. Compared with many cities Birmingham has a reasonable public transport system but there’s still much that could be done to get people out of their car an onto public transport, such as:

  • Congestion charging for driving into the city at peak times (with exemptions for buses, taxis, delivery vehicles and drivers with disabilities)
  • Better ‘Park & Ride’ faccilities with proper security (fencing, patrols, CCTV &c)
  • Integration between bus, train and tram/light rail/metro services.
  • More inspectors/guards on buses. trains and trams to improve security
  • Improved heating/airconditioning on buses, trains and trams
  • Local tax breaks for employers who introduce effective programmes to get their staff to leave the car at home (e.g. subsidised travel passes, reduce parking spaces, green awards)
  • Showing prominant local polititians (e.g. Mike Whitby, Paul Tilsley, Alan Rudge, Len Gregory, Albert Bore &c) using public transport on a regular basis, not just once for show then back to the car

No doubt the road lobby will scream at any hint that drivers might be encouraged to use public transport, but what’s new there?

5 Comments so far

  1. GaZ (unregistered) on June 9th, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    The suspension of the bus lane along the A38 is definitely was definitely the right thing to do in that particular case. If we only had one lane long that road, the morning commute would be unbearable!

    But it is only a short-term solution. Obviously there is still only a limited amount of road available, so the real solution is to try and improve public transport solutions and to encourage their use.

    I think a price drop would be the best incentive. Currently it costs me only a fraction more to drive in to town as it would to get a bus / train regularly, therefore I don’t feel like it’s worth it. Even with the rush-hour traffic, I can still get to work quicker than having to walk to the bus / train station, plus waiting for it, plus the time walking to work once I get to town. If the prices on public transport were to drop by a significant amount (at least 50%), then I would be willing to make the extra effort to use them…

    But I doubt that’ll ever happen. Too many greedy people wanting their big salaries in the upper echelons of the management.

    PS Good to see you’re still around, Stephen ;)

  2. Stephen Booth (unregistered) on June 9th, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

    I think that public transport will have to be cheaper driving (note that this can be achieved by making it more expensive to drive as well as cheaper to use public transport, I think the principle of a congestion charge used to subsidise public transport is a good one, if the implementation in London has been less than ideal), more convenient (more routes and better distribution of vehicles between routes, less waiting 30 minutes for a number 60 (say) and seeing two dozen number 50s go past because a lot of powerful councillors live in Mosley but not in Small Heath, Yardley and Sheldon) and safer (deal with the kids/teens/young adults) before a lot of people will switch.

  3. Tony Morel (unregistered) on June 9th, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

    I agree with making public transport cheaper as a method of getting people off the roads, but trying to price people out of using cars would only get my vote if there was already a public transport system in place as an alternative.

    I used bus/train/foot quite happily to get to/from work for the previous 4years, but now (due to the nature of the job) I’m working in the middle of nowhere, the best I can do regarding public transport is bus then train then bus then 7mile walk which isn’t really practicle.

    Mind you, I’ve gotta say compared to many places I’ve lived in, Brum isn’t that bad for it’s bus and train services

  4. boz (unregistered) on June 9th, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

    The funny thing is using the A34 from Walsall to central Birmingham everyday I would say there isn’t a traffic jam problem. In the 10 years I’ve been coming this way there are only a handful of occassions when I have been in a jam, twice because of closure of the Perry Barr flyover, once because of bad gritting (two(?) and a bit years ago) and the rest have been down to either roadworks or other cars breaking down. Is there something intrinsically wrong with the road layout in the rest of Brum?

  5. bob (unregistered) on June 12th, 2006 @ 9:53 am

    The number one issue for me when it comes to public transport is safety.
    As we all know there are a lot of morons in Brum, and they are even more concentrated on public transport, for whatever reasons.
    There are certain bus routes i wont get on because its just not worth the hassle (numbers 15, 17 and 96). I will get a different route and walk the extra distance just to avoid the stress.
    At best its kids playing loud offensive music on their phones. Most of the time its just bad behaviour, mostly smoking and shouting. Countless times ive seen vandalism and graffitti being done. And at certain times there is just blatant aggression and violence.

    Drivers dont get involved, i dont blame them. Passengers are too scared.
    CCTV doesnt help as the cameras are often burnt with cigarette lighters.

    Every now and again there is a crackdown, you get a bunch of coppers and inspectors at a stop just outside town, the bus is pulled over and fare dodgers, trouble makers etc are ticked off. But within a week its back to normal.

    On a different subject, I reckon birmingham needs something similar to an oyster card like they have in London.

    They cut out lots of confusion and work out pretty economical for the occasional as well as regular public transport user.

    There is a good range of passes and day tickets now, but if you dont use a pass for the whole week then you lose money.

    Totally agree with the comment about the Number 50 bus. I wish i lived on that route. They come every 30 seconds even at off peak times.

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