Speaker: Martin Kraftl from the County Transport Planning Team
Transform Oxford was launched in October 2008 as a “vision” for enhancing conditions for pedestrians in the city centre. Although details of how this will be achieved are yet to be devised, the aims are clear: to reduce the number of buses in the City centre (but not the number of passengers), to upgrade poor quality paving and street furniture, and remove dirt and clutter from pavements. (See OxPA’s response to the original proposals).
Everybody will welcome more pedestrian space, quieter and less polluting buses, smartcard ticketing to reduce boarding delay, and cleaner and better designed streets.
There are serious concerns about possible loss of connectivity between bus routes and some doubts that “shared space” will be as successful here as in other places in UK and abroad. Martin is optimistic that these hurdles can be overcome: certainly the present situation cries out for improvement, so we need to encourage the County and City to come up with workable plans.
The outline timetable starts with Queen Street 2009-10, removing 50% of the buses and re-locating bus stops (see OxPA’s comment). In 2010 George Street and Magdalen Street will be pedestrianized (but retaining some access for deliveries, disabled parking etc). There will be consultation on options for cycle access. In 2011-13 changes are planned in High Street and St Aldates, to reduce bus frequency from 200 per hour and create a pedestrian priority zone. An interchange at the Plain, highlighted by the media, is only one of many alternatives being considered.
A lively discussion followed Martin’s presentation. Topics raised included :
- The need to design streets to make shared space work; Laweiplein Drachten in Holland is a successful example
- The impact of city centre changes upon streets not mentioned will need careful monitoring
- Necessity of overall strategy to improve bus connectivity
- Walking distances between bus stops and destinations need to be minimized especially the “Cornmarket gap”; possibility of a small shuttle to connect East Oxford with north- and south-bound buses.
- Need to safeguard independent mobility for all, not just the young and fit
- Reducing emissions; although Oxford buses are among the cleanest in UK, cooperation between bus companies (after new Local Transport Act) and smartcards should result in lower emissions.
- While disabled parking access will not be affected, access for cyclists needs to be clarified
- Possibility of introducing a bus route to the Science Area.
- Work is to start in New Inn Hall Street in early 2009 to upgrade and level the street surface.
See “Transform Oxford” on Oxfordshire Council website for report on recent progress