OxPA meeting
May 23 2017

Westgate Transport Strategy

Speaker: Chanika Farmer, Transport Planner, Oxfordshire County Council

Summary of initial presentation:
The current Westgate application was submitted in 2013. Such a large development does not usually happen in a city centre. It is due to open in October 2017 and will be accessible by walkers and cyclists. The County is hoping to increase permeability of this site for cyclists. The site had 1,337 parking spaces previously and now will have 1,200 so there cannot be an increase in traffic coming to the city centre, so new visitors will come by bike, on foot, Park and Ride, and public transport (buses and trains). There will be 1000 cycle parking spaces plus and a cycle hub. Queen Street will be pedestrianised. Space will have to be booked in service yards so that service vehicles will not build up.

The floor was opened for questions:
Q1: How will people get from the railway to the Westgate?
A: Number 5 bus.

Q2: How will buses be managed on St Aldates if Queen Street is to be pedestrianised – it is already polluted and highly congested and unpleasant. Where will buses turn?
A: Chanika to get back to us on this.

Q3: What might be done to encourage shoppers coming to the Westgate centre to come to Cowley Road shops?
A: No specific proposals but there are plenty of buses.

Q4: Will people try to park outside CPZ’s (Controlled Parking Zones) in east Oxford when they can’t find a parking space in central Oxford?
A: Oxford Transport Strategy are discussing need for city-wide CPZ and are working towards this. Iffley Fields is under consideration but there is not enough money yet.

Q5: What will be the impact of employment, given that there are not many unemployed people in Oxford?
A: It will be shift work so workers travelling outside of peak hours.

Q6: Cycle permeability, only 18 hours? Which 18 hours?
A: Chanika to get back to us on this.

Q7: You said no increase in traffic but hours of operation are increased so surely that means more traffic?
A: Assessment shows people will stay longer so no increase in traffic.

Q8: Impact of delivery vehicles?
A: They will be managed. They are encouraged not to drive across the city so will come in via Botley and Abingdon Roads. HGVs prefer out of hours and a lot are designed to be quiet and come at night.

Q8a: So no delivery vehicles by day?
A: That’s the point we’d like to get to.

Q9: How many spacesare there in the temporary car park and will it stay in operation after October?
A: It is closing after October and has 200 spaces.

Q10: Where will people cross the road in St Aldates?
A: Westgate does not include changes to St Aldates but Oxford Transport Strategy Team is aware of the issue.

Q11: St Aldates is a failed EU air quality area. If bus traffic goes up will it not get worse? What is the strategy for reducing air pollution?
A: Bus flow on St Aldates will increase with pedestrianisation of Queen Street. City is going to declare a zero emission zone.

Q12: St Ebbes residents afraid of losing traffic lights at end of Greyfriars Road.
A: Junction will be non-signalised but with priority for main traffic flow over Blackfriars Road.
(Chanika to get back to us on details).

Q13: Did the County Council undertake traffic modelling?
A Westgate did the modelling., County Council agreed the methodology.

Q14: Cargo bike fleet will service major shops, will it be safe for them to use the bus route and will there be a delivery drop-off point they can use?
A: The bus route has been reviewed by engineers and is believed to be a route that is safe for cycles to use. There is no delivery drop off point that cargo bikes can use.

Q15: Is the survey saying 1000 vehicles an hour use Botley Road still currently valid? Can all the people who want to come to the Westgate Centre really fit onto buses?
A: OTS is looking to move people onto buses, cycles and walking.

Q16: Woodstock/Banbury Roads, increase in traffic at certain times of day?
A: As fewer spaces to park in than previously there will be less traffic than before. Afternoons plus Saturdays 11am-1pm will be peak times for retail traffic.

Q17: Will there be signs at Park & Rides (P&Rs) to say if centre car parks are full?
A: Signs further out than P&Rs will say whether car parks are full.

Q18: Surely people from outside Oxford will drive and won’t use P&R no matter what you do?
A: City-wide CPZ in place will stop that.

Q19: Where are the entrances to the Westgate centre?
A: On all sides except Speedwell Street/Oxpens Road. No entrances on south side.

Q20: Is there a deficit in cycle parking?
A: Yes a deficit of 66 cycle parking spaces. Negotiations have not worked. We are not always successful. We can’t ask for certain things from developers.

Q21: Is Seacourt P&R at capacity?
A: We are creating an outer ring of P&Rs which we are working on at the moment.

Q22: Will the pedestrian realm have nice spaces to sit in?
A: Yes, I believe, with benches.

Q23: Could car parking spaces be taken out to make room for cycle parking spaces?
A: Westgate Alliance will monitor cycle parking and provide more if it is needed, maybe in car parking spaces.

Q24: Will the traffic lights at the end of Blackfriars Road be reinstated/remain? and will the pedestrian crossing at the end of Blackfriars St remain in situ?

A: The Blackfriars Road / Thames Street junction will be modified to a priority uncontrolled junction, with vehicles exiting Blackfriars Road giving way to those on Thames Street. A controlled Toucan crossing (for pedestrians and cyclists) will be provided on Thames Street in close proximity to the junction with Blackfriars Road. The crossing will be continued across Speedwell Street to link to Old Greyfriars Street which will be part of the National Cycle Network.

Q25: When the buses are temporarily removed from Queen Street where will the turning place be? How will the knock-on effect on St Aldates in terms of congestion and pollution be managed?

A: Rather than any single alternative solution, the proposed experimental closure of Queen Street will involve buses using a combination of the following locations to turn:
·         The Plain
·         Butterwyke Place
·         Worcester Street / Hythe Bridge Street/Park End Street (anti clockwise loop)
·         Oxford rail station
Buses will NOT be u-turning at the large (station) roundabout in Frideswide Square. 

Queen Street is currently used as part of a city centre loop for buses. When it is closed, those buses will need to turn somewhere else. The 2016 proposals included a turning area at the junction of Worcester Street, New Road and Park End Street, but that solution required us to acquire land from the adjacent car park, which we were unable to secure.

Exactly which service turns where will be a matter for individual bus operators. The county council has considered various scenarios with bus operators and the improvements planned as part of this project allow for considerable flexibility, including the possibility of Queen Street remaining open. The operation of all these turning arrangements will be kept under review during the six month experimental period and anyone will be able to comment on them during that time. 

In relation to St Aldates, the proposals are to:
•        Provide more bus stops, spaced out over a larger area, to deal with increased passenger numbers in future and prevent overcrowding of pavements around bus stops and bus congestion at bus stops
•        Minimise parking, loading and stopping at the times of day when bus stops are busiest (12:00 – 20:00), whilst providing space for taxis and loading when required.

These changes will help to ease the congestion which currently affects all road users at busy times, and improve air quality. This was one of the concerns expressed by people responding to the consultations on the proposed Queen Street closure last year. However, congestion has been a problem in St Aldate’s and High Street for many years, even with Queen Street open to buses, so these improvements will be beneficial whether Queen Street remains closed in future or not.

Q26: When the cycle routes through the new Westgate are are open for ‘an 18-hour day’ which hours are these? What times of day will the route(s) be closed to through cyclists?

A:  The 24-hour route open which can be used by cyclists is via Turn Again Lane and Middle Square through the development.  Cyclists will have to dismount between 10.00 and 18.00hrs, outside these hours cyclists do not have to dismount.

Q27: Regarding the narrowed bus route through the Westgate: will this be safe for cycles passing buses or being passed by buses?

A: The design of the bus link has been subject to a Road Safety Audit. It has been designed to accommodate cyclists and buses safely. The geometry of the link has been designed to minimise vehicle speeds whilst allowing buses to pass other buses and cyclists safely.

Q28: With regard to the deficit in cycle parking spaces: how will this be managed to ensure bikes do not build up even more on pavements in the city centre than at present?

A: The Westgate development will provide 1,000 cycle parking spaces which will be monitored by the Westgate Oxford Alliance to understand if additional cycle parking would be required.

Q29: Is Seacourt P&R at capacity and if so where will additional cars park?

A: Seacourt Park and Ride currently has an average occupancy of around 83%. You can also view live daily occupancy data for the Park and Rides here – http://www.oxfordshirevoyager.com/network/carpark.aspx.
The impact of the Westgate development on the Park and Ride system was assessed as a whole as well as on a site by site basis. If a Park and Ride is full, the Variable Messaging Signs across the routes to Oxford will direct traffic to Park and Rides which have spare capacity. The transport strategy for the Westgate development seeks to encourage as many visitors as possible to travel by foot, cycle and Public Transport and where this is not possible, the use of Park and Rides.

Q30: We understand that parking spaces in the new multi-storey car-park have been reduced from 1337 to around 1200. We have been told that this means less traffic than before the development took place. However we were also previously told that turnover needs to be higher in order for John Lewis to flourish economically. What is the actual prediction in terms of knock-on effects on private motorised traffic accessing Oxford city?

A: We are not aware of John Lewis requiring a high turnover of customers. The development will result in the reduction of the size of the car park from 1,200 spaces to 1,100 spaces. In relation to usage of the car park, the Transport Assessment for the development states: ‘Given the number of spaces for the Westgate multi-storey car park is being reduced….there will be a limit to the number on the number of ‘new trips’ being able to use the car park particularly on a Saturday when the existing car park already has a maximum accumulation of 1,139 vehicles’.
Therefore, the development may result in a slight increase in vehicles as a result of the car park now being used to capacity and perhaps a use of other city centre car parks. However, the Transport Assessment has demonstrated that this increase in traffic will not be significant as shown in the table below.

OxPA thanks Chanika Farmer for answering these questions from walkers, cyclists, and local residents’ groups.