Why buses are central to city economies

Glasgow City Council leader Cllr Susan Aitken said "Glasgow sees itself as a European city, with global aspirations." The first change in the city's administration after 40 years from Labour, to the SNP as the largest party, provided "an opportunity for new relationships and a fresh approach in policy areas that have remained a bit static for some time. Transport is definitely one of those areas," she said.

Glasgow had one of the best suburban rail networks in the UK outside London. But it also had areas of poorly connected housing and retail developments with a reliance on bus transport. "Frankly our current bus network isn't up to the mark", she said. The lowest car ownership rates in the UK were combined with falling bus patronage. "The need for a better performing bus network for the city is an issue at the heart of social inclusion economic growth and public health in Glasgow."

Council research provided "clear evidence from communities that a lack of connectivity, particularly a lack of bus connectivity, is limiting employment opportunities, and that is having a direct a negative on individuals, on communities, on wellbeing, on businesses and on the city economy."

In November the independent Glasgow Connectivity Commission was announced, chaired by TT chief executive David Begg, tasked with producing "an evidence-based way forward for transport policy". It would look at the public realm, congestion, pollution and "ideas about how to build a sustainable future for public transport", as well as the long-term future of the car as a transport mode in city centres. "The bus sector is central to that," she said.

Glasgow would have Scotland's' first low emission zone, to be introduced by the end of this year. The city's air quality is among the UK's worst. "Using buses well and having the best possible bus network is central to providing a solution to that," Ms Aitken argued.
She stressed that cleaner buses were not expected to bear the brunt of improving air quality alone: "Private vehicles have to be addressed as well." She added that the city also had a role to play, in taking action on issues such as parking in the city centre, congestion, and the ability for traffic of all kinds to move freely in the city centre they have access to. "The recommendations of the commission will give us the evidence to do that sensibly and with the best impact for the city and its citizens," she said.

An existing quality bus partnership was due for renewal next year and this would be an opportunity for discussion and change, and address issues such as journey times and fares.

Alongside the work on the CAZ, this would put the city "in a strong position" she said. "So I've made connectivity a central theme in the early life of this new administration, because it's central to what we want to achieve for our communities and people, and for inclusive growth that reaches every part of the city."

TfL director of transport strategy Lilli Matson said "We see buses at the heart of a growing London." London was forecast to grow, and TfL was determined this would happen in a sustainable way. The draft mayor's transport strategy had set a target that 80% of travel would be by sustainable modes by 2041.

London was not "in the business of increasing road space or capacity", so it had adopted its Healthy Streets approach, which sets out a number of outcomes including in health, safety and the environment, which all streets should provide, was intended to underpin wider economic benefits. Among priorities was the need to provide enough space for the bus, Ms Matson said.

"What makes buses special is that people use them more than any other form of transport, and passengers come from all walks of life. They offer flexible ticketing and run for 24 hours, seven days a week.

Growth on the network would not be homogeneous, she said. Bus services would be required to serve new developments and development areas in new ways, for example through bus transit schemes, demand responsive services and express services.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, leader of Wolverhampton City Council and transport lead for the West Midlands Combined Authority, said the West Midlands was undergoing a renaissance, with rapidly rising productivity and the most business startups in the UK outside London.
It would need 215,000 new homes by 2030. Birmingham would host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, Coventry was to be UK city of culture the previous year, and preparations were needed for the arrival of HS2.

Making buses clean, safe and fast and getting a grip on air pollution were among the new mayor's transport priorities for 2020.
The pioneering West Midlands Bus Alliance was crucial to the region's bus strategy, he said. Transport challenges included bus speeds falling, congestion and traffic volumes rising and a lack of road space. Between 2,000 and 2,400 deaths were attributable to poor air quality annually. Poor air quality and deprivation were closely correlated. "the poorest communities are paying the price for congestion," he said.

The Swift smartcard was revolutionising public transport payment. It could be used on buses, the metro, and some rail services; it was not just for the conurbation but could be used as far out as Redditch. Payment for park and ride was due to be added.

He stressed the importance of buses to local job markets. Buses accounted for four out of five public transport journeys in the region.
Under the region's low emission bus delivery plan, buses were getting greener – but there was still a decline in bus use running at 1% annually which had to be addressed.

There was a continued need to invest in the region's bus network, with a step-change in investment to support the scale of growth across the region. "There is a strong commitment by ourselves and our partners to deliver a successful outcome," he said.

Buses carry 150 million passengers annually in West Yorkshire, 70 million originating in Leeds, Said Gary Bartlett, Leeds City Council chief officer for Highways and Transportation.

The region's emerging transport strategy stressed economic growth and improved air quality, but also placemaking: the ability to change the city, rather than allowing it to be dominated by the car.

Residents had been consulted in the Leeds Transport Conversation, and had expressed a wish for better access to the transport system and for the city to be an attractive place to live and work. Transport shroud support the growth of the economy, but should have less impact on the environment. Over three-quarters wanted through traffic directed away from the city centre, and that more travel to the city centre should be by public transport. Over 70% said they would use a park and ride if the service was quicker, cheaper and more convenient than parking in the city. Nearly two-thirds of respondents wanted a more cycle and pedestrian friendly city centre.

The Leeds public transport investment programme plans to spend a total of £270m. £173m has been allocated by the DfT, with a commitment to invest £71m in new buses by First Group by 2020. £180m of investment will go into bus transport.

Elland Road park and ride is to be expanded to 1,000 spaces. The recently opened Temple Green park and ride is already at 75% capacity.

There are plans to transform the bus network using bus priority corridors. Targets of doubling bus patronage and introducing a zero emission bus fleet in the next 10 years have been adopted. A clean air zone is to be introduced by 2020.

A trial of the Connecting Communities initiative is to start this year, not just connecting to the city centre but also aiming to provide orbital links.

He said the aims of the strategy were "very demanding". But he agreed with other speakers that "buses are at the heart of these big conurbations, and we need to get this right. They are the future."