Headington Action & Headington Transport Group

31 March 2015

Response to draft Long-Term transport plan and Oxford Transport Strategy from Headington Action and Headington Transport Group.

Executive Summary

  1. Because the plan is at this stage a strategic overview, it is essential that localities continue to be consulted as it is turned into more detailed proposals.
  2. The overview of future transport demand seems to be based on a one-sided approach, starting from new housing and neglecting the relationship between the location of housing and of jobs.
  3. The proposed Bus Rapid Transport scheme looks promising but we have concerns about
    a. Whether the new vehicles might represent a net addition to existing bus and coach flows in Headington, and
    b. The proposed alternative routes to the Churchill and the JR.
  4. We welcome measures to restrict car commuting to workplaces, but would prefer a more radical approach than the Workplace Parking Levy. It is essential that pricing for park-and-rides and associated bus services provide a clear incentive for their use by incoming travellers. Universal CPZ schemes may be needed to keep commuter parking under control.
  5. The strategy does not pay adequate attention to the scope for developing the now mature technology for car-sharing.
  6. The standards for Super and Premium cycle routes may be too lax.
  7. There are as yet no specific proposals that support the declared goal of promoting pedestrian transport.
  8. Air quality needs to be more fully monitored, particularly for particulate matter, in areas such as Headington with heavy through traffic.
  9. In drawing up the plan, the needs of the growing proportion of the elderly needs to be considered.

Comments

The goals which the plan is pursuing are ones which we would endorse, namely the promotion of a continuing shift towards cycling and walking, and away from the use of private cars. The plan has tried to be innovative, and to get away from more-of-the-same proposals. It is designed to be a strategic overview, and the Council is keen to get responses to the principles underlying the draft plan, rather than to get into detailed discussion of specific sites.

The corollary of this is that we need the consultation to continue beyond the deadline for comments on the draft. As the proposals get fleshed out in more detail, residents and workers in the areas affected need to continue to be kept informed, so that they can comment on proposals which affect them, but are not yet spelled out in the documents provided so far. As far as Headington is concerned, there is as yet relatively little detail, beyond the proposals for Cycle Premium Routes and the Bus Rapid Transit service. Headington is well advanced in drawing up its Neighbourhood Plan, and will need to be kept informed of any proposals which might be relevant to this Plan.

The methodology that has been used for forecasting the demand for transport starts from the forecast of new housing – each additional dwelling is expected to generate a specific number of additional trips. We have concerns about this method, in that it does not pay adequate attention to the relationship between the location of the additional dwellings and the location of the new jobs that are expected. At a strategic level, we think the Council should seek to be more explicit about where the new jobs are expected to be, and to factor this into its estimates of transport demand, rather than starting solely from the housing side of the equation. As we know in Headington, where we have had many additional jobs and only a few additional flats (no additional houses), an imbalance between extra jobs and extra dwellings can be a potent cause of congestion. We do not see any explicit forecast of what would happen to overall traffic flow through central Headington as the proposed measures are implemented.

One of the most innovative developments is the proposed Bus Rapid Transit service. Our concern in Headington is how the new services – one from the City Centre to Thornhill, and one coming up from Cowley to the hospitals – will relate to existing local and long-distance buses and coaches. We would like to see long-distance journeys starting at Park-and-Ride sites – what we want to avoid is finding the BRTs providing a net addition to all of the existing bus and coach journeys through Headington. The pricing of the BRT service must be such that it pays people to use the service, rather than driving and parking to make the same trip.

One feature of the BRT proposals which is relevant to Headington, and has had much publicity, is a possible alternative route for a dedicated BRT track crossing above the Lye Valley from Town Furze to the Churchill site. We flagged up to the Council, at our meeting, the concerns which this would raise about potential harm to a Local Wildlife Site and a nationally-important Site of Special Scientific Interest. In addition we would seek more information on the alternative BRT track from the JR hospital to the ring road via Old Headington/Northway. This would be welcome within the time frame of this consultation.

A Workplace Parking Levy is proposed as a possibility, in order to discourage private car commuter trips to workplaces in Oxford. The LTP4 also suggests a willingness to consider other measures that would have the same effect, such as a congestion charge or road pricing. We think the Workplace Parking Levy would lead to an increase in the existing trade in renting out forecourts for commuters to park in, so we would favour the more radical measures. At the minimum, an extension of CPZ schemes to cover the whole of Oxford should be considered.

An issue of major concern to residents in Headington – and in other parts of the city as well – is peak-hour traffic through residential areas (“rat-runs”). LTP4/OTS does not appear explicitly to address this and we think more could be done to protect residential areas as part of the aim to reduce car use especially in commuting. Whilst not providing detail for Headington, the impression given in the LTP4 documents is that use of cars will remain unchanged at present levels over the next 20 years. We already know that Headington has two of the busiest roads feeding traffic into the city and it is an unfortunate consequence of this that in the morning and evening peak hours associated rat-run traffic in some areas can overwhelm the capacity of streets that are not designed for this level of traffic. As well as noise and air pollution (noted in OTS), there are safety concerns for pedestrians and cyclists: the level of traffic and its behaviour can be intimidating. We would like to see LTP4 and OTS recognise these issues and develop policies that will help manage traffic and travel demand in designated residential areas as well as the inner ring road and other key routes within the city.

One of the documents – the one relating to the Science Transit Strategy – discusses a range of possible high-tech developments that would make it possible, for example, to find out in real time the quickest way of getting from one location in the area to another. However, relatively little mention is made of a technical development which is already rolled out and fully debugged, and which has the potential to make car ownership obsolete for a significant proportion of the urban population – namely car-sharing through car clubs. There are now 32 car-club cars in Oxford, and this could easily increase. Yet the principal obstacle to this development is the reluctance of the Council to provide dedicated on-street parking facilities for club cars. Of the five currently in Headington, four are in people’s forecourts. More attention needs to be paid to promoting car-sharing – each shared car replaces at least four, and possibly far more than four, private cars cluttering up the streets.

The proposed Cycle Premium and Cycle Super routes are welcome, but attention needs to be paid to the detail of how they will work. It is not clear how Hollow Way, which is currently shown as a Cycle Super Route as well as a BRT route, could accommodate either, let alone both. Cycle routes need to meet clear standards, particularly where they meet with bus stops – they should be routed behind the bus stop. The standards proposed, involving sharing of cycle lanes with buses even on “super” cycle routes, seem inadequate to the declared goal of making Oxford a world-class cycling city. There is a need for a cycle hub in Headington, perhaps on the existing City Council car park behind Waitrose. It could be accommodated by raised decking for car parking. The routes shown in the LTP4 diagrams are largely oriented to non-leisure activities – more thought is needed to developing leisure routes for cyclists. “Soft measures” to educate and encourage cyclists are needed.

There is as yet almost no detail in the documents about specific measures to promote walking. This is an area that urgently needs to be fleshed out in more detail as the plans develop. There is a need to make walking routes more useable – better pavements and making the pedestrian feel superior to the motorist rather than subservient as at present. Footpaths such as Cuckoo Lane, should be improved (surface and lighting) to encourage people to make longer journeys on foot, while recognising that in some areas – especially Conservation Areas – there are special characteristics that need to be considered and preserved.

Air quality is a concern, particularly for an area such as Headington with heavy through traffic. A limited degree of monitoring takes place, but more information is needed about particulate matter from diesels close to the main roads, and, if monitoring shows these emissions to be excessive, regulatory measures are needed.

Given the growing proportion of the elderly in the population, their needs, as well as those of users of mobility scooters, need to be considered, along with measures to prevent mobility scooters from endangering other pedestrians.

1 thought on “Headington Action & Headington Transport Group”

  1. Please avoid using the negative perjorative term rat run, that is an anti car, anti motorist term of abuse.
    Motorists have a legal right to use the queens highway without let or hindrance, at all times, and in all places.
    People need to get to work, and to take their kids to school, families need their cars for shopping as well.
    CPZs do not work, and residents parking permits are technically illegal under the statute of Marlborough.

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