Thursday 31 August 2023

Cambridge Unsustainable Travel Zone is Back

 I wish I didn't have to come back to this. Oh, well.

Cambridge's Sustainable Travel Zone, the STZ, turned out to be hugely unpopular. This is unsurprising - if you tell motorists "we're going to make this better for everyone but you'll have to pay..." then they'll get angry. And they'll stay angry. It doesn't matter what the good stuff is, of course. You could be offering free public transport with busses running to high speed rapid transit that transports everyone to their destination as fast as the car, paid for by stubborn motorists who refuse to use it, and the car lobby would insist on being just that stubborn and paying more to travel less efficiently. There's no compromising with the car lobby, they're not interested, their only moral compass is personal freedom to drive as far and as fast as they like at any environmental cost and fuck everyone else.

So in response to criticism someone at Greater Cambridge went out and got kicked in the head by the horse and decided to offer a compromise and charge motorists slightly less often, with some free days, and then not have anything like enough money to pay for the bus service that was the only thing they had on offer. They also had to dump two thirds of the funding for non-bus improvements despite those commitments having been nebulous and non-committal at best. Or in other words "get the bus peasants, but not as many as we were suggesting, or as frequent, or ride a bike but we aren't actually raising the money we need to build cycle facilities that you'd be happy to ride on, not that we were promising to build those anyway, suckers!"

Other than the democratic deficit inherent in the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the near inevitability that the web toed fenland Tories would win the County back sooner or later and cut the funding to buses as fast as they can say "I do" when marrying their cousins, I raised two concerns with the scheme. The first was that it isn't Tory proof, and that "please get the bus, please!" doesn't fix our urgent need to start building a modern rapid transit system. The other was that the scheme didn't give me any confidence in their commitment to high quality cycle infrastructure. Neither concern has been addressed.

So this compromise proposal, has it any chance of getting through?

No. It's dead. It's just a matter of whether the LibDems or the Labour Party at the County and District councils dump it first and blame the other lot.

You can't compromise with the car lobby, anything shy of utterly unrestrained car access leading to deadly pollution and endless congestion and they'll keep pushing back and refuse. And they have plenty of petrol drinking morons and conspiracy theorists in the media who'll back them up. And more than a few in local politics. Has Greater Cambridge thrown any bones to anyone who opposed this scheme on any other grounds? Nope. Only the petrol heads. Who can never be won over.

There are answers here, good ones, and viable solutions. But because of over a decade of inactivity and squandering vast sums on endless nonsense, Greater Cambridge can't afford them and the Mayoral authority opposes them becuase they can't bring themselves to back any of the half hearted schemes our former Tory mayor never really believed in anyway (remember, he had years in post and listed free parking in Ely as one of his top accomplishments - this is not a man to sort public transport out). I like you Mayor Nick, you're a good bloke, but I believe your opposition to rapid transit scheme and reliance on the bus as an answer is ideological and stupid.

I think the STZ is dead, which is a shame because we urgently need to address transport chaos in a fast growing city. But with any luck it'll take Greater Cambridge with it. And if that's true, good riddance. 

Edit: Looks like I called that just right...