Car use is key to a bus strategy
Tuesday 19th March 2013, 2:30PM GMT.
IT WAS refreshing on Sunday to hear a politician being honest about the buses and admit that the States has ‘lost the plot’ over what it is trying to achieve with them.
‘The network is a social service and not some sort of alternative to paid-parking,’ he said.
The underlying point constantly missed is that when the Assembly failed to introduce paid parking, the reason for subsidising the service fell away.
Under the carrot and stick plan devised by the then States Traffic Committee, paid parking would deter commuters driving into Town while an improved and cheap bus service would give them an alternative.
The purpose was to reduce congestion in St Peter Port, which could have been measured, so the success or otherwise of the strategy would be known. Instead, and thanks to a spineless Environment Department, millions of taxpayers’ pounds are being used to achieve what, exactly?
This is not to be anti-bus but if public money is being spent it has to have a purpose but Environment and States members haven’t a clue what it is.
Based on the latest monthly figures, everyone getting on a bus receives £2.25 from the taxpayer regardless of whether they are a commuter, a pensioner, a pauper or a wealthy cruise liner visitor.
Will this unfocused waste of taxpayer funds cease when Environment comes back with its transport strategy? Unless it is prepared to embrace paid parking – or scrap commuter spaces – it will not reduce car use in favour of public transport.
As the falling figures demonstrate, catching a bus is a choice of last resort. It’s not quicker, avoids no congestion, is less convenient and doesn’t get you where you want to go. Since most own a car – and the island’s anti-poverty strategy recognises that not having one adds to social exclusion – they may as well use them.
As things stand, dwindling bus use means the subsidy per passenger is actually increasing while the poverty survey work indicates that islanders want less traffic and congestion on island roads but more parking in St Peter Port.
Managing car use is the only route to addressing all three.
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