Bus based park and ride has been a measure in the transport planners' toolkit for many years and often P&R is seen as an effective measure for reducing car journeys into the central area and for managing the central area parking stock. P&R is a key tool which ties together the urban realm (where unrestrained car use has a negative impact) and the rural realm where the car is the only realistic option. New schemes are being opened in towns and cities across the UK and they are an accepted part of our urban fabric and integrated urban transport strategy.
But what do we know about the P&R operations and their success? What are the experiences of local authorities and how does this differ throughout the UK? Is P&R an appropriate management measure for the smaller historic towns and cities where the economic viability of services is often difficult to justify to local elected members and local politicians? Importantly, in these changing times, is the overall environmental impact of P&R quantifiable and is it readily understood? There are many examples of where P&R has worked well but there are, as importantly, examples of where P&R has not been successful. What lessons can be learnt from the towns where success has not been forthcoming?
The transport agenda increases in its profile and understanding in more detail the options available to ease and facilitate movement is an important process.
Building on a research study, some key local authorities who have P&R operations within their boundaries will be surveyed in order to gain an increased level of intelligence regarding this particular management measure. This will help to establish if there is a level of best practice and importantly give the opportunity to learn from the experience of others. The research will also seek to appreciate the level of technology being applied within the industry and establish how innovation is helping to improve services, scheduling and the users 'customer satisfaction'.
The role of P&R in reducing pollution from transport will also be investigated. Although an accepted and popular mode of travel some studies have questioned the overall 'green credentials' of the services - claiming that they actually encourage car use and result in increased journey distances. Is this a perception or reality and is it a full consideration when planning a new site? Will the economic arguments come to the fore and, if so, how can there be increased efficiencies and involvement from the private sector?
As with any apparent successful measure there is the tendency to apply the 'if it isn't broken don't fix it' rule. But this has been an excuse to stifle many an innovation and is it time for P&R to move on and to embrace change, possibly even moving aside to allow more sustainable measures to be implemented - park and stride, park and cycle for instance?
The future of P&R is an interesting one and one where there can be considerable debate. Does P&R stand the test against the initial objectives in the 1980's and 1990's?
The results of the survey and findings will be presented at the Integrated Transport Conference in Winchester.
RPS Planning and Development