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Copy of a letter sent to the Argus (and published 7 June) regarding the ‘news’ that congestion had got fractionally worse last year as measured by TomTom (Argus, 4 June).

Dear Editor,

Seeking free-flowing urban traffic conditions is like searching for the holy grail.  The hard truth is that every urban area suffers from congestion and it’s not going away.  The fact that it’s got fractionally worse in Brighton is hardly news (Argus, 4 June), given the number of large schemes built last year plus emergency repairs to North Street and elsewhere.  In fact it’s surprising that congestion wasn’t worse in the circumstances.

Your editorial (Argus, 4 June) was also mistaken to talk of typical commuters and to quote the Government’s traffic forecasts.  Firstly in Brighton & Hove there are no typical commuters as a lot of people walk, cycle and catch a bus or train as well as drive a car.  Secondly, it is unlikely that traffic levels will rise by 40% within the city.  This figure is based on a Department for Transport model which does not work well for urban areas and in any case nearly always overestimates traffic levels.

Within the city, the key thing is giving people access to the goods and services they need.  This does not always have to be done by car.  Indeed, in tight urban spaces, cars are one of the least efficient ways of moving large numbers of people as they take up so much space for the numbers they transport.  Buses are for more efficient, while walking and cycling are far more flexible and often quicker for short journeys.

One of the biggest threats to urban congestion, ironically, could come from Government’s roadbuilding plans.  Not only will upgrading the A27 scar the National Park, it will encourage more people to drive in and out of Brighton, rather than use public transport.  That will drive up congestion and pollution offsetting any quicker journey times on the A27 itself.

Finally, the article says that a car commuter will spend around 4 months of their lives stationary in traffic.  Yet this is nothing compared to the fact that in the city around 115 people are estimated to die each year due to air pollution.  Somehow I don’t think we’ve got our priorities quite right.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Todd

Planning & Transport Campaigner

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth

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News release issued Monday, 24 March, 2014

Free Sunday parking could cost us dearly:  Bus services and air quality could be at risk

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is condemning calls by Brighton & Hove Liberal Democrats for free Sunday parking [1] as financially irresponsible and potentially damaging to the city in the long term.  The Lib-Dems petition on this is due to be discussed at Brighton & Hove City Council’s Full Council meeting on Thursday.

Local authority budgets are under severe constraint and with bigger cuts coming over the next few years, as indicated in the recent Budget, BHFOE believes that to reduce income which could be used to improve the city’s crumbling infrastructure is foolish.  BHFOE also believes that making a substantial amount of parking free on Sunday could cause even more congestion and pollution as cars drive around the city looking for free spaces.  The measure would also risk undermining Sunday bus services, which are often less profitable than weekday ones.  Loss of these services could see some people become more isolated, while others might feel they need to own a car whereas previously they didn’t.  This would then create more congestion and pollution and put more pressure on residents’ parking.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“These proposals from the Liberal Democrats are just plain daft.  They are jumping on the free parking bandwagon without thinking through the consequences.  Who is going to pay is clear.  We all are.  Our roads are crumbling and services for the needy and vulnerable are under severe pressure.  From the budget last week it’s obvious that things are only going to get tougher for local authorities with even more cuts on the way.  So chucking away income from Sunday parking would be financially irresponsible.

“Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, when he was Transport Minister, probably did more than any minister previously to support the bus industry.  Yet here are his colleagues in Brighton & Hove proposing a measure that could lead to a loss in bus services.

“We would urge the City Council to ignore this rash petition.  If the Liberal Democrats really care about the city, they should support measures to reduce car use and improve air quality, while making it safer and more pleasant for people of all ages to walk, cycle and use public transport.”

[1]   The Liberal Democrats are proposing that parking charges are scrapped for all council run car parks and on-street parking bays on Sundays

 

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