Friday, 14 January 2011

A spending breakdown of the City of London transport plan

The City of London has finally loaded the page on its website that shows you how it intends to finance and spend its transport plan for the next three years.

These numbers show just how marginal cycling is to the plan.

Here's a brief analysis of the numbers researched by someone who is a senior partner at a City firm and thinks the status quo is no longer an option. I quote:


"A review of the City's programmes and budgets over three years, according to its transport plan:

Cycling revolution £528,000 or 0.45% (over three years. So, that's quite possibly less than just one a gothic fountain)
Road danger reduction £780,000 or 0.7%

Streets as places £3,429,000 or 2.9%

Travel behaviour £771,000 or 0.7%

Transport planning £1,398 or 1.2%

Traffic management £23,154,000 or 19.8%

Highway maintenance £56,880,000 or 48.7%

Major Schemes £29,960,000 or 25.6%

Most of the money comes from the City’s own coffers (business rates, parking charges, council tax etc). £17m is what the City is asking Transport for London (“ TfL”) for. £9m is anticipated from “section 106” funding (What we might call a kind of civic bribe, developers funding public projects, as a condition of planning consents).
The first four programmes above contain explicit provision for cyclists or pedestrians. Cycling revolution is mainly cycle lanes, advance stop lines and related signage. We’re mainly talking about paint.

Road danger speaks for itself. Streets as places is about making streets more attractive places for people to be in, eg pedestrianised areas, benches and plant pots etc.

Travel behaviour is marketing to promote walking or cycling as alternatives. While not specifically cycling related, they might be expected to have incidental benefits for cyclists (Ed: the sort of 'why don't you cycle more because it's cheaper for us to market cycling than to actually do something', one might suggest)
Transport planning is partly about securing cycle parking, showers and locker facilities etc inside private developments as part of the planning consents.

The Major Schemes are 10 specifically identified projects allied to private development in various areas of the City. The most imminent scheme is for a redesign of the road space around the south of St Pauls, and the removal of the coach park and some pedestrianisation and traffic calming measures. If you want to see a recent major scheme, take a look at Cheapside, which was conceived around, and partly paid for, by the One New Change retail/office development by Land Securities. They deal with traffic, pedestrian and possibly cycling environments in those locations.

Critique of the plan

The plan is so vague that it is difficult to identify specific points to criticise. The most obvious issue is budget allocation: the City has about 9,000 residents, with a below-average car ownership. It has about 350,000 daily visitors (us) of whom only a tiny proportion (7%) travel to work by car or taxi. We nearly all pursue what they call “active travel” for most of our travel within the city, whether that is by cycling, or (81% of us) by walking from home or from the train/tube station to the office. And yet, provision for active travellers accounts for a minuscule proportion of the total budget: less than ½% for the cycling “revolution” (clearly not a revolution in the “French” or “October” senses); less than 5% on all four programmes which are explicitly about active travel. They could all easily be doubled with negligible effect on the big budgets for highway maintenance, traffic management and major schemes – project budgets typically contain contingency reserves somewhat larger than this.

The City, we suspect, may also have a habit – like most local authorities – of raiding these budgets to pay for projects which are at best tenuously related. We aren't quite sure yet but we have our own suspicions that previous cycling money may have been used for “street scene” works such as those raised cobbled areas which spring up where side streets meet the main drag (not entirely unrelated to such features as gothic fountains). What little is left for real-life cycling improvements on tarmac is then often eaten away by planning procedures or by commissioning consulting engineers to provide reports – you won’t be surprised to know that smaller projects don’t necessarily suffer much smaller compliance/admin charges.

So, one of our main comments on the plan should be: multiply the cycling etc budgets, and make sure you only spend those budgets on directly related projects.

On a more positive note, the Mayor's Transport Strategy demands that boroughs base their plans on their residents. The City fought back against TfL on this point – and won – in setting its targets for cycling in a way which takes account of the 97% of City transport users who are not residents, by using as the performance measure for cycling the regular count of cyclists passing specific “screenlines” in the city. In my email I will be thanking them for that – credit where credit’s due.

Another flaw in the plan, again due to the terms of reference set by the Strategy, is that it focuses almost entirely on commuter journeys, whereas the City experiences a high level of people movement throughout the day, much of it served by taxis, as we all move around to visit our clients or advisers. More attention could, and should, be paid to travel throughout the day.

Beyond this, in the absence of much in the way of specifics, one could comment on how they might achieve their stated objectives – or do better, as their long-term object of cycling growing from its current modal share of 2.6% to 10% by 2020 is pretty unambitious when you look at any European city or, for that matter, York, Bristol or Portsmouth."

If you'd like to comment on these numbers and make the City realise it needs to take cycling more seriously, then feel free to look at our other background article here.

If you can spare the time to send your own comments on the plan, please help us make the City realise it needs to do more. We have produced our template here which you're free to use but please consider writing your own submission and focus on what's important to you, using your own words if you have time.