Cars Must Be Curbed—Mr. Amos
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Unchecked Growth of Private Transport Leads to Stagnation of Movement and Disruption of City Life
IF the character of towns and cities was to be preserved, the growth of private transport could not be allowed to continue to be unrestricted, Mr. James Amos, chairman of Scottish Omnibuses, Ltd., told the Se )ttish branch of the Town Planning Institute at their conference last Friday.
He said that the town planner and the transport operator had a common interest in bringing about conditions conducive to orderly living, for 'which cheap and efficient transport was necessary. The needs of public transport had to be" considered at the inception of planning and not left as something to be thought alxnat after development had been completed. Social and economic well-being was profoundly influenced by the facilities which were provided for the movement of persons and materials.
The motorbus had made it possible for people to live farther away from their work than in the days before it appeared. It had allowed the thinning out and redevelopment of overcrowded areas of city centres, and enabled whole industries and communities to grow up dependent upon road transport alone.
Town and Country .
• Rural communities were able to participate in town interests, and in events and occasions from which they had previously been almost totally isolated. Public transport enabled everyone to live a fuller life.
Mr. Amos recounted how the population of London had grown from.-7m. to lOtn. between 1901 and 1939, but that since the war the population of the London County Council area had fallen from .44m. to 3im. The out-flowing population had largely settled in the zone outside the Green Belt.
Between 1945 and last year, the population of this zone had grown from under 2m. to nearly 2-1m., a transformation which would not have been possible without the development of modern public transport services.
Technical progress and improved standards of living were now bringing individual means for transport, in the form of car and motorcycle, within the reach of the mass of the people. This posed fresh and urgent problems to the transport operator and the town planner. Private transport was more costly than public services, but the difference in cost was not fully apparent to the user.
Demands which cars made on road space and parking facilities, both of which were already inadequate, were extravagant. Free movement on the streets, upon which the community depended for its life, was becoming clogged, and unless some restraint was exercised and public transport allowed
E38 to perform its proper function, the life of cities and towns would be throttled.
The prospect was of more families being able to afford to run cars, although the amount of road space per vehicle was less in this country than anywhere else in the world.
" We must, in these circumstances, take serious heed of the state to which American cities have been reduced by private transport," he said.
Expressways built in the heart of American cities served merely to bring in more cars to the already overcrowded central streets.
Property Values " I suggest to you that no Community can afford to base urban development on the private car and the main means for
transport. Its unchecked _growth will lead, as it is doing in So many cities across the Atlantic, to stagnation of movement and the destruction of property values as well as the disruption of community life in the centres of metropolitan cities."
The most obvious restraint required was the restriction of street parking. The situation where whole traffic lanes on the busiest urban streets were neutralized by motorists using them as free garages could no longer be tolerated. Parking should be banned wherever and whenever it was necessary to preserve freedom of movement. The communal interest must prevail over secondary OF
individual interest.. •
One way of dealing with the problem was to bring the price mechanism into play by charging for street parking in congested areas. There was no reason why the community should subsidize the motorist by allowing him to make free use of street space provided and maintamed for the use of the community as a whole. To charge the motorist for parking would also bring home to him the economic price of motoring, and enable him to make up his mind whether the use of his car was justified by its • real cost.
Whether the police had the men to make enforcement effective remained to be seen, but if reasonable restrictions were not applied, limits on the volume of transport allowed to enter city centres would have to be introduced—something which everyone would wish to avoid.
If in the end the choice lay between the exclusion of the private car or of the bus, there could be no doubt that it must be the car that was kept out. The vehicle which was available for use by the public must surely have priority over the vehicle which was available only to its owner.
An American innovation was to reserve the near-side lane in certain busy thoroughfares for the exclusive use of buses during the rush hours. This had resulted in not only increasing the speed of buses by a third, but also in permitting substantially higher speeds in the other traffic lanes. Whilst this measure could be employed only in wide streets, the principle should be kept in the foreground of all plans for the maximum use of available road space.
Mr. Amos thought that the greatest single contribution that could be made to ensure an efficierit transport system throughout the country would be to obtain such a blending of industrial and residential areas as would secure as even a distribution of traffic during the day as was practicable. The creation by local authorities of huge dormitory areas accentuated the peak-hour problem, because masses of workers had to be shuttled daily from the satellite areas to the new industrial belts which had been created.
Industry must be spread. If it were concentrated in one area, it would produce an insoluble transport problem, and if towns were to be planned along proper lines the co-operation of industrialists would have to be secured.
Mr. Amos doubted whether the use of 12-seat buses on rural routes would have any effect on the overall problem which was represented by unrcmunerative country transport. These vehicles would be impracticable because their seating capacity was too small to cope with occasional traffic peaks.
A Mile to Buses
In new towns the creation of circular routes had resulted in people having to walk at least a mile to the nearest bus route. He thought that roads should be • radial.
Any layout which compelled substantial numbers of passengers to walk more than 400 yd. was bound to lead to dissatisfaction and sometimes resulted in services being fun on roads which were not intended for them.
It was important to allow buses access to where the public wanted to travel. Failure to do so put public transport at a disadvantage compared with the private car. It was important for shopkeepers that free and convenient access to shopping centres should be encouraged.
He urged town planners to preserve an open mind about bus stations. In most cases a bus station was a luxury for which the travelling public—not the transport operator or the local authority— paid.
Co-ordination of services to eliminate waste was simplified when there was a common financial interest. In Scotland this policy had already been carried a long way through common ownership by his company. A number of independent operators and the four Scottish municipal operators still provided services, and in certain instances this might involve the overlapping of services and waste of money. He thought that there might he a case for merging the whole of passenger transport operation in Scotland into a single undertaking.