06 January 2006

In real Time?

Photo taken a few days ago in Plymouth City Centre is of Target Travels Mercedes 709D N94BNF. This was purchased from Blue Bus a couple of years ago and was in service in their livery for a while. Ben Morroll has a photo of it on his fotopic site in the bluebus livery here.

This brings me to another blog I discovered recently Omnibuses which has today posted "Minibuses - where next" which is well worth a read - as is the whole blog.
He also has posted the news that Transdev has just announced the purchase of Blazefield Group. This has no local value but is yet another bus operator changing hands. There has been a real flurry of activity over the last few months with Transdev emerging as a major force to be reckoned with.

A couple of other local stories on the this is Plymouth news site tonight have caught my eye:

12:00 - 06 January 2006
Bus passengers in Plymouth will be able to get timetable details on their mobile phone within months. Residents will be able to get up-to-date information on the buses by sending a simple text message.The £1.7million project, which uses radio-navigation technology, is being seen as a key tool in the city council's bid to get more people on buses.The ambitious scheme is thought to be the largest of its kind outside London.Under the system, each of the Plymouth's 1,700 bus stops has been given a unique code.By texting the code for their nearest bus stop, passengers will be able to get details about when the next bus will arrive.A website providing codes for every bus stop in the city is to be set up by the council within three to six months.Over the next two years, each bus stop will be fitted with a sign showing its unique code.(why does this take two years?)Alex Huke, the council's public transport co-ordinator, said that the new system would help passengers to plan their journeys.He said: "We don't want to tell people that their bus is late when they're cold and wet at the bus stop."We want to give them the information they need when they are having a cup of coffee or doing some shopping."More than 160 buses have been fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking equipment as part of the scheme.'Real-time' data from each bus is transferred to an information room in the Civic Centre, where officers can check the service's overall progress.The data can also be used to help buses that are running late to make up time.At three city junctions, the system is set up so that late buses are given priority at traffic lights.Mr Huke said: "A bus running late can ask for priority if it is approaching a junction. Every bus knows where it should be and where it is."The technology is in place at Derriford roundabout, as well as junctions at Ham and Transit Way.Mr Huke said: "Those are the three we are using while we are in a testing phase. As new junctions go in, this technology will be used as a matter of course."

The other news item tonight is

12:00 - 06 January 2006
The city council is not to blame for growing traffic congestion in Plymouth, transport chiefs have insisted.But the authority admits that the city's roads will become even busier when major new developments are completed.And the council has acknowledged that changes to the road layout on Royal Parade have caused delays - but made the area safer for pedestrians.(How can the pedestrian crossing be safer than the underpass which existed before?)The news comes in the wake of a critical Government report, which claimed that the council had caused traffic congestion in Plymouth.As revealed in the Evening Herald on Tuesday, the Government criticised the council's draft Local Transport Plan 2, which sets out the city's proposals for transport from 2006 to 2011.City transport manager Chris Sane has told the Evening Herald that there were 'gaps' in the draft plan, but he added that Plymouth does not have 'huge congestion problems'.And Councillor Sue Dann, the council's Cabinet member for transport and human resources, said that busy roads were a sign that the city is thriving and moving forward.The Government Office for the South West (GOSW) said that the draft plan, which was submitted last July, was 'disjointed and contradicts itself'.The council has now drawn up an action plan to ensure the final plan is completed before the Government's deadline in March.Millions of pounds of funding depend on the Government's ultimate assessment of the plan's quality and the council's ability to deliver it.Mr Sane, the council's transportation infrastructure and engineering manager, said that 'congestion hotspots' had been identified where busy traffic could pose problems.He added: "Plymouth isn't a city with huge congestion problems. If you compare Plymouth with places like Bristol, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester, it is not a hugely congested city."What we are concerned about is that we do have a growth and regeneration agenda, not just in the city centre but also areas like the northern corridor, including Derriford."As you create jobs and employment opportunities, that is going to increase traffic in some areas and that, therefore, has the risk that we will have congestion hotspots."Mr Sane added that major highway projects, such as the £14.5million road widening scheme at the George Junction in Derriford, showed that the council was acting now to ensure that the city does not face larger problems in the future.He said: "If we do nothing, we will start to see congestion which ultimately will then act as a brake and stifle economic activity."By doing things now, like the work at the A386 George junction, we are easing an existing bottleneck, but also creating capacity for future growth in that area."Mr Sane added: "Traffic congestion has not been caused by the council."We have got the Drake Circus development, which will bring jobs to the city and create an additional high quality shopping environment. That brings more traffic into the city."We are trying to manage the consequences of developments like that for the benefit of not only the citizens of Plymouth, but also shoppers that come in from other parts of the region."Cllr Dann said: "Having busy roads isn't bad. Having busy roads means that people want to come into the city centre to work and shop."Traffic in itself is not a bad thing. It is actually showing how the city is moving forward."Plymouth is booming and, if Plymouth is booming, it means with that we get more people, and more people travelling."Although more traffic is expected on the city's roads in the years to come, the council has no plans to introduce a congestion charge.Instead, the authority is striving to ensure that bus services in Plymouth are more reliable, providing residents with an alternative to taking their cars.But transport chiefs admit that getting people on buses will mean overturning a 'lifestyle' shift that has evolved over decades.Mr Sane said: "Where this stems from is the lifestyle that everyone chooses to live. Nowadays, we have two-adult households where both adults are working. Forty years ago, there was probably a single earner in most households."Many adults now do the school run before driving on into work. We try to encourage children to come to school by other means, whether that be bus or walking."Cllr Dann said: "We can't be accountable for when people want to travel - people make lifestyle choices."People are busy, they want to move around the city quickly, and as a council we need to be able to take all that on board and offer viable transport choices."She added: "All we can do is try to control the traffic and make sure we offer viable alternatives so people can choose how they travel."One of the 'congestion hotspots' identified in the council's draft plan is Royal Parade, where lack of space at bus stops and people using pedestrian crossings are slowing buses.Last year, an underpass which ran under Royal Parade was filled in and replaced with a pedestrian crossing as part of a £1.5million facelift of Armada Way.The work also included the creation of a 'plaza' space, which has hosted temporary attractions including an ice rink, a big wheel, and a giant screen showing matches from the Wimbledon tennis championships.Mr Sane said: "As a result of introducing the Royal Parade crossing, that has displaced some traffic onto Notte Street."For bus journey times around the inner ring, all developments have had a delaying impact. This is something that is inevitable."The crossing was put in primarily to give better pedestrian access. It was very difficult for anybody with mobility needs - such as people with pushchairs, disabled people, and elderly people - to use, compared with what we currently have."Cllr Dann added that the new crossing had turned a former 'accident hotspot' into an area where people felt safe.She said: "We don't get boy racers down Royal Parade anymore. We have accepted that the traffic has slowed down to make the road safer."Cllr Dann added that the 'plaza' had enabled the city to become one of the region's premier shopping developments.She said: "Plymouth was one of the most successful Christmas shopping centres in terms of visitor numbers in the whole of the South West. It's been really buoyant."The entertainment has made the city buzz, and that would not have happened without the Royal Parade crossing."GOSW has told the council that its draft plan 'lacks a coherent policy', with few links to the Mackay Vision for future development in the city.Mr Sane said: "We always knew there were gaps that needed substantial improvement, and we are addressing them."What we were very, very keen on was making sure we had very good public consultation. The consequence of that is that the plan went in with some gaps."Of the draft plan's relationship with the Mackay Vision, Mr Sane said: "I think they did link, but I think the issue was about how explicitly this was expressed in the draft plan."They are not in conflict - we just hadn't made it really explicit that there was a link between the two."Cllr Dann said that the council had been commended for the way it had consulted with stake-holders about the draft proposals.She said: "It shows we are trying to make our streets safer, we are trying to improve the environment in which we live, and we are trying to make the city a lot easier to get around."

Todays blog is already big enough so I wont add too many comments of my own to this yet. But I can assure you I will be coming back to it!


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