Monday, October 3, 2011

Westminster - Congestion and Growth

West End stores have called for a traffic ban in Oxford Street and Regent Street every Sunday, after seeing how well a similar scheme in Times Square has worked. The New York trial scheme has reportedly been so successful it has been made permanent and retail rents have soared along with visitor satisfaction.

Westminster Council have been playing around with the roads in the West End for a while now, returning some to two-way working and widening pavements, but it's all sticking-plaster stuff, and they remain full of traffic. That's because Westminster is ideologically opposed to doing anything effective about congestion or striking a balance between transport modes based on a vision of a city whose streets are attractive to visitors rather than simply attracting traffic jams.

Westminster Council's car keys will only be prised from their cold, dead hands. It doesn't matter that unrestricted driving is making shopping streets a place not to linger, or that it's increasing TfL's bus running costs and damaging bus journey times.

The Chair of the New West End Company, representing the retailers, said:

"Tackling these priorities could prove to be the deciding factor in the mayoral elections in May 2012. Other cities around the world have dealt with their traffic congestion. London can do the same."

Now isn't that interesting. Boris was elected on a ticket of tackling congestion by playing around with traffic light timings. It clearly hasn't worked too well in the view of these retailers - and remember these are business people, not environmental campaigners. It's time the Tories were honest with the public: the price of unrestricted car use is congestion. If you're not prepared to treat roadspace as a valuable resource that needs to be conserved and used sensibly and productively, the result is unpredictable journey times and streets where people don't want to be. Businesses increasingly understand that. It's time the Tories did too.

1 comment:

  1. Yes indeed, they are business people.
    What they demand is simply that their two streets are converted into a form of open-air Westfield, to boost footfall and sales. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but I’ll bet if you were to propose that a wider network of surrounding streets should be closed to traffic every Sunday (let alone the whole West End) there would be howls of outrage and derision from them. In fact, I am sure they were as vocal as anyone in their objections to Westminster’s plan to impose on-street car parking charges on Sundays.
    Now that is a sensible measure. I know that Westminster Council is only doing it to get more money off non-residents so that they can cut council tax for residents further and get themselves re-elected, but at £4.50 per hour it does stand some chance of discouraging people from bringing their cars into town when they could use public transport instead. I can’t abide the whining from people who feel they can no longer afford to come into town for a show (£50+ a ticket?) and a meal after (similar?), and I particularly despise the “Christian” churches which have opposed the move – have they never seen that great American bumper sticker, “Jesus didn’t drive a SUV”?

    ps: Blogger needs some serious sorting-out on posting comments - it just eats everything without a trace