The past week in Belfast has seen the city centre grind to a halt as a new road layout 'beds in'. New bus lanes, roadworks, bad weather and emergencies have all made their mark in the chaos. 60% of this traffic is, we are told, only using the city centre to get to the other side of Belfast and those that run our roads would like that 60% to get on their bikes, the bus or the ring road to get themselves where they are going. Fine. But there are gaping holes in this strategy. This might take more than one post.
First up: public transport. As it goes, public transport in Belfast is rubbish. Sure, over the past 10 years it has made huge strides from the rickety old berry buses to free wifi and modern, more comfortable buses. What I can't understand is why translink still employ a terminus at city hall, where those who have to travel from one side of Belfast to the other have to dash from one side to the other to catch their connection. Aberdeen and Edinburgh run cross-city services., where there's no mad rush to catch a connection, only to find it sits there for 10 minutes before getting you on your way. Like all things, these routes won't suit everyone, but you are offering those that it does a way out of their cars, a way to get from one side of the city to the other without adding delay, or clogging up the road with buses waiting for their return journeys.
Next, pricing, and not in the way you might think. I'm talking about the structure of fares here, where metro services charge you depending upon which zone you travel in - the inner zone, or the wider city zone. An inner zone adult single costs you £1.40, while a city zone ticket is £1.80. Given the small reach of the city zone, I find this disproportionate, and as a lot of people who live in this zone walk to work, seems a bit pointless. Where my real issue lies though, is that the cost of short journeys favours only those who wish to travel within the city centre. There's no incentive to get on the bus for short journeys outside the inner zone, or those which would cross from the edge of the inner zone into the city zone. This means that if I want to go to the library, or do the school run on a rainy day I get in the car and not on the bus. Aberdeen First Group get round this by charging their journeys in stages rather than zones meaning a trip to the supermarket on the bus much more appealing.
My sign off here is about the bus gate on Oxford street. It would be nice to see a bus actually using it. Just once. Until next time.