Our Transition Tuesday in January 2019 considered the opportunities in the County Council’s new Transport Plan, focusing on ideas for how to get more people to switch to traditional sustainable transport options. New technology and information sharing provides new opportunities to do things differently. So in our March 2019 Transition Tuesday we considered alternative ways to move both people and goods and discussed which ideas could be a useful component of a Sustainable Travel Plan for Letchworth.

Alternative Vehicle Ownership / Usage Models

  • Car Pools (Fleet) have traditionally been company vehicles (cars or van) that are available for use by one or more employees of that company. It’s called a pool car, because it is an asset that can be used by everyone in that organisation, ‘pooled use’. The cars were not ‘normally’ kept overnight at one employee’s home. Zipcar and Zipvan move the concept on from a car pool where employment by the company gives you membership, to schemes where the general public can become a member and have access to a pool of cars.
  • Car Sharing involves a group of people travelling together, especially to work or school, usually in a different member’s car each day.
  • Shared taxis are a mode of transport which falls between a taxicab and a bus. These vehicles for hire are typically smaller than buses and usually take passengers on a fixed or semi-fixed route without timetables, departing when all seats are filled.
  • Uber is a service where people use their own cars to provide a cab service, e.g. in London, when they want to do so, but are viewed as self-employed.

Vehicle Sharing Schemes – “The transition, …. is the most difficult part.… the real benefits [kick in when] the private vehicle fleet has shrunk by at least 60%. How would such a system get started? …”

The Future For Commercial Vehicles

  • Sharing cargo space has been around for a long time.
  • Connected vehicle (V2V & with base) exist and are used to form ‘road trains’.
  • (Semi) autonomous vehicles will change the costs of moving items by road.
  • There is a move to provide sustainable commercial electric drive vehicles (fuel cell or hydrogen alternatives are also being researched). For example the electric powered Kangaroo Van has a range in winter of 75 miles and 124 miles in summer with a one hour charge giving 15-21 miles. The cost of full recharge is less than £5.
  • Drones are already being trialled as a door to door delivery mechanism that do not require road infrastructure.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: Lime provides Electric-Bikes, Electric Scooters and pedal bikes in Milton Keynes, it is the first dockless electric bike hire service. (). Unlocking an electric bike costs £1 with a 15p a minute usage cost. A smartphone App is used to find, unlock and lock a bike.

Case Study 2: Hantsweb Taxishares and Carshares. This service is similar to a bus service, but a taxi or private hire vehicle is used instead of a bus. Passengers register, by phone or email, with the council to use the service. Services run to a set timetable, just like a bus, but passengers must book with the operator. The service will only run if someone books to travel. Passengers get picked up from their nearest bus stop or in some cases from their home address, depending on which Taxishare / Carshare is used. They will then be taken to the designated drop off point, as per the timetable. Most services are available to anyone living within the service operating area. To use some services passengers need to meet extra criteria. Prices vary between services but are similar to the cost of a bus fare and concessionary travel bus passes can be used. Registered passengers are given information on which operator to call to book a journey and must book by at least 4pm the day before they wish to travel.

Case Study 3: Bandwagon – Connecting people for a Taxishare in queues (). Bandwagon is available at select airports and events, and enables people to skip long taxi lines by sharing a ride. Users text their destination. The software then starts comparing a users route to others leaving from the same location. Once passengers are found traveling along a similar route, both are sent text messages and can skip to the front of the line, where Bandwagon guides them to their shared taxi. Bandwagon pay the taxi and then bill each person their share.

Group Discussion
At the end of the evening the people attending had a short discussion on how the ideas presented might help Letchworth residents use more sustainable transport. Finding alternatives to the car for rail commuters to reach the station and workers to reach the industrial estate was identified as an important issue to address. The group identified the following changes as desirable:

  • Introduction of smaller buses to better match demand on some routes.
  • Provision of electronic bus expected time signs at all stops, not just in the town centre.
  • Information to make it easier to identify which buses stop at different stops to ensure people wait at the correct stop.
  • An ‘oyster’ card style service for anyone without a bus pass to speed up buses and make it easier to use.
  • A review of bus timetables to provide a more comprehensive service. For example, they are not timed to fit with start and end of school day, e.g. at Lordship Primary School and there is no service to help people in some areas (e.g. the Grange) get home in the evening.
    Introduction of bookable buses, ‘shared Taxis’.
  • Hoppa buses from major housing areas from 6am to late, (with service frequency dictated by usage) running to the station and industrial areas as an alternative to second cars and car parking.
  • A Cycle Bridge from North of Station to improve the usability of Cycle Route 12.

Lastly it was recognised that transport visions should be deliverable through renewable electricity and this will mean demand management for powered journeys, as well as switching journeys from fossil fuelled vehicles to electric, to help ensure that the country can meet its energy needs renewably.

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