The Glasgow Connectivity Commission, chaired by Professor David Begg, hears the city’s current transport system is presenting a barrier to growth

 

24% of land in Glasgow city centre is taken up by roads

 

A “significant rewiring” of Glasgow’s transport system is required if the city is to keep pace with other leading European destinations and compete for skills and investment, a new commission has found.

The Glasgow Connectivity Commission, chaired by transport academic, Professor David Begg, has been looking at measures to support inclusive economic growth by enabling more people to live, work and visit the city region. It was established by Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken last year and is due to present its policy recommendations this November.

The commission has heard evidence that comparable cities which had created people-friendly environments, reduced pollution and congestion and developed high quality public transport networks were best placed to attract inward investment and highly skilled workers.

Speaking after the commission held its first round of evidence gathering, Begg said encouraging work was underway to implement the same transformation in Glasgow and revitalise the city centre. This included work to make areas more pedestrian-friendly with the ongoing Avenues project, building a network of high quality cycle lanes, establishing Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone and growing the urban population.

But the commission heard evidence that the city’s current transport system presented structural barriers which could place limits on growth if not addressed. These include:

  • A dramatic decline in bus use in the west of Scotland over the last decade, with First Bus losing 27 million passengers in the four years to 2015/16 – equivalent to closing four of Glasgow’s five biggest stations. This decline was markedly worse than other Scottish cities;
  • Glasgow has a relatively low proportion (3%) of its population living in the city centre, placing a greater demand on commuting transport networks and lowering the quality of life in the city centre;
  • Glasgow’s grid system allows far less space for pedestrians than successful comparator cities: 24% of land in the city centre is taken up by roads, with pavements taking up only 8% and other land accounting for 36%. The comparative figures for Edinburgh are 12% roads/10% pavements/49% other land;
  • Glasgow lacks a strategic transport network linking some of the key transport generators in the city, including Glasgow Airport and Queen Elizabeth Hospital;
  • While evidence on congestion is mixed – some evidence showed a recent fall in city centre traffic volumes – there is clear evidence that journey times on certain key road routes had suffered, having a particularly damaging impact on bus travel;
  • Active modes of travel, whilst increasing, are still relatively low (in 2016, 5% of journeys were made by bicycle while 11% were made on foot) ;
  • Glasgow has a relative high level of car parking spaces available –  50% more than provided in Edinburgh, for example.

Begg commented: “A generation ago Glasgow prioritised the car, providing a surplus of car parking, building a motorway through the heart of the city, dispersing people to the outskirts and the new towns of Scotland. Glasgow has paid the price for this failed policy and is trying hard to play catch up with more enlightened European cities where pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users are given priority. Glasgow is for people.”

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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