Greens’ answers to EBUG’s questions

EBUG questions for parties; response from Claire Miller on behalf of Edinburgh Greens

I have grouped some questions together where they touch on the same issues, to avoid repeating information across more than one answer.

Delays and congestion

1) Could you publish the delay minutes to Edinburgh bus services (pre- & post-pandemic)? And analysis of solutions?

22) What are your plans to make buses more attractive to passengers, in particular, to speed them up through congested traffic?

Data on delays to bus services would be held by operators and I would be happy to facilitate conversations between EBUG and operators in order to discuss these figures. Greens support calls for services to be more reliable and punctual, and for the council to take action to reduce congestion in order to cut delay minutes.

The council has a ‘Congestion Action Plan’ which it discusses regularly with bus operators. Green councillors have pushed the council to publish this document and to make clear the actions that are being taken to reduce congestion and speed up bus times, and to consider additional actions including extending bus lane hours, locations and improving enforcement.

Many of the issues outlined above were addressed in a report to Transport Committee in 2018 which can be found here:

 Number of bus stops and distancing

2) Would you resurrect the bus-stop rationalisation proposal? If so, what consultation should take place? 

3) Why are gaps between bus stops so long?

4) Do you agree that there should be no reduction in the number of bus stops?

Greens support making changes to improve access to bus stops, including moving the location of a stop and increasing or decreasing the number of stops according to the needs of passengers and operators. It is possible to make improvements to services by carrying out these kinds of changes.

There are a range of reasons for long distances between stops. In some places there are long distances between stops because there has not been a review of bus stop location but services have been changed, and in other places it can be because there is no demand for intermediate stops.

We have investigated the different possible metrics and methods used to determine the distance between stops and the distance from stops to destinations, and we want to ensure that the council’s analysis is fully published and that bus users are engaged in this decision making process, and so we would welcome active engagement by EBUG with us on this subject.

Our goal is to ensure everyone is able to travel by bus and by ensuring bus stops are well placed and suitably distanced we can support operators to provide great services. We support operators which choose to run express services where appropriate as part of a network which serves all stops.

Any changes to bus stop design, placement and number should improve and increase accessibility. It is essential that any rationalisation is co-produced with disabled people and organisations representing disabled people, so we would expect as a minimum that Edinburgh Bus Users Group, Edinburgh Access Panel and organisations made up of and representing disabled people would be involved in that process.

5) The need for quicker services resulted in several express services; for which Stagecoach has won awards. Do you support more on specific routes e.g. North Berwick/S Queensferry-Edinburgh?

Yes, Greens recognise that express bus services are an important element of the network and support the creation and expansion of more express services. It is important that providers take a joined-up approach to designing services, for example timetabling to allow interchange, enablement of multi-mode journeys, and provision on routes where faster journey times can be achieved. Therefore Greens would support greater partnership working with public transport providers to ensure better outcomes for passengers.

Re-regulation of bus services

6) What’s your view on re-regulating Edinburgh bus services i.e. Council sets the network, timetables, fares (instead of solely on commercial basis)?

7) If you support bus re-regulation in Edinburgh (with something like TfL as a statutory body), how would you make it happen?

Greens strongly support the re-regulation of buses in Scotland, in order to help provide integrated public transport, to reverse the national trend of declining bus patronage and to cut climate emissions from transport. It is clear that Thatcher’s deregulation of buses has been a disaster, with ridership down 43% in Scotland between 1986/7 and 2019/20, while fares have risen by 159% since 1995.

The limited changes which were made in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to allow some local authority control of buses have not yet fully come into force, and the Scottish Government consulted last year (2021) on the implementation of those changes.

Although Lothian Buses is in public ownership, it is an arms-length organisation owned jointly by Lothian councils, and the control that City of Edinburgh Council has at present is limited and indirect. Greens have worked on both the Transport Committee and on the board of Transport for Edinburgh to conduct a process of review and reform to the structure and governance of Transport for Edinburgh, and its two subsidiaries Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams. Greens aim to increase integration between bus and tram services through transport ALEO reform.

Green councillors are keen to work with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to explore how we can use any new powers to improve the attractiveness of public transport, and to integrate buses and trams with other low-carbon and flexible forms of transport such as rail and a new bike hire scheme, to improve mobility while reducing climate emissions. We will continue to engage constructively in consultation and dialogue with the Scottish Government and regionally with other local authorities on the most beneficial and impactful solutions.

Network review and city centre services

8) Is a review of the bus network needed, with fewer buses through city centre but restored elsewhere? If so, how would you make it happen?

19) In the ‘to not through’ approach, will any buses still go through the centre? Would shuttle buses across the city centre be environmentally better than normal buses doing the same?

Greens have collaborated cross-party in the council to create a City Mobility Plan and the City Centre Transformation strategy, and we are completely supportive of the commitment in these to a strategic review of the public transport network. We want to end bus congestion in the city centre while also increasing patronage figures. Therefore significant changes are required to achieve both these goals.

Greens want to make progress on this network review by taking a strategic approach to ensure that it benefits communities who are currently under-served or not served at all by public transport and also that it alleviates the unsustainable congestion of buses travelling through the city centre. We recognise that there are concerns about how interchange would be designed to be effective and accessible, and we are very keen to ensure that the best possible outcomes are achieved.

We do not wish to prejudge the outcome of a strategic review which has not yet started, however we would not anticipate that there would be an end to services passing through the city centre. We do expect that there would be consideration given to which services should continue to pass through and which services should be revised.

The environmental benefit of options in a network review would be of paramount importance to Greens and this would be a fundamental principle in our decision making process.

9) How can you make buses more appealing, if service length, frequency, & reliability has constantly gone down but fares up?

Appeal is a very important factor in retaining existing bus users and in persuading others to travel by bus, both of which are key objectives for Greens.

Greens won Scottish Government agreement to introduce concessionary bus travel for all young people aged under 22 (implemented in January 2022) which eliminates the consideration of fares when young people and families decide to travel. We support calls to further extend concessionary travel and build on the successes of free bus travel for older people and disabled people.

We strongly support making changes to the road network to prioritise buses, enabling greater frequency and reliability of services, as we recognise that individuals’ decisions to travel by bus is certainly influenced by factors such as convenience and punctuality.

It is also important that investment is made to make journeys by bus more comfortable. In addition to the investment we have covered in other answers, this can include things such as ensuring the road surfaces are smooth so that the experience is smooth, and investment in the on-board experience such as seating design, information displays, announcements, wifi and charging points.

10)What role do buses play in meeting council’s climate change agenda? Could the current bus system in Edinburgh help it? If not, what needs to be done?

Greens believe that bus travel is a vital component in meeting the city’s climate target of net zero by 2030 and therefore it is central to Green transport policy.

Our focus is on modal shift to public transport and of de-carbonisation of public transport. The current bus system is good, but more must be done to accelerate progress. Some examples of projects and initiatives that we view as contributing to this goal include:

  • New electric buses to replace old fleet and upgrading bus fleet to the highest Euro standards
  • Provision of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) particularly for areas of the city currently under-served by public transport
  • Projects to increase integration with other modes of transport such as ticketing integration, bikes on buses, and transport hubs

11) Areas outside Edinburgh are rapidly developing, many having poor/no access to bus services, possibly increasing traffic. Should Edinburgh Council do anything to address this?

Greens recognise this trend and share the concern about transport planning in new areas of development. During the development of the new local development plan, City Plan 2030, we have advocated throughout the process that all development must contribute towards rather than detract from our climate target of net zero by 2030. This includes ensuring that development includes sustainable transport infrastructure and facilities.

Good examples of this are housing developments which have transport hubs designed into the plans and where residents move into the new neighbourhood with the expectation of travelling predominantly by public transport.

Greens want to see better regional development, economic and transport planning in order to address and prevent problems.

12) What’s your view on bus lane operating time and mileage extension? If you support it, how would you make it happen, especially against possible opposition?

Greens strongly support extension of bus lane operating hours and of enforcement of existing bus lane hours. We successfully brought an amendment to the Transport Committee in 2018 agreeing to consult on setting bus lane hours as 7am-7pm, 7 days a week, as requested by bus operators. The council consulted on making this change, and we are disappointed the consultation report has not yet returned to committee for a decision and have been seeking this in the work programme with council officers. We recently won support for a 24 hour bus lane through the Transport Committee, successfully making the case and winning support from other political groups. We still strongly support extending bus lane hours, and will push for this to happen in the next council session.

Similarly, we support increasing the mileage of bus lanes, for example we support the work which council officers have initiated on a ‘circulation plan’ for the city which we anticipate will result in recommendations to designate corridors for public transport. We also support introducing new bus lanes in parts of the network where buses currently suffer from congestion – see our other answers for further details.

Bus gates

13) What do you think about bus gates?

20) What is, and should, CEC do about abuse of bus gates, especially on Princes St and South St David St?

Greens see bus gates as an excellent measure to protect and allocate road space for bus services and which have been successfully used on some of our transport routes.

Princes Street and South St David Street is an example of where signage is not effective in ensuring compliance with restrictions. Our view is that driver behaviours should be addressed both through positive engagement to increase awareness and adherence, and by suitable enforcement mechanisms and effective penalties.

14) Why not a council policy where significant restrictions in width on a main road lead to a general traffic closure, so roadworks don’t delay buses?

Greens would support investigation and evaluation of this proposal in order to implement improvement. We recognise that at the moment any restrictions to road capacity have a significant impact on bus travel and we support calls to prioritise bus journeys. Greens have previously proposed and argued for measures which help people to choose sustainable modes of transport on routes affected by roadworks.

15) Why not a council policy prioritising resurfacing work on bus routes, and specialist resurfacing at bus stops to withstand the additional load? 

Greens would support investigation and evaluation of this proposal in order to implement improvement. We would like to review the criteria and prioritisation for resurfacing works, and would be happy to include this proposal in order to improve bus travel.

16) Why not a council policy that no bus stops are placed outwith the main running lane on busy roads (on pavement blisters)

Greens would support investigation and evaluation of this proposal in order to implement improvement. There are a great deal of different street layout designs used across Edinburgh for bus stop placement and therefore a variety of evidence and experience to draw on in order to make changes to council policy. We would look for improvements to accessibility and useability in such a review.

17) Bus shelters and real time information boards; should these be rolled out across the city, not just busy areas?

We support a roll out across the city as this would greatly enhance the experience for bus users and therefore would be likely to lead to increased bus patronage. It is unlikely that there would be opposition to this, however the key consideration is likely to be the cost of such a roll out. We would support evaluation of the costs and would consider proposals to deliver this within a budget.

18) What do you think about interchanges, and what do they need?

Interchange is a vital component to achieving modal shift to sustainable transport. In order to be successful, they must be accessible and it is therefore essential to have a design process which includes disabled people throughout every stage. It is important to draw on previous experience and to ensure that lessons from current and previous interchanges are learned. We would draw on the latest experience and best practice from around the world to ensure that both digital and physical elements of interchanges would be effective.

21) What is/should be done about the timing of traffic lights at the Waverley Br/Princes St  junction?

The problem of timing of traffic lights at Waverley Bridge and Princes Street is not isolated and relates to a number of other nearby measures, interventions and large projects.

In the short to medium term (while there is a temporary closure of Waverley Bridge to through traffic, extensive works on North Bridge, trams to Newhaven in the Picardy Place junction) I would be very happy to liaise with council officers and members of EBUG to identify changes that can benefit bus users.

In the long term when these large projects are completed, our approach would be to review the allocation of finite space in constrained and congested junctions, in order to prioritise and re-allocate road space. We continue to champion the sustainable transport hierarchy in which buses are prioritised over other motorised vehicles and our goal therefore would be to improve junctions such as Waverley Bridge to benefit people walking, wheeling, cycling and travelling by bus.

23) How should Transport Scotland’s £500 million bus priority fund be best used in Edinburgh?

Our answers to many of the questions that EBUG has posed will come with a cost, and we would hope to use funding from Transport Scotland to both carry out analysis and create strategic plans and implement projects on the ground.

Areas where we see significant investment being required would include:

  • Strategic review of the public transport network
  • Circulation plan for the city
  • Built infrastructure such as roads maintenance, bus stops and enforcement measures
  • Investment in fleet
  • Digital enabling projects e.g. apps and digital displays