Boost our buses to save York city centre

"Boost York's buses to save the city centre"
25 Mar 2013 @ 11.17 am
| Opinion

"Boost York's buses to save the city centre"
“We need a basic half-hourly or hourly bus service from the centre”. Photograph: YorkMix
andy-dagorne-headshotAndy D’Agorne argues that we must follow our competitor cities and provide better public transport if our city is to prosper

At York’s Quality Bus Partnership meeting I presented the case for a step change improvement in evening bus services in the city. This could play a key part in the fightback against out-of-town developments – and put York on a par with competitor tourist cities such as Edinburgh and Bath.

We should adopt a partnership approach together with city centre entertainment venues for the mutual benefit for both parties. An autumn launch could be planned when Christmas late night shopping boosts the demand for evening travel.

We need a basic half-hourly or hourly service from the centre out to all the major suburbs and villages so that people can enjoy an evening out without a car or expensive taxi journey.

Why not have discounts at the theatre for bus users in exchange for adverts for shows on the buses? The whole thing could be self funding with a bit of imagination and will on both sides, helping to make key evening services viable to run.

Residents in Fulford have seen a deterioration of evening services since the Arriva 415 (now 416) service dropped from an hourly service after 8pm to only two evening buses, neither of which now serve the rail station. In contrast, competitor tourist cities such as Edinburgh have cheaper, more frequent services all year round, with many evening services running half hourly until 11.30pm, and then hourly night buses serving key destinations.

Lothian Buses in Edinburgh is a private company (although the local authority is still a major shareholder), so it is run on a commercial competitive basis, the same as most services in York. If we aspire to be an international, world heritage city we must have a plan to achieve a better public transport service that doesn’t close down at 7pm, and one that caters for visitors arriving by bus train or coach as well as residents.

If we don’t want our city centre to die, initiatives like discounts on evening bus services and promotions of city centre shows are essential

The Greens have pressed since 2006 for the introduction of a “quality contract” in York to allow the council to take control over bus services, and this had been supported by the Labour administration. But work on this has now been halted as a budget saving.

It is timely to raise the issue because of the network review recommended by an independent Bus Improvement Study recently completed for City of York Council by consultants. The chair of the Quality Bus Partnership should seek a meeting with representatives of the theatres and city centre cinemas, nightclubs etc to formulate a promotional effort encouraging their customers to use existing or new evening services.

These businesses have season ticket holders, members’ addresses and emails, and have the potential to boost public transport use while the bus companies can in turn promote their shows. Why is this not happening already?

Action is urgent if we are to support the city centre evening economy prior to the new developments at Monks Cross opening in 2014. If we don’t want our city centre to die, initiatives like discounts on evening bus services and promotions of city centre shows are essential.

There are also economic and social inclusion benefits of better transport, allowing both the young and elderly to safely enjoy a social life and bringing life and vitality all year round into our city centre.

A petition has been launched with the aim of a full council debate on the issue in September: 1,000 signatures needed. To support the campaign, sign the petition online, or go via the York Green Party website.

Please share on Facebook and invite friends to sign it!