Sunday 4th September is a big day for Greater Manchester as simpler, lower fares are introduced across the bus network, and also a momentous day for transport planning.
As a transport planner, the introduction of the new bus fares system in Manchester is a really exciting step for me, as significant as the introduction of the congestion charge in London. It is a moment when our profession of transport planning suddenly feels visibly “on test” to a wider public who have many other things to focus on but which we know should bring a positive step-change in trends in public transport usage.
As a child of parents who didn’t drive, and so a frequent bus user, I felt the negative impacts of regional bus deregulation in Britain in 1986 very keenly, to the extent of writing many (unanswered) letters to the then minister, Nicholas Ridley, as the plans progressed.
Never having really thought about transport planning as a profession before bus deregulation, the change stimulated an interest and focus which has remained with me ever since. As the deregulated bus market matured in later years, I then experienced the benefits that commercially-operated buses can bring – not least the incredible improvement in the quality of buses in Britain’s cities – but have remained less impressed with the information provided for planning trips and the marked regional differences in fare levels.
It is exciting to address the new challenges that this new initiative in Manchester brings - working as a profession to make sure this radical rebalancing of public and private perspectives brings the best of both sectors to the customer whilst ensuring robust consideration of the financial commitments and wider risks these changes bring for our public representatives. But a positive cycle, driven by increasing equity in the accessibility (in its broadest sense) of public transport, driving demand growth, and thus supporting our wider climate policy goals, is a great thing to aim for and should inspire a new generation of transport planners.
I'm pleased to be part of Steer’s new Equity and Inclusion team at Steer, led by Lilliana Pereira, working globally on a broad range of projects to support clients making decisions that are informed by detailed consideration of the distributional impacts of transport interventions, and their contribution to increasing equity in access to transport.