In December 2019, the City of York Council declared a climate emergency, and set a goal of the city being carbon neutral by 2030. The Council’s Climate Change Strategy sets a target of emissions from transport being reduced by 71% by 2030. While the base was 2005, carbon emissions from transport have fallen little since then, so most of this target still needs to be met, with only eight years left. As an indication of how the target might be met, the draft Strategy proposed that overall levels of travel would need to fall by 25%, with public transport use rising by 25% and active travel (walking and cycling) by 33%.
Such changes would go a long way to achieving our vision for York, and we strongly support the broad direction of the Climate Change Strategy. However, the Strategy offers little as to how these challenging targets might be achieved.
Unfortunately, trends in travel in York over the last few years have been moving in the wrong direction. Traffic levels are now back to pre-pandemic levels, with congestion and pollution in hot spots like Gillygate worse than at any time since 2016. Cycling flows have fallen by a third since 2014. Bus patronage is still well below pre-pandemic levels, and many bus services in outer York and the villages are now under serious threat as a result of planned cuts in government support.
The Council has had been successful in attracting funding for active travel, electric buses, low carbon freight and real-time traffic control, though little of the active travel funding awarded in 2020 has yet been spent. But it is increasingly clear that the challenges of reducing carbon, air pollution and congestion cannot be met by a series of piecemeal interventions. York’s most recent Local Transport Plan, published in 2011, no longer reflects current needs, and all councils are now required to produce new Local Transport Plans which address the climate challenge.