York’s current transport policy is set out in its 2011-2016 Local Transport Plan.  The City of York Council (CYC) is planning to update this Plan in 2021, based on its newly published Draft Local Plan

Traffic congestion, public transport and air pollution are among the most controversial of topics in every city, and York is no exception.  York Civic Trust therefore took the initiative to hold a Transport Policy Workshop in February 2017 to give members the opportunity to discuss York’s transport needs.

The Workshop has subsequently led to the creation of a YCT Environment Sub-Group called the Transport Advisory Group. It takes as its guiding document, a YCT Transport Policy Statement.

Developing a new Local Transport Plan for York

In January 2021 we were invited by CYC to offer advice on the development of York’s new Local Transport Plan (LTP).

We were invited to review York’s current LTP, published in 2011, and to suggest guidance for the new LTP. A summary of our review of the current LTP is available here. We identify a number of ways in which the coverage of the LTP might be improved.

The diagram below helps visualise the work that we have completed to date.

We suggest that the new LTP should be clearer on its aims. We recommend that councillors set out their aspirations for the future of York, and how transport might contribute to them. This will help ensure that the LTP is being designed in terms of clear goals and objectives.

We have taken as our starting point the objectives which our Citizens’ Transport Forum suggested (see bottom of this webpage for more details on the Forum), with a key focus on:

  • reducing pollution;
  • carbon emissions and congestion;
  • a growing emphasis following the pandemic on public health;
  • safety and regenerating the economy;
  • consideration also of equality of access;
  • liveability;
  • heritage.

Most of our work to date has involved reviewing what might be done to achieve these objectives and targets. We have considered the strategy separately for seven policy areas:

We have produced for each a full report of some 15-22 pages with a 2-page introductory summary for the majority. Each set of full report and 2-page summary are available via the weblinks above.

In each report we review the relevant trends and problems, and suggest targets. We then identify a long list of measures that might be adopted, and recommend those which appear to us most appropriate for York. In doing so we consider the many measures which were not available a decade ago, such as ride-hailing, e-scooters and connected cars.

As our diagram indicates, all of these policy areas are strongly interlinked in their impacts on the city; for example levels of home working or online shopping will affect car use, road congestion, demand for public transport, the role of walking and cycling and the level of delivery traffic.

Each policy area must be developed to support all parts of the city, and all users. We consider separately the needs of the city centre, inner and outer York, the villages, new developments and the wider catchment. We distinguish as appropriate between the requirements of residents, business, visitors and inbound commuters and among residents consider those with particular needs, including disabled people, who were again given little consideration in the current LTP.

Finally we consider what might make it difficult to implement the measures which we suggest. Public acceptance is critical, but measures need to be effective as well as acceptable. Some will be expensive, while others will require continued funding. Some may not fall wholly within the responsibilities of the Council, leading to questions of governance. Rather than simply list these barriers, we have suggested ways in which they might be addressed. It is difficult in this short summary to reflect the range of proposals which we have offered, but a few examples include:

  • a set of community hubs to support home working, online shopping and delivery
  • comprehensive, connected, safe networks for pedestrians and cyclists
  • using park and ride sites as hubs for public transport services linked to villages, outer Yorkcentres and the wider catchment area
  • a hearts and minds approach to encourage people to change the ways in which they travel
  • a review to determine the most appropriate use of different parts of the road network.

We stress that we are not dictating what must be included in the new LTP, but offering suggestions for consideration. The next steps will be to engage users more fully in discussing objectives, problems and broad strategy; to analyse some promising packages of policy measures; and then to consult more widely. We look forward to working with the Council, the city’s residents and businesses in helping to deliver an effective new Local Transport Plan.

YCT Transport Policy Workshop

Future York Workshop February 2017

To inform the Trust’s work on transport policy, we convened a Transport Policy Workshop in February 2017.  89 members attended over two sessions, and participated in a discussion of transport problems, possible policy objectives, the strategies for meeting those objectives and potential policy interventions.

The discussion was facilitated by presentations made by Professors Tony May and Greg Marsden of the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, who subsequently drafted a four-page policy statement and a fuller ten-page report, which was endorsed by the Trust’s Board, presented to City of York Council in May 2017, and welcomed by them as a valuable contribution to its future Local Transport Plan.

On this basis, the Trust offered to contribute further in five areas:

  1. Monitoring Transport Conditions;
  2. Public Engagement;
  3. Traffic Management and Public Realm;
  4. Provision for Cyclists;
  5. An Innovative Public Transport Network.

The recent work of the Trust in terms of these transport policies is further outlined below:

1. Monitoring of Transport Conditions

The Transport Policy Workshop concluded that there:

needs to be a better understanding of the scale of [transport] problems, to allay misperceptions and to avoid unreasonable expectations. . . To this end the Council should establish an agreed set of outcome indicators reflecting each of these objectives, and monitor performance against them.

We established a small working group of Trust members in November 2017 to look further, based on best practice in European cities at the data which it would be helpful to have to assist the public in understanding transport conditions and trends in York.  The group produced an initial report in February 2018 which we have subsequently discussed with Council officers.  We hope to pursue the next stage of this initiative in autumn 2018.

2. Public engagement

The Transport Policy Workshop concluded that:

the [transport] strategy will need to be acceptable to both stakeholders and the wider public.  The City of York Council needs to encourage public and stakeholder engagement in the understanding of problems, the need for the strategy, the effectiveness of the different policy measures and the steps required to implement them.

We have joined forces with York Environment Forum and York Bus Forum to develop an approach for engaging York’s residents, employees and visitors in identifying transport problems, aspirations and possible solutions.  The approach, based on best practice in European cities, involves an initial city-wide survey, focused interviews with those who experience particular barriers to travel, and the establishment of representative groups to work with the Council in the development of its Local Transport Plan.  The results of the surveys of residents, commuters and visitors are now available:

York Transport Local Consultation – Key Findings Report: Residents and Commuters, Nov. 2019

York Local Transport Consultation – Key Findings Report: Visitors’ surveys, Nov. 2019

Citizens’ Transport Forum

Working with York Bus Forum and York Environment Forum, we have established a Citizens’ Transport Forum, drawn from those who completed our September 2019 survey.  Citizens’ Transport Forums enable a representative group of residents to come together to agree on transport policy.  They are still novel; the first UK Transport Forum was held in Cambridge in 2019.

We invited all 1,388 residents who replied to our survey to volunteer to take part in the Forum.  440 did so, and from these we selected 100 to join the Forum.  The Forum met for the first time in February 2020 in three identical 3 hour sessions of around 35 participants in five groups, each with a volunteer facilitator.  Each session focused in turn on problems, policy objectives and possible strategies.  Findings were compared in short feedback sessions.  Facilitators and volunteer reporters recorded all points made, which were collated into a draft report sent to all participants for comment.  30% responded, commenting also on the conduct of the Forum. A report of the key findings can be downloaded here.

We have also reviewed how representative the Forum is, and made suggestions for ways of broadening its coverage.  We hope to be able to work with the Council in involving the Forum at key stages in the preparation of its new Local Transport Plan, such as selecting and assessing policy measures, developing an implementation plan and reviewing achievements.

3. Traffic Management and Public Realm

See the YCT’s Traffic Management and Public Realm webpage for more details on these topics.

4. Provision for Cyclists

The Transport Policy Workshop concluded that the:

cycle route network should be made more comprehensive, with more provision for off-road cycling.  The pedestrian network also needs to be improved, with wider, better maintained pavements and better crossing facilities at junctions.  Where cyclists and pedestrians share facilities, priorities need to be effectively signed.

Some of the city’s cycling provision.   IMAGE: Paul Lakin

York has two active groups focusing on cycling: the York Cycling Campaign and the York Walk Cycle Forum.  We work closely with both these in identifying opportunities for improvements.  We have recommended that investment in the cycle route network should focus on those sections where the unmet needs are greatest, and where there are the most serious discontinuities in provision.  We hope to be able to participate in a joint review of these in the coming months.  At the same time we have provided comments on emerging proposals for cycle parking and a dockless bike share scheme.

5. An Innovative Public Transport Network

The Transport Policy Workshop concluded that the:

public transport system cannot continue to rely solely on conventional buses.  An innovative approach is needed which makes better use of on-demand services to fill the gaps, and extends services, particularly for park and ride, into the evenings and weekends.

We were invited by York Bus Forum to expand on these ideas at its 2018 AGM.  In that presentation we looked at the potential for new mobility services such as on-demand micro-transit services, ride-sourcing, car and bike sharing and Mobility as a Service.  We have subsequently discussed these proposals, and their implications for governance, and produced a case study report.

Transport Policies for Current Major Development Schemes

In addition, we have responded to a number of initiatives promoted by the City Council, encouraging a consistent and sustainable approach to transport provision in each.  These have included Castle Gateway; York Central; York Station, and the draft Local Plan. More details on these are at the bottom of the page.

Below are the Trust’s considerations and actions on current major schemes being developed for the city by City Council.  This focus here is on transport issues, with the Trust holding wider concerns on a number of other issues, such as aesthetics and design, impact on heritage and streetscape, and community building. For details of these wider issues, please see our Future York webpage.

Castle Gateway

York Castle Gateway illustration. Source: BDP.com

The Castle Gateway Masterplancovers the area between Coppergate, Piccadilly, Fishergate and the River Ouse.  Our response on transport aspects was informed by our earlier work on improvements to the Fishergate Gyratory.

We strongly supported closing the Castle and Castle Mills car parks and providing an improved parking facility with better access on St George’s Field.  We also supported proposals for a “supercrossing” of Fishergate, new pedestrian routes along and across the River Foss, making Coppergate one way, reducing the widths of Tower St and Piccadilly and hence improving public realm.  We argued that more should be done to improve links to the footstreets by redesigning the Piccadilly/Pavement junction and introducing a bus gate on Ouse Bridge, and that consequential changes to Fishergate would also improve pedestrian facilities on the Walls Walk.

York Central

York Central illustration. IMAGE: York Central Partnership

The York Central development is one of the largest city centre brownfield sites in the UK.  We have argued that it is essential that its design reflects European best practice in sustainable urban transport.  We presented these principles, using a case study of Freiburg, Germany, at the Trust’s York Central workshop in February 2018 and the MyYorkCentral workshop in April 2018.  We have subsequently discussed them in detail with the York Central Partnership, and prepared a fuller set of proposals in April 2018 in which we advocated priority networks for pedestrians and cyclists into and through the site; diversion of park and ride services to provide a spine public transport service; closure of the through routes via Salisbury Terrace and the Leeman Road Tunnel; restrictive standards for parking provision, and the concentration of parking and servicing on the fringes of the site.  These principles are not fully reflected in the York Central Design Guide and Outline Planning Application, and we will continue to press for their adoption.

York Railway Station

The City of York Council is currently consulting on proposals to demolish Queen St Bridge and improve the layout for pedestrians and cyclists, relocate parking and taxi ranks, and redesign bus service facilities on the SE side of York Railway Station.

We have welcomed the general thrust of these proposals, but in terms of transport we have  argued that routes for pedestrians and cyclists need to be continuous and integrated with proposals for York Central, Scarborough Bridge and the redevelopment of Hudson House; that the opportunity needs to be taken to provide a high quality bus interchange, allowing almost all of York’s bus services to serve the station; that steps should be taken to reduce the numbers of rail passengers needing to park at the station; and that facilities for rail passengers inside the station need to be improved.

Draft Local Plan 2018

We were invited to comment on the Council’s Transport Topic Paper in September 2017 in preparation for the draft Local Plan which was published in February 2018.  In our response, we were very critical of the underlying assumption that the planned new developments would generate traffic at a similar rate to existing land uses in York, and that nothing could be done to mitigate this.  As a result the Paper predicted increases in congestion by 2033 which in our view would far exceed actual levels.  Since these assumptions remained unchanged in the draft Local Plan, we made the same comments in our response.  We also argued that the draft Local Plan should refer to the transport policies to be included in the new Local Transport Plan, rather than limiting itself to measures which are already under consideration.