Sunday 4 December 2016

Stationary Road

"Public consultation starts on University Quarter improvements". Oooh gosh, look at them pretty pictures of Stoke train station and the Leek Road...

Er... hang on a second. So, where did all the heavy traffic go in those pictures? The noise, the fumes, the roaring buses, frazzled taxi-drivers, the continual stream of cars? Are they planning to put it all into a tunnel or something? Er, no, it seems not. Actually the traffic seems to be set to get heavier and faster...

"Key elements include increasing capacity at Joiners Square roundabout and changes to the Leek Road/Station Road junction to reduce queuing ... [(implying increased speed and volume of traffic) and] widen Leek Road" (my emphases)

So they're effectively lying with those ridiculous pictures, by not showing the heavy traffic. Traffic that it seems is going to get even heavier than it is now. Who are they hoping to fool? Surely not the local Planning Committee, who must be savvy to such wool-pulling. Presumably it's the local residents who they think are gullible, and who they're worried are going to write letters of objection.

Kudos to the Council and the University for trying to do something with the area, I suppose, but certainly not for trying to fool the public into believing that the scheme will make the traffic vanish or the area safer or nicer for pedestrians. Such behaviour recalls the worst propaganda excesses of the Labour years in Stoke, and it should be firmly stamped on by the current Council as they try to take the city forward in an honest manner.

So, increased traffic. But at peak times Station Road and related bits are already a car-centric nightmare to walk, with a few concessions to pedestrians here and there (45% of Stoke households do not have access to a car: ONS). It's not a pleasant road for drivers, either. The journey times for a car to get down the short ⅓-mile stretch of Station Road are already long, with The Sentinel newspaper reporting in June that...

"It is horrendous. It can take you 20 minutes to get down Station Road."

This problem doesn't seem likely to be fixed by their plan to simply move the short-stay parking spaces from directly outside the station, down the same road to a spot barely thirty yards away... "next to the taxi rank and the rear car park" (that's a Sentinel-ism — the journalist should have written the "side" car park). It might make the first glimpse of the city very slightly prettier for the traveller leaving Stoke station, but over time increased traffic seems likely to eat up most of the time savings that arise from moving the short-stay parking spaces.

There probably will be a speed boost, resulting from moving the short-stay parking places and speeding up junctions. But it seems very likely to be a temporary boost — any effect will likely be swamped by the rise in overall vehicle traffic as the city's economy grows further...

"Stoke-on-Trent has seen the biggest increase in rush hour congestion, at 44%." [among UK cities, according to the 2015 Traffic Index from TomTom]

As well as growing congestion, the overall volume of traffic is also growing — the city's Local Transport Plan 2011-2026 forecast a total of 94,280 peak-time vehicle trips each morning in the city by 2026, compared to 68,684 in 2007. Those figures were factoring in the good work that is being done to try to manage this growth, most of which I agree with, but in the end it just comes down to: we need less cars on the road if we're not going to eventually gridlock.

As to the area around the train station, I'd also worry that the new uncomfortable and uncivilised backless seating opposite the station will, in fairly short order, mean the removal of the proper civilised benches that are currently there. The new seating also looks like it's too low and too near the road, re: fumes and particulates.

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