Further thoughts on the Cambridge Congestion Charge plan

Last week, I let a bit of steam out about the ridiculous Congestion Charge plans in Cambridge. But, unfortunately for Shona Johnstone, I’m not done with her case. The logic in her radio interview with Andie Harper is like Swiss cheese.

First, “I don’t think many people have appointments at Addenbrooke’s before 9:30am”. I’ve only looked at a few clinics’ opening hours and, while this is far from an exhaustive or scientific attempt at research, the first one, physiotherapy, opens at 8:15am. Shona: 0, The Rest Of Us: 1

Second, Councillor Johnstone seems to have an issue with London commuters. There’s no questioning that Cambridge, also known as the Silicon Fen, is full of life, brimming with successful and exciting businesses, startups in the Science Park and promising students, who often stay to work locally. There’s no brain drain conspiracy, and Cambridge is far from a commuter town. So Shona, take off the tin foil hat, it’s cute but you’re wrong. Shona: 0, The Rest Of Us: 2

This nicely brings me on to my suggested solutions…

Do not include Science Park and Park & Rides into the affected areas: I suspect the P&Rs aren’t going to be included, but based on the zoning map that’s been circulating, they’re not yet excluded clearly enough for my liking. As far as the Science Park goes, it would be completely and utterly bonkers to include it. The businesses settled there have selected it specifically for being on the edge of town, away from the city centre traffic. Staff won’t want to pay a fiver a day to get to work, and employers won’t want to cover the cost of roughly a thousand pounds per staff member. They’ll simply bugger off to Milton, taking their business out of Cambridge. That doesn’t strike me as a positive move for the city.

Improve transportation FIRST to see whether the situation alleviates
: Currently, taking the P&R is a pain in the @$$; at peak hours, it’s so packed that you have to wait for the next one, which might not come for another half hour, for all you know! At other times, the entire P&R parking is full, forcing you to change your plans altogether and drive into town. So the logical first step is to invest in public transportation improvements, and make people more aware of the great service available. If it IS better than driving into Cambridge, dodging cyclists and swearing at the price of parking, we’ll do it. We won’t need to be coerced into it.

Finally, if the Congestion Charge must go ahead for the centre of town, give carpoolers an exemption. Anyone who makes an effort to reduce the number of cars on the road by sharing the journey to work, that should be recognised. In Ottawa, certain lanes are reserved for taxis and vehicles containing more than two people, giving carpoolers a valuable advantage over everyone else. That’s a far more positive way of encouraging public transportation and carpooling.

So hopefully, the councillors will see sense and reconsider the Congestion Charge plan, opting for positive reinforcement rather than ripping off the local community. If they don’t, I’ll get my protest hat on, and we’ll go have a little party on Shona’s doorstep, how about that?

Cambridge Congestion Charge

If you live in the Cambridge area like I do, you’ve probably also had a heated discussion about the congestion charge which could soon come into place across Cambridge.

Looking at the Congestion Charge map (Downloadable PDF, source article), it’s like someone gave an idiot a big black Sharpie and told them to go nuts on a map of the city – the whole of Cambridge within A14 and M11 boundaries is included in the congestion charge area! That’s inclusive of all the Park & Ride stations, the Science Park and the Addenbrooke’s hospital.

Of course, it’s for the good of the city, since “Cambridge is a medieval city and it simply wasn’t designed for motor cars”, says Shona Johnstone, Sharpie-armed village idiot council leader.

Sure, I appreciate that the center of Cambridge – in my eyes defined as the Grafton Centre and Lion Yard area – isn’t made for high traffic density. I also appreciates that this only applies to the hours between 7:30 and 9:30 in the morning.

But the Science Park? The Park & Ride areas? You’ve got to be kidding me! Isn’t the whole point of those being on the edge of town keeping cars outside of city centre and encouraging the use of such services?

I’m reasonably convinced that the owners of buildings in the Science Park will come out with pick axes against Johnstone, and that these areas will be excluded from the final ruling, but someone still thought it was worth putting forward the suggestion to include ALL of Cambridge in the Congestion Charge area. This leaves me with that niggling feeling you get when you sense that idiocy might still prevail over simple common sense, and that a repeated headdesk motion may be the only thing you’ll be left with.

Cambridge Council is wasting its breath on me trying to tell me it isn’t doing it for the revenue they can get from the thousands of people who enter the boundaries of the city every morning. Why else would it include high density, yet city-fringe areas? We’re not the ones wrecking havoc amongst the pretty stone streets of town centre. The only bloody benefit I see is that they might get cyclists off Mill Road.

So if you’re as convinced as I am that Cambridge needs to look at alternatives before dipping into our collective wallet, take action! You’ll find the petition against the Congestion Charge here and the Facebook group dedicated to discussing the issue here. The “official” Cambridge Congestion Charge discussion group is also a good place to go vent your frustration and find out what actions can be taken.

I would suggest that Cambridge look at the OC Transpo bus system in Ottawa, Canada – my hometown – amongst some, for tips on how to do a better job at offering us a more suitable public transportation service. I never appreciated OC Transpo until I came to the UK and realised that most towns have completely disjointed, technologically-incompetent companies running the show, leaving us standing in the cold rain – literally. Even in bloody mid-July!

Oh no, now I’m getting started on the weather, I really better stop here.