Four wheel fever
Even with a mayor, Bristol may not get a coherent transport policy
Try and put a ticket on this
CLIFTON, in Bristol, is an unlikely hotbed of political activism. Behind high streets filled with independent cafés, posh delis and expensive flower shops sit grand Regency houses. Yet three times this year residents and businessmen have marched through the streets of Bristol—first carrying a coffin and then, twice, with a tank—to protest against plans by the mayor, George Ferguson, to roll out stricter parking regulations. Their discontent hints at the powerful sense of entitlement felt by Britain's car owners. It also highlights the limits of devolved government.
Bristol is one of the most congested cities in Britain. Traffic during the evening rush hour moves more slowly than anywhere except Belfast, Edinburgh and London. Fashion and official prodding have put more bicycles on the roads: bike traffic has grown by 25% since 2003. But car use has not dropped. Getting around in the city can be unbearable, concedes Mr Ferguson: “If we're just one great bloody traffic jam we're not going to be an economically thriving city.”
Bristol was the only city to vote for a mayor in a series of plebiscites held in 2012; nine others rejected them. And Bristolians plumped for a man who promised to do something about traffic. Mr Ferguson's first pledge was “getting Bristol moving”. He has abolished Sunday parking charges. But the mayor is also in the process of introducing tighter parking restrictions beyond the city centre, often in places where parking is currently free, along with 15 resident parking zones. Locals will pay 48 (81) for the first permit to park near their homes.
Under current plans, businesses will only be allocated a handful of parking permits. Employees who do not get them will have to find other ways of getting to work in a city with a less than wonderful bus network. This irks business owners. “Potentially 45 minutes will be added to a long commute,” complains Jonathan Marchant, who works at an accountancy firm in Clifton. Other companies are threatening to move out of the city.
在现有计划下，商家们将仅分得少数停车许可。没有停车许可的职员将只能在这个公交系统不尽完善的城市寻找其他通勤的办法。这令公司老板们不胜心烦。在克里夫顿一家会计公司工作的Jonathan Marchant 抱怨道：“这将可能给通勤时间加上45分钟。”其他的一些公司威胁要搬离城市。
Mr Ferguson has much less sway over public transport than the mayor of London does, which makes it harder to lubricate unpopular changes. When Ken Livingstone, the former boss of London, introduced a controversial congestion charge to the city in 2003 he was also able to promise to lay on more buses and pump a successful transport system with cash. All Mr Ferguson can really do is negotiate with the privatised bus operator to bring down fares and extend routes slightly. For big projects he depends on largesse from Westminster even more than London mayors do. And cash to spend on big projects is tight these days in any case.
Worse, Mr Ferguson's reach does not extend far. Around two-thirds of metropolitan Bristol is under his control; the other third is run by another council, South Gloucestershire. This makes co-ordinating transport policy tricky, and increases the likelihood that politicians will squabble. Even if the mayor succeeds, the metropolis might not benefit much. In Clifton, a suspension bridge links Bristol with North Somerset. “Everybody and his daughter will park there and walk across,” predicts one resident. Rather than solving a city's traffic problem, Mr Ferguson might just end up pushing it elsewhere.