Anyone who lives in the south-east of Scotland knows that traffic congestion is becoming a major problem.
It’s not just in cities like Edinburgh that cars are in danger of becoming a nuisance rather than a convenience.
Many of our smaller communities are increasingly blighted by heavy traffic, parking problems and the accompanying pollution.
Of course cars can be a blessing and there will be many instances where driving is the sensible option, but there can be few drivers who have not sat in motionless traffic, burning expensive petrol, while valuable time ticks away, often looking longingly at passing cyclists, buses gliding along on priority lanes, and perhaps trains conveying luckier travellers swiftly to their destinations.
SEStran regards traffic congestion as a problem on a variety of levels. South East Scotland is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, with a population that is expected to grow by 10 per cent by 2023. That’s a lot more people, more houses – and more cars. The existing infrastructure simply is not up to the task and we all need to reconsider our behaviour towards transportation if we are to avoid increasingly serious traffic congestion and pollution, which will have far-reaching consequences for everyone.
Apart from the impact on our quality of life and health, it poses a threat to the region’s economy and could lead to economic decline and greater unemployment.
SEStran is addressing this issue through a multi-modal approach utilising sensible use of the car, improved public transportation and cycling and walking for shorter journeys.
Through TripshareSEStran, our free car-sharing service, we are encouraging drivers to consider car-sharing; an option that is commonplace in many parts of Europe, and is one way in which people can make real a contribution towards reducing the number of cars on the road.
Sharing a journey just once a week has the potential to take up to 20 per cent of cars off the region’s roads and already over 7,600 people in South East Scotland are regular car-sharers.
Cycling and walking are also excellent options for shorter journeys and increasing numbers of people are taking up cycling as a cost-effective means of getting from A to B, that provides healthy exercise into the bargain. But the lion’s share of journeys will of course be made on public transport, whether by rail or bus.
SEStran has played a major role in the development of park and ride sites throughout the region and these are an excellent example of multi-modal transportation in action. Travellers arrive by bike, on foot or by car, to find a secure parking space available and take a fast bus service into town.
Each park and ride site takes hundreds of cars off the roads daily, while ensuring travellers a hassle-free, cost-effective ride to their destination.
It’s a win-win all round with fewer cars on the roads and fast transport that makes less impact on our environment – and on the travellers themselves.
Park and ride is a fantastic success story that has been achieved with minimal infrastructure and the intelligent use of existing resources.
At SEStran we see this initiative as so important that we have developed a free website that allows passengers from all over South-East Scotland to plan their journeys using the park and ride services throughout the region.
The site uses familiar Google Maps software to provide a comprehensive guide to park and ride sites throughout South East Scotland.
Users can select the site of their choice and find out how to get there and access real-time traffic speed information on the route to each site and detailed information on service times and frequencies, journey planning information and the number of parking spaces and other facilities available.
This enables travellers to make good use of park and ride, by providing them with a useful and flexible planning tool.
If people using park and ride combine their journey with other sustainable transport options, such as cycling or car sharing, they can contribute even further to helping us keep South East Scotland moving.
There is never going to be a single magic-bullet solution to transport in South East Scotland, but park and ride is one option that, together with careful journey planning can make a real contribution towards addressing traffic congestion.
Much remains to be done, but ultimately the solution to traffic congestion comes down to all of us taking responsibility and making sustainable transport choices.
• Councillor Russell Imrie is chairman of SEStran. Find out more about SEStran Park & Ride at www.sestran-parkandride.com