Gyratory meeting

Anyone particularly interested in the Kings Cross gyratory plans might like to attend the next meeting of the Kings Cross Development Forum. The meeting is from 6:30 to 8:30 on Wednesday 16 March in Committee Room 2 of Camden Town Hall.

At the meeting Rajesh Upadhyaya of Transport for London will explain the plans for eliminating the gyratory. Charlotte May and Laura Brett, who have been providing input to TfL on behalf of their respective boroughs (Camden and Islington), will be present, too. Then Charlotte May, who works for Camden Council, will provide an update about the area travel plan.

All are welcome to this (and every other) meeting of the Forum.

Who bears the cost .. who gains the benefit

What are your thoughts on the five transport schemes under consultation in the local area? One of our purposes in setting up the Marchmont Voice blog was to provide a forum for local people to share views, as well as news. If you’d like to share your thoughts, let us know – e-mail gmaeermarchmont@gmail.com.

This first is from economist and local resident Paul Cockle, who is also a partner in the Crescent Hotel on Cartwright Gardens. Paul calls for some fuller cost-benefit thinking and, in particular, compensation for the costs imposed on local residents by these schemes…..

 

“There is an analytical and presentational bias in many Central London road and traffic schemes since they focus on road users, often at the expense of residents.  My concern is that in Central London policies to restrict the tidal flows of traffic, often of transients, impose the costs of restriction upon residents.

We, in Central London, are resigned to either having no car or paying for a parking permit to prevent transients parking in Central London on a scale that could not be accommodated.  As a consequence residents (including local businesses) pay more for unavoidable road based trips – principally passed on in delivery and home service charges.

 

We now all use the internet to secure deals and these entail deliveries. An ageing population may well grow to be dependent upon them. The Deliverers shoulder the direct costs of parking and loading and unloading restrictions. They may park illegally, attracting fines, or circle to find a parking close to a delivery point, incidentally adding to the noxious fumes inhaled by residents. The Deliverers generally have further to walk to discharge their loads. They might even feel obliged to employ a co-driver to fend off traffic wardens. It all takes more time, and time is money.

 

Besides deliveries we periodically need Home Services (plumbers, builders, electricians, white goods engineers, meals on wheels, community nursing visits, community bus services for the elderly and disabled).  Most of the these “white van” services accept 3-4 fines a week as part of their normal business costs, and Councils are not going to complain about the extra revenue. White van man may be derided in policy circles but in reality Central London residents depend upon them as much, if not more, than do the transients travelling through our area when they get home. They just experience fewer restrictions and fewer costs. You may well ask are these costs not considered when a new traffic scheme is proposed?

 

Theoretically cost-benefit analysis performed by the Department of Transport and delegated bodies attempts to capture the benefits (usually the value of travel time saving, but also fuel saving, improved safety and “external costs” such as emission savings) and the costs (original investment in the traffic scheme, costs of longer trips for diverted road users, external costs such as increased emissions due to longer diversions).  Commonly travel time savings/increases, normally only a few minutes per individual trip, dominate the analysis. Increased travel times on delivers and home service providers would thus be captured. So should residents feel all is considered? Well, no.

 

All cost-benefit analysis starts with a careful identification of the costs and benefits likely to arise from the scheme, followed by their valuation where possible. The more sophisticated analysis also identifies the distribution of these costs and benefits before coming to the net position. This identifies who are the winners and losers of a proposal. It should be noted that none of the current clutch of cycle inspired road schemes in Camden have been subject to any cost-benefit analysis, as a consequence the consultation documents neither fully identify nor evaluate all costs and benefits, let alone who bears them. Delivery and Home Service businesses naturally pass on traffic restriction costs to local resident and business customers.

 

If the outcome of this analysis reveals benefits to outweigh costs then the transport scheme is justified on economic efficiency terms – socially valued benefits outweigh the social cost. What is resource efficient is not always socially equitable, and equity needs to be weighed too.  The distribution analysis would reveal who ultimately receives the benefits or pays the costs. Is it, therefore, fair that residents who are not generating the bulk of the trips bear the costs?  Political intervention is needed to redistribute the net economic gains of a scheme enjoyed by the transients to offset the costs unfairly imposed on residents.  It requires a reimbursement mechanism (e.g. permanent council tax rebates) and an estimate of the incremental cost likely to be passed on to residents (straightforward outcome of the CBA).  Both are absent for the current clutch of Camden schemes.

Some of these residents’ costs could be avoided by a more thoughtful approach to road space sharing.  For example, I do not understand why the Tavistock-Torrington cycle scheme could not permit loading and unloading outside of peak hours – cyclists using this section of road between 10:00 and 16:00 run the risk of an agoraphobia attack. The concrete traffic separator could be replaced by the studs currently used in the alleged “experiment” to allow loading and unloading in the near vacant cycle lanes. The issue of cyclist safety almost disappears to zero in off-peak periods (no cyclists) and in peak periods, any demonstrable increase in risk needs to be weighed against the increased costs imposed on residents. There will be those who argue that a single life saved is worth any amount of money. While we all like to feel good about our values, those who argue this extreme case need to reflect on the last time they went on holiday, to a restaurant or even the pub. They could have devoted that money to Wateraid and saved 10s of lives. They and we do not place an infinite value on life when it comes to our money, even if our largesse knows no bounds when we think we are spending somebody else’s on saving lives. So let’s ditch the hypocrisy that saving life at any cost and come to a judicious decision on sensible risk management. Let’s see local officials fully outline in consultation documents the issues that would at least be identified in a cost-benefit exercise. Let’s have local councillors argue the residents’ case for equity. Let’s explore mechanisms for compensating residents for the costs imposed upon them for the benefit of others”

Five (yes, FIVE) new transport consultations

A whole slew of new plans for driving, cycling and walking in and around Bloomsbury and Kings Cross have been released in the last couple of weeks. Individually each is worth looking at it. Collectively they will add up to a major revamp of the street environment and traffic in the area. All come on top of the existing Tavistock Place trial scheme that we have already written about.

Here’s our attempt to summarise the basic details of each.

Note that consultations on all these close Sunday 20 March.

  1. King’s Cross gyratory.

This is the most radical of the lot, reversing over 30 years of a one-way system that has bedevilled Kings Cross residents and businesses. Proposals include:·

  • Introducing two-way traffic on many of the streets that currently operate as one-way. Reducing traffic on some (mainly residential) streets
  • Providing new and improved pedestrian crossings at key junctions.
  • Contra-flow cycle lanes on remaining one-way roads as well as new cycle crossings at key junctions

Meetings in Kings Cross have already taken place and the Kings Cross Environment website has a good account.  But it’s a long haul on this one. A second consultation in early 2017 is planned ahead of final proposals.

 

  1. North-South Cycle Superhighway

From the south, this comes into our area along Phoenix St behind Mt Pleasant Sorting Office, before proceeding along Ampton St, Sidmouth St and Regents Square to the Judd St junction where it connects with the proposed ‘Central London Grid’ along Midland Road to Royal College Street, Camden Town and Swiss Cottage.  The new route would involve major changes to the road layout including dedicated cycle lanes replacing sections of traffic and bus lane on Farringdon Road and Farringdon Street, redesigned junctions with improved priority for cyclists and new traffic restrictions including banned turns for motorists, wider footways and public spaces, new signalised pedestrian crossings, and changes to parking and loading.

 

  1. Midland Road and Euston Road / Judd St

TfL has developed two options here – both would have major impacts on Judd St. Under Option 1 only cyclists and pedestrians would be able to enter and exit Judd Street at the Euston Road junction. This would allow a dedicated cycle crossing across Euston Road. The knock on effect would be much reduced through traffic on Judd Street. Under Option 2 motorists would not be able to enter Judd Street by turning left or right off Euston Road – but they would still be able to head straight over from Midland Road. Motorists would not be able to exit Judd Street onto Euston Road – a change that would allow a separate traffic signal stage for cyclists and pedestrians. Under both options there would be:

  • A cycle-only green signal to allow cyclists to cross Euston Road
  • New signalised pedestrian crossing on Euston Road, west of Judd Street, with a widened central island.
  • An extended bus lane on Euston Road westbound
  • Wider pavement on Judd Street

Midland Road would have its own improvements, with a northbound protected cycle lane, a large raised area between St Pancras and the Crick Institute and a raised cycling lane heading south.

20160204_CAMDEN MIDLAND_EUSTON RD_Aerial View_RevC

 4. Brunswick Square

Plans here are:

  • Public realm improvements to the corner of Brunswick Square where it joins Bernard Street and Grenville Street, providing a large pedestrian-only space with new trees, seating and better lighting. This is only possible by closing Lansdowne Terrace where it meets Brunswick Square.
  • Access to Lansdowne Terrace from Hunter Street or Bernard Street would be closed to motor traffic (but not cyclists). Southbound motor traffic would continue to Guilford Street via Grenville Street
  • Access to Lansdowne Terrace would be retained from Guilford Street.
  • Road raised to pavement level
  • New zebra crossings provided on Grenville Street and Bernard Street
  • Pavements widened on Brunswick Square, Lansdowne Terrace, Bernard Street and Grenville Street
  • New cycle track between Brunswick Square and Lansdowne Terrace.
  • Inset parking bays to accommodate majority of existing parking provision. There would be a net loss of two residents’ permit parking bays.

Brunswick1 pr jpg

Brunswick2 pr jpg

5. Judd St to Euston Road

Final piece in the jigsaw – some smaller scale plans for this stretch of road with raised footways and a new zebra crossing to replace the pelican crossing at Bidborough St.

 

The solemnity of youth and enchanted garden of the arts

When London University was established in Bloomsbury its Vice President, William Beveridge, set out his ambition to create a space that:

“could not have been built by any earlier generation than this, and can only be at home in London.’ It ‘will knit the University together, make it more conscious of itself and its purpose… it means a chance to enrich London – to give London at its heart not just streets and shops… but a great architectural feature … it should recall to us, the clear cut relevance of science, the light-heartedness and solemnity of youth and the enchanted garden of the arts.”

That was 1926. A decade ago Guardian columnist and former National Trust chair Simon Jenkins felt compelled to describe the “enclave” of Bloomsbury as “London’s academic campus, its Harvard Yard” – before adding the stinging rejoinder “of which it is a miserable parody” ruined by rat-run traffic and poor 60s modernist buildings creating “one of the bleakest parts of central London”.

Well, things never looked quite so dire to us at Marchmont Voice. And yet – who could deny Jenkins’ rebukes about the failure of the streets to work as pedestrian space, the lack of anything to draw attention to cultural treasures in the Percival David or Petrie Museums, the car parking and chicken wire that surrounded the elegant Georgian squares of Woburn and Gordon.

Spin forward a decade and some of the streets are starting to work – there may be knock-on consequences on other roads, but few would contend that Tavistock Place and the Marchmont St junction have become much more pedestrian, as well as cycle, friendly during the year-long trial to close it to west bound traffic. Before that, the Byng Place scheme signalled at least an intent to use public space for more than traffic, and both Gordon Square and Torrington Square have been improved with Heritage Lottery grants.

And now – we have the University of London Bloomsbury Masterplan, eventual confirmation that UoL is assuming responsibility for setting an urban vision for the neighbourhood. And there’s plenty, we think, to admire: a new gateway building on Byng Place; grass and trees in Malet St and Montague Place; completion of the 4th Quadrant of Senate House; car parking cleared from Woburn Square; a spruced up Torrington Square.

The main downsides reported from the consultation in November centred on plans for Senate House, where the proposed ‘pavilions’ on both entrances look a superfluous conceit to many. There’s also a need to make sure one of those hidden London secrets, the pedestrian route underneath Senate House, is retained. And the area mustn’t start to feel too much like a University campus.

We look forward to next steps.

Zayed Centre – Guilford St

Construction of the Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children at 20 Guilford Street – on the eastern corner of Lambs Conduit St – is now underway. This £80m development, which was granted planning permission in March last year, is being developed for Great Ormond Street Hospital, UCL’s Institute of Child Health and the Institute of Cardiovascular Science.

The Marchmont Association welcomed the proposal when it was first mooted, and requested that pedestrian facilities in adjacent Guilford Place be improved on the back of this scheme. We also pressed for the disused Grade II listed public conveniences to be restored and brought into use, as with similar buildings in other parts of London (see Development Opportunities elsewhere on this website). Our pleas were heard and improvements will be made to pedestrian facilities, in addition to the disused public conveniences being bought by the up-market Japanese Ramen noodle restaurant chain, whose application for a change of use is being considered by Camden Council.

More details of the new Centre can be found on the GOSH website via the link below.

http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/about-us/redevelopment/crrdc-consultation/

Bloomsbury Research Institute

The Bloomsbury Research Institute in Tavistock Place (formerly known as the Bloomsbury Institute for Pathogen Research) was unanimously approved by Camden Council in January. Final details to be resolved include agreement over Section 106 payments – which will include a contribution of £140,000 to highways improvement works – and measures to prevent damage to adjacent buildings.

The Institute will be based within the confines of the existing London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s building at 15-17 Tavistock Place, on the site of the former dairy depot. It does, though, involve the creation of a double basement to house the Centre’s research labs.

The Institute is described as a ground-breaking health research facility, and is a partnership between University College London (UCL) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). 200 scientists will be based at the Institute working on some of the most important global challenges in infectious disease, including antibiotic resistance.

The Institute welcomes opportunities to present their plans to local community, resident and business groups. Contact point is Vicky Ratcliffe – Community Engagement Coordinator vicky.ratcliffe@lshtm.ac.uk; telephone: 07912 775 772.