Accessing attractions beyond the urban fringe…

Couple at Windermere station - credit golake travel

The Urban Transport Group is a supporter of Good Journey, an independent, non-profit organisation working to transform car-free travel to visitor attractions and venues in the UK. In this blog, Good Journey’s Director, Nat Taplin, explains how they’re changing the way people travel to attractions and beauty spots within easy reach of our cities.  

Around 25 years ago (can it really be that long?!) I lived in a shared house in Manchester. Whenever we popped into the city centre – for a museum, a meal or a show – we automatically went by bus. It was a no-brainer. But when we headed out-of-town for a picnic at Dunham Massey Park, we would all pile into a camper van. For a variety of reasons, the countryside and the car are firmly intertwined in the British psyche.

In big cities most people arrive at visitor attractions and venues by train, bus, tram, bike and foot. We know it’ll save us the hassle of queueing and parking. But as soon as we venture beyond the urban fringe, to country houses and honeypot villages, most of us default to the car. Often, it’s just lack of information and an assumption that a visit to countryside means getting in the car.

Underlying this is a diffuse anxiety about abandoning the cocoon of the car. Where do we catch the bus? Will it turn up? Where do we get off? What if we get stranded? These fears are reinforced by subliminal messaging that the car is the normal (or even the only) way to reach many attractions. On attraction websites, you see words like ‘infrequent’ and ‘difficult’ used to describe public transport, while the car is ‘easy’ and ‘close’. Bus visitors are often dropped at the side of a busy main road to walk, while drivers are greeted with capacious car parks right by the entrance.

Given all this, it is little surprise that, outside cities, nine out of 10 visitors arrive by car. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A survey of National Trust visitors showed that 48% were open to visiting car-free. And some pioneering visitor attractions have realised that they can widen their audience, reduce their environmental impact and increase their income by welcoming car-free visitors (after all, one in four of us don’t own a car).

For example, Harewood House near Leeds, offers an impressive 50% discount for visitors showing a bus ticket. Smart buses run direct from Leeds and Harrogate, every 15 minutes (every 30 minutes even on Sundays). Visitors are met at the gate by a free shuttlebus to take them up the drive to the house.

Family on Beach Bus, Lepe, New Forest National Park

Good Journey is creating a UK-wide network of visitor attractions and venues which welcome and reward car-free visitors – with excellent travel information and discounts for arriving by train, bus or bike. Good Journey provides step-by-step travel information for participating attractions – including journey planners for bus and train times, and maps showing the walking route from bus stop to front door – like this. Participating attractions are recognised with the Good Journey mark – the symbol that car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount.

We have already been joined by leading attractions including Blenheim Palace, Cadbury World and Chester Zoo as well as RHS, National Trust and RSPB sites. And we look forward to working with the Urban Transport Group and its members to change the way people travel when venturing beyond the urban fringe.

Some Good Journey attractions within easy reach of cities are:

Chester Zoo
Waddesdon Manor
Beamish Museum
Castle Howard
Harewood House
RHS Harlow Carr
Cadbury World
National Botanic Garden of Wales
Blenheim Palace

Find out more about Good Journey – and sign-up for a free newsletter and eBook Great Scenic Rail and Bus Journeys of Britain at www.goodjourney.org.uk

Joining the dots on data, transport, health and air quality

Data has been all over the media recently, from the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the upcoming changes to data protection rules. And here at the Urban Transport Group we’ve been talking about transport data for some time: our Getting Smart on Data report identifies some of the issues and barriers for transport authorities to capitalise on emerging data sources, and our Data Hub and associated Number Crunch report analyse trends in the transport sector.

The Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) at Leeds University recently held a workshop exploring how new and emerging data sources can help to support policy making in relation to transport, health and air quality – connections we at UTG have been exploring. Health has been rising up the transport policy agenda in recent years, accelerated by the forward thinking Healthy Streets approach emerging from Transport for London. And air quality is a pressing challenge for city regions, as they are mandated by Government to reduce levels of air pollution in the shortest possible time frame. The recent joint inquiry by four House of Commons Select Committees into the Government’s failure to improve air quality in the UK shows just how serious this has become.

The ITS event included outputs from the EU Horizon 2020 project ‘EMPOWER’, which explores how people can be encouraged to make more sustainable transport trips through incentives. This has been trialled in Newcastle, along with six other European cities, using their ‘Go Smarter’ App, and has generated positive results for participants and useful data and insight for the City Council.

Spring Walking Weekend 2

Challenges yet opportunities

All of this got me thinking about the role of transport authorities, the issues they face, and the opportunities data presents for them:

  • Local and city region authorities can undoubtedly benefit from this deluge of data, but often lack the resource and capabilities to deal with and fully capitalise on large volumes of data that are coming from these new and emerging sources.
  • Data quality remains an issue even where you have transport tracking data, as entries can be missed where participants turn off trackers. However, tracking data can be really useful for filling in the gaps in other data sets, such as trip lengths for smart card journeys made with only one tap in or out.
  • The focus so far has largely been on personal travel and exposure to air pollution. Our recent report ‘White Van Cities’ showed that vans now make up 15% of traffic in urban areas and contribute 30% of harmful NO­2 emissions – yet we know little about the cause of this rise in van traffic, for example, what’s in these vans. We need to examine ways of using new and emerging data sources to explore non passenger transport as well.
  • Making the case for investments in transport, which deliver benefits for health, can be challenging, but there are ways to push the agenda forward. Newcastle City Council has established a Healthy Streets Board which will help to deliver transport and health improvements.

So what are we doing at UTG?

Following our 2016 Getting Smart on Data report, we set up a group to look at some of the challenges facing transport authorities relating to emerging data. These include:

  • Sharing and integration;
  • Ownership and privacy;
  • Quality and standards; and
  • Skills, capabilities and capacities.

We have also developed our own online, interactive Data Hub, which brings together a range of data sources on a host of transport topics and allows you to generate your own bespoke analysis, graphics and charts.

On health, we are working with public health and transport expert Dr Adrian Davis to renew and re-launch the Health and Wellbeing hub on our website, with the aim of being the UK’s best online resource on the connections between transport and health.

We are also focusing on promoting the Healthy Streets approach, pioneered by Transport for London, outside of the capital. The brainchild of public health and transport specialist Lucy Saunders, Healthy Streets is a system of policies and strategies to deliver healthier, more inclusive cities where people choose to walk, cycle and use public transport. As part of this, we will be looking at developing resources and learning opportunities as well as sponsoring the 2018 Healthy Streets conference, on 12th October.

Clare Linton is a Researcher at the Urban Transport Group