Tuesday, 29th September 2020

Can Public Transport be Saved?

As Temple prepares for their latest webinar “Can Public Transport be Saved ?” Our event host and Director Spencer McGawley shares his thoughts and predictions before the event on 15 October 2020.

The other day I caught up with one of our guest speakers, Executive Director and founder of urban transport provider Ascendal and transport visionary, Adam Leishman. Although we didn’t agree on everything we discussed, we were united in our belief that public transport was an essential element of the urban fabric, and that it should stop seeking to survive, and instead thrive. This has been difficult to achieve in “normal” times, but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly placed new pressure on an already stressed resource; and public transport is a resource that, like all other resources, needs careful managing and directing.

One thing we both were keen advocates for was the need to humanise urban design through innovation and visionary thinking and the need for public transport be more than a series of straight lines through the urban area (yes, I know that it worked for the Romans, but that was some time ago…) and be at the heart of a fully integrated transport network that incorporates other e-powered and non-motorised transport methods.

What lockdown highlighted was that people need not commute long-distances each day (I know people who used to take a 1.5 hour each way commutes into London), the obvious question is how can change this? Can we decentralise key business functions into more local hubs? Can we live and work locally? The concept of the urban village has long been recognised but can we push this further in a more deliberate direction?

Of course, not everyone is able to work from home, and it is important not to forget the many people who need to be present at their place of work, so those that do not need to be, can continue working. Perhaps the most troubling thing I have seen with the lockdown is the almost blithe assumption that “you just work from home”. We need to be sure that future public transport networks are not biased to the professional classes, which is a mistake I see a lot of urban designers make on a lot of issues.

One thing I can predict though is that our webinar on 15th October is going to see some very interesting and thoughtful debate, and I hope that you will join us.

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