A new report by Greengauge 21 – ‘Cities, Coronavirus and Public Transport’ – examines the impact of Coronavirus on cities and public transport. It argues that cities have always relied on public transport and the economic recovery of cities will be held back until public transport is fully operational and fully accepted by the public as safe to use.
The report points out that, while a lot of interest has centred on ‘work from home’ instead of commuting to offices, journeys to work account for fewer than 1 in 5 of all journeys and office-based work accounts for a minority of jobs.
In the initial stages of re-opening the economy, Government has felt it necessary to keep public transport use restricted to essential travellers only. This has hit cities hard. And, the Greengauge 21 report argues, it is leading to a return of poor air quality levels. These have their own adverse health consequences. “There is also now evidence,” report author Jim Steer says, “that poor air quality helps sustain the spread of coronavirus.” And road traffic is a key source of poor air quality.
So what’s the answer? “We have to begin the shift away from this newly increased reliance on the private motor vehicle,” says Jim Steer. For short journeys, walk or cycle is the best answer. For medium length and longer journeys, we can turn to public transport which Government has diligently kept alive through the lock-down period.
It is time – he says – to stop assuming that our bus and rail networks exist on separate planets. “When joined together through a simplified common fare system they can achieve so much more than when operating in isolation from one another.”