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Our response to the Bee Network Conversation

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority are consulting on the Bee Network until the 12th November 2021

We would love as many people as possible to contribute to this to ensure the GMCA and TfGM see how much support there is for investment in an integrated public transport and active travel network. The Bee Network, which was originally intended as a network of walking and cycling routes, is being expanded to become an integrated transport network. This ‘conversation’ is an opportunity for people (i.e. you) to input into the development of this network.

Use this link to take part in the conversation. We have put together a summary of our responses. You are welcome to draw inspiration from this. Please add your own thoughts and experiences. 

Destination Bee Network
Destination Bee Network

Our responses

Below, we provide the questions presented by the GMCA and TfGM (in bold) together with our answers.

Destination: Bee Network is the interim brand created to showcase the vision for an integrated transport system and the journey Greater Manchester is on to deliver it. Once in place, the Bee Network brand will provide a consistent look and feel, tone of voice and point of reference for customers providing reassurance, trust, stability and clarity when travelling around Greater Manchester.

Which of the following might you expect to see included in the Bee Network? (Tick all that apply)

In presenting a vision of a low-carbon and inclusive transport system, the Bee Network should encompass modes that enable us to make the most efficient use of our streets, to be physically active, and to reduce the impact of transport on our local air quality and global climate. Doing so will communicate a clear message to residents and businesses in Greater Manchester on the mobility priorities of the region.

The Bee Network should therefore include public transport (bus, train, tram) and active travel (walking and cycling, including e-bikes). Shared e-scooter schemes have the potential to provide low(er)-carbon alternatives to short car journeys and to connect up public transport journey segments and could therefore meaningfully be included. Similarly, comprehensive, affordable and accessible car share, car hire, and taxi services could help to reduce the level of car ownership and therefore car use.

A network of electric vehicle charging points could be included, but it is important to consider the message that this may give. Whilst there is some value in providing infrastructure for people who cannot charge vehicles at home, it should be clearly communicated that the emphasis across the Bee Network is on reducing single-occupancy car use and on supporting car sharing rather than private car ownership.

What does the phrase ‘integrated transport network’ mean to you?

An integrated transport network is one in which all modes of transport are accessed through a single payment process, are promoted as a joined-up network rather than disjointed services, and are connected together to enable seamless journeys. Conventionally, integrated transport has been understood in relation to public transport, but there is no reason why cycle share, car share and micromobility could not beneficially be included in an integrated offer. Including these modes within an integrated network should make it easier for people to combine these with other modes of transport.

The Bee Network values will underpin Greater Manchester’s integrated transport network. Which of the following values or qualities for the Bee Network are most important to you? (Select up to 3)

Accessibility, Affordability, Inclusivity, Reliability, Sustainability, Safety, Other (please state)

Whilst we appreciate individuals may place different values on these qualities, as an organisation working for a sustainable and inclusive transport system we recognise that all of these characteristics are essential components of the Bee Network.

If a system is to be for the benefit of everyone and not entrench existing inequalities in access to education, employment, health care, social life and other services, it needs to be inclusive. Accessibility and affordability are core components of an inclusive system. Reliability and safety are basic qualities that customers look for and are therefore essential in enabling modal shift away from car use. Given the pressing human and environmental impacts of the climate and air pollution crises, any vision for mobility must take account of environmental sustainability

What should you expect from your experience on the Bee Network:

Supporting seamless journeys on the Bee Network means you have the best possible end-to-end customer experience through the products, services and infrastructure that form part of it.

The Bee Network will have a clear set of standards that you can expect when travelling on the transport network. A Customer Charter will be developed with a set of commitments that will be monitored and reported on, with updates shared on a regular basis so you can see whether they’re being met or not, and if not, what’s being done about it.

The Customer Charter will be developed around a set of commitments, which could include the following… 

Which are the most important to you? (Please select up to 3)

Safe, Clean, Reliable, Customer focussed, Informative, Affordable, Accessible, Inclusive, Other (please state)

As in our previous answer, an integrated transport system needs to encompass and, where necessary, balance all of these criteria. In designing a transport system that is suitable for the people of Greater Manchester, none of these criteria can be neglected. 

Journeys on the Bee Network will be supported by a website and app, and information at public transport stops will be provided to help plan your journey in real-time.

What would you like to use a website and app to do?

An App for all the services under the Bee Network would provide a way for customers and potential customers to understand and access mobility in Greater Manchester as a whole system, rather than as a set of separate services. Such an App should enable the user to:

  • Get route information and suggested journeys
  • Find out about changes and waiting times on public transport journeys
  • Book individual journeys and season tickets
  • Provide guidance on which route and mode choices offer lowest emissions in terms of climate change and local air pollution (with potential integration with Google maps) 
  • Allow users to seek routes that reflect their priorities. This could take account of, for example: their level of cycling ability; whether they prefer cheaper journeys, or shorter journeys with fewer changes; and whether they would prefer to avoid quiet outdoor spaces and/or crowded public transport.
  • Allow the user to select active modes and to estimate the health impacts of journeys
  • Link to smart card and contactless payments to provide records of expenditure and receipts (e.g. for business purposes).
  • Allow people to report antisocial behaviour and other issues when travelling.
  • Make people aware of any diversions on a service, including planned service alterations, or if a particular bus service will not be turning up at certain stops due to diverted traffic.

What information would be useful to you at public transport stops?

  • Real time information on services and disruptions
  • Suggestions on connecting services
  • A map of the area on all sheltered stops informing you where you currently are and giving information about connecting services across the whole network, to include walking routes and cycle hire
  • A map at each bus stop of the routes taken by the buses using that stop

Thinking about the journeys you make most often at the moment, what (if anything) would make you feel safer and why? 
(e.g. Increased staff presence, more CCTV, improved accessibility, more pedestrian crossings, space for cycling, safety cameras, better maintenance and lighting, improved accessibility etc)

There is a substantial evidence base on what factors deter people from using certain modes of transport. Concerns about road safety and personal safety tend to push people towards using private cars. The required policy priorities include:

  • Increased staff presence on public transport and at interchanges
  • More pedestrian crossings and generous crossing times or sensors to make sure people have been able to cross (for people who cannot cross quickly)
  • High quality and clearly separated cycle lanes with bollards/poles (that have reflective strips on them to help at night) to prevent vehicles parking in them, and lanes to be enforced by traffic wardens
  • 20mph residential areas, with enforcement
  • Limiting pavement parking, to enable everyone to make journeys by foot with confidence
  • Well lit bus stops and CCTV to make evening/night journey users feel safer
  • Walking and cycling routes to be well lit where appropriate, taking care not to conflict with nature

Are there any journeys you avoid making due to not feeling safe?

We are aware that people report avoiding making journeys by foot, cycle and/or public transport out of concerns for road and personal safety. This results in increased car use and people missing opportunities to take up work, pursue education, or meet up with friends and family. In some cases, people find themselves in ‘forced car ownership’, where they find they need to buy a car simply to participate in society, often at the expense of other priorities in the household budget. 

Currently, dogs are not allowed on trams in Greater Manchester, with the exception of guide dogs accompanying blind persons and/or hearing dogs accompanying deaf persons. 
To what extent do you agree or disagree that ALL dogs should be allowed on trams, at all times?

Dogs should be allowed on trams. Often the alternative is further car use. Special areas and/or priority seats could be provided. As in other public spaces, care needs to be taken to ensure dogs do not impact on the safety of passengers.

Currently, due to space constraints on trams in Greater Manchester, only folding bikes are allowed on board. 
To what extent do you agree or disagree that ALL bikes should be allowed on trams?

A truly green transport network should encourage the use of sustainable transport options and enable people to make connections between modes. Being able to combine cycle and tram is one way to make cycling feasible for more people and for longer journeys. The current ban on conventional cycles is problematic in that it excludes people who cannot afford folding bikes, which are generally more expensive. A response to concerns about overcrowding could be to initially allow all bikes on off-peak journeys and evaluate the impact. 

Buses are central to the Bee Network – 75% of all journeys on public transport in Greater Manchester are made by bus. As part of the journey to the Bee Network, Greater Manchester’s buses will be brought under local control by 2024 through a franchised system. This means a single Bee Network brand, one source of travel information and one set of standards for vehicles and services.

Which of the following would be most important to you in a Bee Network Bus of the future? (tick up to 3)

All of the features mentioned in the consultation are important components of a high-quality and accessible public transport offer:

Wifi, Tables, Hearing Induction loops, Driver PA communication with passengers, CCTV, Charging points for phones, Audio visual announcements, Zero emission buses (e.g. electric), More space for wheelchairs and prams.

To this list we would add:-

  • More PCSOs for safety, more often (particularly at rush hour or evenings).
  • Service updates posted that relate to the company running the service or the service in question, such as if another company will take over running the service or if it has any route changes planned (helpful for elderly people or others with mobility impairments).
  • Contact details clearly displayed for the depot that the bus is from (useful in case of lost items).
  • More space in the luggage area, clearly marked priority seats for elderly passengers.

Encouraging you to use the Bee Network: 

Through delivery of the Bee Network vision for a London-style integrated transport system, our aim is that by 2040 50% of all journeys in Greater Manchester are made by walking, cycling and public transport – to unlock growth, cut congestion and air pollution and enable everyone who lives here to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. Currently, half of all residents’ trips are less than two kilometres, but four in 10 of those are made by car.

Over the next 10 years the Bee Network will create a comprehensive network of 1,800 miles of cycling and walking routes and 2,400 new crossings connecting every neighbourhood, school, high street and public transport hub in the city-region.

Would the creation of a comprehensive network of walking and cycling routes change how you travel?

We welcome the continuing rollout and investment in walking and cycling routes across Greater Manchester. When we look at examples across the globe where other regions have made this investment, we see substantial increases in active travel, with benefits to health, air quality, and wellbeing. There is a strong evidence base that shows that investment in high-quality infrastructure for walking and cycling will give more people the confidence to get around by foot and cycle.

The Bee Network will offer an integrated ticket and the best value for money. This will mean you will be able to travel easily around Greater Manchester, moving from one bus to another or onto a tram, without having to buy another ticket – just tapping on and tapping off – with a cap on what it will cost. 

To what extent would this change how you travel?

The ease and fluidity with which people can travel makes using the network more feasible and attractive to many people and could therefore be expected to bring about an increase in patronage.

The Bee Network will help us achieve our commitment for Greater Manchester to be carbon-neutral by 2038 by offering an attractive alternative to the car and with an ambition for a fully electric local bus, tram and train system by the end of the decade.

What more could be done to encourage you to travel in a more environmentally friendly way to achieve this commitment?

As we have set out in our answers to the previous questions, there is a range of improvements needed to incentivise and enable people to make more ‘environmentally friendly’ choices. We would like to see an approach to low-carbon transport in which the focus is upon public transport, walking and cycling. Whilst private electric vehicles can be a part of this, they should be a minor part. Shifting from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles reduces some of the climate change and air quality impacts of private car use but does nothing to address issues with congestion, space allocation and inactivity.

Finally, do you have any other comments you would like to make?

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