die belebende Bedenkung

Disconnected city

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The disconnected city:  Birmingham city centre map, Centro, 2012

According to Centro’s project website, the ‘Connected City’ scheme lays down a shared vision designed to benefit all users of Birmingham city centre.

For the first time the city’s business community and its public sector have come together to support a Vision for Movement designed to benefit all users of the city centre and secure Birmingham’s future prosperity. This vision is the result of that close collaboration and lays down a shared Vision designed to benefit the city centre in the years ahead.

[…]Our transport vision is based on a well connected city, an efficient city and a walkable city. By linking the city centre together we will be making it easier for everyone to use – pedestrians, those travelling by public transport, cyclists and those using cars.
A world class city centre and transport system will be created for residents, businesses and visitors. Improvements to the movement network and transport information will help connect people with places.

Different transport projects have been co-ordinated to achieve common goals and to maximise user benefits including:

* A highly accessible place and movement system that is inclusive for people with mobility and sensory impairments

* Designated transport interchanges for more intuitive use, revealing travel options

* Higher frequencies and improved vehicles

* Improved stations, stops and facilities

* New information products and services

* Extended use of real time information and the latest technology

Who the Vision was shared with is unknown, as the reconfiguration of roads and bus routes was done without any public consultation or input. According to Birmingham city council, the design work was done by Amey, the same concern that holds the city’s 25-year highway maintenance PFI contract. Apparently even Centro’s head of ‘strategy’ Alex Burrows seemed to think it was more of a nightmare, than a vision.

Centro 'strategist' Alex Burrows: interchanging is a nightmare

Bus services have been grouped into five impressive-sounding ‘interchanges’ serving different parts of the city, but these turned out to be just names applied to groups of on-street bus stops (with no seating and minimal protection against the rain).

Birmingham 'Connected City', so-called interchanges, 2012

There doesn’t appear to be much functional real-time information, either. All in all, I’d be surprised if any of the Connected City design staff ever used Birmingham public transport. On the evidence available, there must have been some involvement of ‘Telly Savalas designers’, who have never set foot in Birmingham.

Centro's explanation of Connected City claimed that public comments were welcome, but the public have been presented with a fait accompli

Looking at Centro’s map of routes updated following July’s bus reorganisation, it’s clear that Birmingham’s public transport is anything but ‘well connected’. Lack of connectivity and through routes makes for slow and inconvenient travel between points on opposing sides of the city centre (e.g. from the Jewellery Quarter to Bordesley). Centro’s intention is to revive a version of its failed Stationlink bus to link the various ‘interchanges’, so that a 4 km journey might entail changing bus twice.

Birmingham city centre most hold some kind of world record for the number of times the streets have been dug up. A Central News report from February 2000 showed similar disruption and confusion affecting the same streets as those being dug up in 2012.

One of the areas most badly affected by incompetent planners was Moor Street, where a bus mall was built and demolished, before it had even fully opened.

Written by beleben

August 22, 2012 at 10:51 am

2 Responses

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  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has all these concerns about the new designs and layout for future infrastructure. I found this site after searching the Web to see whether the new shelters would be expanding/spaced out or even improved (to provide actual shelter with real seats), but it seems they think they are ‘on the money’ with their current approach.


    October 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm

  2. […] Birmingham tombstones and totems installed on Birmingham city centre streets (as part of the Connected City […]

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