- The county and city councils are working with Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach to trial new combined Park & Ride tickets that cover both parking and return bus travel in one charge. Parking and return bus travel for one passenger will be £4 and £5 for a car with 2 or more passengers. The trial is expected to begin at the end of September 2022 and run until March 2023.
- Some of Oxfordshire County Council’s £12.7m of bus service improvement plan (BSIP) funding, from the Department of Transport, will be used to make transport more affordable for young people. A flat rate bus fare of £1 will be introduced for U19s for single journeys in Oxford and other reduced fares will be introduced across the county for U19s.
- The Department for Transport are implementing a £2 bus fare cap on single bus tickets on the majority of bus services across England in January 2023. This cap will be in place for a period of 3 months until March 2023. The cap will not affect fares already less than £2
- more/wider/better cycle lanes and tracks
- more pedestrian and cycle crossings with shorter wait times at signals
- streetscape improvements
- Changes in traffic levels at traffic count sites across the city. This will include locations inside the traffic filter area, the ring road and locations throughout the city. This data is collected automatically by the county council’s traffic counters.
- Changes in cycle demand.
- Changes in air quality based on air quality monitoring locations throughout the city.
- Changes in bus journey times for services on all key corridors, and by time of day.
- Monitoring of impacts on specific Protected Characteristics Groups (including gender, age, disability, maternity) to assess whether the scheme has any adverse and/ or unintended consequences.
Why are you allowing vans and HGVs through the filters?
Journeys made by goods vehicles, including vans and HGVs, do not have a realistic alternative option to avoid traffic filters, and many businesses rely on deliveries made by these vehicles. Concerns have also been expressed about large vehicles u-turning at the traffic filters. Exemptions for vans and HGVs will also limit the amount of traffic to the ring road and A34.
In the meantime, we will continue to develop plans to minimise the need for large vehicles to deliver in the city e.g. freight consolidation schemes.
Can motorbikes drive through the trial traffic filters?
All motorbikes and mopeds will be exempt from the trial traffic filters.
This is due to safety concerns about speed limited mopeds being used on the ring road and A34. Allowing motorbikes through the filters will also ensure simplification of signage and enforcement.
Will electric vehicles be able to drive through the trial traffic filters?
No cars can drive through the filters unless they have a permit – even if they are electric. This is to ensure traffic filters deliver the required traffic reduction benefits.
How have you chosen the locations for the traffic filters?
The location of the traffic filters has been informed by transport modelling, traffic data analysis and highway design considerations. Traffic filter locations are designed to deliver traffic reduction benefits across the city and not just at the point where the traffic filter is located. The locations have been strategically chosen, so that a traffic filter in one location may also lead to greater traffic reduction in other areas across the city.
How does a traffic filter stop people from driving through?
The traffic filters will not be physical road closures. They will be enforced by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. Unauthorised vehicles going through can therefore be identified. Traffic signs will also be in place at the filter, and on routes approaching them, to help drivers identify the location of each traffic filter, including operational hours and vehicles that are exempt to travel through.
Any vehicle that goes through the traffic filter but is not exempt will be issued with a penalty notice charge of £70.
Won’t this just displace traffic and pollution elsewhere?
We expect the traffic filters to reduce traffic levels across the city. Transport modelling is ongoing to estimate potential impacts, and if approved, the effects of the filters will be monitored including changes in traffic levels and air quality.
Car drivers will have to find a different route if they are not exempt and their intended journey is across the city centre and other parts of the city. The trial will help us understand the impacts on traffic and air pollution in real time. And if approved, traffic and air quality monitoring will be undertaken on roads across the city including the ring road and A34 to establish whether alternative routes become busier. If needed, we could make changes to the scheme, such as the timing of the filters and/or amending permitted access.
Will the traffic filters impact emergency vehicles?
Emergency vehicles will be exempt from the trial traffic filters. This includes those responding to emergencies e.g. on call fire firefighters travelling to a call out.
I need to drive for my journey how will I be able to do that?
There will be no parts of the city that you will not be able to get to by car. Drivers will still be able to access their destination and there will be no changes to car parking as part of the traffic filter proposals.
Private cars that do not go past a proposed traffic filter, or pass a filter outside the hours of operation, 7am to 7pm, will be unaffected.
Some car journeys will need to take a different route if not exempt, usually using the ring road. This may result in longer journey times, mainly for trips between Oxford’s suburbs and across the city.
Day passes will be available for residents of Oxford and some areas to the immediate west of the city. These will allow vehicle owners to travel through all of the traffic filters for up to 100 days per year. This equates to an average of two days per week.
For people using resident day passes and other exempt users, including Blue Badge holders and carers, journeys through traffic filters especially including to and via the city centre are expected to be faster and more reliable.
How do traffic filters fit with low traffic neighbourhoods?
Traffic filters and low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) work together to reduce traffic across the city, make buses faster and walking and cycling safer. LTNs will complement the strategic filters by helping to reduce motor vehicles taking shortcuts through residential areas.
The Divinity Road, Southfield Road, Rectory Road and Princes Street filters that form part of the current east Oxford LTNs trial would need to remain if the six new strategic traffic filters are introduced in a trial next summer – otherwise unacceptable levels of traffic would use these residential streets when the St Clements and Hollow Way filters are introduced.
Why are you prioritising buses/cyclists/ over cars?
The Oxfordshire Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP), which was adopted by the county council in July 2022, and emerging Central Oxfordshire Travel Plan, set out a vision to develop a world-leading, innovative and carbon neutral transport system with a focus on how people move quickly and safely around the area.
A car carrying a single driver is one of the least efficient modes of travel. As the county continues to grow it means more people will need to travel into and around the city. This means our transport system needs to rely on the most space-efficient modes of transport i.e. public transport, walking and cycling. The traffic filters will reduce traffic levels and congestion which will free up the limited road space available in Oxford to create a place where buses are fast, affordable, and reliable and where people can walk and cycle in pleasant and safe environments.
Permits will be available for some people to be able to continue using motor vehicles for essential journeys.
How are you going to make buses better?
Emerging technical work suggests that traffic levels could reduce across the city. As a result, bus journeys could be faster within the ring road which could lead to an increase of bus and Park & Ride use.
If the traffic filters are introduced as a trial by August 2023, two bus companies in Oxford - Stagecoach and Go-Ahead Group - have also committed to ordering 159 brand new electric buses to serve our city. These new buses will serve all city and Park & Ride routes.
We are also working with Oxfordshire’s bus operators to introduce new and improved bus services including around the ‘Eastern Arc’ of the city, including Summertown, Marston, Headington and Cowley, and a through service between west and north Oxford.
For more details please see page 14 of our brochure.
Aren’t buses just as polluting as cars?
Over the years, the county and city councils, working with the bus operators, have introduced various measures to reduce bus pollution, including the introduction of the Bus Low Emission Zone in 2014. If the traffic filters are introduced as a trial by August 2023, two bus companies in Oxford - Stagecoach and Go-Ahead Group - have also committed to ordering 159 brand new electric buses to serve our city. These new buses will serve all city and Park & Ride routes and will be phased in from summer 2023.
Are you doing anything to make buses services cheaper?
Higher bus fares are a result of slow bus speeds, reduced bus demand and higher operating costs. Traffic filters will make bus journeys more attractive, which will increase patronage and help to address high bus fares.
A number of measures are being implemented within the city and across the county to combat high bus fares, including:
These measures combined should contribute towards making bus travel cheaper and therefore accessible for more residents.
For more details about new bus services that should be possible following the introduction of the traffic filters are on pages 14 and 15 of our brochure.
Will the traffic filters impact any existing bus routes?
Due to reductions in traffic levels and congestion, existing bus services will be faster and more reliable.
Increases in traffic on some routes, including the ring road, may require additional bus lanes and greater bus priority at traffic signals, for example. Some measures are already planned including the A40 integrated bus lane and north Oxford corridor improvements. The proposed workplace parking levy (WPL) would provide some of the longer term funding required for further bus priority and other sustainable transport improvements. We are continuing work on the WPL and expecting to consult on this next year.
For more details see page 14 of our brochure.
Will there be enough space on buses and at Park & Rides?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) led to a reduction in bus use and parking at Oxford’s Park & Rides, and while demand is increasing, levels are still down compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Emerging technical work suggests demand for bus and Park & Ride will increase because of the traffic filters, so this should be easily accommodated in the near-term, with a further 850 Park & Ride spaces, and associated bus services on the A40, to be provided at the planned Eynsham P&R by autumn 2023.
For more information see page 14 of our brochure.
How do you plan to make cycling and walking more attractive?
Due to reduced traffic levels and better air quality, walking and cycling conditions will be safer and more pleasant and these benefits will be felt immediately with no additional infrastructure required. Over time, as a result of less traffic on the roads, it will be possible to bring forward plans for:
Reducing traffic levels will help to reduce road collisions and casualties with many of these currently involving pedestrians and cyclists.
Won’t this make it harder for businesses and their customers and staff and the wider economy?
We know that over 60% of visitors to Oxford’s city centre travel by public transport or active travel. Research shows that people who travel to high streets by walking, cycling or by bus tend to spend more time and money in the local economy.
There will be no parts of the city that you will not be able to get to by car. Drivers will still be able to access their destination and there will be no changes to car parking as part of the traffic filter proposals. Any impact on car accessibility and demand, because some car journeys will be longer, would be offset by accessibility enhancements to public transport and cycling, and opportunities to enhance public spaces, including high streets.
Evidence from other cities that have prioritised public transport and active travel measures show that these schemes have a positive impact on the economy. Examples include a workplace parking levy in Nottingham, traffic circulation plan in Gent and bus gates in Oxford.
We have been engaging with businesses since February 2022. We heard their concerns about the impact of their deliveries and that is one of the reasons why HGVs and goods vehicles are exempt from the filters. The reduction in congestion within the ring road should, in most cases, reduce travel times for such trips.
You are proposing the only vehicle access to the Westgate Shopping Centre is along Botley Road, won’t this worsen congestion on that route?
It is estimated that Westgate only accounts for around 6% of the total traffic coming into the city centre. However, it is recognised that the impact of traffic going to the Westgate can be disruptive. This is because the car park regularly gets full, and when it does, the queue blocks Oxpens Road and Thames Street, reducing their capacity and having a knock-on impact along Botley Road and other city centre routes.
With the traffic filters in place, there should be less traffic using Oxpens Road, which should help matters. In addition, the non-car alternatives will improve and many of those currently arriving to the Westgate by car may choose to use bus or Park & Ride rather than drive through a less direct route. Most Westgate customers already choose to use a non-car mode already.
During the trial we would carefully monitor the impact of the filters including changes in traffic levels and queueing along Botley Road.
What has happened to your proposals for a workplace parking levy and zero emission zone?
Proposals for a workplace parking levy and zero emission zone in Oxford are still part of our plans for improving the transport system across the central Oxfordshire area. These will be subject to a separate consultation and decision-making processes. Revised programmes for further development of the WPL and ZEZ schemes will be announced later in the year.
What traffic modelling has been carried out?
The development of the traffic filters proposals has been supported by transport modelling using the Oxfordshire Strategic Transport Model package. Some of the modelling work is still in progress and final outcomes will inform a Cabinet decision on whether to proceed with the proposal to introduce the filters on a trial basis.
Where is funding coming from for this project?
We have been awarded £12.7m from the Department of Transport’s bus service improvement plan (BSIP). This funding will cover the costs of the traffic filters, as well as other measures which encourage residents to travel more sustainably and make transport more affordable for young people.
What will proposals mean for people working long shifts including starting or finishing late?
The traffic filters would be in operation between 7am and 7pm, so outside those hours all vehicles will be able to pass through the filters. Those starting work earlier or finishing later may be less affected depending on the time of travel.
In addition, non-car alternatives will improve, including new and improved bus services across the city’s Eastern Arc, and many of those currently driving to work by car may choose to use bus or Park & Ride rather than drive via a less direct route.
The proposed workplace parking levy (WPL) would also provide some of the longer term funding required for further investment in bus services including for more services to start earlier, finish later and operate at weekends.
What will proposals mean for people already struggling with the cost of living crisis?
Cycling and walking are more affordable travel modes than owning or driving a car. People on lower incomes are less likely to have access to a car and (nationally) are twice as likely to use buses compared to those on higher incomes and are therefore likely to benefit from these improvements.
How can you expect people to use buses when the coronavirus is still around?
With restrictions lifted by Government, many more people are using public transport again. People should continue to follow government advice and although they are no longer compulsory, people are still being advised to think of others and wear face masks on busier journeys, unless you are exempt on medical grounds. Bus operators also continue to take steps to ensure buses are safe and hygienic including through regular cleaning and by accepting contactless and touch-free payments.
What impact will these proposals have on travel from other areas of the county into the city?
Traffic filters are an important measure designed to achieve our countywide transport plan and vision.
Buses: The six traffic filters will improve overall bus journey times and reliability for all services between other districts and Oxford, including Park and ride and longer distance bus services to Oxford.
Cycling: Traffic filters will enhance the attractiveness of cycling to and within Oxford. A large proportion of people living in and around Oxford already cycle into the city. This number is expected to increase because of the improvements delivered by the traffic filters and other county-wide transport investments to support cycling.
Car journeys: Car journeys within and between districts will be largely unaffected by the traffic filters, although the Oxford ring road might be busier at certain times of the day.
What impact will these proposals have on people who have daily responsibilities for looking after other people, for example, dropping children off at nursery or visiting the sick or elderly?
While the traffic filters will create safer, healthier streets for residents and visitors, they may lengthen journey times for people and certain journeys that rely upon private car travel. Several exemptions are proposed which will mean many people will not be affected including care and health workers, non-professional carers and blue badge holders. Day passes for people living in Oxford, Botley, North Hinksey and South Hinksey will also mean these residents are less affected.
An equalities impact assessment (EIA) has been carried out. The EIA has been informed by direct engagement with Oxford City Council’s Inclusive Transport and Movement focus group. The group is comprised of people with experience of living, working and travelling around Oxford with a disability. It includes organisations such as KEEN Oxford, Wheels for Wellbeing, the Free Thinking Network, the University of Oxford, Ruskin College Oxford, a secondary school, and the Sensory Impairment Team at Oxfordshire County Council. On-going monitoring and engagement during the trial (ETRO) period, expected to start from summer 2023, will be used to update the EIA and may result in further changes to the proposals.
What is an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) and how does it work?
Experimental traffic regulation orders (ETRO) allow a council to introduce traffic measures as a trial and make changes during that trial if needed. This helps the council and members of the public to test how a scheme works before any permanent decisions are made.
During this trial period, Oxfordshire County Council will collect information on the effects of the scheme such as changes in traffic levels and bus journey times and ask residents and businesses for their views on the measures.
A second consultation will run alongside the trial period where people can submit their feedback based on their experience of the traffic filters.
At the end of the trial, the council will make a decision on whether to keep the traffic filters in or not based on all the information collected and feedback received.
Why use an ETRO?
ETROs allow us to test how a scheme works before any permanent decisions are made. We will collect people’s feedback on the scheme and make appropriate changes where necessary.
What will any income from the trial be spent on?
The objective of the scheme is not to raise income, but any vehicle that goes through the traffic filter and is not exempt will be charged a penalty notice charge of £70.
Any income generated by the scheme during the trial would be ring fenced to cover the costs of introducing and operating the scheme. Any surpluses will be used to fund sustainable transport improvement projects.
When will you make a decision on the traffic filter ETRO?
The county council’s Cabinet is expected to make a decision on whether to introduce the traffic filters under an ETRO in November 2022.
How will you monitor impacts of the traffic filters?
A detailed monitoring and evaluation framework will be developed before the trial is introduced. It is anticipated that this will include:
How will the traffic filters be consulted on?
Public consultation on plans to introduce the traffic filters under an ETRO will take place from 5 September 2022 to 13 October 2022.
If approved by county council’s Cabinet, the ETRO on the traffic filters is expected to start from summer 2023.
A second public consultation will also take place during this time, while the scheme is operating.
When is the trial expected to start and how long will the trial last?
If approved, we plan to implement the traffic filters under an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) for a minimum of six months before making a decision about whether to make them permanent and finalising the exemptions, timings and locations. We currently expect the trial to start next summer (2023), with the exact date to be decided.
Will the rules about timing of operation, exemptions and permits for the six new traffic filters also be applied to existing traffic restrictions e.g. High Street bus gate?
No. The rules about timing of operation, exemptions and permits will only apply to the six new traffic filters if the trial goes ahead next summer. However, we will monitor the impact of the new traffic filters on the wider transport network. If changes are shown to be needed at the new or existing traffic restriction points, then we will consider them carefully and progress towards making them as necessary.
What is the difference between traffic filters and bus gates?
Traffic filters are designed to reduce traffic on major roads across the city, to make bus journeys faster and make walking and cycling safer while still allowing access for many road users.
Bus gates are designed to remove nearly all traffic except buses, and are not located on major traffic routes. Bus gates generally only allow local buses, taxis and private hire vehicles, and emergency services.
What about all the vehicles that need to turn at the traffic filters?
All of the traffic filters would be signed clearly in advance in line with government regulations so we would ordinarily expect there to be a small amount of traffic that needs to turn around.
We currently propose that buses, HGVs and vans will be exempt from the traffic filters so large vehicles will not need to turn around there. Additionally, the locations have been chosen carefully to ensure that any vehicles that do need to turn around can do so safely.
We have carried out safety assessments of the proposed locations and if the trial of the filters goes ahead, we would naturally be monitoring how they work in practice, including how many larger vehicles turn around, perhaps because they have mis-interpreted the signage.
Adjustments to the exact location and design of the filters could potentially be made including to the local and advanced signage and road layout.
How do I apply for my permit?
You will be able to apply online for a permit. We will also provide ways to apply for permits over the phone and by email. You will need to provide evidence of your eligibility, for example proof of being in receipt of carer’s allowance, holding a Blue Badge, or working as a health and care worker.
What changes have been made to the proposals?
We have been listening to stakeholders and residents since traffic filters were first introduced as a concept in 2015. In the last six months we have gathered feedback that has changed the proposals we are consulting on now. This includes such things as offering resident day pass permits, and exemptions for HGVs, vans, mopeds and motorbikes.
The cost of living is rising, can I afford to use public transport instead of driving?
In some cases, the poor provision of bus services can force residents to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on owning and running a car. This reduces available disposable income and can negatively affect quality of life. With the cost of living increasing, this disposable income is likely to be reduced further, especially over the winter months with rising energy costs.
Bus travel is a cheaper alternative to owning and running a private car and can replace many journeys in the city. By making bus journeys faster, cheaper and more reliable, there will be less need for residents to own a car. Therefore households will be able to save money by switching from using a private car to taking the bus - swapping their car-related expenditure for a much cheaper alternative, and removing the financial pressures of owning and running a car.
I don’t own a car, will the traffic filters impact me?
Census data from 2011 showed that on average 33.5% of households in Oxford did not own a car. People who don’t have access to a car or van are much more reliant on public transport to travel and to access places of work and education. If congestion within the city is not addressed, bus services will worsen and access to work and education will become limited.
Traffic filters will help to reduce congestion across Oxford, which will improve bus services, and help those who are reliant on them. Walking and cycling conditions will also become safer and more pleasant due to reduced traffic levels and better air quality.
How much will the traffic filter permits cost?
It is not proposed that anyone will need to pay to have a permit to drive a private car through the traffic filters when they are operating.