Halifax Town Centre Bus Accessibility Study 2015
Introduction and Scope of Study
AECOM was appointed by Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (CMBC) to assess the impact of changes to accessibility to Halifax town centre in response to possible changes affecting bus routes. To complement wider improvements to the town centre planned under the West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund (WY+TF), a package of bus service changes has been proposed. Having established journey patterns which results from the current network of services and the resulting walk trip to the final destination, the economic case for these service changes has been quantified.
To assess the feasibility of these options, a data collection exercise was completed since there were a number of gaps affecting existing data sources. For example, alighting counts were completed at all town centre bus stops, with outputs transposed to represent journey patterns at other times of the day. In addition, passenger interview surveys were completed at Halifax railway station to understand the mode of transport used, the bus stop used to alight (if applicable) and the postcode details of the journey. This highlighted the concentration of trips originating from HX1 and HX3 although the destination of journeys is more dispersed. The bus and rail surveys were conducted on both a weekday and a Saturday in late January to record different passenger groups.
There is a requirement to review the bus network in Halifax town centre in response to the following factors:
- a desire to improve bus-rail interchange at Halifax town centre;
- the desire to reduce the number of vehicles on Market Street;
- the changing demand for where passengers are likely to want to travel to in Halifax town centre following the completion of the Delivery Plan;
- improved journey time reliability.
In partnership with CMBC and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, three incremental study options were proposed:
- Improvements to the bus-rail interchange at Halifax Rail Station: extension of some services from Northwest Halifax to the railway station and pedestrianisation of King Edward and Albion Street. This will provide the first step to removing some layover in the centre of Halifax;
- Reduction of bus on Market Street: reduced number of buses using Market Street leading to the diversion of some buses from the south via Winding Road. The partial reduction of buses on Market Street will provide opportunity to incrementally create a bus loop round the town centre. This will also reflect the timescales for bringing forward certain developments in Halifax town centre;
- Removal of buses from Market Street: Introduction of a bus loop to provide full movement round Halifax town centre without using Market Street, improving journey time reliability for all vehicles. This will require closure of some roads and creation of some one-way routes. This mainly affects services from Northwest Halifax.
To determine whether these options represented value for money, an EMME forecasting model was developed to calculate the changes in journey times resulting from the service revisions and the revised egress times. Details of the service patterns were based on WYCA timetable information, whilst a representation of the road network in central Halifax which extends to the remainder of the District was produced. Data from the surveys and the 2011 Census was used to produce trip matrices by day of the week and time period. For trips to Halifax railway station, the functionality of the EMME model was not suitable to incorporate the full changes in travel behaviour that could result from revised bus routes, for example, mode transfer from car. Instead, a bespoke methodology which took account of the overall changes in journey time was produced. A high level comparison of the observed and modelled data demonstrated the model was able to replicate existing travel behaviour.
In response to the pessimistic growth forecasts illustrated in TEMPRO, a separate overlay was applied to represent the more optimistic changes in travel demand that could result from the town centre improvements envisaged as part of the town centre Delivery Plan. Using a literature review collated to support modelling work in South Yorkshire, the potential demand generated from pedestrianisation and public realm improvements was identified and incorporated into EMME. These outputs produced a higher growth forecast than TEMPRO which was applied to selected zones in the town centre.
Outcomes of Study
This study has examined the business case for pedestrianisation of King Edward and Albion Street, restricting bus traffic on Market Street and the introduction of a bus loop. Scheme costs have been estimated by Fore Consulting who is responsible for producing the Outline Business Case for the wider WY+TF scheme within the town centre. Societal benefits were calculated using TUBA and represented the impact of the changes to overall journey times resulting from the revisions to the egress time and amendments to the service routeing. The appraisal results highlight there is a strong economic case for the first two schemes with benefit cost ratios over 3 regardless of the underlying growth scenario. This demonstrates the proposals offer good value for money. However, the case for the third scheme is slightly weaker with a BCR, although the BCR of 2.7 demonstrates the scheme will represent good value for money. The slightly weaker economic case for Option 3 can be attributed to the omission of some potential benefits (which will be captured elsewhere is the business case submission) associated with the pedestrianisation of Market Street which relate more specifically to interventions proposed as part of the wider WY+TF proposals.
For example, the quantification of these supplementary benefits is difficult due to the lack of empirical evidence of examples which are comparable to Halifax town centre. For example, much of the evidence available is only anecdotal rather than empirical. If empirical evidence does exist, it relates to larger towns and cities than Halifax, or the destinations attract a large number of tourists which would distort the results when compared with Halifax. If further empirical evidence emerged for examples comparable to Halifax, the inclusion of these wider economic impacts would further strengthen the case for these proposals. The changes proposed would largely affect buses from North West Halifax plus services from the south re-routed via Winding Road to the bus station to a lesser extent. These services would be extended beyond the town centre to operate to / from the railway station to address a connectivity gap. The estimation of the number of new bus stands required indicates a total of 14-16 stands would be required at the bus station depending on the scenario being proposed, plus a further 8 at the railway station in response to the service revisions. Some buses would experience a longer journey time between 1 and 5 minutes as a result of being extended to the rail station. These journey times are expected to reduce when combined with highway improvements considered in the Town Centre Delivery Plan. It should be noted that the benefits from improved journey times provided by the highway improvements are not captured in this study. Up to three taxis stops will have to be relocated to enable pedestrianisation of town centre streets, so alternative sites for taxi ranks are proposed.
Although this report provides a useful framework to understand the impact of possible routeing changes to town centre bus services, some further work would be advantageous. It is expected this report will be used to inform other work which is being compiled on behalf of CMBC for the forthcoming Stage Gate 1 review. Four possible work areas have been identified comprising:
- Update/check future year demand forecasts within the EMME model to ensure consistency with the latest assumptions being applied separately within both SATURN and AIMSUN models;
- Refine the bus journey times within EMME to ensure consistency with the modelled journey times produced by the more detailed AIMSUN model for the do-nothing and three do-something scenarios;
- Update the TUBA analysis for the three do-something scenarios to quantify the resultant benefits for bus users in light of the changes outlined above; and
- Completion of the WebTAG Accessibility criteria analysis and worksheet, reflecting delivery of the preferred option.
The completion of these tasks will ensure the different inputs from studies are collated in a more consistent manner, helping to strengthen the economic case. Furthermore, the consideration of other impacts will help to boost the economic case for these individual schemes, enabling other parameters to be quantified. In the absence of suitable relevant data to fully understand the potential impacts the inclusion of accessibility data will help to strengthen the overall benefits.
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