YEP survey: Readers reveal Leeds traffic and congestion concerns

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TRAFFIC and congestion in Leeds is getting worse.

That’s what nearly three-quarters of Yorkshire Evening Post readers who responded to our survey about life in Leeds think about the city’s road networks.

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The news comes as we can today reveal that Leeds City Council netted nearly £13.4m in parking charges in one year – up by nearly £1m on the previous year.

More than £3.7m came from on street parking charges and more than £5m in off-street parking between April 2013 and March 2014.

But nearly 70 per cent of respondents said the council was wrong to introduce parking charges for Sunday and evening parking last year.

Nearly 2,000 people responded to the YEP’s Voice of Leeds Survey 2014 with their views on traffic and transport in the city.

More than 60 per cent of those surveyed think there should be more cycling lanes in Leeds to encourage people to get on their bikes.

Readers want to see cheaper parking, better facilities for cyclists and improvements to roads.

But transport bosses in the city have warned that finding new ways for people to move around Leeds is “one of the biggest challenges” they face.

They said that getting the right formula would help to connect people, boost economic growth and reduce congestion.

Almost 40 per cent of respondents said they would not be willing to pay more council tax even if it paid for transport improvements in Leeds.

A Leeds City Council spokesman said: “With the success of developments like Trinity Leeds and the first direct arena, and upcoming developments such as Victoria Gate, demand for city centre parking is on the increase.

“In order to make the most of what the city has to offer, we must find a delicate balance between managing the increasing demand for parking and the need to keep traffic and the economy moving while encouraging people to make the most of public transport. Parking charges mean we can create a turnover in all pay and display spaces in the city centre and also help the evening and Sunday economy with better management of parking.

“Following the introduction of new evening and weekend charges last year, the anticipated drop in city centre use has not occurred as council car parks continue to offer the best value parking in the city compared to private sector providers. The significant reduction in the cost of parking at Woodhouse car park last year has also contributed to a rise in income from off street parking.

“Any income generated from parking charges is ring-fenced and used to help pay for improvements to the transport infrastructure.”

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THE CYCLIST

Lizzie Reather from Leeds Cycling Campaign said there are parts of the city centre that are a no-go zone for cyclists.

She said: “It’s a challenge as a cyclist because it is difficult to find routes that feel welcoming.

“I live in south Leeds and I have got the choice of cycling along a big dual carriageway or cycling across a field.

“We have got a long way to go as a city.

“The A64 can be quite intimidating to cycle along and Armley Gyratory is the big one for cyclists. It is a no-go.

“There has definitely been a lot of talking about making things better for cyclists.

“We are keen to see what will happen in the next six to 12 months for a legacy from the Tour de France in Leeds.”

THE MOTORIST

Community safety worker Imram Shah said he avoids driving at certain times because of the traffic.

He said: “My grandma lives in Bradford and from Thornbury I don’t bother going there between 2pm and 6pm because of the road works.

“I saw the boards going up warning about delays so I knew I had to put a plan in place .

“Information is key really so people can plan their journeys.”

But Mr Shah added: “Every city in the UK has traffic and congestion.

“Short term upheavals will pay for inward investment.”

TROLLEYBUS

More than half of readers say they would pull the brakes on the controversial trolleybus scheme in Leeds.

Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority are spearheading the scheme to get trolleybuses powered by overhead wires running between Holt Park in the north of the city and Stourton in the south.

But 55 per cent of respondents of the YEP’s Voice of Leeds survey said they were not in favour of the plans.

A public enquiry into the £250m proposal, which could create up to 4,000 new jobs, is due to finish at the end of the month.

Ministers will decide whether to give New Generation Transport (NGT) the green light after receiving a report on the inquiry’s findings.

Around 3,000 business and domestic properties could be in some way “affected” by the NGT project.

Potential impacts include low-voltage overhead wire fixings being attached to buildings and pieces of roadside verge being claimed for the scheme.

The Leeds trolleybus plans were drawn up after the then Labour government scrapped the city’s Supertram light rail project in 2005 amid worries about spiralling costs.

NGT chiefs say the system will reduce congestion and boost local economic output by more than £175m per year.

Opponents claim it will provide poor value for money while damaging the environment and people’s quality of life.

WEST YORKSHIRE COMBINED AUTHORITY

Councillor James Lewis, chairman of the transport committee on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “It is peak time congestion that drives people wild.

“More and more jobs are being created in the city centre and there is a rising trend of people working in the city centre.

“We have got to fundamentally look at public transport investments to tempt people onto public transport.

“We are also seeing so many cyclists on the roads now.

“One of the ways we can deal with congestion is by getting less people driving at peak times.

“The City Connect scheme from Bradford through to Leeds will be the first attempt to take a cycling route from end to end.

“When we see it up and running we will be able to get a real idea of how we take that out to other routes in Leeds and West Yorkshire.”

He added: “There is always going to be attention when you talk about improving the transport infrastructure.

“The New Generation Transport is a really important scheme for the city.

“I have met with lots of objectors to try and understand where they are coming from.

“People are concerned when you change infrastructure.”

THE COUNCILLOR

Councillor Richard Lewis, executive member for transport and the economy, said:“Finding new ways for people to move around the city is one of the biggest challenges facing Leeds.

“Getting that right would better connect people and jobs, boost economic growth and reduce congestion.

“In a city like Leeds the option of building new roads is not possible. We are working hard with partners to find alternatives to bringing a car into the city centre.

“We are delivering many projects to improve public transport, including priority bus lanes, park and ride schemes, extensive cycle networks, NGT and continued highway maintenance.

“We have also introduced high-occupancy lanes for cars and are encouraging more people to walk for shorter journeys.

“We hope this will reduce congestion and pollution.

“Although according to Government figures congestion has actually fallen in Leeds, this is during a recession so we know we need to be prepared for more movement during recovery. That is why we want to provide more options for residents and visitors alike.

“Local connectivity is part of our overall vision for the City Region and our calls for more devolved transport powers.

“Getting the right investment in our transport systems to meet local priorities would deliver unprecedented change to better connect people and jobs, enabling us to fulfil our true economic potential.

“Improving transport would improve life for all of us living and working in Leeds. On top of that, it could bring transformational regeneration and investment to the city, which is why it is a top priority for us.”

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