Lancaster District Bus Users' Group is calling upon the City Council to introduce free bus travel in the run up to Christmas to match its offer of free parking in the city’s car parks.
Between Sunday, November 26th and Sunday, December 24th all of the city council’s main car parks in Morecambe and Lancaster will be free to use on Sundays as well as after 6pm on Thursdays for late-night shopping.
Lancaster Bus Users’ Group feels that this is unfair to public transport users and is asking the City Council to match its offer to motorists with a similar one to bus passengers and to make bus travel free throughout the city at those times.
Jim Davies, Chair of the Bus Users’ Group said:
“Bus passengers contribute towards the cost of the free parking through their council tax but receive no benefit”.
The Group admits that the free parking offer is popular and doesn’t want to see it abolished but says that it also brings its own problems. Jim Davies explained:
“The free parking attracts large numbers of shoppers to Lancaster, which is a good thing but the extra traffic generated causes congestion and delay to all road users and can act as a disincentive for shoppers to visit the city. Bus passengers suffer from delays to their services whilst still having to pay the full fare for their journeys. Offering free bus travel would allow more people to reach the city centre without adding to congestion and, by offering an alternative to the car would actually reduce it, whereas giving away free car parking and continuing to charge for bus travel is likely to reduce bus use as people who may have travelled by bus use their cars instead".
The Bus Users Group recognises that the city council does not run the bus service, but feels that it should be possible for the council to come to an arrangement with Stagecoach to make good the revenue lost by offering free travel.
Councillor James Leyshon, who has responsibility for car parking, is quoted in the Lancaster Guardian as saying that there is "no additional net cost to Council Tax payers" due to the initiative, but this clearly misunderstands the situation. All the city's car parks would be busy during both late-night shopping and Sundays in the run-up to Christmas, so a substantial amount of revenue is being lost, which has to be made up either through council tax, paid by motorists and non-motorists alike or through reduced public services.
Whilst it is probably too late to introduce free bus travel for 2017 the Group has called upon the council to consider it for future years.