Free Sheffield parking iPhone/iPad app

Park Up S1 parking app

Park Up S1 parking app

Parking for motorists and cyclists

A free iOS app has just been launched that shows the closest car parks, number of blue badge bays and cycle parking available round the city.

The app by Chris Mainprize displays your location on the map to help you find the nearest place to park.

It doesn’t currently give you a live update of how many spaces are available in each parking area, but if like me you tend to stick with the same two or three car parks in town regardless of where you’re heading, it could be useful.

Park Up S1 in iTunes

Tramlines 2011 is here

Nat Johnson at Tramlines 2010

Nat Johnson at Tramlines 2010 and performing this year on Saturday night at the cathedral

Making the most of a weekend of free live music

So Sheffield’s busiest weekend of the year is here in the form of Tramlines. If you haven’t already then have a look at the listings to find out who is performing and when.

There are 70 venues so there is plenty to see, however it is likely that some will be running at capacity during busy periods and for the most popular bands.

My advice based on previous years would be to get there in plenty of time and be prepared to queue to get in. In the past, when one band finished playing, lots of people would leave the venue, giving other people the opportunity to move inside and get a good spot for the next one.

Remember that the festival isn’t just based around Devonshire green. The Tramlines footprint for 2011 is even bigger than last year, and the list of participating venues stretches as far as Heeley, Greystones, Sharrow vale and Kelham island. This should help spread the crowds out and ensure that you get see your share of live music.

If you use Twitter then keep an eye on the #TramlinesTraffic hash tag. The organisers will be using it to keep people updated about the queues and business of venues and they are hoping that people will join in to keep everyone informed.

Busker bus at Tramlines 2010

Busker bus at Tramlines 2010

Finally, if you haven’t been on the busker bus then you have missed out. As well as being a practical (and free) means of getting around, it is a venue in itself, with a programme of acoustic and unplugged performances running Saturday and Sunday.

Last year I overheard one old couple on there sat behind me discussing whether they should go round and do another circuit of the city. They were loving it.

You won’t have heard of every artist playing, but nearly every major genre of music must be catered for at some point over the weekend. And it isn’t just about seeing big bands: for me it is as much about mooching around town, stumbling upon some new music and supporting what is becoming one of the most high-profile events in Sheffield’s calendar.

The weather forecast looks OK, so have fun and soak up the atmosphere on the one weekend of the year when Sheffield feels like a completely different place compared to at any other time of year.

Shake Aletti at Tramlines 2010

Shake Aletti at Tramlines 2010 and appearing on Saturday at the Harley

Night buses to return to Sheffield

A cheaper way to get home

The boss of Stagecoach hinted in a recent Sheffield Telegraph article that night buses could return to Sheffield – but it looks like another company has beaten then to it.

Yesterday TM Travel annouced that from this Friday 19 November, a network of night buses will launch:

N1 – Sheffield to Chapeltown via Hillsborough and Parson Cross
N2 – Sheffield to Newfield Green via Ecclesall and Woodseats
N3 – Sheffield to Handsworth via Crystal Peaks

The buses will depart Leopold street at 1am, 2am and 3am, and have a flat fare of £2.50.

With many First and Stagecoach routes currently finishing by 11pm and plenty of town venues open later, a service like this could prove popular and boost the city’s night time economy. It should also help ease the queues and scramble for cabs in the early hours of the morning when demand outstrips supply.

Hopefully the buses will also steer clear of trouble. And if they are a success, the two bigger operators in Sheffield may also be tempted to follow suit.

New Sheffield night buses – information on Facebook

Abbeydale miniature railway, Sheffield

First class family fun

If you’re looking for something to do with your family over the bank holiday weekends in May then why not pop down to Abbeydale miniature railway, tucked away on the edge of Ecclesall woods?

The miniature railway has been located at Abbeydale since 1978 and continues to attract sizable crowds when it opens to the public on various Sundays and bank holidays throughout the year. It is run by the local model engineering society, which in itself is over 100 years old.

There are usually several trains available to ride, including a steam engine, and there are refreshments on sale as well as souvenirs for children.

A love of trains and engineering seems to be the main motivation for the people involved and this helps gives the place a certain charm. The volunteers’ enthusiasm is infectious and at a charge of 80p per person per ride it is obvious that they aren’t in it for the money. In fact, any profit made is reinvested in the site.

In years to come I hope that the miniature railway is still around, providing a cheap afternoon out for many future generations.

Abbeydale miniature railway

Abbeydale minature railway, Sheffield

Abbeydale minature railway, Sheffield

The broken Sheffield station clock

Frozen in time

It may not be one of the main clocks at Sheffield station but the most prominent clock for people coming in and out of the entrance has been stuck on 12 for ages now which doesn’t look great for people visiting the city.

You’d think it wouldn’t be a big job to fix. East midlands trains look after the station, so I asked them what was happening with it. This is what they said:

I can confirm that local groups are looking for alternative locations/uses for the clock/and associated street furniture, you have mentioned. With the refurbishment of the station, that took place recently, and the introduction of a new system of Customer Information Screens (CIS), the previous clock system became obsolescent and is no longer used.

If there were some sort of digital display linked up to train times as part of the information post then this would be an understandable response, but it looks like a normal clock, which when I last checked hadn’t become, erm, obsolescent and would serve a useful function if it were to tell the time correctly.

Does anyone know which local groups are involved with deciding a use for the clock?

No doubt EMT have other priorities taking up their time at the moment like their so-far-unsuccessful fight to install station barriers and plans to ban the public from parking at the station in order to ease the access problems.

But for now, is it too much to ask to wire the clock up to the mains or get some new batteries?

Sheffield station clock

Correct twice a day: a clock at Sheffield station

Sheffield city on the move film

Promoting 1970s Sheffield

The full version of City on the move, the film that appeared at the start of the Full monty, is now available to watch online.

It has been split into four parts, each of which is worth watching if you have time. It still feels like a spoof, with the quaint commentary throwing up several facts about Sheffield in the 1970s:

  • The Christmas illuminations are more extensive in this city than anywhere else in the country
  • The cutlers of the city still meet regularly with proper pomp and ceremony
  • The reservoirs in the nearby hills are generally known as ‘Sheffield’s lake district’ (public access is generally permitted)
  • We proudly are home to the largest snuff makers in the country
  • The university is anticipating a student population of 10,000 in the 1980s
  • Like the rest of the country, Sheffield has not solved the current problems of old people, although we can rest assured that the task is being tackled
  • No city north of London has more department stores than Sheffield
  • We are home to the biggest nightclub in Europe
  • It is home to numerous forward-looking developments like Castle square, the underground concourse with its ingenious roof of sky and winner of another Civic trust award

It seems that Sheffield has been surpassed in some areas and it can no longer boast some of the these facts, although of course nowadays there are plenty of other things that the city can lay claim to and be proud of.

The videos are embedded below. Don’t forget to compare these to Creative Sheffield’s two recent promotional films about Sheffield, plus of course you can get your hands on your own copy of the DVD.

And if those haven’t satisfied your appetite for 1970s Sheffield, then you may be interested in this City of Sheffield city centre walkabout promotional brochure and photo tour.

The green, green grass of Supertram

Grass-lined green tramlines for Sheffield?

Yesterday, Stuart Grimshaw (@Stubbs on Twitter) sent this link to inhabitat.com showing European trams and trains travelling through cities on green beds of grass and suggested how good it would look in Sheffield.

I agree, and think it would be a great way to enforce our greenest city credentials. As it puts it on inhabitat.com:

From Barcelona to the Czech Republic, Frankfurt, St-Etienne and Strasbourg, these public transit greenways are showing the potential of incorporating landscaping into good urban design.

How would it actually look in Sheffield? Here are a couple of slightly rushed mockups based on two Flickr photos (thank you iwouldstay and Xerones) that give you an idea:

Sheffield supertram 2

Sheffield's Supertram with grass greenways 1

Or, given the northern climate, would our beds or grass soon turn into urban mud baths?

An improved bus service (on your mobile phone)

FirstGroup is introduced to good customer service – by a third party developer

So with fares in the region going up 8% yesterday, the thought of catching the bus in the morning for your first day back at work is probably not filling you with joy – particularly if you end up waiting in the cold not knowing when the next one will arrive.

One option would be to use the YourNextBus SMS service but  like me, you have probably never bothered due to the cost of it on top of the normal text message charge.

You can also find out when your next bus is for free using the Travel South Yorkshire website, but if you have tried viewing this site on a mobile phone then you will realise how hard it is to use.

However, I will now be trying a neat new application called The Next Bus that gives the same information but using a clean interface that should offer a much improved experience for those using mobile phone devices.

You first need to find the bus stop number on the bus stop or by using the search engine/clunky map on travelsouthyorkshire.com. Once you have it, simply enter the stop number on The Next Bus and it returns the latest bus timetable information.

I tried it for the stop on Crookes Road just down from the Old Grindstone (stop number 37020400) and it worked a treat.

So if you have an internet-enabled smartphone, bookmark http://thenextbus.appspot.com/ now. And send your thanks to the person who developed it.

It looks like this application also works for services in West Yorkshire, Belfast, Cardiff, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Kent.

Sign the station gates petition

Keep Sheffield Midland station open access for all

The debate about East Midlands Trains (EMT) and their plan to block public access through the station rumbles on.

It seems ridiculous to me that they should consider this proposal considering that it is a key pedestrian route into the city centre from the Park Hill side. Not to mention the fact that it would also stop all Sheffielders greeting people all trains on the platform.

If you haven’t already, then it may help to sign this petition and give your view.

Image by pauldcocker and used under Creative Commons license

Ten ways to improve Sheffield (part two)

Part two of the post that collects together a list of ideas to improve Sheffield (parts one to five)

Address the spiralling cost of public transport
Ever before the price of petrol started going up, the bus fares in Sheffield were unreasonably high. In London, you can hop on a bus for 90p using an Oyster card. Sheffield may not be as big as the capital but is the city not of a sufficient size to apply the same economic principals? It is a far cry from the 2p single bus fares I used to pay when I was a child. Obviously we can’t return to the heavily subsidised days of the 1980s but if fares are lower in other big cities then there must be something First can learn from these revenue models. The least they can promise a pricing consultation and review.

Further develop Sheffield’s gay scene
It was good to see a successful South Yorkshire Pride taking place earlier this month. I’m not an expert on Sheffield’s gay scene, but it seems that over the years the city has struggled to maintain momentum when trying to establish decent venues that appeal to a LGBT crowd. Other places like Manchester and London have streets that are home to many gay bars and venues. I’m not sure whether this is the way to go for Sheffield – and perhaps these areas should develop organically – but a start would be for venue owners to realise that working together to establish a cluster of gay-friendly venues (in the city centre, not tucked out in Attercliffe) may benefit their business more than competing against each other until none are left. Or is Sheffield ironically too-friendly a city to support a gay scene?

Build a landmark building that will make the city’s skyline distinctive
So we are resigned to losing the cooling towers, but why not be brave and create a high-quality, distinctive and tall building in Sheffield that would sit proudly on the city’s horizon and be recognisable the world over? I sometimes think our town planners are overly-cautious with what they allow, perhaps due to mistakes in the past, but imagine if we had our own London Eye, CN Tower or Opera House? It wouldn’t have to be on such a grand scale, but a distinctive and tasteful development along these lines that compliments the existing skyline could be spectacular.

Promote more live music at Don Valley Stadium
The organisation that runs Sheffield International Venues recently announced a record annual turnover of £21m, but I would like to see more live music taking place at Don Valley Stadium. My memory, and some internet research, recalls ten stadium gigs at Don Valley since it opened in 1990, which averages at around one every two years. Surely we can do better than that. The Arctic Monkeys played Lancashire CCC ground last summer; would a homecoming gig at Don Valley have been more fitting?

Get both Wednesday and United back in the Premiership
Easier said than done, but this would be worth millions to the city in terms of raising its profile across the world, while making a lot of Sheffield football fans very happy. Obviously we can’t wave a magic wand to make this happen but the Blades are a well-run club, perfectly capable of mounting a promotion challenge this coming season and if Wednesday’s imminent takeover actually happens then it may not be such a pipe dream after all.

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