Transport Needs for Future Generations
14 November 2018

Transport Needs for Future Generations

Insight from Transport Planning Camp [or, what happens when you get 60 transport planners together with no agenda…]

Last week, SYSTRA’s Katie Millard and Paul Osborne attended the inaugural Transport Planning Camp, organised by Transport Futures Limited and hosted by the Leeds Online Data Institute. SYSTRA was pleased to be a sponsor at this innovative event, with its ethos sharing our own passion for the industry and looking at what we can all do as Transport Planners and Engineers to help shape and define what comes next

This ‘unconference’ aimed to put the agenda for the day firmly in the hands of the delegates. About 60 people attended, a good mix of age, gender and experience, with the audience including DfT, HE, TfL, TfN, Combined Authorities, consultants, data focussed business start-ups, academics and local authority staff.

So, what happened, and what did we learn?

Firstly, delegates wrote down the idea they wanted to discuss most, under the theme of ‘Transport Needs of Future Generations’. The nine highest scoring themes made up the sessions for the day.

The topics selected are interesting in their own right, giving an indication of what transport planners feel is really important at this time:

  1. Challenging predict and provide
  2. Governance of future transport
  3. Freight and trends in consumer demand
  4. Ensuring equity and safety in future mobility schemes
  5. Maas options and socially excluded groups
  6. Land use and mobility for future generations
  7. Ending individual private car ownership
  8. Autonomous vehicles – pros and cons
  9. Advocating for decarbonisation of transport

Overall the quality of debate was high, and the sessions thought provoking, with the encouragement to move around and talk, and ‘Chatham House rules applied’ keeping the discussion open.

Paul’s insights from the day:

In Predict and Provide we concluded that despite all the nice words in transport policy and local strategies, we continue to build new and wider roads. There needs to be more use of cost benefit analysis in combination with value judgements and better valuation of societal and environmental factors. Societal factors are getting more attention from researchers and the DfT, but Cost Benefit remains important at the Treasury where transport is pitching against other sectors.

In the Mobility as a Service session we identified transport-deprived groups, and scoped out applications that might appeal to them. Some of us worked on an app for children aged 10 to 16yrs, and we’ve got some good ideas if anyone can see a development opportunity!

In the session on Advocacy we explored what decarbonisation might mean and defined what the profession might be aiming for, who is the target of advocacy and who needs to be involved.

I came away with some good contacts for future partnerships, background research and a reminder of how good it is to talk to colleagues when problems seem insurmountable.

Katie’s insights from the day:

In the Social Equity session we established that more needs to be done to push the ‘people’ agenda when it comes to strategic and local planning. The economy and whether there is a business case always seem to take front stage when new plans are being developed, when we should really be thinking about what it is that the people here need from this. The session called for greater empowerment of people, encouraging them to use their voice to make a change.

In the session on Autonomous Vehicles there was an intense debate about whether AVs will be an opportunity or a threat in the future, with many having an opinion one way or the other before the session had begun! However, following a brainstorming session it soon became clear that there are relatively equal opportunities and threats when it comes to AVs. It is really how [well] these are regulated and managed that will be key.

The session on Land Use recognised the challenge faced in trying to get collaboration between transport planning and land use planning. There was a consensus that although we are still living in a car-dependent society, there are huge opportunities to reduce car use, whether that is by building homes close to good public and active transport links or reducing the need to travel in the first place via remote office hubs and smart working practices. Suggestions were made, including cities and towns adapting to retain visitors for longer, for example through investing in their night time economy. The challenge will be how to turn all this into a reality.

I left the event having learned something new and with an alternative perspective on a variety of subjects, as well some useful contacts. Coming together as a group, the challenge of transport planning seemed far more hopeful for the future.

Overall conclusion?

There was a broad consensus that the transport planning profession must show more leadership and take on the ‘business as usual’ approach which is endemic in most places. The collective desire to make a difference was impressive across all sessions.

The more detailed notes from each of the sessions are available at:

http://bit.ly/2OgOwp6

http://bit.ly/2SBUPaf

http://bit.ly/2zjWRCG

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