A time of unprecedented change in the transport system

The UK Government Foresight report, published in January 2019, reviews emerging trends, challenges and opportunities for the UK transport system out to 2040. Similar challenges and opportunities can be extrapolated for other jurisdictions, including Australia.

The report considers four plausible future scenarios to help decisionmakers think about the future of transport.

Transport users are experiencing an unprecedented pace of change, with electric powered mobility, mobility as a service and autonomous vehicles, all being facilitated by developments in technology.

There is an opportunity right now to shape a better future, learning lessons from the past and grasping opportunities being presented. If we don’t, then there will more than likely be negative consequences.

Transport is more than just travel. It connects people; it provides access to jobs, communities and goods; it delivers vital social services. …

Understanding the social and individual factors affecting people’s lives, and hence how people make the lifestyle choices they do – including their travel choices – is key to understanding future transport demand.

Overall, we are currently travelling less at an individual level. The changing nature of work, affordability, accessibility, safety, reliability and habit and shifting travel behaviours, particularly for older and younger people, are all important factors.

Freight is an essential part of the transport system, but often overlooked in land-use planning – see related article Why doesn’t smart growth emphasise freight?

The report considers four scenarios:

  • Trends Unmodified– where incremental, mostly reactive, change occurs; highlighting the risks of inaction
  • Technology Unleashedconsiders a future where technology is developed and delivered in a highly permissive environment
  • Individual Freedomsis a tightly constrained future due to increasing public concerns over handling of private data
  • Greener Communities suggests a future geared towards beneficial social and environmental outcomes.

These allow checking if plans for future transport are robust under the various scenarios.

Priority areas identified for transport strategists to consider include:

  • consider transport as a system, rather than loosely connected modes
  • consider wider objectives that the transport system can help to achieve, such as health, social inclusion, jobs, trade, access to services etc
  • outline a clear, long-term national vision and set goals that are mindful of varying local priorities
  • integrate passenger transport with freight, alongside housing priorities, when making planning decisions
  • use a scenarios approach to explore different futures, identify op- portunities and help mitigate the unintended consequences of new transport modes, technologies and/or trends
  • use both hard and soft measures to achieve the scale of change needed
  • consider the impact of future technologies on revenues and costs
  • consider prioritising walking and cycling when allocating land use for transport to promote wider social benefits
  • Understand that geography is key to ensuring outcomes are practi- cal at local and regional levels
  • Examine the specific challenges facing rural areas

Scenario planning can help decision-makers explore how policy choices will play out in different futures; it also helps to make policy decisions more resilient.

Download the report here.

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