What does successful transport integration really mean?

A large proportion of Australians live in cities. Our cities are shaped by where people live, work, learn, shop and play and how they travel around. As transport users, we want connected trips. Transport connectivity is key to enabling the best use of resources, with an emphasis on sustainability.

Reducing the overall socio-economic cost of transport infrastructure and services is key to achieving sustainability.

Moving people’ is usually considered from a single mode perspective, rather than taking a whole of transport, integrated approach. This requires professionals to plan for sustainable transport options and alternatives, to ensure seamless connectivity, to reduce the need to travel, reduce the number and length of trips and reduce car dependence.

What does sustainable transport mean?

The primary objectives of a sustainable transport system include:

  1. Reduce travel demand, particularly motorised modes, by reducing the need to travel, number of trips and trip lengths
  2. Greater use of sustainable modes such as walking and cycling and public transport
  3. Efficient and effective use of existing transport systems and provision of infrastructure and services
  4. Increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions.

What is integration?

Understanding the essence of transport integration is the first step to building a successful and sustainable transport system. The term “integration” gets used a lot by transport planners – but what does it really mean?

To a user, integration is about the ease of moving around. Assess by answering questions like:

  • Will I be able to travel when I want to go?
  • How much time will the trip take?
  • How comfortable and safe will the trip be?
  • How convenient will the trip be?
  • What will the trip cost?
  • What information is available to help me choose my means of travel?

Every trip you make has more than one mode of travel: walking at the beginning and end, and then some combination of walking, cycling or travelling by bus, train, or car.

For a trip to be considered integrated means a relatively seamless journey, with different segments readily connecting, in close proximity (in space and time), to ensure a reasonable travel time from origin to destination.

Well-designed integration results in cost-effective and sustainable transport of a reliable quality. The cost of the trip is value for money and the trip is safe and comfortable.

Components of integrated transport

Integrated transport occurs on several levels:

  • We perceive interchanging to take longer than it actually does. The key is for services to connect, with little lag time. The move to ‘turn up and go’ transit services on high-volume routes reduces reliance on timetables and improves convenience. We want a convenient, reliable and quick journey, with seamless connections from start to end.
  • Think about a traveller connecting from one leg of the journey to the next means designing the shortest, easiest, most comfortable and safe connection. Proximity and physical ease of connection will improve user satisfaction; increase public transport patronage and transport sustainability.
  • Providing connecting information is critical to successful multi-modal travel. We expect ready access to reliable and timely service information in today’s connected society. We want to have accurate and timely information before we choose a connected trip – and during the trip, where to go next.
  • We want a simple, connected payment system, irrespective of whether driving, parking or using public transport, and not be penalised for connecting.
  • A single agency responsible for policy, planning should lead integrated transport, pricing and operation across modes, to enable seamless connected journeys. We really don’t care about the institutions, we just want transport agencies to plan and deliver the connected trips we want to make.

How can we achieve transport integration?

The three prerequisites to the achievement of successful integrated transport networks are:

  1. Integrated Planning. A major challenge is getting all the agencies responsible for planning transport networks (e.g., state, local and private) to coordinate their efforts and ensure transport policy, networks, and services are developed as an integrated system. Coordinating planning for the various modes will ensure they readily connect at interchanges (both spatially and temporally), resulting in trips with minimum disruption, discomfort, or safety concerns.
  2. Integrated Infrastructure. Transport modes should seamlessly connect to enable the most convenient and highest quality travel experience. For example, interchanges need to ensure seamless connections between park-and-ride and stations, ensure connections between a cycleway and transit stations, and connect stations with retail and commercial precincts.
  3. Integrated Operations. With integration of infrastructure, transport services need to be co-ordinated to ensure seamless connections between services (e.g. car to bus, bus to bus, bus to train, etc.) from origin to destination. In high patronage areas, ‘turn up and go’ frequencies of 5-to-10-minute intervals are preferred. The different modes need to complement each other, rather than operate independently or in competition with one another. Integrated ticketing and fares are critical to enable seamless transfer from one service or mode to another, without penalty. Traveller information, particularly real-time service information, is also a key to success, by helping users make informed decisions about their journey.

To understand is to better serve

Viewing transport related concerns and challenges from the point of view of a traveller is the key to creating integrated transport systems that successfully serve users who will rely on the systems every day, and encourage greater use.

Understanding the meaning and impact of transport integration lays the foundation for creating transport systems that work together well and provide an attractive, sustainable service. This requires educated and experienced transport professionals.

Further reading: Michael Taylor, 2015. Integrated land use and transport planning: is this the key to urban sustainability?

Think about your travel today. What ‘transport integration’ issues did you experience? What would you suggest could make your journey more connected, more sustainable?

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How to avoid problem-solution thinking

Transport challenges are complex and dynamic, and usually don’t have agreed solutions.

To solve transport challenges or problems, you need to involve a range of key stakeholders who have a keen interest, often with disparate views on what to do. Key stakeholders have a significant interest in the problem or can have a major influence on the approach taken to address the challenges.

As professionals, we are charged with solving problems and usually have our own preferred solution to most transport challenges – but beware of the trap of ‘problem-solution’ thinking.

This results from jumping to the solution immediately a problem is raised, and then unfortunately, vigorously defending this solution, and not leaving open the opportunity to consider other viable options.

Read more

How to ensure the success of smart mobility


Measuring smart mobility initiatives is critical to success.

Transport agencies and companies are accountable for the return on investment funds and it is in their interest to demonstrate the success of past investment in moving towards desired transport outcomes, when seeking funding for future programs.

However, post-evaluation of transport projects is rarely conducted.

Read more

Dealing with Unexpectedness


How should we deal with traffic incidents at critical times and locations, which cause major, unexpected problems for users?

Operators of road traffic networks are under increasing pressure to maintain acceptable levels of service, with declining resources and competing priorities. Urban traffic networks are not able to keep pace with the growth in travel, as a result major roads operate at maximum capacity for extended periods.

Read more

How to avoid three common transport planning mistakes

Solving complex policy issues, such as improving travel time reliability, are challenges facing transport professionals. Problem analysis, however, is not a common skill among transport professionals.

Transport Problems are Complex

Transport problems are complex and dynamic, making them difficult to comprehend fully. They usually don’t have a simple solution, and dealing with them may require a combination of solutions to resolve effectively. Consider three common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1. Problem-Solution Thinking

As professionals, we often have our preferred solution for specific transport problems – what I call ‘problem-solution’ thinking. This is the first mistake – jumping to the solution immediately after the issue is raised and then vigorously defending it, not leaving open the opportunity to consider other viable options.

For example, the way to solve traffic congestion is … “to build more lanes”; or “provide more public transport services”. All of these may be an option, but not necessarily the only or best solution.

To avoid this mistake, the first step is to make the problem explicit, disconnect it from potential solutions and describe cause and effect. For example, consider the major causes of congestion, the root cause could be not enough employment opportunities in the vicinity of a new residential area; hence people have to travel.

Mistake #2. Forgetting Key Stakeholders

When considering traffic congestion, for example, the focus is usually on cars, while freight interests may not be given adequate consideration. This is the second mistake, forgetting key stakeholders.

So, identify the key stakeholders and identify what they each want to achieve. Focus on the key stakeholders or those who have a significant interest in the problem or may have significant influence to help solve the problem.

The stakeholders you actively engage with should be able to contribute to the solution. Others may have strong views, and if they have significant influence with politicians or the media, then it would be smart to hear their views at least.

Each key stakeholder will have their specific objective for an issue, but this may conflict with others’ objectives. By going through the process of detailing each stakeholder’s views, you have a much better chance of understanding the complexity of the problem and identifying opportunities to find complementary parts to a solution.

Mistake #3. Downside Not Explicit

A well-defined problem statement has three elements: (1) the undesired situation, (2) the future desired situation, and (3) in getting from one to the other or the gap; there are downsides.

To illustrate, traffic congestion is an undesired situation, and more reliable traffic flow is a future desired situation, so the difference is the gap; however, as there are competing interests for travel along a corridor, the downside means some lose out.

For example, the priority for road freight transport can be the best use of limited road space. However, this means cars and buses have less capacity.

Every problem statement should consider both a gap and a downside, which is usually why the problem isn’t easily solved. A common mistake is that the downside is not made explicit.

This can result in not knowing what the problem really is from different stakeholder perspectives and can result in a simplistic or unrealistic ‘solution’. Many politicians deliberately downplay the downside and ‘appear’ to be solving the problem.

Key Concepts

  • focus thinking on the problem rather than a preferred solution
  • engage key stakeholders
  • makes the downside explicit.

Developing solutions to complex transport issues is not a simple task, and as transport professionals, we need to avoid the traps and mistakes that can lead to poor results.

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