Todd Litman of the Canadian Victoria Transport Policy Institute, in a recent paper (December 2012) describes his view of the basic principles of transport planning.
The paper describes ‘conventional’ transport planning, with a focus on motor vehicle traffic conditions and the ‘newer’ methods for multi-modal planning and evaluation.
This may be the case for North America, but is less so in Australia. I believe that integrated and multimodal planning has been ‘conventional’ for some time here.
The ‘conventional’ planning process described, suggests a bias on the part of the author, with emotive words such as ‘conventional planning practices support automobile dependency’.
Rather, the emphasis needs to be on moving people and goods and all means of transport are given due consideration – whether car, bus, truck, train, ferry, cycle, even walking.
In my view ‘automobile dependency’ is emotive and an anti-car label. In many situations the car travelling by car is either the most economical or viable alternative. As a community cannot afford not to provide for car travel.
What is most important is value – the direct cost to the transport user and the indirect cost to the community (ultimately the taxpayer). The aim should be to minimise the total cost. While it would be great to be able to provide mass public transport for everyone to be able to travel anywhere, anytime – it is just not practical or feasible.
The emphasis should be on reducing the cost of travel and increasing the benefits – not just to the individual traveller but to all of us who foot the bill.
More sophisticated planning tools are available, but the problem is having adequate and accurate data to undertake the analysis. Best practice approaches seek to maximise ‘value’ and consider a range of practical options and develop fit for purpose recommendations.
A major challenge is the difficulty in getting institutions to integrate their planning – transit and highway agencies, state and local authorities – often with different objectives and mandated requirements.
Litman’s paper is a valuable resource, as long as you remain objective and seek for best practice.
Reference: Litman, T (2012) Introduction to Multi-Modal Transportation Planning: principles and practices, Victoria Transport Policy Institute. www.vtpi.org/multimodal_planning.pdf