Using AI to help analyse transport challenges

As part of addressing transport challenges in a project, such as developing a strategic plan, an infrastructure improvement or a business case, it is useful to identify the issue drivers (pun intended!) as this can help identify root causes and potential solution options or components.

To help with this exercise, I prepared a prompt you can use or adapt using ChatGPT when developing a transport strategy for a region or city. The more specific you can be, the better the result: 

Identify Issue Drivers: Generate a list of potential drivers of transport challenges specific to [region/city name], considering both historical data and emerging trends.

For example, I used the prompt: Generate a list of potential drivers of transport challenges specific to [Toowoomba Queensland Australia] considering both historical data and emerging trends. And ChatGPT 4 produced the following response:

Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, is a regional city that has unique transport challenges shaped by its geographical location, economic activities, and population dynamics. Here’s a list of potential drivers of transport challenges specific to Toowoomba, considering both historical data and emerging trends:

Historical Drivers

1. Topography: Toowoomba is situated on the crest of the Great Dividing Range, and the area is characterized by steep terrain in some parts. Historical road and rail developments have had to contend with these geographical challenges.

2. Agricultural Economy: Historically, as a hub for agriculture, transport of goods has required robust road and rail links to coastal ports, which may have faced capacity and efficiency issues.

3. Population Growth: Historically steady population growth has contributed to increasing transport demands within the city and connections to other regions.

4. Urban Sprawl: As the city has expanded, so has the need for improved transport infrastructure to connect newer suburbs and developments with the central areas of Toowoomba.

5. Flood Events: Toowoomba has a history of flooding, which can disrupt transport networks and damage infrastructure.

Emerging Trends

1. Inland Rail Project: The construction of the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail will have a significant impact on transport within Toowoomba, with the city set to become a major freight hub.

2. Road Network Expansion: The Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, now known as the Toowoomba Bypass, has been constructed to alleviate some of the transport pressure on the city’s road network.

3. Economic Diversification: As the local economy diversifies beyond agriculture into sectors like education, health, and retail, there is a growing need for varied transport solutions.

4. Climate Change: Increasing temperatures and variability in weather patterns may exacerbate existing challenges such as flooding and heat damage to infrastructure.

5. Technology and Innovation: The adoption of smart technology and innovative transport solutions, like electric buses or improved traffic management systems, could be driven by environmental and efficiency considerations.

6. Population Trends: Continued population growth, particularly in suburban and peri-urban areas, might put pressure on the existing transport network.

7. Tourism: Toowoomba’s role as a destination for events like the Carnival of Flowers could lead to episodic transport capacity issues.

8. Freight Demands: As a regional hub, there is a growing need for efficient freight transport to and from Toowoomba, driven by both local production and distribution from the ports to the inland areas.

9. Public Transport Utilisation: There may be challenges in increasing the use of public transport among residents traditionally reliant on private vehicles.

10. Sustainability Initiatives: The push for more sustainable transport options, including cycling and walking pathways, could alter the transport infrastructure needs of the city.

11. Connectivity with Brisbane: As the nearest capital city, improving transport links between Toowoomba and Brisbane remains a priority, including faster rail and road options.

12. Decentralization Policies: Government policies encouraging decentralization may lead to an increase in the number of people and businesses relocating to Toowoomba, impacting the transport infrastructure needs.

In addressing these challenges, Toowoomba’s transport planners and policymakers will need to consider a multifaceted approach that includes infrastructure investment, policy changes, and technological innovation to create a sustainable and efficient transport future.

Very impressive response! You can see how this could be used as an initial draft section in a strategic planning report. The benefit is this provides a list of potential drivers, some you may not agree with or see as important and not include, while others you can expand on by quoting sources or including data or charts. You can also regenerate the response and see what else AI can come up with.

Action: test using the prompt for a project you are working on.