What does transport integration really mean?

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 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 public transport, walking and cycling for moving people and high capacity freight
  3. Efficient and effective use of existing transport systems and provision of infrastructure and services
  4. Increasing energy efficiency and reducing vehicle emissions.

What is transport 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. This can be assessed 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 – at least walking at the beginning and end, and then some combination of cycling, or travelling by bus, train, ferry or car or any other mode (electric bike or scooter for example).

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 door to door, from origin to destination.

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

Components of integrated transport

Integrated transport occurs on a number of levels:

  • Interchanging is perceived 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.
  • From a physical perspective thinking about a traveller connecting from one leg of the journey to the next means designing the shortest, easiest, most comfortable and safe connection. Close proximity and ease of connection will greatly improve user satisfaction; increase public transport patronage and transport sustainability.
  • providing connecting information is critical to successful multi-modal travel. Ready access to reliable and timely service information is expected in today’s connected society. We want to have accurate and timely information before we choose a connected trip – and during the trip, as to where to go next.
  • a simple, connected payment system, irrespective of whether driving, parking or using public transport and not be charged extra for connecting from one mode to another.
  • be led by a single agency responsible for policy, planning, pricing and operation across modes, to enable seamless connected journeys. We really don’t care about the institutions, we just want transport agencies to be able to plan and deliver the connected trips we want to make.

How can transport integration be successfully achieved?

There are three prerequisites to the achievement of successful integrated transport networks: (1) integrated planning, (2) integrated infrastructure and (3) integrated operations.

1. Integrated Planning. A major challenge is getting all those responsible for planning transport networks (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 need to seamlessly connect to enable the most convenient and highest quality travel experience. Interchanges need to ensure seamless connections between park and ride facilities and stations, between cycleways and public transport stations and transport stations with retail and commercial precincts. This is particularly important as waiting time is perceived to be 2.5 times greater than actual time.

3. Integrated Operations. In conjunction with integration of infrastructure, transport services need to be co-ordinated to ensure seamless connections between services (bike/car to bus, bus to bus/train/ferry 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 additional cost.

Traveller information, particularly real-time service information, is also a key to success by helping users make informed decisions about travel modes.

To Understand is to Better Serve

Viewing transport related concerns and challenges from the point of view of travellers is the key to creating integrated transport systems that successfully serve those who will rely upon the systems every day and encourage greater use.

Understanding the meaning and impact of true transport integration lays the foundation for creating transport systems that work together well.

This requires educated and experienced transport professionals.

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

Further reading

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

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