Episode 5 - “Integrated” transport planning: honoured in the breach.

Roger Boulter’s recent book draft (on www.boulter.co.nz) won a 2020 WSP Golden Foot Award. This post outlines some issues covered in the seventh of twelve chapters.

Integrated’ transport planning: honoured in the breach

The idea of ‘integrated’ transport planning – planning for different forms of transport together – came in the late 1980s as traffic modelling became sophisticated enough to test out whether public transport projects might be able to take some of the demand for travel, rather than it all being met through road-building. Environmental concerns also prompted a search for more benign transport; and it was already becoming clear that building more roads prompted more travel demand.

Early ‘integrated’ transport studies were collaborations between a roading authority (typically a city council) and a public transport authority (typically covering a whole conurbation). From the start these were criticised as over-pragmatic combinations between those different bodies’ favoured projects, compiled into a share programme.

They were also criticised for excluding lay public input, and omitting walking and cycling altogether from consideration. These studies were, like transport planning had always been, driven by analysis of technical data. Contributing people’s views was not easily taken into account in an essentially technical exercise, and there was little or no data on numbers walking or cycling.

More recently in New Zealand, we have seen multi-modal planning exercises for major centres, such as Let’s Get Wellington Moving or the Auckland Transport Alignment Project. These have been driven by a desire to harmonise central government’s state highway proposals with more local bodies’ proposals for public transport. Walking and cycling have been included, and there has been public consultation, but sometimes politically unpalatable choices have been avoided. For example, consultation on the Wellington exercise did not allow for a choice between public transport and roading even in the CBD (just a choice between different levels of mixed roading/ public transport investment) and there was no coverage at all of whether commuter corridors north of a limited study area were to be based on roading or rail service investment; despite this being a very influential factor in CBD traffic levels. In this situation different projects may work against each other, giving the road congestion, inadequate public transport, and poor walking and cycling environments we have always had.

The One Network Road Classification and Network Operating Plans/ Frameworks also attempt integration by placing different network requirements together, sometimes in map-based form. Providing for all these requirements may in practical terms be impossible. In default of more explicit criteria, these exercises may continue to give main priority to mass car transport.