Transport systems fit for the digital age

Ensuring that transport policymaking is more robust in addressing changing patterns of travel behaviour.

Over the past 20 years, UWE Bristol’s Centre for Transport and Society (CTS) has led extensive studies into how travel patterns have been impacted by developments in the digital age such as teleworking, ubiquitous smartphones and online shopping.

Research revealed that transport planners and policy makers would do well to consider the possibility of people accessing opportunities both with and without the need to travel when developing policies to limit, change, or reduce people's travel.

CTS contributed to the growing realisation among the transport profession that digital connectivity shapes society, so much so that solutions to fulfil people’s need for access to goods, services, jobs and opportunities should be developed with this in mind. It has also been at the forefront of helping authorities across the UK and internationally to come to terms with deep uncertainty about the future and how to plan transport in the light of this.

Person walking through virtual reality wireframe

Forward thinking solutions

Working with the New Zealand Ministry for Transport, UWE Bristol’s CTS devised a “decide and provide” planning paradigm, whereby a preferred rather than predicted future is decided upon and then potential means of helping achieve that future are identified and tested against different scenarios reflecting uncertainty. This was pivotal to New Zealand’s 2017 inquiry into the future of the country’s mobility.

The “decide and provide” approach was similarly used by Transport Scotland, Transport for Greater Manchester and Transport for the West Midlands. Across the UK more broadly, UWE Bristol’s work has influenced the Department for Transport, contributing to the 2019 Williams Rail Review, as well as informing plans for decarbonisation of all UK domestic transport by 2050. It has also shaped city region strategies seeking investment from the £1,280,000,000 Transforming Cities Fund.

In facilitating sector-wide change, UWE Bristol’s Glenn Lyons , Mott MacDonald Professor of Future Mobility, worked with the global engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald to develop an interactive guide for transport authorities across the world to take a more vision-led strategic planning approach. FUTURES – Future Uncertainty Toolkit for Understanding and Responding to an Evolving Society – has since been used in Seattle, New York, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Prague and Queensland, as well as across the UK.

The “decide and provide” model has also been taken up by planning and transport consultants to advise private sector clients involved in designing new housing developments and putting in successful planning applications.

Ensuring that transport planning will continue to remain fit for purpose in an uncertain digital age, Professor Lyons has worked with the Chartered Institute for Highways and Transportation, influencing their decision to revise the professional competencies associated with the Chartered Transport Planning Professional qualification and helping it take steps towards that.

Contribution to the UN 2030 sustainable development goals

UWE Bristol is proud to align our research to the UN sustainable development goals. The above research aligns with the following goals:

  • Sustainable development goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

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