Why do we need transport planning? - RSA

Why do we need transport planning?

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  • Picture of Lynda Addison FRSA
    Lynda Addison FRSA
    Transport Planning Society Chair & of CIHT Panel. Planner & Transport Planner public private sector
  • Public services
  • Fellowship

Lynda Addison FRSA asks why we need transport planning and how communities can get involved.

Without transport planning you could struggle to access your daily needs! We all rely on transport to connect us to jobs, schools, family, friends and vital services. But most of us don’t think about the planning that goes into making transport work. We tend to notice only when things go wrong – a badly re-designed junction that increases journey time and pollution, and causes frustration. Or a street that is inaccessible to buggy and wheelchair users. Alternatively, it could be a lack of pavement or bus! Only then might we ask questions about the process that goes into deciding what transport is provided and where.

Transport planning has a positive impact on our lives. It is about giving people and businesses access to other people, goods and services. We all experience this all the time, from a child able to walk safely to a friend’s house, to a business able to send a package across the world in a matter of hours. Transport planning is about managing all these often-conflicting demands for travel in a way that is economically efficient, environmentally sustainable, and socially equitable. But transport can also have a negative impact on people’s lives, for example through air and noise pollution or accidents. Transport planning seeks to reduce these impacts and support delivery of liveable neighbourhoods and quality places for people supporting a healthy and active lifestyle.

What makes a good transport initiative?

Fundamentally, it is community involvement that makes good transport planning. In fact, delivering exemplary community engagement will make a good scheme great. Community engagement has been a key part of my job all my working life, and I firmly believe communities should take centre stage in telling the professionals what good looks like.

Local people know which schemes will make things better for their communities. That’s why effective public engagement is crucial. It’s often not the big projects that are the best solution – transport planning helps protect communities, as well as create new opportunities. Central to transport planning is improving people’s access to services, quality of life and wellbeing.


What can we do to get communities more engaged in transport planning?

It’s important to tell the story of transport planning in a way that resonates with people. Explaining that transport planners create safe and healthy streets, accessible public realm and liveable neighbourhoods will help engage people on the important work that transport planners do. We also need to give them the opportunity to say what their needs are.

But we also need to instil in transport planners the need to engage communities in their plans at an early stage. Plans should always be focussed on people. Sometimes it also means explaining why an idea is not practical or desirable.

Since becoming Chair of the Transport Planning Society, I’ve consulted our membership to set out some key Principles for transport planning. These fall into two main areas: firstly, what transport planners should be seeking to achieve, and secondly, how the profession should conduct itself while working towards those outcomes. The aim is to achieve consistency of objectives as well as skills and behaviours, including putting people at the heart of plans.

New awards

We’ve also now launched the first people’s award for transport planning, which invites communities to tell the professionals how transport planning has improved their lives. This could include enabling the creation of great new places, new opportunities to travel for all, or simply making a small local difference to the journey to school or the shops. The winner will be announced at Transport Planning Day, a conference being held in London on 13 November.

Transport Planning Day is a fantastic opportunity for the community to engage with transport planning and to celebrate the positive impact it can have on people’s lives, as well as the diversity of our profession.

The aim of the event is to promote transport planning to a wider audience and celebrate the industry’s achievements. The awards ceremony will showcase the best transport planning projects and approaches. It will recognise projects and initiatives that have made a genuine contribution to improving people’s accessibility, quality of life and wellbeing.


Inspiring the next generation

Transport Planning Day will also highlight the people behind the projects. We’re featuring positive role models to inspire young people from a diverse range of communities to engage in transport planning as a career. By attracting more people to the profession, we will ensure a diverse range of perspectives are informing the transport planning process and reaching out to engage people like them; this will ensure even better decision making.

How can RSA Fellows help?

As RSA Fellows we have a collective commitment to enrich society through ideas and action, so we should all take an interest in transport planning. Transport is fundamental to our society: well-planned transport enriches people’s lives and makes them better.

One of the RSA’s current priorities is enabling people to take an active role in solving the problems in their own communities; that’s why we should all be inspired to take action, encourage others, and work with the professionals to create better transport and change lives.

Specifically we’d encourage RSA Fellows to generate their own social media content in support of the Transport Planning Day campaign, using the hashtag #TransportPlanningDay and tagging in @TransPlanSoc – so please get tweeting and sharing!

And where you know of great transport projects in your area please also encourage your local communities to make a nomination for the awards.


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  • What an inspiring piece by Lynda Addison. Over 40 years ago when working in local government I came across planners who worked with public transport and over 40 years later and retired I find myself working with the same local transport authority, but this time trying to promote social enterprises to fill gaps in transport created by cuts in subsidies to public transport! The wheel has turned full circle (pardon the pun) because we now do my best to work with all transport operators, local authorities and local councils to find transport solutions for neighbourhoods and communities not served. "Transport Solutions for Oxfordshire" now has a number of projects and would like to hear more about TPS and transport planning generally and experiences from othe rparts of the country.  Christopher Gowers FRSA . E; [email protected].

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