We need a way of working that is much more intelligent and less tainted by elderly practice and data, otherwise all we do is forecast more of the same. Taking an example, if you tell a traffic model that 2,000 car trips per hour travel down a grim street where no one can walk or cycle for fear of their life before you work your urban magic, then that requirement will seem believable. It’s horrible down there, two lanes of traffic at 40 mph, noise, pollution, can’t walk, can’t cross, can’t cycle. And if you then try to turn it into a place where people will actively want to walk, sit and read a paper, live, work, shop, having told the same black box that the same traffic still goes down there (fixed trip matrix!), the only result you will ever get is unsatisfactory. Common sense tells you that it’s just plain wrong for a host of reasons. Technically though, you could prove it ‘robust’, just as you can make 1 equal 0. Contrast this with an approach which uses a framework to consider movement by all modes across the whole of the local area.
This allows some intelligent judgement and information on travel patterns and behaviour to be used to understand how the zone of change nests within its surroundings and, in principle, what effect change may have. There could be a number of parallel routes, both for vehicles and public transport. Land use changes can be expected where the quality of the public realm changes and it becomes a great place to live, work and play.
The trip matrix changes as journey patterns change (variable trip matrix!), perhaps vehicle use falls (after all, 80% of journeys under one mileare already made on foot) and public transport use grows as investment is made because demand is increasing.There is clearly another line on the graph, not just a projection of the one based on what has happened in the past. This is the line to follow. Is it all too much of a leap of faith? Or rather is it a question of using a different technical approach to get to where we want to be, a question of understanding the broader picture before you paint the scene. More importantly, is this what urban designers and the public want from transport planners? Because if it is we have some work to do and there are fair few of us equipped to do it.”
Phew, says Juris. Let us try to grow transport engineers like that!