A highway code for city planners
Transport systems in European cities tend to be characterised by congestion, pollution and inefficiency. This is largely the result of poorly planned decentralisation of urban areas. A UK-led consortium has produced a unique set of guidebooks that advise on a structured approach to city planning. They show how transport and land-use strategies, even in difficult circumstances, can be integrated in a sustainable way.
Advances in technology have helped to alleviate the worst of the problems, but relief appears to be only temporary. Indeed, it has heightened the polarisation between those with and without cars. The disadvantaged must walk, cycle or rely on public transport to reach workplaces, shops and leisure facilities that are increasingly located to suit car users.
An EU-funded project offers guidance to local and regional authorities on how best to make use of available land in the implementation of transport strategies. The advice is offered as part of an ongoing programme of sustainable urban development – Prospects forms part of the Land Use and Transportation Research (LUTR) cluster of projects. Its three guidebooks are based on examples of planning and decision-making approaches from many European cities. Presented in a clear, consistent and readily accessible style, their main feature is the promotion of integrated transport and land-use plans. Eight partners from six countries participated in the project, including two SMEs.
Project coordinator Professor Tony May of the University of Leeds emphasises the individuality and cultural diversity of European cities. “The key is that we are not prescriptive, simply telling people what to do. Each city has its own aspirations and contexts. We propose a logical sequence to follow, starting from a clear concept of what is to be achieved. We suggest a number of objectives to consider. We outline ways in which strategies can be formulated using a package of policy instruments that help to overcome barriers to progress.”
“There is no single solution,” May continues. “A range of tools is needed, such as construction of new infrastructure and changed pricing structures. We encourage people to give more emphasis to long-term sustainability, which is something missing in most of the transport strategies we have looked at.” The guidebook introduces readers to a wide range of potential policy instruments. The project has also created a web-based knowledge base, ‘KonSULT', which gives up-to-date information on how individual policy instruments perform. It shows how one policy instrument can reinforce another by making it more publicly acceptable, or by generating finance to support it, for example. “We demonstrate how you can package these instruments into an overall strategy,” May says.
The desire for a better environment, and concern to maintain adequate resources and opportunities for future generations, are the motivation for more effective land use and better transport strategies. Professor May offers evidence from past experience that these strategies really work. “Some analytical work we carried out in previous projects, using transport measures alone, identified strategies that increased economic efficiency by up to 30%. I would expect that a truly effective strategy, including land-use measures, might add 30-50% to the benefits of transport strategy through reductions in congestion and other improvements in the environment.”
Procedures for recommending optimal sustainable planning of European city transport systems (PROSPECTS)
FP5: Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development
Professor Tony May
University of Leeds
University of Leeds, UK
Technical research centre of Finland, Finland
Royal institute of technology, Sweden
Vienna University of technology, Austria
Institute for transport economics, Norway
David Simmonds Consultancy, UK
The MVA Limited, UK
Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain