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Success stories Published on 26-Feb-2004

Title 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.

Half of all growth in traffic is caused by urban sprawl.
Half of all growth in traffic is caused by urban sprawl.
The conditions prevailing in any major city show that the transport and land-use strategies adopted by the planning authorities are not sustainable. The continuing steep rise in private car use, increased journey times, growing congestion, and worsening pollution, together with the high numbers of accidents, all paint the same sorry picture of inadequacy and inefficiency. The situation has largely been caused by urban sprawl into the suburbs, the result of uninformed and short-sighted planning.

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.

Rational approach
Traffic jam
The guidebook for decision-makers offers advice on city planning to politicians and senior officials, taking into account the financial, legal, political and other constraints by which planners are bound. It suggests a structured approach to planning, asking at each stage in the decision-forming process why an issue is important and what the options for tackling it are. A key first step is to understand who influences decisions and to what extent, so that the key figures can be involved in the decision-making process as far as possible. The guide presents case studies of four European cities – Edinburgh, Madrid, Oslo and Vienna – which have adopted some or all of the approaches recommended.

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.

Wider integration
There are still challenges to overcome, as transport and land-use decisions become increasingly complex. Regional, national and, increasingly, European policies all influence local urban strategies. The private sector is increasingly responsible for public transport and roads. In an information-rich society, users too are demanding to be more involved in decision-making. “National governments need to get the structure right for local and regional government,” says May. “Once we have identified the most effective strategies, from Prospects and allied projects in the cluster, then we need to decide how best to implement them, and learn from that experience.”

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.”

  • Title
    Procedures for recommending optimal sustainable planning of European city transport systems (PROSPECTS)
  • Reference
  • Programme
    FP5: Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Contact
    Professor Tony May
    University of Leeds
    United Kingdom
  • Partners
    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