Getting the carbon out of transport can be an uphill struggle, but it is going to be a much bigger struggle if we keep building places up the wrong hills.
New developments tend to get built on the sites that developers want to bring forward at the invitation of local authorities, rather than in the places that make most sense from an integrated and low-carbon transport perspective. That is understandable of course – planning is hard and full of tough choices and compromises. But, there are ways to encourage much more effective integration of land use and transport planning.
Undertaking a district-based transport study to identify the optimal locations for effective, low-carbon transport is a powerful start, encouraging development where there are natural transport solutions, instead of bolting something on to the wrong place later (which is likely to be costly and unsustainable in terms of enduring use). The criteria for a study should be locally based, looking at proximity to local services and public and active transport, access to electric vehicles, and opportunities to increase density, in order to increase the viability of public transport and contribute towards levelling up by providing a range of housing which can be accessed and serviced in a cost effective manner.
But even when we can’t influence the siting of new developments as much as we would like, there is plenty we can do to encourage better land use and transport integration. For example bringing together local authorities, developers and other stakeholders such as National Highways, bus operators and future mobility providers, to ensure they have the information they need to create the right sustainable transport strategy.
Do they know what critical mass is needed to make a bus service self-sustaining? Are they aware of the different accessibility requirements implied by different housing types? Have they considered the way existing transport services could be exploited and integrated within the new site to encourage active travel and walkable neighbourhoods?
These are questions we have the answers to, we just have to make sure they get asked. Uphill struggle? Perhaps. But there is a reason we go up hills: the view is better from the top.
Tools for the job
At SYSTRA we have been busy developing new and improving existing tools to better integrate land use and transport, including our ‘Walkability’ and DELTA modelling for villages, towns and cities throughout the UK.
A tool to score ‘Walkability’
Assessing whether an existing neighbourhood or a new development is easily accessible on foot is a complicated challenge. To do this, our approach is to firstly assess the proximity of local services to potential development sites, and then audit the quality of the streets and routes which lead to them. We use a ‘heatmap’ approach to assess distances to the most frequently used services. This can then be used to develop a locally derived ‘walkability’ score and is especially useful at the early stage of development.
The Walkability tool can also be used to examine options for improving and developing local facilities or services, and sustainable transport infrastructure, as part of the local plan evidence base required by the National Planning Policy Framework.
Example of heatmap used to assess distances to most frequently used services
To find out more about the Walkability approach please contact Emily Walsh.
A modelling tool to integrate land use and transport
The way urban spaces change over time, not just physically but in terms of their character (how they are used and inhabited by different communities), is fantastically complex. Understanding and predicting how those changes will interact with and feed back into any development proposal or planning policy is an order of magnitude more complex. However, our DELTA modelling software provides an insight into those processes and adds a powerful new weapon to the armoury of transport planners.
DELTA models a range of intertwining processes that are weakly linked to each other in any one period, but which produce significant feedback effects over time, including in their interactions with transport. Changes in the quantity and quality of floor space available for occupation, employment patterns, household transitions and the property market are modelled. The influence of transport is mapped onto these changes through sets of data variables, giving transport planners a highly sophisticated picture of how proposals are dynamically intertwined with land use patterns.
To find out more about DELTA, or to try it, please contact Neil Raha.