Setting the Scene – Gaining Insight through Gathering Evidence

In a world unnerved by uncertainties, what’s certain in the transport planning world is that every local transport authority in England has a statutory duty to develop its Local Transport Plan (LTP4) setting out its vision for future transport and travel infrastructure. It’s also not in doubt that since LTP3 – now over 12 years old – the world has changed considerably, making them no longer relevant to meet today’s challenges and opportunities.

One of those opportunities is ‘data’, which has changed enormously. Today, we have much potential through utilising the right data sets combined with introducing new data systems, the ability to have real time analysis, and more importantly the ability to automate the reporting of a project’s impact. 

All LTPs must tell a story. The art of good story telling is to first set the scene. That means giving sufficient information to allow the reader (DfT) to picture the local transport environment clearly. In other words, demonstrate with evidence (and data) your area, the challenges, and your proposed solutions.  

At SYSTRA we know all about data – we know about gathering it, as well as interrogating, analysing and presenting it.

There’s an abundance of data sources out there to give context to your story. We pulled together the graphic below to highlight the web of data that’s available at your fingertips today – from population data for age, socio-economic and housing profiles to air quality, flood risk, and planning applications; then there’s specific transport data on car ownership and car, bus, rail and cycle use data. That’s not to mention the swathe of new data that can be derived from sources including social media to identify transport demand and trends; CCTV capturing footfall at major trip attractors or events; ridesharing and micro-mobility use data; and aggregated mobile phone data for ‘origin and destination’ information.


Let’s not overstate the obvious on choosing your data wisely, but instead be sure that the data you choose helps to tell your area’s story. It should begin by presenting a baseline on transport, accessibility and the environment, which will then allow you to showcase the challenging but achievable local transport plan objectives for your area, and the programme for achieving these objectives. 

The next step is interrogating the data. Asking questions such as:

  • How can the data be used to address specific challenges such as traffic congestion or accessibility?
  • How can the data be used to engage with stakeholders to ensure that their needs are reflected?
  • How can the data be used to encourage sustainable travel patterns?

There are of course practical considerations such as the reliability of the data, any perceived biases, whether the data can be presented visually, and if it can easily be integrated with other datasets.

Our team of data analysts work with data sets every day to explain and provide answers to these types of questions.

Just remember, setting the scene with good use of data will immerse the reader into your way of thinking.

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