Whether now, four months ago or four years ago, good spatial planning requires integration between transport infrastructure and land use, and joined up policies for places and movement.
Yet bringing transport and land use planners together, never mind promoting joint policies, co-benefits and spatially-sound strategic thinking, is a perennial challenge. It is the purpose of the Transport Planning Network, supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Transport Planning Society, to face that challenge head-on.
In November 2015, I attended an excellent Transport Planning Network event in London which epitomised this bringing together of ideas and people. Discussions about filtered permeability and maximum parking standards might sound technical and even boring, but these are the elements and tools of building communities, not simply developments.
Planners of all sorts want to create sustainable, vibrant, accessible neighbourhoods. Yet without due consideration for good transport planning, land use planners can end up promoting places which are car-dependent. Meanwhile, without good land use planning, transport planners would have no employment or amenities to design access to.
As a trained urban planner who has worked her entire career in transport, it was a breath of fresh air to hear others talking about transport from a planning and place-making perspective. It inspired me to volunteer to be the chair of the Transport Planning Network, a position I have held since March 2016.
Over the last four years, we have tried to keep inspiring and educating our members through newsletters, blogs, and events. We’ve increased our profile by responding to government consultations and commissioning research to inform policy. We’ve helped make connections between the RTPI and other professional institutions dedicated more exclusively to transport engineering, modelling, and operations, presenting at transport-focussed events and contributing to transport-based research. And the RTPI has in turn hosted transport academics and practitioners, providing them with oral and written platforms to share their areas of expertise with planners.
Four months before the end of my second term as chair of the Transport Planning Network, in November 2019, we hosted another event in London. We talked about replacing a vision based on numbers with a vision based on places – something which would only be achieved if we brought land use and transport together in a marriage of spatial planning. The event was well attended, our speakers were inspiring, and there was plenty of discussion about the major challenges we all face, from climate change to equity. We even had time for workshop sessions discussing the detail of bringing sustainable, vibrant, accessible neighbourhoods to life with perspectives from attendees’ day jobs.
Then, just as my role should have been advertised and a new volunteer chosen, the COVID-19 pandemic began to change how all of us move around and use spaces. The importance of sustainable, vibrant, accessible places became more apparent than ever. Such places are resilient to limits on non-essential travel. They provide essential goods and services to local people. They have the right mix of natural and urban spaces. But if we are to have more such places, once again we need continued and better integration between land use and transport planners.
That means we need the Transport Planning Network to fulfil its role in bringing like-minded professionals together, and out of artificial silos. As I’ve now served for more than two terms, we also need to find a new chair. Any volunteers?
Hannah Budnitz is a Research Associate in Urban Mobility at the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford. This is her first postdoctoral position, but she has a background in transport policy and planning, working in both as a consultant at Arup, then as a local government officer at Reading Borough Council. Her areas of interest include how shared and virtual transport options influence the flexibility of activity patterns, the potential of data and technology to deliver innovative transport solutions through public-private-academic partnerships, and the basic interactions between land use and accessibility, sustainability and resilience.