The ethics of transport planning

Friday 29/05/2009 12:00-1:00pm
Location: Brunel Design, Tower A, Room TA049
Speaker: Prof . Stephen Potter

This presentation will explore the ethical issues behind what appears to be a technical design process - that of transport planning decisions. It will draw upon the transport/land use designs explored in Britain’s new towns (and Milton Keynes in particular) which help to highlight the ethical decisions involved.

This will illustrate the way that the design of towns and cities affects our travel behaviour and constrains our ability to choose to travel in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Indeed, we can get locked into unsustainable travel behaviours and feel powerless to behave otherwise. This leads to the now prevalent negative attitude towards transport policy initiatives and often outright opposition to sustainable transport developments.

Urban design professionals argue that high density settlements are the main way that sustainable transport choices can be provided, as such designs produce conditions which make for good public, and also suppress car use. However, although such an approach is possible in major conurbations and city centres, this is a difficult and contentious approach for suburban Britain. For most places ‘big city’ design solutions are not politically viable.

Perhaps we should be looking to more innovative approaches. These could blend a variety of new measures, such as the ‘smarter travel’ initiatives as well as new emerging technologies. However these require a different way of doing transport planning to the traditional ‘big infrastructure’ transport policy approaches. New physical design approaches often require the redesign of the processes and structures to implement and manage them, and this may be the key barrier to success.