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What does success look like for a transport network?

Cities around the world regularly dedicate significant resources to creating transport strategies. They seek to set in motion multi-modal initiatives to address congestion issues, improve service levels and facilitate economic growth. However, there are two key problems with the status quo. First, few transport strategies articulate a clear overarching picture of what constitutes a successful outcome. The strategies typically contain an arbitrary selection of ‘visions’, ‘objectives’ and ‘strategic aims’ that are almost impossible to unpack into a meaningful target outcome. Second, transport strategies are static documents that, at best, are revisited at discrete intervals. A new transport strategy for a city may be written every five or so years and, at most, be monitored through an assortment of metrics on an annual basis. This research project looks to address these issues.

We consider that the provision of a coherent, triple bottom line (economic, environmental and social) definition of a successful multi-modal transport network is essential but it can address these problems only partially. To provide a solution that adds significant value it is also necessary to include a feedback loop that monitors the success of transport network in near real time. This would be a game changer: it would turn transport strategies into a live documents, provide transparency for users, and enable evidence-based decision making.

This project is funded under Arup’s Global Research Challenge 2016-17.

Urbanisation and city expansion put increasing pressure on transport networks. Transport networks are complex systems for which there is no consistent definition of success, or there are multiple definitions that change over time. This makes it difficult to identify major challenges, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and select best practices. This project aims to address these issues by answering the question what does success look like for a transport network?.

Our objective is to develop a clear and quantifiable definition for a successful multi-modal transport network, which can be used to underpin a transport strategy and be monitored over time. Such definition would be universal, applicable to any setting and, we hope, can become established as a recognised best practice approach.

Through this research we seek to work towards an equivalent for transport of the WELL Building Standard™. We will define metrics that can be used to benchmark performance of a multi-modal transport from an economic, social and environmental perspective. This will entail going beyond standard indicators such as journey time reliability and user satisfaction to create a meaningful feedback loop of innovative metrics that relate the transport network to the wellbeing of a city, in terms of the people and organisations that the city serves. Displaying these metrics in an engaging, user friendly way, and in near real time, can empower transport users and contribute to shaping better transport networks.

This research project aims to establish a framework for composing, monitoring, evaluating and improving transport strategies. Establishing how success is defined and what are the main factors contributing to it can be translated into particular facets of transport network design. Having clear criteria can facilitate the establishment of feedback loops as a tool for evaluation for specific interventions. Being able to provide both quantitative and qualitative evidence can aid identification of the most effective transport measures and, thereby, to contribute to improving socio-economic welfare.