Planning Power: The Key to Long-Term Transport Sustainability Is to Plan Building Development and Transport Together to Reduce the Need for Urban Travel

By Farrel, Terry | New Statesman (1996), September 22, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Planning Power: The Key to Long-Term Transport Sustainability Is to Plan Building Development and Transport Together to Reduce the Need for Urban Travel


Farrel, Terry, New Statesman (1996)


The key to low cost, efficient, sustainable transport is town planning. You only have to compare the lay-out (check Google Earth) of say Hong Kong, London and Houston to see that.

Building in Hong Kong was concentrated along its coastal edges and long inland valleys because it is so mountainous. Compare this with London's suburban sprawl and Houston's mega-sprawl and it is obvious that when populations are dispersed over a wide area they are forced to rely on poor public transport services or the car. Planning building development and transport together is and always was, the primary step to long-term transport sustainability.

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The attempt to control central urban zones through congestion charging will, I believe, become the norm in cities and even towns and villages, but alongside this we need to prioritise pedestrian and cycling movement. Our urban centres have been mutilated in an attempt to facilitate car movement at the expense of every other mode of travel.

This has not worked, as car use has grown to fill to overcapacity any improvements made for car drivers. The only realisable winners in the centres are those such as cyclists and walkers, using low-speed, people-powered movement. Plan this well, alongside radical measures to control use of the private car and greatly improved public transport and you will have better transport. Cheap, bountiful and consumer-based public transport has to be the main form of powered movement in urban areas. Taxis, mini cabs and taxi-buses are the best way to meet more personal mobility, but they need to be cheaper and available to more people.

Planning at regional level needs to shift away from urban decentralisation, which is non-sustainable. Greater population density does not automatically equate to a negative lifestyle; Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster are the most densely populated local authorities in Britain, but have the best health and life expectancy, the highest property values and a world-renowned public realm. Getting the right balance of urban lifestyle quality and protected countryside is a core part of sustainable planning.

However, sustainable transport planning is about the movement of goods as well as people. The logistics of goods movement needs major investment to promote a shift from road to the lower energy modes of rail and shipping. While containerisation brought efficiencies in handling goods, the cost of decentralising to non-union ports away from urban areas, produced a significant increase in the volume of container lorry traffic.

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