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Gloom unit scrapper

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The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) is unhappy with the Department for Transport’s May 2012 draft WebTAG Unit on smarter choices, feeling that it is too gloomy about their potential.

Smarter Choices initiatives, which combine a range of different measures into a concerted plan to promote and improve facilities for sustainable travel, are now a well-established way of cutting traffic and getting people on more buses, trains, bikes and walks. The Sustainable Travel Towns programme from 2004 to 2009 proved that for a relatively small cost, car trips can be cut by 10%, and many similar recent initiatives – from simple travel plans to car clubs, cycle lanes and interactive bus apps – have also helped to increase sustainable travel in towns and cities around the UK.

Despite this, when the DfT published a new draft WebTAG unit late last year containing guidance for the appraisal of Smarter Choices, the text was very pessimistic about the possible effects of these programmes, suggesting wrongly that there was a lack of evidence and failing to emphasise the ‘package effect’ of implementing a range of measures all at once.

To help improve the draft unit, Campaign for Better Transport helped to arrange a meeting between DfT officials and a group of experts in the field of Smarter Choices and, afterwards, the group submitted some suggested amendments.

Because of this, we were all very disappointed when the Department’s new draft, published this May, only contained a small number of changes and still maintained a rather gloomy view of the benefits.

CBT would like DfT’s version to be scrapped in favour of something more favourable to smarter choices. It has been working on its own alternative draft.

If you work for a local authority, a school, a workplace or group of workplaces, or any other body that’s implemented travel planning, information, new services or infrastructure projects for sustainable travel – and if you have evidence for how well it all worked – we want to hear from you over the next three months.

Similarly, if you’re a transport planner or consultant and have new data or new methods you can share with us to help improve the appraisal process, get in touch.

But is fishing for evidence to support a preconceived line of thinking, the right way to go about planning public transport? I don’t think so.

Written by beleben

August 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

One Response

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  1. The Campaign for Better Transport, previously Transport 2000, was originally funded by the Rail unions when there was a threat of closures. Its funding comes largely from railway interests and enthusiasts. Hence, it (the CfBT) is IMOP a railway lobby group disguised as an environmental one. In any event it cannot be drawn into a discussion based on the facts about the railways. Consequently I suspect it is data free, or nearly, so when pushing transport plans. For an example of the CfBT’s apporach see
    http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/topic-19-campaign-fo-better-transport .

    One side effect of the travel plan idea is to enable developers to pretend that the traffic can be made to vanish by waving the words about and claiming sustainability. If that is posible then the approach should be put into operation before a development that depends on its success is approved. Instead of that the idea is used as a fig leaf enabling developments to be nodded through which would otherwise be refused on traffic grounds.

    Paul Withrington

    August 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm


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