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1: The legacy and the future

1: The legacy and the future

Traffic in Towns had its most powerful impact on the integration of land use and transportation planning. The report explored a wide range of planning, engineering and construction measures open to a nation in love with car-ownership, from ‘do nothing’ to 'go the whole hog’.

Yet back in 1963, few involved with Traffic in Towns, a ‘very technical’ tome on urban roads and traffic, imagined that it would have such far-reaching impacts across the world. The 1964 Penguin edition became an international bestseller. Since then, Buchanan’s ideas continue to feature in virtually every course on transport and city planning. Traffic in Towns: the next 50 years begins with a candid exploration of the Buchanan legacy, which instigated keen debate from its publication. Professor Carmen Hass Klau, a close colleague and contemporary of Sir Colin's, recalls initial reactions to the original report and places them in context; a time when Britain was considering substantial and comprehensive road building programmes.

Traffic in Towns was understood and mis-understood in equal measure, but was instrumental in foreseeing the problems that increasing car traffic would have on urban wellbeing. In Britain, the book was variously associated with the use of single and double yellow lines in town centres, pedestrianised shopping zones with multi-storey car parks, one-way streets, kerbside barriers and motorway bypasses. Despite Buchanan’s best efforts, his report was seen by many as a blueprint for radical – and very scary – urban surgery. Paul Buchanan, Sir Colin’s grandson and an internationally renowned transport planner, offers his personal view. ‘The overarching concept providing the theoretical context for Traffic in Towns is that transport planning and the building of highway systems are part and parcel of a much wider subject. Buchanan believed in the idea of towns as “accumulated investment of centuries”.’ Internationally, the reception was rather different. The report was apparently still in print in Japan in the 1980s, and also made an impact in Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. Buchanan was of the opinion, quite correctly, that the Germans already had similar ideas to his own. A German translation of Traffic in Towns, or Stadtverkehr, was already available in 1964, and was required reading for every German planner. Ken Gwilliam, Economic Adviser on Transport to the World Bank, offers his perspective of Buchanan's impacts and legacy across the wider world based on his experience working in the urban transport field for most of the time since the publication of the original report. He interprets the essence of Buchanan's message, how far it differed from the conventional wisdom of the time, and the extent to which it remains relevant or has been overtaken by events. The broader and longer-term legacy is considered with particular reference to its impact on the developing world through the 2002 World Bank urban transport policy review Cities on the Move, of which Gwilliam was the primary author.


1.1 Sir Colin Buchanan's career and his Traffic in Towns report Fri 30 October 2015

Carmen Hass-Klau

Sir Colin Buchanan said that 'much of our future happiness and well being depends on the extent to which we can control the motor vehicle'. Traffic in Towns, his best-known book, has been seriously misunderstood: was it a surrender to the car, or an attack upon it? Most in Britain labelled Buchanan the promoter of large urban road building programmes, yet the Germans saw him as the father of traffic calming. This misunderstanding has survived for more than 50 years; Buchanan considered the book an exposition of choices, rather than recommendations for immediate action. By Carmen Hass-Klau, University of Wuppertal

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2: Urban traffic and its effects

2: Urban traffic and its effects

The challenges associated with urban traffic in the Europe, either in Buchanan’s time or now, pale into insignificance when considered against those in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The conundrums regarding growth and de-carbonisation for those who work at the sharp end of transport planning help indicate the scale of the challenges.

We consider selecting the right indicators for capturing wider benefits, and new approaches to scheme appraisal and evaluation in the decision-making context; a 'paradigm shift' in public transport perception and positioning as a mode of choice for everybody: how can this be achieved? The scientific evidence available to date categorically affirms that the way in which the western world lives is unsustainable, and that fundamental changes are needed.

Many of these changes are being piloted in the developing world. We consider: the need for a holistic approach to urban management, including impacts of urban mobility on public health, safety and social cohesion how the Buchanan approach should be complemented by transport and urban economics rather than substituted by them, and how this might work in practice; how to transform the investment and financing system, widen the investment and financing channels for urban transit, and adopt multiple forms of funding including government investment, commercial investment and mixed investment; understanding how broader impacts – especially those relating to equity and impacts on vulnerable populations – are key to ensuring that investments lead to results in line with a city’s broader objectives.

With its focus on engineering and physical planning, Buchanan’s book had little underpinning of transport economics or project finance, but its insights into how road projects work in practice have stood the test of time. Traffic in towns: the next 50 years, moves ahead to explore which options we can still learn from, and how new ideas and innovation are already shaping the future.


3: Technology and policy options

3: Technology and policy options

The role of city leaders is not to study problems, but to do something about them, says contributor Paul Amos.

But what? This chapter brings together state-of-the-art global practice to answer this question. Within today’s policy context, the argument is frequently seen as car versus city, suggests John Miles. But should it be seen that way?

Perhaps if we adjusted our perspective to see the challenge as providing personal urban mobility, new and very exciting opportunities would unfold, drawing on the burgeoning capabilities which are arriving in this new age of intelligent systems, ubiquitous computing, infinite communications, smart networks and the internet of things. These technologies enable us to understand the mobility continuum from private to public and from personal to mass transit, and to design and plan accordingly.

We consider: big data and urban analytics: emerging information and communication technologies provide desirable new opportunities for enhancing urban mobility; uses for largely untapped streams of information about urban mobility and the location, timing, and characteristics of urban activities that motivate (or substitute for) personal travel and destination choices; will improved mobility tends to induce increased travel, burden transportation infrastructure, complicate sustainability efforts, and risk adverse distributional impacts? smart networks: synchronising traffic lights, facilitating car-sharing and taxi pickups;? applications for usage-pricing strategies; improved behavioral models for explaining urban activity patterns and land use changes;

  • possible futures for driverless cars;
  • technological potential: new fuels, engines, motive power propulsion systems.

Classic political challenges remain but, through a candid analysis of how decision-making and appraisal processes can be supported and improved, this book offers innivative and realistic solutions. frameworks for moving from car travel to urban mobility, including a quantum improvement in the quality of the public transport system, encompassing convenience, cleanliness, reliability and safety and affordability, and how this can be delivered.


4: Global case studies

4: Global case studies

InTraffic in Towns, Sir Colin Buchanan wrote accurately and with prescience of the potentially negative impact of increasing traffic levels on our towns and cities. Using contemporary case studies, this chapter explores what we have learned about urban mobility, and shows how hard-won experience and good practice can guide and inform cities around the world. The original Traffic in Towns revealed how transport and urban planning are locked in a complex network of interdependent effects. The issues faced by Buchanan in 1963 loom even larger today, particularly in the congestion-choked mega cities of the developing world. While car ownership and use may show signs of decline in some developed cities, emerging economies in China, Brazil, India and Africa are experiencing unprecedented traffic growth. Urgent and radical thinking is needed so that towns and cities can plan for and implement transport infrastructure to successfully support growth and aspiration. These key case studies bring together reflections and practical guidance from leading innovators, thinkers and strategists in the international urban transport field. Essential insight: A systematic overview and road map to must- have guidance and analytical toolkits that can improve appraisal, decision-making and policy formulation New policy directions: Radical thinking to inspire creativity and inform the difficult decisions that must be made about the long-term future of transport in affluent, post-industrial cities International focus: A collection of essential new case studies from major international cities to objectively explore how leading research and practice is being internationally applied


4.1 Development status and trends of China’s urban rail transit Wed 04 November 2015

Derong Wang, and Yue’e Gao

China’s rapid industrialisation, the rapid growth of its urban population and continually increasing levels of motor vehicle ownership have led to the rise of urban problems such as traffic jams, parking difficulties and environmental pollution across numerous megalopolis and big cities. In order to tackle these challenges the rapid development of urban public transport, especially urban rail transit, has become a top priority. This article summarises China’s urban rail transit development to date, and outlines future development plans for urban rail transit. By Derong Wang and Yuee Gao

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