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.