Smart futures for urban transport: making it work for travellers and cities

Change isn’t coming – it is already here. Transformative technological change (allied with social change – the transition to a sharing economy in particular) is shifting the ground beneath our feet as big city transport authorities. Three areas in particular stand out. Firstly, the explosion of data which means that citizens can be far better informed as travellers about their options but also potentially have a greater say over decisions on transport. The planners evaluating the options for new services, infrastructure and facilities will also be far better informed about the implications of different options. Secondly, new vehicle technologies will mean that vehicles are smarter, greener and better connected. There is also the potential for them to become more autonomous. Thirdly, new means of paying for access to transport alongside new business models open up the potential for Mobility as a Service – where travellers can buy packages of mobility that can be used across all modes (including bike hire, car hire and taxis).

Better informed decision making, both individually and collectively, as well as transport systems which are smarter and cleaner, offers an exciting prospect. However, there’s more to getting the best from this smart future than just letting technology rip. For example the growth in the taxi market, fuelled by new business models, is bringing benefits to consumers but at the expense of growing traffic congestion. Who will ensure that those on the wrong side of the digital divide can still get around? How can we ensure that technology plays its full role in improving air quality and tackling carbon emissions?

Much of the debate on what we call ‘smart futures’ tends to be focussed on excitement around the technology itself. However, technology should not be an end in itself. It should be about making individual journeys easier whilst also serving wider public policy goals for cities – like cleaner air, inclusive growth and urban environments that people want to visit, invest in, live in and work in.

This is where the Urban Transport Group, and its members come in, and it’s what ‘Our Vision for Smart Futures’ that we launched today is all about.

A vision that commits us to recognising the pace of change and the benefits it can bring in the way that we work and operate; making sure that change makes travel simpler and easier whilst ensuring that change does not leave behind any sector of society or community or leads to unintended consequences that damage cities as a whole (such as more traffic congestion)

I hope that this vision statement will help remind national government, Transportation Network Companies and the tech sector that to get the best from smart futures we need a broader dialogue on smart futures on transport, one in which public sector transport authorities and wider city region government is integral.

Follow this link to download a copy of ‘Our Vision for Smart Futures‘.

 

 

A week at UTG – Friday

The small team of staff at the Urban Transport Group has a big job to do in making the case for urban transport, in providing thought leadership on the future of the sector and in supporting our professional network so that our members can do more for less. You can find out more about how we do this here. However this week we thought we would show what this all means in terms of what we get up to at UTG in a typical week. This is using what we did Monday – Friday last week and we’ll be posting each day. Hopefully it will give an insight into the inner workings of the Urban Transport Group.

Why are we doing this now? In some ways, with general election purdah the week has not been typical with fewer meetings with Government. However, our Senior Economist, Pedro Abrantes, is leaving us soon so it seemed like a good opportunity to capture some of the things that he does. We are not advertising for a new Senior Economist but we are recruiting for a new post of Assistant Director so if you like the sound of our team then why not check out the ad?

It’s the last day of the week and the office is quiet with Tom out at a conference, Jonathan off to Montreal and Pedro at University in the afternoon. We hope you’ve enjoyed finding out a bit more about the day-to-day workings of the Urban Transport group through over this week. Keep following our blog and Twitter feed for more of what we’re up to.

Pedro:

UTG Finance group takes place in a month so it was time to get in touch with the group Chair (Dave Daughney, Head of Finance at TfGM) to go over a few outstanding actions. We’re hoping to put together some figures comparing changes in transport authority funding and concessionary spending (our members’ single largest financial commitment) over the past ten years but there are still a few colleagues we need to collect information from.

I also spent some time preparing for a telephone call the following week about Transport Scotland’s call for evidence to inform its National Transport Strategy. Colleagues from SPT are planning to respond and have asked for our thoughts. It turns out we’ve produced quite a lot of relevant material, not least our recent response to the RSA’s Inclusive Growth Commission.

In the afternoon, I headed over to Sheffield for the last lecture of the year. The topic was the history of the public sector, and in particular what factors explain the decision of a country to introduce a permanent income tax. It turns out the UK was the first country in the world to do so, all the way back in 1842! Total tax revenue was less than 5% of GDP back then and has grown to 20-30% of GDP amongst developed countries. One explanation for this growth is the increased urbanisation and the pressure of public services (cue: transport infrastructure) which this has brought about. Which I think is what we’ve been saying all along…

Nicely rounding off the week, I bumped into Tim Foster on the train. He’s the Head of Economic Evidence at Transport for the North and we managed to catch up on a few things, including the latest developments with TfN’s Strategic Transport Plan. Exciting times ahead!

Tom:

Today I went back to Bradford for the second day of the conference. It was a prompt start with the international breakfast briefing providing us with inspiration on schemes that are happening around the world.

The key themes coming through the conferences seemed to be how do we secure funding for our plans, and how do we make sure that there is political buy in for what we are trying to achieve. This was met with presentations on how we can move to normalise cycling and walking, and indeed how this is going to be vital in keeping our towns and cities moving.

Off for the weekend now, where I might have to get my own bike out after all this talk!

Clare:

I was in the office first thing but then headed out to a hospital appointment for a few hours. It wasn’t totally wasted time though as there was a documentary on the TV in the waiting room called A1 Britain’s Longest Road!

Once I got back to the office I was mainly working on the taxis report again, which is starting to come together, though redrafting reports always takes longer than you expect!

I had a few comms related things to take care of, including some writing these blog posts and tweeting about how our members, in this case Tyne & Wear and Transport for London have been exchanging experience and sharing best practice.

I’m off camping for the weekend now, I hope the weather stays dry!

Jonathan:

On route to Montreal today for the world’s largest public transport event – the UITP’s bi-annual congress.

IMG_2113

On Saturday will be at all day meeting of UITP’s transport and economics commission. Great opportunity to learn from other countries about new and innovative ways of finding funding for public transport schemes given constraints on public spending.

On Sunday will be at the UITP’s taxi commission which will also be useful given taxis are at the frontline in terms of transformative technological change and new business modes. Will also be key in firming up the details of the UITP international taxi conference that we will be hosting in London in December.

So my week in the life of UTG has been a seven day week!

IMG_2122

Saila:

Well last nights’ second Eurovision semi-final discovered one of my favourites – Romania.  Who would have thought yodelling and rapping would work?  Only in Eurovision.

Today I posted Jonathan’s latest Passenger Transport Article on our website and then on our blog.

I also sorted out interview rooms for the Assistant Director post for June.

At lunch time I attended the retirement presentation of one of WYCA’s longest serving employees. Needless to say there were many tales of a bygone era told and plenty of photos with 1980’s fashions from the days that the former PTE, Metro was located in Wakefield.

This afternoon I sorted out a flyer for the upcoming Brexit seminar in June with our Brussels Team, answered a flurry of emails from Jonathan, and nearly sorted out that air quality teleconference with the Board, progressed on a new public health icon for the website, and sorted out Finance group arrangements for the June meeting.

Then I fixed another couple of meetings before heading home.

Looking forward to the Eurovision final tomorrow night!

A week at UTG – Thursday

The small team of staff at the Urban Transport Group has a big job to do in making the case for urban transport, in providing thought leadership on the future of the sector and in supporting our professional network so that our members can do more for less. You can find out more about how we do this here. However this week we thought we would show what this all means in terms of what we get up to at UTG in a typical week. This is using what we did Monday – Friday last week and we’ll be posting each day. Hopefully it will give an insight into the inner workings of the Urban Transport Group.

Why are we doing this now? In some ways, with general election purdah the week has not been typical with fewer meetings with Government. However, our Senior Economist, Pedro Abrantes, is leaving us soon so it seemed like a good opportunity to capture some of the things that he does. We are not advertising for a new Senior Economist but we are recruiting for a new post of Assistant Director so if you like the sound of our team then why not check out the ad?

Jonathan:

Today was mostly spent meeting five potential comms consultants. At present we have no in house specialist comms capacity instead we cover comms between us with me taking the lead given my past experience in this area. We do a good job considering, but some extra resource will help us to maximise our impact and get more attention for the great work that we, and our members, do. Enjoyed meeting the diverse and talented five; making a final decision on who to go with will be tough.

There was also time for a really good session with Clare and Stephen Edwards, Executive Director of SYPTE and the lead board member for Capacities and Capabilities for UTG where we brainstormed some good ideas on tackling skills gaps among our membership and on how we can make careers in our sector more attractive at all levels to a more diverse range of people.

Clare:

So I started the day up in Newcastle, as I’d stayed over, and met with a colleague from Nexus to discuss shaping the agenda for the next meeting of our Organisational Development group. It was great to get an update on what the challenges are in the HR and OD areas of our member organisations and explore ways that our group can support this area and develop best practice.

I also posted a blog about my and Tom’s adventures on E-bikes a few weeks ago.

IMG_20170424_134806

On the train back to Leeds I caught up on some emails and did some writing (including these blogs!) and it was another super sunny train journey through Northern England.

Back in the office I was part of our Capacities and Capabilities catch up with Stephen and Jonathan, which was a really great session discussing skills in transport and the need to promote the sector. You can find our resources around this issue in the People and Skills section of our website. I’ve also written about this important issue on our blog.

Saila:

Started off with a doctor’s appointment this morning so was in slightly later.

I submitted our mental health pledge to Time to Change.  It’s been a while in development but pleased it has finally happened. We plan to sign it at the end of this month to make it official. Drafted some text for the website pledge summary as well.

I also sorted out Jonathan’s mobile roaming with our IT department for his trip to Canada tomorrow.

Lots of phone calls to reception today as Jonathan is busy interviewing all the freelance comms consultancy candidates.

Entertained by Pedro clearing out his desk and massive library of books that has accompanied him during his stay with us, and the interesting things he has found hidden in his drawers.

Looking forward to the Eurovision semi-final number 2 tonight!

Pedro:

I started the day in unusual fashion, driving in rather than cycling or taking the bus, possibly only the second time I’ve taken the car to work in the past seven years! This is because it’s hard to cart home a ton of books on the back of a bike and it was time to pack up the library I’ve built up over the past few years. I was happy to find a good home for some of my old books with UTG colleagues and if anyone else is interested is in vintage transport/economics publications stretching back to the 1960s do let me know.

I took the chance to clear out a few piles of paper and I can now see the colour of my desk again. All in all, a bit of a sad start to the day… 😦

I spent the rest of the morning dealing with queries from colleagues regarding the smart card data project.

In the afternoon I turned to the recruitment of our new Assistant Director and started to think about our interview strategy. I also arranged to see a colleague at TfGM about the UTG’s future representation on the rail industry’s Passenger Demand Forecasting Council and agreed with the team who will be representing us at an exciting evening event on emerging data organised by Transport for the North and the Open Data Institute (Clare’s taking the baton but I’m still hoping to go – difficult to let go…).

Tom:

Today I attended the opening day of the Cycle City Active City conference in Bradford, the largest active travel conference in Europe. It was a beautiful sunny day, which really helped to show off the new cycling infrastructure and urban realm work in the city.

There were some good session on what is happening locally and nationally with regards to walking and cycling development, as well as the Department for Transport talking about the recently released Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

Following the event there was food and drinks, which provided a good opportunity to catch up with a few old faces and meet a few new people.