Planning is concerned with the development of transport plans – large or small.  These plans set out the scope of specific proposals, and their anticipate cost and benefits, within the context of wider land use planning policies. 

There are recognised phases in route planning: concept; pre-feasibility; feasibility, and; engineering design.  This section focuses on physical route planning, accessibility planning and community involvement, along with impact appraisal, which apply to the initial three phases under the following headings.

  • Why transport planning is important
  • Transport planning and other planning disciplines
  • Planning for accessibility

Why transport planning is important

Transport planning is important because it shapes the way we live and work and can have strong, long-term impacts on the economy, the environment and the quality of peoples’ lives.  It is also important because, once in place, it can be very difficult to change.  Particularly in cities where there is strong competition for land it can be almost impossible to add significant capacity or make major infrastructure changes.  This means it can also act as a constraint for growth, limiting the number of journeys that can safely be made and leading to congestion.

Transport planning involves understanding the linkages between transport and the future shape of settlements.  It involves making assumptions about:

  • The number of people who will live in an area, and how dense their settlements are and will be.
  • Where they will work and how they will get to workplaces.
  • How they will access other essential services, friends, family and other leisure opportunities.
  • What types of business premises will be required, and what access requirements they will have to be able to trade and provide their services.
  • What types of transport people and businesses will need to use.

It can be very difficult to get these assumptions right not least because there are a number of external factors that are hard to predict, like the overall size of the economy and population and people’s preferences for living in cities or rural areas. 

There is a need for transport planning on a local, regional and national level.  In remote and rural areas, the provision of appropriate transport infrastructure is essential if communities are to develop and thrive.  In urban areas transport planning is essential for growth, for quality of life and to enable people to access employment and other services (such as education and healthcare).  Providing good transport corridors is essential for trade, as it provides the means by which businesses can access markets.

Transport planning and other planning disciplines

Transport planning is often considered as part of wider spatial planning and land use disciplines including housing and business district planning.  There are several professional planning organisations, such as the Global Planners Network, and particular organisations for urban planning such as the International Society of City and Regional Planners which consider transport within the context of wider land use planning rather than as a separate specialism.

Planning for accessibility

At the very early concept stages of planning, there has been an increased emphasis on “accessibility planning”.  Accessibility planning is an approach that puts users at the heart of planning – it involves both engagement with the community and analysis of journey types and modes, and of the impact of any rehabilitation or improvement of infrastructure on journey times.  It is concerned with the concepts of mobility and access – recognising that transport is undertaken for a purpose, and that the point of improving transport is to improve access to goods and services. The Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning approach is a good example of this being applied in rural areas.

Often this analysis is informed by undertaking travel surveys of residents, which itself forms part of user engagement.  Further information on household surveys can be found on the Monitoring and Evaluation page of the issues section. 

It can also make use of sophisticated Geographic (or Geo-spatial) Information Systems (GIS).  GIS  can be used to map routes more quickly and to cross-reference knowledge previously held in separate databases – for example on flood risk or earthquake risk.

Related issues

Planners’ understanding of geological and other physical determinants has also developed, and this understanding is crucial to the development of appropriate infrastructure and the cost of its ongoing maintenance.

Particularly where new infrastructure is planned, governments are increasingly looking to assess the impact of the proposed infrastructure on a number of factors.  These include: the economy; the environment (including air quality, noise, local impacts on soil, flora and fauna as well as cultural heritage and landscape), and; the impact on mobility. Further detail on evaluation and appraisal techniques are included on the Monitoring and Evaluation issue page.

These assessments form part of the evidence that supports the business case for a particular improvement to a route or new route.  In many countries, there are formal planning processes that allow people or organisations to protest or appeal against decisions made, and for decisions to be made by the appropriate authority.  In some countries, this planning process can be very time-consuming.  Nevertheless, given the size and the impact of investment in transport infrastructure, formal planning processes are generally considered to be an essential part of good governance.

For more information visit the IRAP gateway.


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