It may seem an obvious point, but a Local Transport Plan (LTP) needs to be tailored to local needs.
In light of the upcoming government LTP guidance, I recently reviewed several older LTPs and was struck by how ‘off the shelf’ they felt. The LTPs of the past largely followed a formula, which means that their key foundations, such as the evidence base, vision and objectives, could all have been for anywhere and the plans themselves were only distinguishable by the list of schemes at the back.
Another thing they all had in common was a lack of a clear link between their evidence, the vision and objectives, and the resulting projects and policies.
It is widely anticipated that the new LTP guidance will require them to be ‘vision-led’, which presents an opportunity for the plans to be firmly grounded in their locality and align to both what the area needs, but also what the area can plausibly achieve.
The rewards of a locally tailored, vision-led approach can be huge, with transport systems enabling thriving communities, cleaner air and more nature-rich public space, and a flourishing economy.
However, if an LTP is not grounded in the reality of the opportunities and constraints of the area, then these rewards cannot be reaped. A vision which acknowledges the specifics of its place plays to local strengths and works to remediate weaknesses is far more likely to not only be successful in its own right but also more likely to achieve strong buy-in from stakeholders and the public.
Being vision-led also means you need to be evidence-led.
Understanding connectivity needs
Improving the lives of its residents and conditions for businesses through investment and policy is the central role of an LTP. It is vital, therefore, that it demonstrates how much the authority knows about the needs and motivations of local people and their economy.
Residents shouldn’t be thought of as just one group. Different communities have different needs and different motivations to change their behaviour; understanding these can be the key to mitigating transport’s negative effects like congestion, air quality and carbon emissions.
One innovative tool being increasingly used to understand challenges and motivations is the ‘persona’. Using example personas of different community groups (pensioners, school children, young professionals etc.) and detailed market research techniques, authorities can deep-dive into the complex needs and daily lives of these groups. In doing so, authorities can better target interventions, whether that be infrastructure, technology or policy, which meet the needs of their local residents and, where appropriate, support them to make less impactful choices when travelling.
An LTP also needs to support businesses, jobs and economic growth. If an area has an economic growth strategy linked to the LTP, then getting the transport conditions right for the planned growth will be vital. Different industries have different transport needs. Some only need the transport system to get access to a wide pool of skilled labour within a suitable commuting distance, while others have more direct needs to receive materials and get their goods to market. It’s important that authorities speak directly to businesses to clearly understand their requirements and design the LTP accordingly to reduce the impact of local economic actors on congestion and the environment.
Linking evidence directly to policies and interventions
Our previous generation of formulaic LTPs often relied on a simple analysis which focused on the symptoms of problems, such as congestion, low public transport mode share, poor air quality etc. None of these actually pointed to the root cause of the symptom or delved deeper to understand the underlying problem. Aside from their lack of specificity to local needs, they were also often missing clear conclusions of what the implications are of that data or evidence for the LTP.
What really is the problem? How can the LTP find a solution to it? A reader is often left with an interesting statistic but no understanding of what its implication is on the LTP.
An LTP evidence base should provide a clear link to the schemes and policies prioritised for inclusion. Any officer or politician should be able to point to a body of evidence to justify why a scheme or policy has been included. Tailoring the evidence to the local area therefore isn’t just about what data is examined and what the findings are; it’s about how that data is used right through the LTP decision-making process.
The other aspect which should not be forgotten is to make the evidence base interesting and engaging! A document full of graphs and stats with little in the way of commentary and insight can be very dry and difficult to get non-technical audiences engaged in. A good way of presenting data and evidence can be through ‘story-mapper’ applications which allow you to create an online, linked, flowing story of your evidence against images and maps of your area in a meaningful way. If you make your evidence available and engaging, then you’re more likely to get buy-in from stakeholders and the public on the decisions made in the LTP.
It’s not the size of your analysis that counts; it’s what you do with it
Our contemporary data-rich social and policy landscape offers much to local authorities. Publicly available figures from the Office for National Statistics, the National Travel Survey from the Department for Transport, or purchased data such as from mobile phone records or detailed market research data can all aid in understanding local mindsets as well as the motivations and choices of consumers. Clearly, the more data collected and analysed, the more an authority can focus and tailor their LTP. But more important than the quantity of analysis is the quality of it. The evidence base should provide a clear rationale for the LTP’s recommendations; if it doesn’t, then it is potentially a wasted resource.
How can Steer help?
Steer has a host of expertise in interesting and engaging data analysis and a demonstrable track record of using it to support transport plans and strategies at a number of key levels. We also have expertise in-house from people who have worked in the public sector developing and delivering strategies and plans; and who have seen what’s worked and not worked. Our experience can help you develop a tailored and impactful Local Transport Plan.
Steer is offering a free facilitated workshop session tailored to help any local transport authority assess what’s needed for your LTP, regardless of what stage you’re at in the process. To talk through your local transport plan requirements, do not hesitate to get in touch with Nicola Kane (North), Simon Statham (Midlands) or Steven Bishop (South).