Top reflections from The Better Transport Conference

Jul 4, 2024 |3 min read
A bike and bus travelling through a city with other transport at night

The first Better Transport Conference was held this year in London bringing together an array of people, passions and perspectives to discuss all things Transport and some of us in 2CV’s Social Practice team had the pleasure of joining!
Transport plays an integral role in all our lives; it is so heavily relied on in terms of getting us (and ‘things’) from point A to B and we expect a lot from these networks.

 

Here are 10 reflections on how we can stay on track (pun intended) to building a Better Transport network:

1. Reframe the transport conversation to consider the entire journey

Journeys using public transport often encompass multiple modes, and rarely start and finish at the entrance or exit to a station or stop. To deliver a great transport experience, journeys need to be considered in their entirety to ensure every aspect works in conjunction with one another.

2. Use history to your advantage

Society is constantly evolving, along with our travel and community needs, and so it’s important to review the purpose and role of old forms of transport. For example, is a train line connecting abandoned docks along a coastline still needed or can it be repurposed into green space? Use learning and success stories from the past as a starting point and assess how these can be adapted to benefit communities in the modern context.

3. Don’t just copy-and-paste transport solutions and expect them to work

There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach when it comes to transport – just because a tram system works well in one city, it doesn’t mean it will suit the needs of communities everywhere! Whilst a lot can be learnt from what has worked in other places, communities and transport networks still need to be treated individually, meaning that solutions should be designed with their unique needs in mind.

4. Recognise differing needs within your community

A blanket approach is often taken when it comes to understanding customer needs, completely overlooking the fact that whilst one solution might work well for one group, it may disadvantage another (e.g. digitalisation of travel can alienate older audiences). Consulting and involving different segments will help to develop changes that benefit all.

5. Help people fall in love with active travel again

Active travel is the golden egg in the transport industry – it benefits the planet, and the health of the person. However, barriers still exist to active travel. Transport providers need to lead the way in encouraging active travel journeys and reminding people of the added benefits of getting outside and exercising to get from A to B.

6. Don’t underestimate the impact of freight

Perhaps the least glamourous end of transport but one we can’t live without! People want fast and cheap delivery of goods but don’t want to recognise the environmental impact. The future of transport needs to take freight into account – after all, it accounts for over a third of emissions. Cargo Bikes and utilising quiet mega bus routes are more sustainable modes, but a lot still needs to be done.

7. Invest in technology to build sustainable solutions

It’s not new news that technology is going to play a pivotal role in the future of travel and transport. Yet, technological solutions are currently geared towards making journeys more comfortable (e.g. real time information boards), rather than the preference, and therefore aren’t always working to help offer a more sustainable solution. Greater investment is needed.

8. Prioritise evidence-based planning

Whilst evidence of impact is often a key measure of success, limited budgets and timelines often mean that project evaluations don’t always take place, or are conducted in hindsight, and building this in at the start will help prove the true impact of new schemes or policies.

9. Prepare for the future, don’t just wait for it to happen

The transport industry is often felt to be reactive rather than proactive– addressing issues as and when they crop up, rather than preventing them through future planning. It’s estimated that the number of journeys by rail will grow by anything from ~60-90% by 2050 – but do we have a plan in place or even capacity to deliver this?

10. Politics are ever more pressing

Culture wars and vote-winning tactics in favour of car owners are hindering progression and many of the discussions at the conference came back to government policy (or lack of), and that uncertainty and instability isn’t helping. Transport needs to be high on the agenda of the next government and we’ll all be watching closely.

 

In summary, making transport better and more sustainable won’t happen overnight and it will take a lot of energy, resources and funding– but there are a lot of people out there willing to give it a go and the discussions at the conference gave us a lot to think about, and a lot of hope that there are people out there willing to make it happen!