Councils must get smarter on retail travel, top expert says


Transport and town planners need to give more consideration to the interaction between retail and traffic as councils across the country seek to manage congestion and the possibility of ‘peak car’, a foremost expert in transport policy has warned.

Emeritus professor of transport policy at UCL and UWE, Phil Goodwin, told Transport Network that there was ‘a lot more to be done’ on travel plans for shopping despite the rise of the ‘smarter choices’ agenda.

Mr Goodwin suggested smarter choices programme, which includes travel planning advice and improvements in public transport options, was ‘the only set of levers councils have [to tackle congestion] that are quick and fit with recessionary pressures’.

He went on to highlight an ‘access to Starbucks’ debate, suggesting the famous coffee company liked to place its stores within walking distance of public transport, raising an intriguing debate over modern retail culture and transport modes he argued.

Speaking at a discussion on traffic growth and its possible end – known as ‘peak car’ - at the Traffex exhibition this week, Mr Goodwin said ‘everything had changed’ in recent years with opposing camps in the debate starting to talk rather than dismiss the other outright.

This shift has also been seen in government thinking, which now states that while economic factors are important to traffic growth they do not tell the whole story.

Opening his presentation with the admission that no one knows when or even whether peak car will ever be reached, he claimed that social demographic factors were key elements but almost impossible to model.

Opposing him, Dr Ivo Wengraf, research analyst at the RAC Foundation, said the debate was not nuanced enough and that aggregate figures failed to show the importance of a mixture of contributory factors – especially the dramatic fall in young people’s spending power.

Mr Goodwin also claimed the driverless car project was being over-hyped and heading for ‘a crisis in its evolution’ as it seeks to take a significant share of road use.

‘When these vehicles, which obey the laws of the road, get to 15% of car traffic how will they interact with drivers who don’t? They don't even know what to do at red lights yet,’ he said.


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