Transport policy ‘should get in touch with its inner hipster’


In the age of the 'flat white economy', a new report has challenged the ‘monolithic’ view that business primarily needs large infrastructure schemes to help move goods and services around the country.

Banks, bytes and bikes: The transport priorities of the new economy, published by the Urban Transport Group (UTG), argues that the new economy, in which communications, media and information businesses have joined city-centre based financial and legal services, is already a major driver of the UK economy, with further growth likely.

'A young stylish businessman going to work by bike'

It sets out how these sectors increasingly favour urban locations with good quality of place, as well as good access on foot, by bike and by public transport.

UTG director Jonathan Bray said: ‘More people in more key sectors of the economy do not wish to be “buried alive” in a business park on the outskirts, however good the car parking, and their skills are in sufficient demand that they can choose the employers that provide them with a more interesting and rewarding working environment and lifestyle. At the same time, more companies want to tap into the buzz, energy and dynamism that being part of wider urban life can bring.

‘All these trends can be seen on the ground with more businesses choosing to locate in urban centres which can be easily accessed by public transport, by bike and on foot. It’s time therefore to challenge monolithic views of what business wants on transport in favour of a more nuanced perspective which recognises that there is a new economy with new perspectives on transport priorities. Otherwise we are in danger of pursuing transport policies that favour some sectors of the economy over others on the basis of old thinking and misconceptions.’

In a related blog post, Mr Bray asked whether it is ‘time for transport policy to get in touch with its inner hipster?’

The report finds that: ‘The traditional view is that the number one transport priority for business is for large infrastructure schemes which enable goods and services to move as rapidly and freely as possible around the country. There is no doubt that for some sectors of the economy this continues to be a key goal.

‘However our economy is changing. The traditional city centre based financial and legal service sectors are now being joined by a growing, and increasingly important, ‘flat white economy’ (communications, media, information) which prefers creative urban enclaves with good public transport and active travel access over bland, dispersed car based locations.’

It poses two ‘key questions’:

  • Is the right balance currently being struck in supporting the transport needs of the new economy compared with other sectors of the economy?
  • Do these new sectors of the economy need to find their voice to ensure that a more accurate and nuanced view of business priorities is reflected in wider transport policy making?

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