Triple Access Planning

FUTURES – an introductory podcast

by Glenn Lyons, UWE / Mott MacDonald

Annette and I first started working together in the last century! We were once ‘young professionals’ and part of the Transport Visions Network. Years later we’ve found ourselves taking on the future together again.

I’m delighted to be part of this new podcast from the University of the West of England in which Annette Smith and I reminisce about our shared professional journeys and discuss the creation and use of #FUTURES.

FUTURES is the Future Uncertainty Toolkit for Understanding and Responding to an Evolving Society. Yes folks, a real acronym, not one of those fudged ones for a European project title 😉.

Through my role as Mott MacDonald Professor of Future Mobility, FUTURES was developed to help implement the concept of #decideandprovide. It’s a six stage process for vision-led planning in an uncertain world:

1️⃣ Gearing up – opening minds to the rationale and underlying philosophy of a decide and provide approach

2️⃣ Preferred futures – co-creating an expression of what characterises the preferred future

3️⃣ Opening out – developing a set of plausible scenarios to help expose and embrace uncertainty about the future

4️⃣ Options – generating options (ways) to deliver the preferred future (vision) with cognisance of the uncertainty

5️⃣ Closing down – stress-testing options for their ability to negotiate uncertainty and remain aligned with achieving preferred outcomes

6️⃣ Review – monitoring, reviewing and adapting in an ever-changing world and embedding the approach and underlying philosophy

We launched it in 2019, before COVID-19 plunged us further into deep uncertainty – its relevance has understandably grown since. The FUTURES interactive guide was recently updated and is freely available here.

We use FUTURES and a wide repertoire of futures and foresight techniques to help decision makers in transport and other sectors. It continues to be inspiring to see how people benefit from a ‘thinking and learning together’ approach to the challenges and opportunities we face in this topsy turvy world.

Fancy a listen?

Many thanks to Anna JonesKat Corbett and Roger Morford at UWE for producing the podcast as part of a series to celebrate academia and industry working together.

Triple Access Planning

Stress-testing measures against explorative scenarios – how does it work in practice?

By Mojca Balant, Luka Mladenovič, Aljaž Plevnik & Tom Rye, UIRS

Nova Gorica has a long tradition of sustainable urban mobility planning (SUM planning). The city developed its first transport strategy in 2011 and a regional cross-border SUMP in 2015. The second generation of local SUMP was developed in 2017. Currently preparation activities take place for a new generation of the document, which should be developed in 2024/25.

As explained in an earlier blog, in 2022 an exercise was run with transport planners from Nova Gorica and from the TAP for Uncertainty project team which developed a number of explorative scenarios that could be used in future SUM planning. In summary, these scenarios were as follows:

  • Scenario 1: We do what we can but… Commitments regarding the CO2 emission reductions remain on a declarative level. Electric and hydrogen cars are replacing diesel cars, small changes take place regarding public transport and cycling in the city, but most activities remain as they are.
  • Scenario 2: Youth takes over. Bottom-up initiatives manage to engage with wider city population. With strong influence as a result of local initiatives, awareness among residents is raised to the level where people start acting differently even without political, legal, or financial pressure.
  • Scenario 3: Politics leads the way. A strong environmentally oriented administration takes over.  Political decisions lead the way to change. Since the targets regarding CO2 emissions are set very high and not enough has been done in the past years to systematically achieve them, strong restrictions are needed.
  • Scenario 4: Partnership for change. The national government, local politicians and residents reach an agreement that change is needed. They join forces in making the change together. Ambitious policies are put in practice which influence the way we plan, build, and live in Nova Gorica to achieve the net-zero targets.

As the forthcoming TAP Handbook explains, a key possible use for explorative scenarios is to “stress-test” measures proposed in a SUMP, to ensure that they are resilient to several possible futures and, if they are not, to consider changes to them, or possibly removing them from the SUMP altogether.   Looking around the project, it seems however that this stage of incorporating TAP and uncertainty into the planning process has not been tested at other sites. Therefore, in December 2023 the UIRS Transformative Transport Planning research group held a short internal workshop to see how in practice the explorative scenarios could be put to this use.

The measures to be stress-tested were the key measures set out in the 2017 Nova Gorica SUMP.  They are listed below.

  1. Comprehensive mobility plans for key trip generators, especially employers.
  2. Pedestrianisation and missing walking links.
  3. More attractive public spaces.
  4. Elimination of dangerous traffic locations for pedestrians by e.g. slowing traffic, improved crossings.
  5. Better bike connections within city.
  6. Better inter-settlement bike connections within the municipality as a whole.
  7. Better bike parking in residential areas and at destinations.
  8. Promotion of cycling and walking through awareness campaigns.
  9. Improved local public transport, including integration of regular and school public transport.
  10. New vehicle fleet in local public transport.
  11. Parking management and pricing, on-street.
  12. Study to assess demand for more off-street parking, and possible construction of off-street parking garage(s).
  13. Park and ride.
  14. Balancing use of street space between different modes, including in 4 smaller settlements.
  15. More EV charging stations.
  16. Speed reduction especially around schools, traffic calming.
  17. Freight transport management plans

No further information other than these titles was available to the team to understand the measures in any more detail.

Two teams of two people each went through all the measures and related them to each of the four scenarios. The teams were instructed to take a single measure and see how it performed in each scenario both (a) in relation to its impact on objectives in that scenario and (b) in terms of its likelihood of being implemented in that scenario; and to consider about how to adapt the measure in light of these thoughts.

It became obvious fairly early in the exercise that it was a problem that the scenarios developed really only looked at two identified uncertainties (political will and willingness to change behaviour for sake of environment) when there are many others that need to be taken into account. In addition, it may be difficult to have a discussion about the impact of political will on a SUMP with the municipal team that is producing that SUMP. This emphasises the need for a careful choice of key variables in the explorative scenarios, and also the need to ensure that the team doing the stress-testing of measures is the same team that developed the scenarios, so that queries about the validity of and variables in the scenarios are minimised at the stress-testing stage.

As the discussion progressed it became difficult to know whether the exercise should focus on the robustness of the measures in terms of the probability of them achieving objectives in the different scenarios, or their robustness in terms of whether measure would be implemented in that scenario; or both. If anything, the discussion tended towards the latter when on reflection it should probably have focused on the former. In most scenarios, the robustness of measures in terms of the likelihood of their implementation was rather low, because these scenarios are of futures where political and public support for sustainable transport measures is lower than today. In particular, measures requiring significant transformation of roadspace away from cars, or measures increasing the cost of private car travel, were seen not to be robust in terms of likelihood of implementation, in any scenario. This then fed through to the likelihood that they would deliver on objectives; but this was because their poor acceptability made them less likely to be implemented, rather than because the nature of the scenario made it unlikely that their impacts would be achieved. 

The attempt to stress-test measures against the scenarios led the team to question the usefulness of this set of scenarios mainly, as explained above, due to the constraints imposed by the main variables. This made it hard to achieve the main objective of the exercise which was, for the team, to bring a broader approach to the selection of SUMP measures in the light of different possible futures.  Such an approach contrasts strongly with that currently used in Slovenia which is very much a quantitative and predictive one based mainly on the assumption of continuing traffic growth. The value of scenario thinking, but the time that it took Nova Gorica to develop its scenarios and the constraints that those scenarios then placed on the stress-testing measures made the team consider an alternative approach. It could be that instead of an exercise in every municipality to generate explorative scenarios, a set of national scenarios could be developed for everyone (including the national level), to use. These scenarios should be explorative and not just based on the growth of transport demand, but should include things like trends in preferences, ageing, energy prices, land use structure and so on. This could reduce the cognitive effort for municipalities of developing their own set of scenarios and increase their usefulness – including at the national level. 

Thus, in conclusion we can say that the Slovenian exercise in stress-testing measures was not 100 % successful in what it set out to do, but that it generated additional useful thinking about how SUM planning based on explorative scenarios could work in practice.

Triple Access Planning

What do Swedish planners need to tackle uncertainty, integrate genuine accessibility, and explore through scenarios?  

By Jonas Bylund, Marcus Adolphson and Tony Svensson, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

By 19 September 2023, we ran the final workshop in a series of seven over 2022–2023. These were set up to explore the collaborative explorative scenario approach in planning practice and what capacities needed to address accessibility and uncertainty. This instalment presents a selection and short reflection on what we found to be the most pertinent insights from the Norrköping shadow planning exercise. 

When we talk of accessibility planning here it is in the sense of ‘genuine’ accessibility, i.e. not merely taking person mobility into account but also how to plan land-use and location aspects as well as digital accessibility dynamics emerging in everyday life. the workshop series explored scenarios co-created with Norrköping planners, where accessibility and uncertainties around potential future developments both in the municipality and in society at large was set-up as a kind of policy lab with the intention of probing requirements by planning practice to realise sustainable urban mobility planning (TAP in SUMP; see previous blog posts here and here). 

The approach to understand how to assess and build planning practice capacities was, according to Patsy Healey (back in 1998), first thought of as a general issue of enabling and developing capacities for collaborative planning by looking at three dimensions in planning practice: knowledge, relational, and mobilisation. However, these dimensions are useful to assess other issues as well, such as the capacity to plan for accessibility and take uncertainty into account in a planning practice setting. 

Healey observed that the increased fragmentation of the European city – which is nowadays understood as a common challenge both in terms of spatial form and place characteristics as well as thematic and sectoral fragmentation (e.g. JPI Urban Europe SRIA 2.0 and the DUT Roadmap) – made sense of place crucial for environmental systems development and for social and economic lives.  

Hence, for urban and regional planning to produce, improve, and maintain sense of place, urban governance, i.e. city administrative and urban functional areas wide, require institutional capacities to work across sectoral fragmentation and with complex issues such as integrated mobility, land-use, and digitalization dynamics.  

Healey arrived at three dimensions needed to build these capacities:  

  • Knowledge resources, where knowledge is understood in a wider sense than simply certified (academic) formal knowledge products and including layperson knowledge and learning environments for all actors involved in planning practices. 
  • Relational resources, in the sense of how the actors are enabled to relate to each other, for instance regarding at what instances in planning processes more open deliberation and reflection together is curated, e.g. addressing agenda setting issues and fending off de-politicisation
  • Mobilization capacities, then, are about institutional responsiveness to new circumstances – since planning is always concerned with a moving target, so to speak.  

The hypothesis was originally conceived to support collaborative approaches to place development. (See here for a review of the contemporary field.) However, looking at co-creation and the development of how urban governance is understood during the last 30–40 years – e.g. both the dark sides of public participatory approaches as well as the ontological sense of an omnipresent co-creation, since you can’t do anything without collaboration in some sense – we may interpret it to be a case of how to support institutional capacities for planning and governance in general. 

Three observations 

With the focus on building capacity and assessing them, we observed issues around knowledge, relational aspects, and mobilisation in the Norrköping case as particularly interesting. What follows are some early signposts on possible conclusions from the workshop series. 

Knowledge issues 

Since the collaborative explorative scenario approach was seen as helpful to better understand the possible complex interplay of issues in accessibility planning, it added value as suitable for context exploration in strategic comprehensive planning rather than learning the methodology per se. Furthermore, the scenario approach provided a kind of sandbox setting where that interplay could be conceptually experimented with. 

However, knowledge on or of ‘accessibility’ was itself an issue. It varies not just among the planners in the workshop but the planners also reflected upon the divergent perspectives on accessibility among other officials, politicians, and stakeholders. The approach can be used to draw together these understandings and knowledge, aligning its bits and pieces, so to speak, which are unevenly dispersed across the different types of actors, and highlight incongruencies. 

Regarding knowledge on how to deal with uncertainty, working with the group of planners it becomes clear that ‘uncertainty’ is not an external factor to the local planning context but pervades everywhere – including political power dynamics. While they strive to ‘put them out,’ there is a challenge articulated in a desire have ‘the right things’ left uncertain (or open-ended) and at what stages in the planning process. 

Relational aspects highlighted by the approach 

It is noted by the planners that the approach may help articulate capacity deficits to take relational aspects into account and may be a good way to widen the scope of the strategy development since ‘one [usually] wants to narrow it down as much as possible’ in order to avoid a too quick-and-dirty planning process. 

Relational aspects in accessibility – something which is a tautology perhaps – such as inviting more diverse competencies to widen the planning scope, becomes important as they articulate how many things co-develop and interact in urban planning. A lot of moving parts… Here, of course, uncertainty also seeps in through all relational matter in accessibility to take into account and if addressed in full leads to ‘decision paralysis.’ 

Mobilisation capacity 

The planners reflect upon them being uncomfortable with stating precise goals and targets for e.g. accessibility in the planning process and resulting documents, since this may then direct the development of the whole municipality without due democratic political steering capacity or flexibility. Mobilisation may help work around this, when utilising the collaborative explorative scenario approach, to ‘prep’ and help the governance context to learn – potentially in fora to share the knowledge generated in this approach.  

The mobilisation aspect when we trace/assess institutional capacities in planning practice, then, when focusing on uncertainty in the planners everyday work, leads to a speculation on whether a task force – an internal organisation or group tasked to work with scenario approaches – could anchor the tackling/handling of uncertainty better in the public administration, particularly in preparatory and analysis stages.  

Policy labs as a way forward? 

These observations and reflections has a resonance in some of the results on the workshop series carried out by Mistra SAMS: that there are challenges in integrating the genuine or broader sense of accessibility and digital accessibility is still relatively abstract compared to conventional mobility and land-use aspects.

So, what to do with accessibility, uncertainty, and scenario approaches, then? The TAP handbook to be launched soon will cover some aspects on how to take it further in planning practice and approaches to institutional capacity. However, we can already now present a couple of provisional conclusions: 

First, it is methodologically intriguing that the planners’ reflections point at the fuzzy boundaries on what is internal (and ‘controllable’?) and external (and ‘out of reach’?) aspects or variables in scenario building around uncertainty issues. Is there a need for a conceptual approach which does not operate with the implicitly imposed boundaries of ‘internal’ and ‘external’, akin to the generalised symmetry proposed in actor-network theory

Second, it seems as if policy labs have important learning and hence potentially transformative effects. Although continuity is required to enable the capacity building the approach promises as the impact is over a longer time and mainly seeds for change are sown. 

Triple Access Planning

Navigating the path to sustainable urban mobility: insights from a conversation with UK practitioners

By Daniela Paddeu, Glenn Lyons, and Kiron Chatterjee, UWE Bristol

Addressing global climate change is not just a stock phrase; it is a call to action that resonates deeply with the challenges and aspirations faced by urban mobility planners.

We interviewed 23 practitioners between September 2022 and February 2023 to understand their perspective on the past, the present, and the future of urban mobility in the UK. These were predominantly transport planners, with some spatial planners, and a few planners who were looking at the role of digital services. Although all involved in planning in their current work, they had a wide variety of educational backgrounds and experience. We used the ‘Seven Questions’ interview method, which is designed to be thought provoking and to allow interviewees flexibility in responding while taking them on a ‘thought journey’ between the past, present, and future.

What have we learned?

Exploring the perspectives of practitioners allowed us to identify some pathways to a vision of success for urban mobility planning. We identified key themes, including transport decarbonisation, accessibility to opportunities, travel behaviours, transport system characteristics, urban environment design, mindsets of the public and politicians, and governance and technical processes.

The urgent need to decarbonise transport, while providing equitable access.

Transport decarbonisation came out as a strong theme across all practitioners. It is not just about ‘hitting net-zero decarbonisation targets’. It is about understanding how to achieve ‘intelligent decarbonisation’. This means that we should promote more equitable and effective ways of encouraging active travel and placemaking to enhance local service accessibility. We need to provide evidence that sustainable measures produce environmental and social benefit, and we should engage with the public to increase acceptance of carbon reduction schemes. To do so, recognising that we need to overcome public reluctance and empower local authorities are crucial steps.

It is not only about decarbonisation though. Success in urban mobility planning should be measured by ensuring the population has sufficient accessibility to opportunities. This includes the need for transport to contribute to good quality, equitable access to goods, services, and opportunities. The Triple Access System concept, encompassing mobility, proximity, and digital access, was highlighted by practitioners as a valuable tool for prioritising areas in need of better accessibility.

The impact of digital access, accentuated by the rise in home working and online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic, can be another key tool to increase urban accessibility. Reducing the need for travel, while enabling people to (virtually) undertake activities, will support transport decarbonisation, and increase urban accessibility. However, despite the importance of digital connectivity, physical mobility is still seen as playing a crucial role in people’s lives.

The vision of success among practitioners often focused on the need for a shift in travel behaviour and patterns, emphasising a reduction in car use and an increase in active travel and public transport. This would not only help achieve carbon reduction targets but also address other issues such as congestion, air quality, health, and liveability of urban areas. Modal shift can here play an important role. We will need to design appropriate and effective modal shift strategies. This can include, on the one hand, the adoption of a model hierarchy favouring pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport. On the other hand, we will need to understand how to reduce the use of car with stick measures (e.g., traffic restrictions) and explain what the social benefits are to the population. This could be accelerated by engaging with local developers to create low-car developments. An ideal transport system was described as one that offers a real choice of alternatives to the car, promoting multimodality, which will be enabled through the integration of various transport modes through concepts like Mobility as a Service.

The way we design our urban space to maximise access to places, goods, and opportunities.

Another important factor to achieve the success of urban mobility planning would be designing the urban environment in a way that limits the need to use motorised transport, as we can access everything we need walking or cycling (or online). We will need to create places that are liveable, walkable, and pleasant, where residents can meet most of their needs locally, reducing the need for private car ownership. The 20 Minute Neighbourhood concept was seen as being a powerful concept but will require improved road safety to support active travel. Success in urban mobility planning was described in terms of developments that prioritise safe walking and cycling.

It is rather unfortunate that the ‘20 Minute Neighbourhood’ concept has been weaponised as part of current so-called culture wars. A commonly mentioned necessity for change in our interviews was the transformation of mindsets among the public and politicians. It is important to win hearts and minds to encourage people to adapt and change their behaviours. To achieve this, communication, education, and changing the narrative to emphasise positive aspects and social benefits of sustainable transport are key. It is not just about the public. A change in the mindset of politicians is needed, whereby there is reduced influence of car drivers on political decisions. It becomes therefore important to improve consultation and to find new ways of engaging younger communities to achieve better public engagement.

Key take aways from the interviews

With this blog we wanted to share some insights from practitioners’ hopes and fears about achieving their vision of success for urban mobility planning. All the practitioners that we interviewed acknowledged that power in the UK is very centralised, and the relationship between central government and local government in decision-making processes and financial support are key threats to future success. There should be a greater devolution of power and funding to local governments, providing them with more autonomy to implement effective plans. In particular, longer-term funding settlements and improvements in the transport appraisal process could enhance the efficiency of local authorities in supporting public transport services. Cross-sector collaboration, a long-term perspective, appropriate funding, and political agency become essential for successful urban mobility planning.

The conversations we had with practitioners shed light on the multifaceted challenges and aspirations within urban mobility planning. The Sisyphean nature of urban mobility planning, coupled with new catalysts for change such as the climate emergency, deep uncertainty, and digital accessibility, presents both opportunities and challenges. This has been a deep learning experience for us, and we received a strong message about the need for collaborative efforts, a long-term perspective, effective communication, and a balance between technological innovation and evolutionary planning. As practitioners navigate the complex landscape of urban mobility planning, the blog calls for a collective effort to address the pressing issues and move towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

Triple Access Planning

Have you woken up to the importance of diversity?

Glenn Lyons, UWE Bristol / Mott MacDonald

Imagine cooking an important meal. What matters most – the ingredients or the recipe? Sure, a skilled cook can sometimes work wonders with poor quality ingredients or even come up with a new recipe on the spot if the wrong ingredients are to hand or some are missing. But better surely to have the best ingredients possible – ones that together have the prospect of moving the dish from being tasteless and bland or overpowering and unpalatable to a culinary delight that leaves everyone satisfied when they eat the meal.

Now turn to your professional life and imagine preparing a strategy or engaging on important topics to improve understanding. What matters most – the participants or the process? Isn’t it self-evident that the people involved will be a significant determinant of what emerges? You would think so and yet it seems when it comes to the transport sector (which remains male dominated) we may have problems with ingredients and recipes. We’ve got so used to a diet of heterosexual white men serving up mobility solutions that we seem to have overlooked whether new ingredients and a fresh recipe might be able to serve up something new that pleases more of those who are on the receiving end of the results.

Here’s a test for you – I bet without too much trouble you can find an example of an all-male panel (manel) at a transport event (or one which has one woman with the rest being men). Did you pass that one? OK, how about finding an example of a panel that is rich in diversity in relation to protected characteristics (those being: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation)? Not so easy I’m guessing.

Shouldn’t it be obvious that improving diversity in our engagement enriches the dialogue and outcomes? Diversity reaches further than protected characteristics to also reflect experience, areas of expertise, worldviews, status and so on. In one sense that manel you found is likely to be diverse in some respects, but plainly it could have been much more diverse.

Doesn’t this sound rather woke though – trying to be progressive in relation to identity and race? After all, it’s about having the right expertise involved isn’t it? If that manel has five leading experts on the topic who happen to be men, what’s the problem? It seems startling that this can be a standpoint some would take. Worthy of note is how often it seems this can unconsciously affect how groups of people are convened – manels by accident not by design.

The project Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures has tried to raise such issues – at least in terms of gender – into its consciousness and in turn into its behaviours. Earlier this year our monthly team meeting coincided with International Women’s Day and the topic was discussed. We reflected on our strongly (though not exclusively) white male team composition at proposal stage that lay the foundations for the project. We knew we needed to do better. Along the way we have had some successes in terms of engagement activities where we have consciously sought good gender balance. Diversity brings difference of perspective and insight to light. One simple yet important example was the female voice that highlighted fear of personal security in a systems thinking workshop – a key variable in the transport system and Triple Access System and yet one easily overlooked. From different countries represented in the consortium we noted the following: (i) even if there are national role models, gender representation in the workplace can be low, making it challenging to in turn create diverse project teams; (ii) while the planning profession can be better than transport planning at recognising the importance of diversity, top positions in policymaking are still very male dominated; and (iii) gender equity became more visible in one case nationally when the requirement from the EU to prepare a Gender Equality Plan was addressed. As a group we recognised that generational chance offers signs of encouragement for equality but just before our team meeting, the Secretary General of the UN had noted that “On the current track, UN puts gender equality 300 years away”.

There is much to do globally but surely as professionals we can make a much more concerted effort to do better. As a minimum let’s call out those panels and discussion sessions where diversity is conspicuous by its absence. Let’s try and be more consciously competent when we are in positions of organising engagement activities so that more richness of human diversity is part of the dialogue and in turn helping to shape better outcomes. If we want better planning and better planning outcomes then we need to pay more attention to the planning ingredients.

Triple Access Planning

Framing through gaming

By Maha Attia, Sander Lenferink & Vincent Marchau, Radboud University

Triple Access Planning (TAP) for uncertain futures requires practitioners to rethink their approaches to planning. We apply the Framing, Exploring, Choosing framework (Marchau et al. 2019) to help the practitioners in a step-by-step redesign of their planning to urban accessibility. For the Framing phase, two gaming workshops were held in the cities of Utrecht and Nijmegen.

Figure 1: Elements of the DMDU approach (Adapted by (Malekpour et al., 2020) from (Marchau et al., 2019).

The game simulated decisionmaking within two departments (mobility and land use) in  how they choose their individual and, subsequently, collective package of policy options for urban accessibility. The game has two distinct lines through which it aims to contribute to practice, a collective aim and an individual aim.

Collective aim

The game simulates and stimulates interorganizational collaboration on policy options. Two municipal departments discover to what extent their thoughts on a TAP policy package align. The participants express a couple of experiences:

  • “The game showed how our mobility plans must explore future spatial developments and vice versa. This is not done sufficiently in practice.”
  • “Negotiating the different policy measures was interesting, especially looking into the synergies and working together was fun and helped create a good discussion.”
  • “It was good to discuss green spaces and energy efficiency, rather than merely focusing on more housing and transport connectivity”

During the gameplay the participants were able to formulate common goals and an approach to come to a selection of policy options. Most participants note that their trust in cooperation with the other department has increased through the game. They indicate a better feeling of the other departments interests, and more confidence that they can come to an integrated policy package for their cities.

Individual aim

The game was also used to test whether individual knowledge (framing) of the Triple Access System (TAS) has improved. Participants are asked to draw a mental model of their understanding of the TAS before and after playing the game. The image below shows two of these mind maps.

Preliminary conclusions that can be drawn from the mental maps are that after playing the games session planners added more digital connectivity factors and connections in their systems view. Also more indirect relations and additional land use and mobility factors were drawn. This seems to indicate that their system understanding has been broadened to include digital accessibility. During the debrief this was acknowledged by the participants:

  • Taking a step back to look at the whole system is not usually done in practice; it was a good exercise. We usually think of the system in our minds and have different assumptions about it, but putting it on paper is different.”
  • “It helped me develop an overarching thinking of the three different levels of accessibility, starting from each system’s internal dimensions/specifics and moving towards thinking in terms of a system of systems.
  • “It amplified the thinking about how the interdependencies can be positive and negative (e.g. adverse effects). There has to be a balance, also with allowing more digital connectivity, as this can negatively influence other parts of the system.”

Next steps

All participants indicated that the game was fun to interact with. It facilitated open discussions on accessibility and urban planning and it added new perspectives. As a consequence, every participant expressed a desire to be involved in the next game, which concerns the next step in the DMDU approach: exploring. To be continued …

Triple Access Planning


By Antonio Comi, University of Rome Tor Vergata

Many cities have started to understand and address the challenges associated with urban goods mobility issues by developing urban goods mobility visions and strategies, as well as implementing actions, for goods transportation at a region or city level. However, comprehensive strategies for last mile delivery of goods at an inner-area level are often missing. Last mile delivery of goods is a difficult issue to tackle, and in the next future it is expected to accommodate concerns related to the expected changes in the field, which are governed by a high level of uncertainty:

  • small and frequent shop deliveries (due to the limited availability of retail store surfaces in the inner areas, resulting from high rental costs and just-in-time policies);
  • e-commerce and omni-channel retailing;
  • new delivery service to fulfil customers’ requests, e.g., express deliveries, same-day deliveries, and instant-deliveries;
  • reverse logistics, for both recycling and handling products no longer desired or used.

In addition, there is a high level of uncertainty related to shopping activities, which in turn, influences urban freight flows. For example, the choice of retail type by end consumers (e.g., small shop, supermarket, shopping centre) may depend on the accessibility of commercial areas. Thus, if there are changes in accessibility (for example, due to the management of shopping travel demand), it may lead to changes in the preferred shop type where to buy and/or the transportation mode used to reach commercial areas. Additionally, changes in the characteristics of end consumers, the geographical distribution of residential property and shops, and/or accessibility to the commercial area, may impact freight restocking characteristics. Similarly, some actions (measures), implemented to reduce the impacts of freight flows, could reduce the restocking accessibility of an area and push towards the re-allocation of retail activities. On the other hand, the increasing inclination towards on-line shopping can push urban freight transport and logistics operators to implement new business models to accommodate the users’ requests and the local regulations. In fact, for example, in Europe, 74% of internet users bought or ordered goods for personal use in last years. End consumers have changed their behaviour and purchasing decisions over time, gradually moving from traditional distribution channels to new ones. Therefore, a crucial challenge to sustainable urban freight distribution lies in the growth of e-commerce and door-to-door services, which are bringing about significant changes in the delivery process. Furthermore, cities are particular complex systems, characterized by a high concentration of population and human activities of various kinds, i.e., moving from residence toward work, leisure, and the health. This concentration of population and activities needs a greater availability of goods,  thereby requiring the management of supply chains for both traditional in-store sale channels and the new channels associated with on-line sales.

Three main classes of actions have been developed to limit the impacts of parcel deliveries (especially of e-delivery), and effectively manage freight flows within the city areas by optimizing loads, as well as of the dimensions and typology of vehicle used for freight operations:

  • pick-up delivery system: it consists of a set of different places (pick-up points or parcel stations) strategically positioned within residential areas, where users can take their parcels. Users can collect their parcels from these locations. They can be traditional or automated. The formers operate through local shops or other public concerns where packages are dropped off for collection by their individual recipients. The latter ones are automated, and people can access to packages 24 h a day from locker boxes usually located in shopping centres, gas stations, etc. Users can use the service at their convenient time, while transport and logistics operators can limit the negative impacts of delivery sprawl and failed deliveries;
  • crowd shipping: this model promotes collaboration among professional and non-professional users. It is an innovative delivery model that harnesses currently underutilized transport capacity, resulting in reduced transportation costs and emissions;
  • two(multi)-echelon delivery systems: these systems involve a warehouse located at the boundary of service areas (e.g., city boundary), delivery (city) hubs and customer location. Warehouses serve the purpose of packaging orders and delivering shipments to the corresponding delivery (city) hub, while the delivery (city) hub functions to receive and consolidate shipments from different warehouses/distribution centres, and then delivers the shipments to customers in its location (zone).

Besides, telematics is offering new opportunities for optimising delivery processes. In particular, the evolution of emerging information and communication technologies (e-ICTs) has paved the way for the development and implementation of new integrated and dynamic city logistics solutions, leading to new frontiers in intelligent transport systems (ITSs). Transport and logistics operators should and could have access to technological solutions to improve the sustainability and efficiency of their urban freight transport operations, as required by international and local authorities. E-ICTs based solutions can reduce the number of kilometres driven in urban areas, increasing safety and reducing environmental impacts and congestion. In this context, the telematics can support the new delivery system based on the concept of micro-consolidation centres (MCC). Such a scheme consists of the establishment of logistics platforms in the heart of urban areas, where consolidated goods are stored before final delivery to customers. From these spaces, last-mile deliveries are carried out using light freight vehicles or soft transport modes (for example, on foot or by cargo bikes), through which congested or restricted urban areas can be accessed. Conceptually, MCC and nearby delivery bays can be described as multi-echelon systems, where the inner platforms represent a smaller-scale version that require minimal infrastructure and no storage equipment UCCs (i.e., same-day deliveries), resulting in relatively low investment.

Accordingly, urban freight planning has been promoted to address these challenges, aiming to integrate urban logistics schemes/services/regulations into overall mobility strategies and solutions. However, it followed the conventional approaches of mobility ones, i.e., forecast-led paradigm. Evidence shows that plans become rapidly obsolete and lack resilience in the face of future developments. Therefore, close to the opportunity to merge the goals of sustainability and the quality of life towards to create smart cities, planners must adopt policies that account for an uncertain future, and policy analysts play a vital role in assisting policymakers in choosing preferred courses of action. Therefore, planning should be extended to accommodate uncertainty, i.e., encompassing unpredictable dynamics such as demographics changes, economic developments, locational choices, regulatory context, technological breakthroughs, travel demand, and stakeholder behaviour. These factors should be explicitly considered during plan development and implementation.

In this context, planning should point out the opportunity to enhance the definition of future scenarios and propose the most suitable actions for implementation, leveraging the potential offered by engagement and communication. The different actions could not be implemented if they have not enough public (i.e., collectivity and operators involved) acceptability. Scenario planning must be able to provide decision-making support that decision makers are receptive to. Through scenarios, a range of challenges and opportunities could be explored and communicated. Visualizing and illustrating these scenarios through images, animations and narratives, along with relevant data, can help depict potential futures. Some research projects are currently exploring these directions. An engaging storytelling, which will take shape through the film element, will facilitate the understanding of the different scenarios by stakeholders and policy makers, and will ensure that an informed and evidence-based decision-making process is carried out. Therefore, future efforts should primarily focus on  developing scenarios that improve decision making and how to build a coherent set of scenarios that align with the goals expected by society.

Triple Access Planning

Scenarios and uncertain futures for accessibility in urban and regional planning – The practitioners’ reflections

By Jonas Bylund, Marcus Adolphson, Tony Svensson, and Jacob Witzell, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

While the TAP project departure assumption point that integrated accessibility regarding land use, digitalisation, and mobility is a complex issue for planning practitioners, the Swedish planning practitioners in Norrköping seemed to relish the opportunity to explore and reflect upon accessibility and uncertainty in different scenarios for future development. 

During 2022–2023 a series of workshops was held with urban and regional planners in the City of Norrköping (and the Östragötaland Region) on how to utilize scenarios among cross-sectoral planners (i.e. transport and strategic comprehensive oriented planning officers) for the municipal planning process to integrate accessibility (in the full sense). The series of workshops were the operative side of what we may now perhaps call the shadow planning policy lab in Norrköping. Similar to a living lab but still slightly more ‘sandboxed’: live planning issues and concerns were used and put through the scenario development ‘machine’. Yet the formal decision-making apparatus was kept outside the exercise. A key aspect of testing the approach in a policy-lab setting was the possibility to think beyond established norms and ‘realities’ in the everyday planning context, and hence to scope what may be required for Triple Access Planning (TAP) to find traction. 

The plan for the exercise, co-designed from the outset with the Norrköping urban and regional planners, was to first identify TAP variables and sources of uncertainty. Then to explore these variables by developing four scenarios along a cross of degrees of resource availability on the Y-axis and degrees of transport efficiency on the X-axis. Following this a stress-testing and assessment of Norrköping transport and comprehensive plans and policy by using the scenarios. A normative phase to develop adaptive strategies and measures drawing on the previous work and then finally inquiries into how these strategies and measures can be implemented. (See also the earlier blog post commenting halfway through the series.)

As we now finished the sixth and final workshop and have had many thought-provoking exchanges exploring scenario paths into various futures, we reflected a bit together with the participating planning practitioners in the City of Norrköping on how the approach was experienced. 

Planners’ reflections in the shadow planning policy lab

The following three is a selection of experiences made and reflected upon by the planners in the workshop series.

On the scenario development

Throughout the workshops we created four scenarios along the X- and Y-axis cross described above which resulted in, on the one extreme, one scenario trajectory experienced as closer to current business-as-usual and a minimum intervention. On the other extreme, a scenario trajectory in which the planners found much resonance with visions set forward in current comprehensive planning and transport strategy.

Comments along the way were that the stress-test approach starting with one variable made it easier to get into the systemic thinking in the scenarios and checking correspondence and conflicts between variables. It made it easier to see how they all hang together vis-a-vis current planning proposals and strategies as well as politics and civil society points of view. That this is valuable to comprehensive planning in the future. Otherwise, the planners find it time-consuming to ‘get into’ the scenarios and for the approach, scenario methods, to be a useful tool in the everyday planning practice one would need a couple of more workshops to become ‘fluent’ – not least since the planners also would have to, if they were to use the approach in the planning practice, be able to popularize scenarios on the spot for politicians and the layperson public. 

On thinking about uncertainty

In one of the coffee-breaks during a workshop dealing with scenario variables’ stress-testing, the planners shared a sentiment that the big uncertainty for any proposed strategy to be implemented (or made into policy) is usually local politics – regardless of what scenario might be desired. There are turns, focus on particulars, lack of systemic insight, populism and negotiations which influences the carrying-through of any policy. 

The barrier or challenge seems, to a larger degree, to be one we might call ‘institutional uncertainty’ for now. That is, the common issue when considering how to implement policy is that shifting (democratically and legitimate) political values and policy directions may thwart action and impact. 

However, beyond that uncertainty there are also issues around what indicators and measures to use to build robust evidence and input into explorative scenarios and plan development. There is of course more to the issue of institutional uncertainty, but its connection to public administrative capacity for accessibility planning and urban and regional sustainable transformations seems clear. In this, institutional capacities seem to be a constant issue. 

On getting back to ‘reality’

So what did we, planners and researchers, learn in the shadow planning policy lab? We learnt that the use of scenarios – even in a ‘sandboxed’ policy lab – is a matter of timing. As one planner said in one of the latter workshops: ‘-If the transport strategy development was initiated now, we would have used scenario methods for sure!’

However, planners reflect upon that developing strategies around for instance private car use, while it is important to share and show consequences of different uses it is in the translation from strategy to measure conflicts usually turn up. That is, it is not enough to simply disseminate information. 

Related to this, and not surprisingly, by reflecting on the scenarios and how urban and transport planning practice is done today, we reflect on the need to align and shape joint priorities across sectoral boundaries. On the one hand, to shape a common capacity to analyze and value knowledge, data, etc. But also to be able to create longer-term perspectives to be able to assess various measures made – since the scenarios show a discrepancy between what the municipal strategic goals are and what we actually create budget lines for. 

A way forward?

Overall, accessibility – and uncertainty – are not strangers to local government urban and regional as well as transport planners. At least not in the City of Norrköping and Östragötaland Region. They understand and play around with the issues, they are quite analytical and reflexive. However, the planners, looking at capacity and resources, do not have much time on their hands. So, how can this policy lab be motivated? 

For one thing, the scenario approach can now be seen as an option in developing land-use and transport plans. It seems useful for at least a part of shifting mindsets, if one heeds Meadows’ idea that the most effective approach to achieve systemic transformations is changing the outlook and world-view rather than merely or putting all trust in tinkering with economy and engineering. 

Triple Access Planning

A citizen-centred conversation about the future of triple access

Glenn Lyons, UWE Bristol / Mott MacDonald

Within the TAP project, Mott MacDonald has been helping us explore with academics and practitioners how Triple Access Planning can be applied through an online interactive workshop called the FUTURES Relay. FUTURES is a six-stage vision-led approach to strategic planning for an uncertain world developed by Mott MacDonald and UWE Bristol. The Relay workshop allows people to get hands-on experience of this six-stage process. We wanted to use the Relay to engage with citizens of an urban area about Triple Access Planning and ways that transport, location and online access shape urban living.

We are now pleased to make available the report from the FUTURES Relay run earlier this year by Mott MacDonald and UWE with 30 citizens of Bristol in the UK.

While the FUTURES Relay has been run for cities around the world, Bristol (UK) is the first city in which the process has been trialled with citizens. The two-part workshop took place in March 2023 over two Saturday mornings. The facilitation team tailored the content of the Relay to a non-professional audience and sought to be as inclusive as possible within the confines of the online format. The opportunity to take part was promoted through an announcement in Bristol City Council’s fortnightly mailer “Ask Bristol” and a thank you voucher was offered to those taking part.

Bristol is a middle-sized city (472,400 residents) with a high level of diversity (at least 91 languages are spoken). Walking and cycling are used by respectively 20% and 18% of the commuters. The transport system is also characterised by traffic-related concerns – over 70% of citizens perceive traffic as a problem in their area, and the deprived areas are also those with highest risk of road trauma.

The 30 participants involved included a range of age groups, from 18-29 (eight participants) to 80+ (one participant, and six aged 70-79) and included four participants self-identifying as disabled. Participants were mostly drawn in by a desire to help contribute to change and make sure others’ voices are considered, especially those of older and disabled people.

Our report presents the ways the FUTURES Relay was adapted and applied to foster a conversation with citizens, an overview of participants’ very rich contributions to the six stages of the FUTURES Relay, and participants’ feedback on the workshop.

Two key factors affecting developments in the city were identified from participants’ inputs: the consistency of the political agenda and the extent to which citizens themselves are willing (or able) to embrace social change. Both were characterised by high importance and uncertainty. Identifying a deliverable vision for change in urban mobility is not easy, especially in the face of uncertainty. Approaches such as FUTURES – for professionals and citizens alike – allow this challenge to be addressed through shared thinking, diversity of perspective and structured engagement. It was notable during the two parts of the workshop that while encouragement had been given for participants to explore future change from a ‘triple access’ perspective, much less was said in the discussions concerning the role of digital accessibility. This has also been noted within similar engagement with professionals. It seems that while forms of digital accessibility are increasingly pervasive across society and influencing our patterns of activity and travel needs, it can be hard to bring them into the conversation when minds are naturally drawn to considering transport itself.

Citizen engagement is more important than ever, to give a voice to the community affected by change but also to benefit from citizens’ perspectives alongside those from professionals in terms of planning for change for the better. We hope the report and our shared experiences can help other urban transport authorities to implement citizen engagement building on the FUTURES Relay.

Triple Access Planning

Participatory game design for learning

Maha Attia, Sander Lenferink and Vincent Marchau, Radboud University

A goal of the TAP for uncertainty project is to offer support for planners in dealing with uncertainty, specifically for an integrated system of proximity, mobility and digital accessibility. In order to offer support for planners, we aim to develop and play serious games to stimulate learning. Game design always needs validation from expert practitioners to assess the learning challenges: who needs to learn, what needs to be learned, how can best be learned, how to measure learning? We discussed these questions with experts from practice in a Workshop aimed at collectively formulating design considerations for a game that stimulates learning on TAP for uncertainty.

The participants in our participatory workshop on game design indicate that practitioners struggle with taking uncertainty into account. It is therefore recommended to focus learning by following the basic approach for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU) in SUMP practice. The DMDU approach (see Figure 1) of three stages (framing, exploring, and choosing) (Marchau et al, 2019), that could function as parts of the game.

Figure 1: elements of the DMDU approach (Adapted by (Malekpour et al., 2020) from (Marchau et al., 2019).

Besides the approach to DMDU, there is a longlist of things that practitioners could potentially be learned, that were raised in the discussion. The main challenge for stimulating learning in a game is to keep it simple and focused. Therefore the participants suggest to clearly define the learning goal and learning outcomes for each stage, and base  more specific game design choices on that.

Stage 1 (Re-)Framing:

The (re-)framing stage concerns a joint understanding of the system, its issues,  and specifying a shared vision and policy options. In order to learn TAP for Uncertainty, the experts agreed that the learning outcome should be focused on adding the digital perspective to the existing land use-transport system view in practice, effectively moving from a double access to a triple access system. This means that a game on Framing has the urban planners (mobility and land-use) to explore the potential role of digital planning and the impact of digital access opportunities on their plan’s objectives, as well as be aware of their (partial) responsibility in creating digital policy options. So, having the game focused on the influence of digital on the SUMP might make it more relevant for planners to think of digital as an alternative way to reach their goals. For example, include innovative digital policy options on the game cards, or play the game without (and later with) a digital policy officer role player.

Stage 2 Exploring

The exploring stage is about generating TAS futures and test policy options against these futures The experts agree that the learning outcome should be to help practitioners consider what could go wrong with their policy options. In order to make this happen, it is crucial to enable practitioners to think broadly, i.e. about futures outside their current imagination. Only by doing so can they relate the explored uncertainties directly to the policy option in question. The exploring game could therefore concern thinking about the implications of uncertain conditions on the success of the policy options they are testing, or, in other words, by exploring in which future this option will fail (or succeed). This game must include the land use and mobility planners from stage 1, but these participants can be complemented with regional or national planners as well as representatives from other fields to allow broadening up the thinking about TAP for uncertainty.

Stage 3 Choosing

The final choosing stage concerns selecting initial measures and examining pathways that help reach the vision, given alternative futures. For this stage, the learning outcome should be on understanding adaptivity by creating pathways. This specifically should include thinking about signposts and  triggers (i.e. the monitoring system), and responsive actions. In a game this can be done by selecting a promising initial option (from stage 2), and decide on contingent actions and adaptive pathways to pursue. This game could be made most specific by focusing on a local context, where actions have a direct effect on TAS.

Now what?

Based on the considerations above, three separate game workshops will be designed, which together offer a participatory DMDU approach to SUMP planning that is focused on TAP for uncertainty. These workshops will be held over the coming months with the Dutch cities involved, among which Utrecht and Nijmegen. We will keep you posted.


Malekpour, S., Walker, W., De Haan, F., Frantzeskaki, N., & Marchau, V.A. (2021) Bridging Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU) and Transition Management (TM) to improve strategic planning for sustainable development. Environmental Science & Policy, 107, 158-167.

Marchau, V. A., Walker, W. E., Bloemen, P. J., & Popper, S. W. (2019). Decision making under deep uncertainty: from theory to practice. Springer Nature.