Triple Access Planning

Shadow planning excercise in Nova Gorica, Slovenia – A step forward developing future scenarios as a part of SUMP development process

Luka Mladenovič, UIRS, January 2023

Nova Gorica is a mid-sized city on the western edge of Slovenia, right on the border with Italy. It is a young city, founded not more than 70 years ago. That is less than a person’s lifetime. But during this time, it has had an interesting history with several major changes in conditions for urban development – from post WW2 tension and being on the edge between east and west, to the thawing of relations in the nineties when Slovenia became an independent state. But perhaps one of the biggest changes happened just over a decade ago, when the border with Italy was finally completely removed and Nova Gorica merged with the neighbouring Italian city of Gorizia. Both cities now work together on common vision and initiatives, among other they will host the European capital of Europe in 2025. Administratively the two cities remain separated, planning for their common future in two different systems, but coordinating their vision and strategies.

Nova Gorica has a long tradition of sustainable urban mobility planning (SUMP). 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 2023/24. During these times the city managed to introduce a variety of new planning approaches to practice and it is very open to further innovation as it develops.

The exercise, carried out as a part of our project, was intended to help with the warming up of the development process for the new generation of SUMP but also support the city with developing a stronger role of future development scenarios. In previous SUMPs, the scenario development was a minor task that did not bring much added value to the SUMP development.

In case of Nova Gorica 2017 SUMP the three scenarios were the following:

Scenario 1: Development without new major interventions of any part of the transport system, considering 1% yearly growth of motorized traffic in next 20 years.

Scenario 2: Development of transport system considering building all infrastructure planned within the local spatial plan. Since the spatial plan provides long term reservations of space for any infrastructure which might be needed in future, this scenario drastically increases the availability of new infrastructure, mostly for motorized traffic.

Scenario 3: Focus on development of sustainable mobility and alternatives to motorized traffic.

The third scenario was identified as optimal, and all next steps of the SUMP built on development in this direction. A similar approach to scenario development was used in several cities in Slovenia and was considered as valid. But as we see, the first two scenarios, even though considered as a realistic future, could not be selected, since one of the basic commitments the concept builds on is to plan for sustainable mobility within an urban area.

The recent shadow planning exercise in Nova Gorica used the FUTURES Relay tool, developed within the project by UWE and Mott MacDonald. It was carried out as a set of two online workshops in November and December 2022. Experts from different departments of the city administration took part, as well as other stakeholders involved in the development of previous SUMPs. The process was led by the team from Mott MacDonald.

The tool leads the group of participants through 6 stages. Their commitment to sustainable development of the transport system was clear from the beginning, where preferred futures are identified. It was obvious here that the first two scenarios from the previous SUMP made no sense, but that there are various futures possible within the third scenario, which were previously not considered.

An important stage of the process is identification of important drivers of change. In most cases, when developing SUMPs in Slovenia, a very limited amount of data describing the trends in transport system was available. When considering the future development of the transport system, the available data is commonly used as the main indicator of what we can expect in future. But the exercise showed that, when considering not only transport related drivers, but also wider social, economic, political, technological, and ecological drivers, it is those that play a much bigger role in achieving the vision for future development of the transport system.

Participants of the workshop identified two drivers of the desired vision with potentially the biggest influence but also the greatest uncertainty as to whether they would arise, and in what form: political commitment to make a change and level of willingness in society to change our behaviour for the sake of the environment. As we can see, those two drivers originate from the social and political background and are most often not considered in transport planning.

Based on these two factors, a set of four new scenarios was built, reflecting possible futures with different combinations of low and high levels of influence of each of the two key driver. The new scenarios were the following:

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 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 we can see, the resulting scenarios are reflecting four different combinations of society and politics towards the change. All of them are realistic, and all of them support development of a more sustainable transport system, but to different extents.  For this reason, the last task within the shadow planning exercise was to test a limited number of different sustainable mobility measures against all scenarios. By doing so, we were able to identify more resilient measures – those which could work in different scenarios, not just one or two of them.

The shadow planning exercise in Nova Gorica helped local planners see a much wider picture of possible futures. Scenario development, which was already part of the existing methodology but previously used only as a minor task without much influence on SUMP development, was shown as a useful tool that can help with the decision-making process regarding the measures and activities that the SUMP proposes, in the context of different possible futures.

Triple Access Planning

Pointing out the shopping behaviour for promoting sustainability in urban areas

Gianfranco Fancello and Francesco Piras, University of Cagliari

Over the last years, pushed by the fasted-paced evolution of services provided by the online websites and changes in people’s lifestyles, there has been a growth in the number of last-mile operations and deliveries, which contribute to congestion, road safety and pollution of the cities.

The traditional structure of restocking of neighborhood shops, and hence of buying goods in such shops, is being increasingly modified by new forms of purchase and distribution, resulting from the Internet. End consumers have modified their behaviour and purchasing decisions over time, gradually switching from traditional distribution channels. This trend has accelerated since the imposition of measures aimed at promoting physical distancing in the attempt to counter the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. In Italy, the first European country, whose national government introduced restrictions on human activities, the number of last-mile deliveries after the lockdown period in 2020 increased of 68.5% (compared to 2019), while the proportion of e-shoppers in the group of internet users grew from 41% in 2016 to 54% in 2020. Such an evolution moves to have sprawled, small and frequent deliveries to the end consumers, as well as new ways to deliver products to customers (e.g., express deliveries – same-day deliveries, as well as instant-deliveries). The pressure on the already congested urban network both in terms of external (e.g., pollutants, noise, bottlenecks for illegal parking – road safety, traffic congestion) and internal costs (e.g., failed deliveries, high delivery costs) has thus increased significantly.

The development of e-commerce has had a large impact on individuals’ travel behaviour and different mechanisms concerning the relationship between individuals’ propensity to buy on-line and in-store have been observed:

  • Substitution effect: online purchases delivered to end consumers’ home can be a substitute for purchases made in physical stores;
  • Complementarity effect: purchasing goods online may also lead to further trips to physical stores to examine, for example, the characteristics or price of the items or to buy accessories for an item purchased online. Online shopping could be associated with more shopping trips to stores. In fact, in-store shopping allows sensory information to be obtained by seeing, trying, feeling, smelling, tasting or manipulating the desired items, providing individuals with full information about and confidence in the product. Therefore, a trip made for shopping does not necessarily involve a transaction but can be made for purposes such as information research, product testing or a return.
  • Neutrality effect: where online shopping and travel behaviour do not measurably interact.
  • Modification effect: one or more travel attributes associated with a shopping trip, such as distance, frequency, destination, or time, may change due to online shopping.

These four different mechanisms could differ depending on the type of goods. Indeed, goods can be distinguished between durable goods, grocery products and ready-to-eat meals. It is also important to acknowledge the heterogeneity of end-consumers’ behaviour depending on the type of durable goods. Differences between different kind of products (clothing, beauty, technology, books, furniture) exist and not all of them can be considered identical. Individuals could tend to choose established stores with many years of trading in their town rather than e-shopping retailers, who are unknown and may go out of business without warning. Lastly, the instant possession of items could be important; individuals can immediately own the purchased items, rather than waiting for the items to be delivered after e-shopping. Let’s consider, as an example, the case of clothing items. An individual could find on the web an item of her/his interest but be hesitant to buy it because of the size, the fabric, etc. For this reason, s/he might go physically to the store, see the item and try it. Once seen, if the individual likes it, s/he could decide to purchase it in-store or order it on-line (complementarity effect). This kind of effect could not exist for the case of books, as books are a completely different kind of item and there is no need to try them. The same could apply for some technologies products.

Another source of heterogeneity is connected with the built environment and spatial proximity. Indeed, low shopping accessibility in non-urban areas may promote the use of e-shopping and so we can be in the presence of only a substitution effect or neutrality effect. Instead, for those individuals living in areas characterized by high levels of stores density and diversity, the complementarity and modification effects could be stronger.

The last remark concerns digital accessibility. Digital accessibility, expressed in terms of ease of buying a product on-line, may have an influence on the decision to buy a product in store or on-line. The low level of digital literacy, the lack of trust in digital payment, and as said, the impossibility to receive the product in a short time, the need to be present for receiving (attended deliveries) are all factors that could hinder people from buying items on-line.

From the overview above, it is clear that end-consumers’ behaviour has a significant impact on mobility behaviour, influencing and modifying it and the process of planning should be modified consequently. In the 90s the main aim of transportation planning was to facilitate trips attracted by new shopping centers, which were located at main nodes of the transport network. All the actions and interventions were implemented to increase the accessibility of private cars and public transport, so as to make access to customers and consumers easier and easier. Nowadays this paradigm is changing: it is no longer only end-consumers going where goods are sold (at the physical store), but, with the increasing popularity of shopping on-line, it is the goods moving to the customers (from warehouses to people’s homes).

The distribution chain of products, therefore, need to be rethought and the transport systems redefined. Nevertheless, most of the policies concerning urban logistics proposed in SUMPs do not deal with all these issues and mainly focus on the retailers’ standpoints. Besides, the new strategies should consider that, in addition to the dimension of competitiveness of in-store shopping as opposed to e-shopping, external components of the in-store shopping process also have substantial influence. Shopping as a physical activity provides opportunities to meet needs for social engagement, since going shopping offers time to enjoy oneself, either alone or with friends and family. In-store shopping can also be a source of entertainment, rather than solely a maintenance activity. The function and facilities provided by modern stores (e.g., restaurants, theatres, cafés, etc.) present positive opportunities for enjoying in-store shopping. Furthermore, some shopping trips form part of trip chains for other purposes. Then, only an integrated approach, that take into consideration the needs of all the actors involved within the transportation system, including goods’ ones, could help in formulating strategies that can alleviate the impacts of traffic on the whole urban environment.

Triple Access Planning

A TAP lab with planning practice – the case of Norrköping

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

In the Swedish part of the Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures Project explores ways to inject triple access planning (TAP) into urban and regional (transport and comprehensive) planning by way of co-creative scenario development workshops with planning practitioners.

The Swedish set of workshops turns out to be an experiment in its own right. It is experimental since it makes us of an approach similar to a living lab co-design action to investigate how explorative and normative scenario development can be used to integrate TAP principles. The assumption – or the test! – is that TAP to support Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (SUMP) and uncertainty considerations therein can be integrated in planning practice by way of a shadow-planning practice where researchers and civil servants in (relevant) public administrations work together to develop the scenarios and the approach.

Shadow planning in this case means we are using real plans and strategies in a sandbox environment. In effect, then, we are using the shadow planning exercise as a living lab where the substantial content and active ingredients – i.e. problems, issues, concerns, trajectories, considerations, questions and reflections on what are realistic developments, what makes sense, what strains the imagination, what are causes and what are effects, what are macro and what are local variables, etc. – are mainly developed by the local expert-practitioners and problem-owners.

For instance, factors such as climate change, national policy, municipal remits, technological developments, and so on are open at the outset and collectively determined and relatively stabilized during the run of the successive workshops. It is hence genuinely challenge-driven in a transdisciplinary approach with an aim towards capacity building (cf. Bylund et al. 2022; JPI Urban Europe).

The lab setting

During autumn 2022 the work commenced with the City of Norrköping planners from comprehensive-strategic and transport divisions as well as a strategic transport planner from the Region Östergötland (regional authorities in the Swedish public administrative system are responsible for e.g. public transport as well as the coordination of public health services).

What we now call The Norrköping Scenarios has been developed in the series of workshops under the banner of explorative scenarios where uncertain and external future development factors are taken into account. The workshop exercises relied heavily on co-design of scenario content and joint reflections based on the results produced from the exercises. Even the process plan for the workshops itself was co-designed with the municipal officials.

We used a double-diamond approach (tweaked from the Design Council) to plan the workshops (see Figure 1) in order to, in the first phase explore and open up possible future lines and landscapes, then prune it down to a set of scenarios to be used for normative reflection and strategic lessons in the second phase.

Figure 1: The double-diamond approach to scenario development using the Design Council template, source: KTH TAP Project; Design Council 2005/2019.

The opening up phase during autumn of 2022 was particularly aimed at shaking loose presupposed or taken-for-granted lines of imagining possible near- and longer-term futures. In order for the scenario development to afford as much of the actors’ realism as possible while at the same time provoking or teasing out un-foreseen developments or impacts.

The scenarios are primed to grasp and highlight factors and variables, events and processes for the development of TAS in the municipality, including urban, peri-urban and rural areas, until/at 2045 with the overarching question ‘How will accessibility develop in Norrköping?’

The explorative scenarios, then, were developed using a scenario cross as a tool to capture and articulate contrasting scenes: the vertical axis in the cross notes degree of resources availability – scarcity at the top and abundance at the bottom; the horizontal axis moves from the left-hand side with a high degree of technological innovation with status-quo/retained everyday lifestyles (i.e. ecological modernization) and a small interest for planning control, to the right hand side with ahigh degree of transport efficient and sustainable structures and lifestyles and an overall big interest in planning control (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: The four scenario macro-conditions, in Swedish, source: KTH TAP Project.

The choice of these two main dimensions in the scenario cross was made after an initial mapping of external ‘macro-variables’ and variables that concern aspects of the triple access system, and an estimation of the level of uncertainty and local importance for each variable. The degree of resource availability and degree of technological innovation were deemed as the variables most uncertain and the most important regarding their local influence.

On towards normative scenarios

Now, early 2023, we are closing down the first diamond. So far, three half-day workshops has been organized with participants form Norrköping municipality´s planning office and one representative from the Regional Administration (see Figure 3). Together we have developed and elaborated the four scenarios based on the produced results from the three first workshops. We are at the moment teasing out their accessibility characteristics.

Figure 3: Planners exploring TAP in scenario development, photo: Jonas Bylund.

Two more explorative workshops are planned to develop the resulting four explorative scenarios. At the these workshops we plan to first work with causal relationships between factors in each quadrant of the scenario cross (a kind of simplified CLD-exercise focusing on one causal chain at a time, rather than the whole system) to help participants identify synergies and other relationships between variables, under the specific circumstances for each scenario.

At the last of the explorative  workshops, qualitative narratives for each scenario will be drafted. After which, in the spring 2023, we will workshop how the scenarios are useful to stress-test the current SUM and comprehensive planning strategies and visions.

Triple Access Planning

Complex Projects – The Value of an Outsider’s Perspective

Introduction by Stephen Cragg

An outsider’s perspective on complex projects

Developing and then looking to deliver a plan to shape the future of urban mobility is a complex business. Imagine adding to that the need to consider how the transport system, land use system and telecommunications systems interact to affect how we go about our daily lives, coupled with a need to come to terms with uncertainty over how that ‘triple access system’ could or should change. I’m part of the pan-European project ‘Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures’ which is looking at getting to grips with this. It’s complex! And when you are inside such a project it can become difficult to see the wood for the trees sometimes. In this blog, Glenn Lyons and I come together to highlight how an outsider’s perspective can be helpful.

The complex case of Triple Access Planning

Expectations of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) are now considerable in the face of the climate emergency and a society in a pronounced state of flux. The conceptual case for taking a ‘Triple Access Planning’ (TAP) approach to developing and delivering SUMPs is appealing. TAP encourages a recognition that sustainable urban mobility is a product not only of how we travel but of the spatial layout of origins and destinations and – increasingly, it can be argued – a product of how digital accessibility is affecting whether we need to travel at all to meet some of our needs to access people, goods, employment, services and opportunities. TAP also seeks to explore and accommodate rather than conceal uncertainty.

We cannot expect that it will be easy to develop and deliver a SUMP that embodies TAP. It is a complex, multi-faceted proposition for intervention which is very likely to involve many different individual measures and projects being developed in semi-isolation then brought together to ‘deliver the plan’. This is not, in itself, an unusual problem. Any major complex intervention (e.g. building a new bridge) involves many sub-elements which in turn can create more sub-sub-elements, etc.

Where it gets more challenging is when the projects are not focused on a single outcome, are not within the remit of one organisation, impact on thousands or even millions of people, are being developed at different times, in an ever-shifting policy environment and against a backdrop of ever-increasing uncertainty but also the urgency of the climate emergency.

We need to ‘hit the ground running’ in transforming how we deliver sustainable travel. To do that we should not only look at what successes have happened but also at what has failed or at least could have been done better.

The complex case of the Strategic Transport Projects Review

Glenn and I are both heavily involved in the Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures project. We approach it from different perspectives but both from inside the project. Meanwhile, away from this project, I have also been involved in another complex and much bigger project: the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2). In 2020, the Scottish Government published its second National Transport Strategy. This set out a vision with accompanying priorities and outcomes for Scotland’s transport system. To achieve this vision the strategy has an associated delivery plan with a large number of actions. One of these actions was a major study to determine what transport infrastructure is needed over the next 20 years. The final report of this STPR2 study was published in December 2022.

It is very difficult to do an introspective review of your own work, so I was delighted when Glenn did a review of the final report from an outsiders’ perspective.

Over to Glenn.

The outsider’s perspective by Glenn Lyons

Providing an outsider’s perspective as a form of CPD

I’ve developed a bit of a thing for voluntarily making the time to review significant new reports that come out – particularly those from national bodies that relate to transport planning, policy and appraisal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a regular habit because time simply doesn’t allow for that. What I’ve realised is that this can be a rather productive form of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – I decide to read a report; it then seems sensible to make some notes while I do so; and it then seems worthwhile to go a little further and turn those notes into a short article that captures what struck me in reviewing the report. Such a discipline means I pay closer attention when reading a report. It also means I then have to think about how to articulate my review commentary in a constructive and accessible way. If I manage all that then my review (usually written as a LinkedIn blog) can be helpful to others wanting an insight into the report in question.

So – I decided to review STPR2 and wrote a LinkedIn article about it.

Issues that can come to light when you’re on the outside looking in

I don’t propose here to try and explain STPR2 and go into detail on it. What I want to do is highlight the sort of things when looking in from the outside it might be helpful for those on the inside to be aware of.

What is it? When you have been on the inside of a project for a long time you start to take for granted that you (hopefully) ‘get it’ and know (fairly well) where it fits in within the bigger picture. But the bigger picture can be complicated with other documents that inter-relate in ways you don’t understand from the outside looking in. You can feel bamboozled by acronyms and assumed prior knowledge you don’t have. In order to begin offering constructively critical commentary on something you need to have a reasonable understanding in the first place of what it’s all about and what was involved.

What’s excluded? Often a report presents the polished version of what made it past the cutting room floor into the final edit. One is presented with what was in scope and judged as important. In my view, however, what didn’t make the cut and why can make for important further insight, especially when trying to understand the overall initiative. Similarly it is not always helpful to be presented with examples of best/good practice unless accompanied by examples of worst/poor practice.

What’s hidden? Earlier in my career I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of an executive summary to a document or even a summary report to accompany the full report. The realisation that busy senior people might never ever open the full report is sobering. What then matters is that the summary does indeed encapsulate the most important aspects of the full report. This is a matter of judgement. If you dig deeper than the summary you may find that there is material you, as the reader, consider especially important, that never got a mention in the summary.

How come? Another product of an ‘inside job’ when it comes to writing a report is that certain matters can be taken for granted and not mentioned or explained. There may be lists and tables indicating a summary of relative importance or ratings but without the ability for the reader to make sense of the ‘why?’ behind them. Without the ‘why?’ being addressed in their mind, the reader learns less and goes away with what may be inadequate understanding or even confusion. And outsider can readily ask the ‘why?’ questions if invited to do so and help test whether the authors are meeting the needs of the readers.

What else? Within a project there can be a diversity of perspectives and this is how it should ideally be, especially when dealing with wicked problems. Yet over time those perspectives may become somewhat conditioned to the nature of the project, the process involved and the rounds of dialogue that have taken place. An outsider has the mixed blessing of on the one hand having less understanding about the inner workings of the project and on the other hand having….well…less understanding about the inner workings of the project.A fresh perspective can lead to new questions being prompted: so what?; so why?; so how? so what next? so what if? There comes a point where the questions must end and the report must be finished, but it can be well worth giving an outsider’s questions an airing.

Perhaps it seems obvious to observe such things as those above but sometimes when you’ve been inside for long enough it gets lost, especially in a complex project. Of course, being a reviewer of someone else’s work and offering commentary on such questions above then comes around to the question of ‘do you practice what you preach?’ when I look to what Stephen and I are up to with our partners on the inside of the Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures project. We do engage with others and have sought to get outsiders’ perspectives. In fact we’ve even developed a serious game to help us to do so. Nevertheless, we can and should look to do more. So – if you feel at any point minded to offer us an outsider’s view on the project, we’d love to have your questions to be able to reflect upon how we might further up our game.

Triple Access Planning

The benefits of TAP approach in planning urban freight distribution

The freight urban transport, finalised to satisfy the demand for goods and services in urban areas, due to:

  • the complexity of the shopping that governs the freight distribution,
  • the high number of actors and decision-makers within the supply-chain with their reciprocal relationships that are nowadays increasingly virtual (digital connectivity),
  • its relevant interactions with the whole urban system (physical mobility),
  • both the structure of residences and the service distribution (spatial proximity),

can be described/represented through the notion of Triple Access System (TAS).

In fact, it is now well known that, in order to identify adequate solutions for the whole urban mobility system, the freight counterpart cannot be neglected. Therefore, to improve the urban freight distribution, it is necessary to investigate the structure and organisation of the whole supply chain that allows user to satisfy his/her needs of acquiring goods (shopping). Since only by focusing on the characteristics of the end consumer, on her/his purchase behaviour (according to the different types of goods and products) and therefore on her/his specific needs to be satisfied, it is possible to understand which is the most suitable way to guarantee this freight distribution, minimising impacts and maximising the effects on the whole urban system. This new perspective therefore means that the issue of urban freight transport and logistics must be addressed by looking at the freight delivering both towards the physical shops (shopping at stores) and directly to end consumer (online shopping including home delivery of different types).

Using, therefore, this new double reading key (at store and online), how can urban freight planning benefit from the Triple Access Planning approach?

  1. Physical Mobility: any freight distribution model cannot obviously disregard an adequate transport system (this is one of the value increases that characterises the whole supply chain): these concern both aspects falling within the competence of transport companies and couriers (e.g. definition of vehicle routing for freight delivering , optimisation of delivery times and of vehicle load), and those falling within the competence of municipalities operating through road management policies and organisation of loading and unloading spaces (delivery bays, time windows, limited traffic zones, etc.). The objective, in this case, is to minimise the effects on traffic flows, especially in terms of distances, land occupation and therefore congestion, road accidents and emissions.
  2. Spatial proximity: if an efficient freight delivery is based on a minimisation of distances between the shipper and the receiver, the new approach proposed here focuses on users’ activity who request goods and benefit from the urban freight delivery system. Indeed, , a large part of the success of shopping at physical shops (but the same applies to pick-up/delivery points – in online shopping systems) is based on the spatial proximity of shops to residences and workplaces (the idea of the “city in 15 minutes” is mainly based on this concept), in order to optimise consumers’ needs while minimising network effects. It is therefore necessary to know the attitudes and decision-making process of the end consumers (who can make purchases both in-store and online) in order to be able to plan the location of shop, residences and workplaces in an integrated way to make this proximity coherent.
  3. Digital connectivity: it is evident how the wide diffusion of ICT systems has totally transformed the shopping chain, introducing online shopping, which was almost non-existent until 20 years ago while now governs a large part of the market, offering delivery models increasingly aimed at satisfying end consumers’ needs (also with deliveries of ready meals, home deliveries of purchases made in physical urban shops). Such systems also have a strong impact on the business of shopping stores as they allow for a better planning of urban delivery systems, optimising flows, and minimising impacts.

From what has been described, therefore, it is evident how the proper planning of the different components of accessibility for the urban freight distribution has a great advantage in implementing the Triple Access Planning approach, since it integrates the three basic and central aspects that characterise the entire shopping activity: spatial proximity, digital connectivity and physical mobility.

Moreover, this approach also makes it possible to better answer to some uncertainty elements due to exogenous and endogenous factors that are typical of urban planning but which, in the case of shopping, are even more evident.

With regard to the former (exogenous factors), the recent pandemic has in fact highlighted how online shopping has been able, albeit temporarily, to best respond to end consumers’ needs during periods of severe crisis and lockdown (user-side access to goods not otherwise available, operator-side reduction of the problems of failed deliveries); furthermore, the current global energy crisis is directing urban distribution more and more towards the use of sustainable and low-consumption vehicles, addressing companies towards forms of consolidation that maximise load capacity for the same number of kilometres travelled (opportunities for telematics to support/foster load sharing and propose new delivery models).

But also referring to the latter, i.e. endogenous factors, the issue of uncertainty appears to be central: in urban freight transport, in fact, unlike passengers’ transport, the number of decision-makers increase, and thus so does the uncertainty due to their behaviours and decisions. In addition to municipalities, transport companies and citizens/end-consumers (decision-makers in passengers’ transport), in the case of shopping there are also retailers who have strong specific needs and objectives to pursue, often diverging and conflicting with at least one of the other three decision-making categories, with a subsequent increase of the level of uncertainty in the decision-making processes.

Added to this, there are other levels of uncertainty typical of shopping, such as, for example, the influence of marketing (especially in the launch of new products unknown to the market), the trend of fashions and customer habits (globalised but often fluctuating with respect to factors that are difficult to predict), the globalisation of production (we are in a single large global market), the trend of stock exchanges that influence the price level of certain primary goods, etc.

It is therefore evident that in the face of these aspects, the Triple Access System approach appears more suitable for analysing and adequately describing urban freight transport planning processes, as it allows, at the best way, the integration of the aspects that characterise it, helps to minimise the risks determined by uncertainties, and therefore permits more resilient and sustainable actions to be proposed.

Gianfranco Fancello is Associate Professor at Università degli studi di Cagliari, and member of the Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures team.

Triple Access Planning

Digital Accessibility in Urban Mobility Planning

Many people across Europe and beyond now take for granted that the digital age is integral to their lives, offering the ability to reach people, goods, employment, services and opportunities through online facilities. Digital accessibility is happening all around us. Yet remarkably when we turn attention to transport planning, urban mobility planning in particular, we seem to largely if not entirely ignore how this will play a part in shaping the future of mobility – mobility derived from where, when and how people engage in economic and social activity.

The project Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures is focused upon how to rethink urban mobility planning through the lens of triple access – physical mobility, spatial proximity and digital connectivity – contributing to how people participate in society. On 23 June we ran a workshop with academics and practitioners within and beyond the project to explore the opportunity, but also challenge, of how to explicitly take advantage of digital accessibility within Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (or ‘Local Transport Plans’ in England). After all, can we afford to ignore the role of digital accessibility when we are looking to transport in urban areas to rapidly reduce its carbon dioxide emissions?

In this article I draw upon the scene setting for the workshop I provided and the insights and conclusions from our discussions. Please share your own views – we all need to work on addressing this if we are to benefit from recasting transport planning as triple access planning.

Digital connectivity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for digital accessibility

There is an important distinction between digital connectivity and digital accessibility. I would explain them as follows. Digital connectivity reflects the availability of digital infrastructure and one or more devices (modes). Digital accessibility reflects being able to use digital connectivity to engage in activities. Digital connectivity is necessary but not sufficient to provide digital accessibility. The latter also relies upon the quality of digital services and digitally-enabled activities available (and affordable), and upon an individual’s competency and preferences when it comes to making use of what is on offer.

There is a complex and evolving set of relationships between digital accessibility and mobility

Pat Mokhtarian and Ilan Salomon have been pioneering scholars in trying to understand how use of telecommunications affects travel. In a 2015 paper called “Transport’s Digital Age Transition” I set out seven different relationships drawing upon Pat and Ilan’s work and that of my own and colleagues. Digital accessibility can:

  • substitute for travel—an activity is undertaken without the individual needing to make a trip
  • stimulate travel—information flows encourage the identification of activities and encounters at remote locations that individuals then choose to travel to (this can sometimes be a second order effect of substitution)
  • supplement travel—increasing levels of access and social participation are experienced without increasing levels of travel
  • redistribute travel—even if the amount of travel does not change at the level of the individual or at the aggregate, when and between which locations travel takes place can be changed
  • improve the efficiency of travel—data and information flows can enhance the operation and use of the transport system (commonly considered under the heading of ‘intelligent transport systems’)
  • enrich travel—whereby opportunities to make worthwhile use of time while travelling are enhanced, helping generate a “positive utility”
  • indirectly affect travel—technologies can enable or encourage changes to social practices and locational decisions over time that in turn influence the nature and extent of travel

The problem is that within society and across individuals and their activities all of these relationships are at play. The relationships are also changing over time as digital connectivity and accessibility have evolved (dramatically). In 2000 the UK Government published its Ten Year Plan for transport. In this it observed that “[t]he likely effects of increasing internet use on transport and work patterns are still uncertain, but potentially profound, and will need to be monitored closely”. I wrote about this in my 2002 paper “INTERNET – Investigating New Technology’s Evolving Role, Nature and Effects on Transport” (good acronym, eh?!). Unfortunately, to my mind while the effects have proved to be profound, we didn’t really monitor them closely, or at least seek to make sense of them or what they might mean for transport planning.

Digital opportunities have grown considerably and permeated into our lives

It is worth reminding ourselves that while the transport sector often gets hyped up about revolutionary change that in practice seems slow to then materialise, the digital age has shown dramatic change. In 2000 just over of a quarter of the UK population had Internet access. But it wasn’t the access we know today that is heading towards Gigabit connectivity and 5G. It was access through a 56k modem. To have downloaded an HD movie (if the opportunity even existed) would have taken some 30 hours – yet 5G promises the opportunity to do that in a few seconds. Remarkable – so allow your imagination to contemplate what change we might see over the next 20 years, a period over which urban mobility plans being developed now may apply. How can we ignore digital accessibility in such plans?!

According to the Office for National Statistics, immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic, the following was observed in Britain:

  • 96% of households had internet access
  • 76% of adults had used internet banking
  • 87% of adults had shopped online
  • 18% of adults in Great Britain used internet-connected energy or lighting controls

And during 2019 in Britain (ONS):

  • 87% of adults used the internet daily or almost every day
  • the percentage of adults who make video or voice calls over the internet had more than trebled over the past decade reaching 50%
  • 84% of adults had used the internet ‘on the go’

According to Ofcom, in 2020:

  • the average time per adult spent online was 3.5 hours per day (excluding the average 1 hour 20 minutes also spent watching online services on TV sets)
  • the NHS online service was used by 22.5 million UK adults in March 2020 as the country entered lockdown

Such statistics don’t seem particularly remarkable now – but imagine being presented with them in 2000 as a forecast of the future – it would have been possibly quite shocking, even moreso if someone had been able to explain the sophistication of the devices and services that would be available in 2022.

COVID-19 arrived and changed our lives forever, amplifying the place of digital accessibility

The world changed forever when the pandemic spread across the world. In 2019 it would have sounded far fetched to suggest huge parts of the workforce would be working from home full-time with business travel, especially international travel, replaced by online Teams and Zoom meetings, workshops and conferences. Yet now in 2022 we have become accustomed to this being part of working life, even if some are hankering after the ‘good old days’ of co-presence in the office and hypermobility in order to wheel and deal face-to-face in different parts of the country and beyond. What we are now being exposed to is coming to terms with the distinction between what we are able to do through digital accessibility versus what we want to do (or bosses want us to do). Surveys conducted during the pandemic offered some insights into how COVID-19 changed how we worked as well as what prospects in terms of preferences for future working practices.

Don’t be too quick to cast off digital accessibility as second best – it may be (becoming) superior

Of course some people will want to suggest that while digital accessibility was OK to rely upon during the pandemic, it wasn’t a match for face-to-face working. Well, this may be true for some people some of the time. But cast your mind back to some of the ‘old’ meetings you may have spent a good part of your working life attending. How productive were they really? Assuming suitable equipment and a suitable home office environment are available, ask yourself – isn’t the digitally accessible meeting sometimes, if not often, more flexible, productive, and perhaps even more engaging?

And if this is what digital working looks and feels like now, imagine how much more it might further evolve in the coming years and decades. How laughable it might seem that knowledge workers once trundled in metal boxes to ‘work factories’ and then trundled home again? Imagine if we were narrow minded enough to plan the future through only a transport lens.

The future is uncertain in terms of what forms digital accessibility will take

In 2010 I visited Hewlett Packard Laboratories next to my university campus to have a demonstration of their Halo videoconferencing facility. Complete with high quality screens, dedicated fibreoptic network connectivity and high-quality sound it was possible to create a boardroom for people near and far to be together. It seemed to me like a glimpse of the future – but one that might take some time to be available to the masses. Jump forward to 2022 and it’s quite different. So, is 2022 a good guide to digital connectivity and accessibility of the future, or will it be all change again? This is why accommodating uncertainty must also now be part of urban mobility planning, as well as thinking through a triple-access lens.

There are only weak signals about incorporating digital accessibility into urban mobility planning

While its plain that digital accessibility is here to stay and set to become an ever more integral part of our lives in the future, it’s far from clear that much if any attention is being paid to whether and how digital accessibility could be addressed in urban mobility planning. Perhaps transport planners have not seen it as part of their remit? Perhaps it had been put in the ‘too difficult box’? It is certainly true that it is very difficult to make sense of the systemic level of change attributable to digital accessibility change and take-up – and this may not change any time soon given the dynamics involved, the state of flux in society and the fact that making sense of digital accessibility is yet another wicked problem in society.

It is ironic, however, that transport planning orthodoxy seems to remain blissfully unaware of the complexity and dynamics of the Triple Access System – in which the transport system exists – as it merrily continues to put stock in road traffic forecasts and maintain a narrow lens focused primarily on the transport system, with some consideration of the land use system and virtually (ha, ha!) no consideration of the telecommunications system.

It may be important to apply how we judge mobility to how we judge digital accessibility

There are obvious parallels between the transport system and the telecommunications system: (i) roads provide the opportunity to move from one location to another, just as the Internet does; (ii) modes of transport provide the means of using the infrastructure, just as digital devices from smart phones to desktop PCs do; (iii) financial and educational means are needed to afford, and know how, to use modes of transport, as they are for digital devices; and (iv) movement between one location and another is derived from the appeal and suitability of the activities being reached, which applies whether these are face-to-face or digital remotely accessed activities.

When it comes to mobility, England’s National Travel Survey (in common with other such national surveys) refers to a series of journey purposes which in effect reflect the array of activities for which access is needed:

  • Commuting
  • Business
  • Education
  • Escort education
  • Shopping
  • Other escort
  • Personal business
  • Visiting friends at private home
  • Visiting friends elsewhere
  • Entertainment / public activity
  • Sport: participate
  • Holiday: base
  • Day trip

For many of these it is apparent that digital accessibility now has a well-established place.

One can suggest that we should be asking ourselves in light of the comparison between mobility and digital accessibility, why aren’t transport planners doing more to incorporate digital connectivity (information and communications technologies – ICTs) and digital accessibility into our representation of behaviours we are looking to support and shape with our planning?

I prepared the diagram below (inspired by similar thinking from Pat Mokhtarian) in work I led for the New Zealand Ministry of Transport in 2014 when we conceived of the need for a ‘decide and provide’ paradigm in transport planning, centred upon the Triple Access System. It aims to remind us (as Pat’s work did) that we need to have in mind how the absolute amount of mobility (as Pat considered) and accessibility (as I’ve considered below by adding ICTs) and how the relative amount change over time. It is important for urban mobility planning to recognise that while society’s overall need for accessibility may grow over time, the same need not be true for physical mobility – especially motorised mobility. It is possible to conceive of maintaining or reducing motorised mobility while increasing overall accessibility. A neat example given in our workshop was how watching sporting events used to require physical presence at the venue whereas, thanks to television, such sporting events have been made accessible to countless millions as opposed to a few thousand.

Growth in digital accessibility has not been motivated by interest in travel demand management

It is possible to point to examples of where digital accessibility is helping to ease demands placed upon the transport system. Digital healthcare appointments are becoming more mainstream. Online grocery shopping of course still generates delivery trips but removes shoppers’ trips to retail centres. Digital meeting and workshop services and tools enable meetings to take place without travel. Broadband providers, offering digital connectivity, underpin all of this. However, such mechanisms have motives beyond an interest in helping ease pressure on the transport system (even if they have that motive at all). Often the motive is profit, service efficiency, economic prosperity etc. This is quite rational but it should not preclude recognising that in pursuing other motives, the consequence for transport planning of digital services provision can often be behaviour change dynamics that offer the possibility to reduce motorised transport. I say ‘possibility’ here because it depends upon how the benefits are locked in, such that motorised mobility does not pop up in other forms as a rebound effect. Sometimes at a local level, digitally-related services are indeed being provided with the direct interest in addressing people’s reliance on transport in mind – local co-working hubs being a good example. Indeed, for rural areas moreso than urban areas, such provision of support for digital accessibility may be more appropriate, cost-effective, and socially and economically beneficial compared to investment in the transport system itself.

Barriers to greater uptake of digital accessibility and reduction in motorised travel go beyond technology

For many middle-class knowledge workers it may seem rather intuitive and natural to turn attention to taking advantage of digital accessibility, as many did during the pandemic. However, for many others they may either not enjoy the availability of the same choice set for their behaviours, or may not be conscious of how their choice set has changed. If familiar behaviours continue to serve their purpose in a satisfactory way (e.g. driving to work) then habits can endure. Individuals become entrenched in particular patterns of behaviour. These are normalised socially for example in relation to the nature of work. It took the pandemic to really shake up the working world and expose many people to the unfamiliar but potentially eminently suitable and attractive option of working from home – an option that was in their choice set (employers’ and managers’ views permitting) they just hadn’t really considered it, or felt able to. For other people the technological means may not exist to be able to take advantage of some forms of digital accessibility. However, it may also be the case that they do have the technological means (or could afford to have it) but haven’t been afforded the digital literacy, skills and familiarity to be able to take advantage of the digital opportunities on offer.

Frankly, another obstacle to overcoming such issues as those above is that planners and policymakers are devoting far more attention to meeting people’s needs for access through physical mobility than they are through digital accessibility. In one of our European partner countries in our project it was suggested that there was a team in national government of around 100 professions working on digital developments compared to some 9000 working on transport developments.

We can embrace digital accessibility in urban mobility planning without fully understanding it

Exploring the prospects of digital accessibility, as noted above, can reveal it as a wicked problem in light of differences in interpretation, lack of evidence and understanding of cause and effect, and complex interactions that is has with other aspects of an urban system. It would be all too easy (especially with the ‘forecast-led’ predict and provide mindset in the transport sector) to forego a need to give serious attention to accounting for digital accessibility in urban mobility planning. This would be a grave mistake at this point in time – a point in time when we recognise the severity of the climate emergency and a need to rapidly decarbonise our economy, notably our transport system and its use.

Thankfully, the decide and provide paradigm is different – provided that its new philosophy – way of thinking – is embraced. This is about supply-led demand rather than demand-led supply. This was set out in my paper with Cody Davidson in 2016 – “Guidance for transport planning and policymaking in the face of an uncertain future”. We do not need to fully understand cause and effect, to be able to model the effects of change in supply on changing demand, in order to shape a better future. Consider this broad proposition:

  • We need to create a sensible balance of physical mobility, spatial proximity and digital connectivity to meet society’s access needs while creating liveable places, assuring economic and social wellbeing and addressing climate change.
  • Such balance is created by considering transport, land use and telecommunications supply.
  • We may take a view that we do not need any more highway capacity for private cars than we already have.
  • We may take a view in turn that any new infrastructure provision should focus upon supporting active travel and shared motorised transport, and that such new provision will come from some reallocation of roadspace away from the private car.
  • We may then recognise the importance of ensuring everyone in society has a minimum level of opportunity to enjoy the benefits of digital accessibility which means addressing digital connectivity (and its affordability) as well as addressing digital literacy – and actively raising public awareness of the enriched choice set they can have at their disposal in terms of forms of access.
  • We may assume that by determining a clear way forward for transport system capacity, and digital opportunity, that people and businesses will respond in an adaptive way in terms of locational decisions and wider behaviours (including innovations from transport service providers, digitally accessible service providers, and developers).
  • In this way, the demand is left to respond to the supply on offer – choice remains but is bounded by supply-side system conditions.
  • This is what the vision-led approach of decide and provide is all about – it is then important to continuously monitor how patterns of behaviour are changing and to be ready to adapt investments and interventions to help ensure fairness in overall accessibility provision and to help mitigate unanticipated and undesirable consequences.

This surely offers a proposition worthy of consideration in the times we are living in? Is it not a tempting foundation for improving urban mobility planning? If not, then what is the alternative because digital accessibility is increasingly pervasive in society and if planning is about shaping a system to be fit for the future it cannot do so in ignorance of the fundamental building blocks of that Triple Access System.

Glenn Lyons is the Mott MacDonald professor of future mobility at UWE Bristol, and the coordinator for the project Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures.

Triple Access Planning

Transport policymaking under (deep) uncertainty: new knowledge or think differently?

Urban transport is facing an increasing number of problems. Increasing urbanization, lifestyle changes, and growing use of the private car, have placed the mobility of persons and transportation of goods under pressure in many cities. Traditional policies, including new infrastructures, park-and-ride facilities, improved public transport, road pricing, time-frames for goods delivery, etc., seem insufficient to handle this pressure. Innovative solutions have been proposed to improve traffic performance (e.g. intelligent vehicles, automated goods transport), travel decisions (e.g. Mobility as a Service, advanced travel info), and activity behavior (e.g. mobility hubs, e-shops, teleworking). The implementation of these solutions, however, is surrounded by many uncertainties regarding external developments (e.g., technological progress, economic developments, climate change, demographic developments), the possible consequences of these developments for urban transportation system performance (e.g., impacts on traffic flows, safety, the environment), and the way crucial stakeholders will value these consequences (e.g., changing preferences leading to different modal choices).

The question is how to deal with these uncertainties. Traditional approaches, based on advanced modeling and impact assessment, are not capable to handle future trend breaks very well.  Future times do require a radically different way of thinking. The question is how to arrive at good decisions under deeply uncertain conditions? We still base most policy on the principle of Predict and Act; you try to predict roughly what the future will look like, for example by specifying a limited number of plausible scenarios. Based on this, you specify a  policy or take certain measures that work relatively well for all scenarios. But we’ve come to the point where we simply don’t know what the future holds and what the consequences will be. Think about climate change. The speed of climate change is controversial, but there is also a lot of discussion among scientists about the possible consequences. Even with traditional scenario approaches, you cannot act on that adequately. Therefore, a different way of thinking is required, called Prepare and Adapt.

The basic concept of Prepare and Adapt is easy to explain. It is analogous to the approach used in guiding a ship through a long ocean voyage. The goal – the end point – is set at the beginning of the journey. But, along the way, unpredictable storms and other traffic may interfere with the original trajectory. So, the policy – the specific route – is changed along the way. It is understood before the ship leaves port that some changes are likely to take place – and contingency plans may have already been formulated for some of the unpredictable events. The important thing is that the ultimate goal remains unchanged, and the policy actions implemented over time remain directed toward that goal (if the goal is changed, an entirely new plan must be developed). However, reassessment does not mean completely starting over, as the knowledge of outcomes, objectives, measures, etc., learned during the initial process would accelerate the new planning process. An adaptive policy would include a systematic method for monitoring the environment, gathering information, implementing pieces of the policy over time, and adjusting and re-adjusting to new circumstances. The policies themselves would be designed to be incremental, adaptive, and conditional.

Prepare and adapt means that you have to think in terms of how can my initial policy fail and, if so, what actions should be prepared to intervene and adjust my initial policy. It is therefore very important to monitor developments closely, to consider under which (future) conditions you should intervene, and what the adaptations should be then. Does that require different knowledge? To some extent yes, but we should start using our existing knowledge in a different way. Existing knowledge should be used in a way that it contributes to a different way of thinking – explorative thinking – in terms of problems (uncertainties) as well as solutions (transport and non-transport system solutions). Generating explorative knowledge is one thing, implementing it in practice is another thing. We know for instance that spatial and telecommunication policies have high potential (although also uncertain) to reduce urban transport problems. However transport policy-making is often organized in such a way that non-transport solutions (e.g. in the field of land-use or digital connectivity) are at least difficult to include.

Developing and implementing such an adaptive policy will not be easy. There are significant legal, political, and analytic barriers to be overcome. However, compared with traditional policy-making, the adaptive approach is highly promising in terms of handling the range of uncertainties related to urban transport policy-making.

Vincent Marchau is professor in Uncertainty and Adaptivity of Societal Systems at the Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, Nijmegen, and member of the Triple Access for Uncertain Futures project team.

Triple Access Planning

Be (a)ware of context!

A Note on the Importance of Institutional Aspects in Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning for Triple Access and Uncertainty 

Examining institutional aspects in the SUMP framework 

Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (SUMP) has been developed and applied throughout the EU during the 2010s, supported by a set of planning guidelines (Rupprecht Consult, 2019) that provide transport planners with key instructions on how to develop and implement sustainable urban mobility in an urban or metropolitan context. Apart from handling subject matters of sustainable mobility, this concerns to a large extent governance and handling a variety of institutional aspects such as horizontal and vertical integration of actors and perspectives, managing regulations, creating legitimate policy solutions and mobilizing capacity for change. Issues such as these may have significant influence over both SUM planning and its implementation.  

Formal, and to some extent informal institutional conditions are touched upon in the guidelines, but mainly at a general level, and in an in-depth supplementary manual for institutional cooperation (Cré et al, 2016). Consideration of Triple Access Planning and uncertainty (Lyons & Davidson, 2016) in SUMP adds to the complexity of SUM-planning, which makes it more important to further consider governance and institutional conditions in SUMP approaches and practices.  

In the TAP for Uncertain Futures project, a literature review on SUMP and SUM-related planning has been carried out with the purpose to address the current state-of-the art knowledge and potential gaps in the current SUMP guidelines concerning formal and informal institutional aspects. The review has specifically focused on how governance and institutional conditions affect SUMP processes and conditions for considering Triple Access Planning and deep uncertainty (see Marchau et al, 2019 for further orientation and in-depth knowledge on deep uncertainty). Here follow some findings from this review and some insights from research literature about how to enhance SUMP further on this subject matter. 

Findings and knowledge gaps about institutional aspects in relation to SUMP, Triple Access Planning and deep uncertainty?  

The studied research literature concerns several relevant themes related to institutional aspects in sustainable urban mobility planning:  

  • General barriers, challenges and recommendations 
  • Policy integration and a multi-level perspective 
  • Participation and co-creation 
  • Attending to context and transferability of knowledge and practices 
  • Factors and mechanisms influencing process dynamics 
  • Some of the themes are sparingly or not at all treated in the literature that specifically concerns SUMP, such as policy integration, multi-level perspectives and influential factors and mechanisms on process dynamics. They are foremost studied in more general research on sustainable urban mobility. Although some of the reviewed studies form part of the basis of the SUMP guidelines, taken together with other studies they show a knowledge gap between research and the guidelines where the literature review contributes concerning: 
  • Mechanisms and factors such as mental models, lock in´s and path dependencies that focuses on the process dynamics and the design of the process and contextual settings rather than the planning content (policy).  
  • The relationship between governance and institutions on the one hand and uncertainty on the other.  
  • An emphasis on local context, informal institutions and governance practice and a meta-perspective on institutions by making them explicit in the process.  

Comparing the guidelines and the findings of the literature review has revealed some gaps and lacking perspectives:  

  • Informal institutions are treated in the guidelines as actors, not as structures or action. As a consequence, there is a focus on organizing stakeholders and their agendas.  
  • Informal practice and contextual and structural aspects are sparsely considered. Here, the literature review has identified the need for a more sensitive and adaptive approach to these aspects.  
  • Governance is consequently related to the formal arrangement of actors in the guidelines, missing out on the tactical and operational levels of tinkering and tailoring of the process as an act of balance between strategic and incremental process management.  
  • Power is discussed only implicitly – if not even made invisible – in many of the prescriptions in the guidelines. Thereby they are also hard to grasp as a characteristic of governance and institutional action while still being a major contributor to institutional uncertainty. The literature review identifies power-struggle as the conflict over diverging discourses and mental models as well as through various barriers and challenges. 
  • Uncertainty, as described by Marchau et al (2019), can be categorized at four levels: level 1) – any uncertainty that can be described adequately in statistical terms, such as in a forecast with a confidence interval; level 2) – alternative, trend-based futures, where some estimate can be made of the probability of each of them; level 3 – deep uncertainty about the mechanisms and functional relationships being studied, often captured in the form of a wide range of plausible scenarios, and finally level 4 – the deepest level of recognized uncertainty, where we only know that we do not know. In the guidelines uncertainty isviewed  mainly as the risk of not achieving a SUMP that is aligned with the guidelines – a level 1 uncertainty. Level 2 uncertainty is considered only when it comes to the development of policy, e. g. as scenario-making. Deep uncertainty (level 3 or 4 uncertainty) and uncertainty from an institutional perspective are generally almost not considered at all.  
What do insights from research literature say about how SUMP guidelines may be further developed to handle the perspective of TAP and uncertainty?  

The literature review has led to some overarching insights about the nature of institutional and governance aspects of SUMP that needs to inform the enhancement of the SUMP guidelines:  

  • Create and maintain awareness of context – stick to principles but allow practical discretion. 
  • Attend to factors and mechanisms that influence dynamics and uncertainties during the entire planning process. 
  • There are limits to integration and participation, as it increases the complexity of the process. Consider which professional, civil society and local competencies and experiences should be represented, and at which stages of the process.  
  • Accommodate processual reflexivity, iteration and local discretion in guidelines. 
  • Develop institutional capacity – knowledge resources, relational resources and mobilization ability – in the planning organization. 

The literature review and gap analysis show that there is indeed need for a developed SUMP process model with regards to institutional and governance aspects from the perspective of TAP and deep uncertainty. The insights and general recommendations from the review provide some ways forward for this. 

Among the lessons are that the 12-step SUMP process could be designed from the eight general principles in the SUMP guidelines framework (see Rupprecht, 2019) but adapted to the local context of the specific urban area to be planned for.  

Also, to emphasize the consideration of informal institutional aspects and to accommodate deep uncertainty, the 12-step SUMP process could be implemented in a more iterative, open, nonlinear and cyclical way in order to accommodate deep uncertainty. 

Continuous activities of mapping, anchoring, co-creation, reflexive learning and adaptation could further be emphasized as part of the process design and take place throughout the process or, concerning some aspects, in a more orchestrated manner, targeting specific activities, such as the mapping of the institutional capacity of the organization and the iterative development and evaluation of both explorative and normative scenarios as a way to systematically investigate and make concrete plausible and preferable futures for sustainable mobility as part of the triple access urban system.  

Adaptive or transformative SUM-planning? – a brief reflection concerning institutional aspects, TAP and uncertainty 

The most fundamental improvement to be made to strengthen the shift to a regime-testing and sustainable mobility paradigm would perhaps be to alter the ontology of mobility planning from a technological-rational dominated worldview to one that is more pluralistic and that better acknowledges the social production of (unknown) futures and the multiplicity of trajectories stemming from such production. An open-minded and learning planning organization appears as an important condition for such a shift. The literature review has shown that a developed awareness and an advanced treatment of institutional aspects can help foster this institutional learning.  

In relation to ambitions of developing more transformative, regime-testing SUM planning which better accommodates Triple Access Planning and uncertainty, it is important to note that strengthening adaptivity both of a specific plan and the planning process as such, comes with the risk of, in effect, contributing to sustaining current planning regimes rather than challenging them. Practices and plans which are made more adaptable might strengthen the resilience and longevity of previous planning approaches and sustain dominant, underpinning planning orientations, and thereby result in an effective avoidance of considering potentially more transformative pathways. In that sense, SUM planning that accommodates uncertainty and TAP with the aim to enforce a transition towards sustainable mobility might be better helped by characteristics such as in-depth reflexivity and scrutiny of practices and its outcomes, rather than reinforcing incremental adaptation of a planning process or a previously decided plan. Or, at least, and based on insights from the reviewed literature, active reflexivity seems to be needed to make way for effective adaptation in practice. 


Cré, I., Mourey, T., Ryder, A., Heckley, S. & Balant, M. (2016). Institutional cooperation. Working jointly with institutional partners in the context of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans. European Commission, Brussels.  

Lyons, G., & Davidson, C. (2016). Guidance for transport planning and policymaking in the face of an uncertain future. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 88, 104-116. 

Marchau, V.A.W.J., Walker, W.E., Bloemen, P.J.T.M & Popper, S.J. (2019). Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty. From Theory to Practice. Springer. 

Rupprecht Consult (editor) (2019), Guidelines for Developing and Implementing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, Second Edition. 


Tony Svensson is a researcher on urban and regional studies at The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden and an assistant professor in Civil planning and construction at Dalarna University and a member of the Triple Access Planning for Uncertainty project team.  

Jacob Witzell is a researcher on strategic transport planning at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and the National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) in Sweden, and a member of the Triple Access Planning for Uncertainty project team. 

Triple Access Planning

Testing urban mobility plans against uncertain futures: Findings from a participatory workshop

By considering urban mobility in terms of accessibility, not only transport systems are important but also spatial configurations and digital infrastructure. In other words, when we talk about accessibility, we have to consider a dynamic system of physical transport, land use, and digital interaction. Many uncertainties surround such a system including for example uncertainties regarding; the extent to which telecommunication can (partially) take over physical mobility, how transport innovations might evolve, individuals‘ future location choices, and the future of goods mobility. These uncertainties might significantly affect the accessibility and decision-making in accessibility planning must, therefore, take these uncertainties into account. An extensive literature review, that we recently conducted, on using scenarios for handling uncertainty, concluded that integrating participatory explorative scenario approaches within the early steps of the planning for accessibility is necessary. It was observed that, involving stakeholders in scenario activities can be in three main forms: (1) informing, that aims at raising stakeholder’s awareness of a pre-developed plan; and sometimes have a say in weighting between alternative futures, (2) testing, where participants are given the opportunity to test how future-proof  a given plan is, i.e. explore  uncertainties that might influence it, and (3) creating, where participants are fully involved in planning and scenario creation.

In scenario planning activities, the “scenario development” process design is one of the most critical tasks.  Many choices need to be made in advance to guarantee results (scenarios) that address the surrounding level of uncertainty (Chakraborty & McMillan, 2015; Lyons et al., 2021). Among the most important choices are; selecting the scenario type (exploratory, normative, or predictive), scenario construction (qualitative or quantitative), scenario scope, scenario development duration, resources, scenario development approach (inductive or deductive), participation platform (online, or face-to-face), and the degree of stakeholders involvement. Some of these choices can be based on the addressed level of uncertainty; they change the “scenario development” process design, and consequently impact the results.

Figure 1: Nijmegen’s City center. ©IntoNijmegen/Wilger Brevoord

As part of our Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures project, we developed and applied a workshop to: (1) understand how stakeholders imagine uncertainties, and how scenarios can support handling these uncertainties, and; (2) to test the extent of stakeholders’ participation in scenario planning for accessibility futures.. In particular, participants were invited to stress-test the current urban mobility plan of the city of Nijmegen against different future uncertainties. The workshop was part of the AMS scientific conference: reinventing the city, and we prepared it in collaboration with a policy advisor from the municipality of Nijmegen. It was attended by 16 participants, ranging between transport practitioners, academic researchers to students. The workshop’s scope was focused on three main policies in Nijmegen: (1) The New Parking Policy: moving from facilitating to controlling, (2) The eHUB project: electric shared transport facilities i.e. e-bikes, e-cargo bikes, e-cars, and (3) The new traffic management system which involves prioritization of specific streets, impeding the growth of car traffic, and deployment of innovative ICT solutions for mobility Smart. A deductive approach  (approach that starts by identifying the future drivers of change, then exploring their effect on the future) was followed where, as recommended by Lyons et al. (2021), we used the STEEP framework (Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, and Political), and a 2X2 chart to specify the level of importance and degree of uncertainty of each driver. The workshop was divided over two rounds, each of 45 minutes:

1. The first round aimed at exploring the vulnerabilities of the existing policies (i.e. how can the urban mobility plan fail) and opportunities (i.e. how can the plan succeed), based on the STEEP perspective. After identifying the vulnerabilities and opportunities, participants were asked to indicate the degree of importance and uncertainty for each of those (see Figure 2). Generally, the most frequently discussed vulnerabilities and opportunities related to the travel behavior change, the need for improving communication and information sharing (e.g. how would the elderly interact with the eHUB project), the rise of new modes of transport (e.g. autonomous vehicles), and possibilities of steering the city toward a more sustainable vision through infrastructure developments (e.g. parking, EV charging).

Figure 2: SUMP vulnerabilities and opportunities classified

2. The second round aimed at specifying measures to handle the important and uncertain vulnerabilities and opportunities (see figure 3). The most frequent measures mentioned in this round concerned regulating and incentivizing sustainable modes of transport (e.g. LEVs), and increasing participatory planning and information sharing to raise awareness (e.g. to guarantee effective behavioral change).

Figure 3: Measures to handle the identified vulnerabilities and opportunities

As a conclusion we came up with the following important points to be considered in future workshops:

  • It is very important to have prior knowledge of the workshop attendees (areas and level of expertise, number of attendees, affiliation/perspective, …etc.). This shall affect the workshop design and outcomes. E.g. depending on the experience of attendees, moderators need to focus more on explaining the prioritization ranges (e.g. important, unimportant, certain and uncertain).
  • The more specific the case study is presented, i.e. the mobility plan, the more specific the  solutions, i.e. preparatory measures, can be derived. I .e. the Nijmegen mobility plan can be broken-down into several specific policies, and these policies can be discussed in-depth.
  • Selecting the platform of participation act among the most important process-design choices, for improving the session and its outcomes. If the workshop is online, it is best to choose a clearly interactive and accessible platform (e.g Miro, MS teams,…etc.). Being able to see and divide the participants in smaller groups can improve interaction and provide reliable outcomes.
  • It is vital to increase participants’ knowledge of the subject and raise their awareness to motivate them to participate. Motivating participants can be through explaining  why they should participate, and how the workshop might help them; as well as why the workshop is important for the project. Including this in the workshop’s introduction and conclusion can help in that.

Finally, considering this workshop being a part of the Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures project, a more specific focus on the three TAP dimensions can guide the rounds besides the STEEP perspectives. This can help participants to think beyond traditional mobility planning and imagine a wider range of uncertainties.

Overall, the workshop was considered successful in achieving its goals, and we want to thank all attendees for participating and helping us organize our process.


Chakraborty, A., & McMillan, A. (2015). Scenario planning for urban planners: Toward a practitioner’s guide. Journal of the American Planning Association, 81(1), 18-29.

Lyons, G., Rohr, C., Smith, A., Rothnie, A., & Curry, A. (2021). Scenario planning for transport practitioners. Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, 11, 100438.

Triple Access Planning

Uncertainty and the EU SUMP Guidelines – more to consider?

It’s getting on for three years since the EU SUMP Guidelines (Rupprecht Consult, 2019, produced for the European Commission) were published and if there’s one thing that’s become more obvious in that time than it was back then, it’s that we live in an uncertain world.  There are changes, such as in personal preferences about where to live and how to travel, or fuel prices, or the use of self-driving vehicles, that we can foresee, but we are uncertain about the speed and scale of change.  Then there are changes that we simply cannot anticipate – arguably, the pandemic was one of these. The use of digital connectivity as a substitute for physical mobility, and the importance or otherwise of access based on short distances (the 15 Minute City, for example), are concepts that are with us, but how much they will reduce longer distance physical mobility in future remains uncertain as well.  So, in short, there’s a pressing need to try to better account for these uncertainties in SUM planning – perhaps especially so in those SUMPs, such as those financed by the EU in Accession States, that involve, at considerable cost, the construction by consultants of a traditional four-stage transport model using quite linear predictions of the future that, after the SUMP has been produced, nobody in the municipality for which it is built is very certain how to use.

In the Urban Europe project Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures we are advocating an approach to SUM planning that takes uncertainty more into account – but how?  Principally, we suggest, by the use of explorative scenarios – this means scenarios, or depictions of the future, that begin on the basis of past and present trends but that lead to credible, plausible futures.  Crucially, these are scenarios that do not package transport measures within a SUMP – they instead  try to take into account (changes in) a range of factors that might influence our futures substantially, such as personal preferences for different forms of social contact, or trends in working patterns.  Packages of measures and the SUMP as a whole can then be “stress-tested” against these scenarios to see how well they perform.  Ratcliffe (2002, p.4) is cited in Mietzner and Reger (2005:224) as listing the “main characteristics of scenarios [as]:

  • present alternative images instead of extrapolating trends from the present
  • embrace qualitative perspectives as well as quantitative data
  • allow for sharp discontinuities to be evaluated
  • require decision makers to question their basic assumptions
  • create a learning organisation possessing a common vocabulary and an effective
  • basis for communicating complex – sometimes paradoxical – conditions/ options.”   

So how is uncertainty dealt with in the EU SUMP Guidelines?  To answer this question, the TAP for Uncertain Futures project conducted a structured review of the 2019 Guidelines and the 2021 Topic Guide on Planning for More Resilient and Robust Urban Mobility.  Leaving aside the issue that digital accessibility is really not considered, and nor is the uncertainty of the future interaction between digital, short distance and long distance mobility as means to access what we need, the main issue is that scenario planning, as defined in Sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the Guidelines, is not based on explorative scenarios as described above, but largely on scenarios defined as different packages of SUMP measures.  The 2021 Topic Guide defines scenarios in the same way but slightly confusingly also mentions explorative scenarios.  However, it says little about the detail of explorative scenario development and planning, and advocates their use primarily as a way to address major shocks such as pandemics rather than a routine part of SUM planning for an uncertain world. 

So while the 2021 publication has in comparison to its 2019 “big brother” begun to recognise uncertainty as something that should be planned for, in brief, there is little advice on how to do so.  It is for this reason that the TAP for Uncertain Futures project, through its research and practical work with five municipalities across Europe as they further develop their SUMPs, plans to produce new practical guidance on how to develop scenarios and better plan for uncertainty in SUMPs in future.

Tom Rye is a Professor of Transport Policy at Molde University, Norway, and a senior researcher UIRS the Urban Planning Institute of Slovenia, and (with UIRS) project partner in Triple Access Planning for Uncertain Futures.