Travel Fast or Smart
Urban designers have to work within a spatial context, for example balancing space with density, and living quality with mixed use. David Metz explains how transport policy can determine this spatial context, and in particular how malformed policy promoting bigger roads leads to dysfunctional spatial development. Ergo, the transport policies and methods explored are of direct interest to those involved in spatial planning and development.
The chapter headings themselves outline the main messages: ‘An hour a day’ is the average time devoted to daily travel, unchanged for decades, and therefore speeding up travel simply leads to people choosing to travel further. ‘Space not time’ emphasises that when transport is faster, people do not use this to save time, but to access things over a wider area. This means that development pressures will also be spread further. If it’s faster roads, development can sprawl; if it’s new or faster railways, it will be focused at stations. ‘Peak car’ describes the decadelong flattening out of the car ownership curve. For many, especially younger people, the car is no longer the must-have symbol of success. The case for development based on public transport rather than the car is strengthened by this social change. ‘Green cities’ points to emerging trends towards high density and mixed use urbanisation that is based on public transport, not roads and parking. London has been a leader in this.
There then follow chapters on air travel, technologies, and a look at the future of travel based on the trends and concepts explored earlier. The final chapter sets out Metz’s transport policy manifesto, bringing together the arguments to provide a basis for ‘intelligent’ policy-making. It outlines an approach to policy-making, for example by emphasising the need for jointly involving planners, developers and transport authorities, and integrating transport investment with economic development. Unlike many, he calls for better use of money rather than calling for more, and argues that more consideration should be given to not investing in particular schemes.
The book is a critique of current transport planning methods, especially those of transport economists. Metz points out that their methods are theory-based not evidence based. They base investment recommendations on the theory of time savings, yet these never materialise. ‘What is real and readily observed are the changes in how land is used and valued when transport investment makes such land more accessible – which the economists disregard’.
By highlighting the interdependence of land use development and transport, this book is relevant to urban designers and others involved in development. It is clearly written, refreshingly free from jargon, and relatively succinct. It includes an interesting mix of theory, propositions and examples, and excellent reference summaries to help those who want to explore the issues further.