“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”


In this second post about the work of the Commission on Travel Demand I will explore the challenges posed by the quote from the scientist Nils Bohr that headlines this article.

Lets start by looking at the state of practice in the UK. All major infrastructure schemes are subject to an economic appraisal with an appraisal period of 60 years (which is 30 years longer than it used to be a decade ago). We produce long term estimates of demand using the National Trip End Model and a suite of other tools such as the National Transport Model and the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook. However, the demand futures upon which decisions are based are largely determined by what are deemed to be ‘reasonable assumptions’. The case for HS2 for example includes the following acknowledgment: “Despite the economic downturn there is little evidence to suggest the recent strong growth in long…

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Freedom of movement and fairness

Transforming transport planning for social and environmental justice

A new think-piece by Dr Caroline Mullen is one of two outputs on energy and mobility justice, written by members of the DEMAND Centre for Friends of the Earth’s Big Ideas Project.


Mobility and movement of resources is life sustaining and enhancing. Yet transport and mobility systems in countries across the world present a complex tangle of freedoms, benefits, health problems, physical dangers and restrictions. This think-piece argues that we should reframe thinking about transport so that equality – recognition that each and every person matters – becomes the starting point. Transport planning would then aim to ensure that each person can obtain the benefits of mobility, and to minimise social and health inequalities caused by transport. These premises would help us reconcile what can seem to be conflicting social and environmental goals. Practically this would mean treating transport as a matter of social and environmental justice, and thus making it a priority to ensure that people can move freely on foot, bicycle, and wheelchair, coupled with comprehensive, accessible public transport operated as a public good. This approach contrasts starkly with existing mobility systems that prioritise motor traffic and aviation. These existing systems create huge problems for human wellbeing, ironically restricting freedom for many people to move around safely and to participate in society, while damaging economic welfare, and causing serious harm to other species and the natural environment. Reframing transport as a justice issue also challenges existing political discourses and assessment tools, which have tended to encourage systems with heavy reliance on motorised transport and aviation, and which act as a barrier to a just transport system. The think-piece explores how a move to a just mobility system can draw broad political and public support by promoting multiple social, economic and individual interests. It outlines new methods of assessment and public participation in decision-making which could support a transition toward a more just transport system.

Read the full document here.

Why we should worry about travel demand


Today marks the launch of a new Commission on Travel Demand which I am chairing. This is the first in a series of blog posts where I will explore the thinking behind the Commission and share insights from events, evidence and public meetings the Commission hosts during 2017.

I start by looking at why we should be interested in travel demand. There are certainly greater short run policy priorities out there such as job creation and promoting productivity and competitiveness in a post-Brexit world. In fact, talking about demand can be politically quite challenging as the idea of limiting growth in demand or managing demand in particular places or times of day can be contentious.

However, I would argue that we are in a period of significant change and uncertainty where there are numerous opportunities to shape the course of the future growth in travel demand. Many of these influences…

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