Surprising Things You Never Knew About Transport

This is the first in a series of four short films prepared by a faculty team from the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). The four podcasts pose some interesting questions and give an insightful appraisal of what influences travel habits, delivered by nationally leading experts in the field of transport research: Professor Glenn Lyons, Dr Steve Melia, Professor Graham Parkhurst and Professor John Parkin. Today’s film is presented by Steve Melia and looks into some surprising questions from Steve’s forthcoming book ‘Urban Transport Without the Hot Air’. All four films can be viewed on the UWE Bristol web pages.

From the program introduction:

Why do most Park and Ride schemes cause an increase in overall traffic? Why do people living in high density housing make fewer journeys than people in suburbs but still cause more traffic congestion? How does our use of travel time impact on travel choice? Is time spent travelling wasted or can it be a ‘welcome gift’? Does an increase in traffic inevitably equal an increase in accident rates?

These are some of the questions posed by Researchers from the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) in a series of short films, ‘Surprising Things You Never Knew About Transport’ which challenge received wisdom amongst the general public and, in some cases, politicians.

The team are on a mission to shine a light on common assumptions around travel and transport and highlight interesting facts and anomalies that affect us all.

The innovative set of teaching films have been produced by leading experts from UWE Bristol’s Centre for Transport and Society, a group that researches transport issues, including our motivations and modes of travel, activities whilst travelling, the impact travel has on the landscapes we live in and the success and failures of traffic management schemes.

Dr Steve Melia said, “Many things about transport are surprising. These podcasts aim to bust some of the myths believed by the public or in some cases politicians and decision-makers. Where we live, and what type of housing we live in makes a big difference to how we travel. But many people have a distorted view of housing need. How many households in Britain are families, for example? The answer is only one in five. Two thirds of households have just one or two people.

High density housing, suitable for smaller households, reduces traffic overall but concentrates it in a smaller area. This is the ‘paradox of intensification’ – a policy that makes things better overall can make things worse in the areas where it’s applied.”

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About the author:

uk - steve meliaSteve Melia is a Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning at the University of the West of England. His PhD explored the Potential for Carfree Development in the UK. During the three summers of 2006 to 2008 he cycled over 5,000 miles across seven countries visiting and studying European carfree developments and cities which have been successful in reducing car dependency. Steve has advised the UK Government on the transport aspects of the Eco-towns programme, and the Olympic Park Legacy Company on sustainable transport solutions for the London Olympic site.


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Editor’s note:

While I am never able to remember what exactly is the biblical distinction between the goats and the sheep in order to get into heaven, what I can share with you is a long tested observation that there is a real gulf of understanding on fundamental matters relating to transport in cities on the part of most politicians, administrators and the media, as well as a surprising number of highly competent technical specialists, who all too often are concerned with finding and selling answers before taking the time to step back to ask and ponder the key underlying questions. This excellent little series reminds us of the progress that still needs to be made. It is, I might add, one of the greatest sources of frustration that I run into in my own advisory work And the challenge of course is finding ways to bridge the gap. One being to sign them up to the strategic transport courses at the University of the West of England.

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, mediator and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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