Australia has seen record infrastructure spend over the past two years1 as state and federal governments focus on leading the country out of COVID to be stronger, more accessible, and more environmentally conscious. This includes some of the largest transport programs our nation has seen such as Fast Rail, Zero Emission Buses and light rail. Key to the success of these projects is integrated transport planning that facilitates the development to future proof our cities.
Planning for Future Ready communities
The aim of integrated transport planning is to connect people with places. It evaluates the current and future needs of communities that will have access to new transport links, and ensures the investment has the greatest rate of return by making it as accessible and efficient as possible. As the way communities move around changes over time, transport planning must adapt to these changes including factoring in new modes of transport, increasing all-day or on-demand services and ensuring transport is diverse and inclusive for changing communities.
“Successful integrated transport planning allows the investment in major transport projects to be accessible to more people and allow for more communities to benefit from the infrastructure,” says Rebecca Powell, a Transport Engineer in WSP’s Planning and Mobility team. “It unlocks key land use and develops precincts that allow equality of accessibility from a range of locations to transport and crucial facilities such as education and employment.”
Modern major transport programs are multimodal by nature; therefore, the success of major infrastructure projects will only ever be as good as the integrated planning for each community along the transport corridor. Planning must consider modal choice, which has seen significant change in cities and regional areas over the past decade. Sara Stace, WSP’s Director of Cities, believes the most successful station precincts are those that are flexible and integrate a range of modal options.
“For a multimodal precinct to be successful commuters need to be able to access it in the first place and they need to be able to switch between modes, otherwise you're not actually getting the multimodal component of it,” says Sara.
When looking at how this works for a community it means allowing for modal choice and assuming not everyone drives a car. Sara adds, “People under the age of seventeen can’t drive, young people are not getting their license as quickly as they once did, and we also have an ageing population who may not be able to drive. Providing a range of transport options in communities gives people greater independence.”
A new emphasis of transport investment at local, state and federal levels is in active transport, which concentrates on ensuring the health and wellbeing of communities is incorporated into transport planning. Active transport is especially significant when planning for door-to-door transport solutions.
Rebecca believes that there will be significantly more people walking and riding in the future as active transport provides a cheaper, healthier, and more environmentally conscious modal choice.
“Key to connecting that door-to-door experience is offering last mile choices for a commuter and this means starting with active transport and making sure the station mobility hubs have the necessary facilities to support these transport modes,” says Rebecca. “These modes can include traditional active transport like walking and riding, as well as e-bikes and e-scooters which might be shared or privately owned.”
Planning for tomorrow’s cities
One truly exciting aspect of major transport infrastructure projects is how cities and regions are transformed by the added connectivity and investment in the area. Over the past decade we have seen how Australian infrastructure projects like Sydney Metro have worked as a catalyst to reshape cities and local councils. Rebecca is looking forward to seeing more major infrastructure investment such as Fast Rail occurring in regional areas.
She says, “I'm excited to see how regional areas can thrive in the future knowing that initiatives such as Fast Rail can open up so many possibilities. I'm eager to see how these cities will evolve with access to more employment, education and recreation opportunities.”
This sentiment is echoed by Sara who explains that with major station precincts there is always a likelihood that they will end up building a whole city around it. “Major infrastructure investment is an opportunity to either reshape existing areas, or for regions to become much more flourishing, thriving communities with facilities like universities and new industries. These projects aren’t just about moving people from A to B, they are city shaping projects.”
Given the large-scale impacts of these investments it is critical to get the early planning stages of the project right and ensure that a truly end-to-end approach is undertaken from stakeholder engagement through to design and delivery. Integrated transport planning is a crucial to this future ‘city shaping’ process and planning for elements of the transport network that will make regions more liveable.
“Future ready transport planning needs to be flexible about what types of modes could come in the future, and while we don't know exactly what the mix will be, we do know that it's going to have a range of market solutions,” adds Sara. “For example, share cars or share bikes, and more on-demand bus systems. Some of the flexibility that we need to be thinking differently about also relates to kerbside allocation on our streets.”
Planning for Future Ready Kerbsides means creating kerbsides that put people first and create a safe hierarchy that fits the needs of local communities and enables transport modes such as active transport, ride-sharing, Pick Up/ Drop Off (PUDO) zones, electric bikes, and scooters. The planning around kerbsides is crucial to the safety and usability of a city as the kerbside is where people start and finish their journeys.
A priority for integrated transport planning is to help governments reach their zero emission targets by planning for zero emission cities. With the ACT’s Zero Emission Transition Plan well underway, other states have set their zero emission targets including the transition to zero emission government fleets, zero emission buses and incentives for electric private vehicles. The investment in these technologies across Australia means that integrated transport planning must allow for the appropriate charging stations and other infrastructure to support this change in technology.
How we plan for our future
According to Rebecca, “Successful integrated transport planning requires multimodal experts including traffic engineers, bus planners, active transport planners and land use planners. These individuals need to work closely together to better understand the challenges and make the lives of both existing and future communities more efficient, more sustainable, and safer.”
The most important aspect to getting integrated transport planning right is to have a deep understanding of the existing and future needs of communities and combine this with available data on transport patterns and a knowledge of the cities and broader region. Planning should be taken holistically, and it also needs to be practical to implement so that it can be easily followed during the design and delivery phases of the project.
For more information on our integrated transport solutions please contact Sara Stace or Rebecca Powell.
1 2021-22 Australian Infrastructure Budget Monitor - Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, 2020-21 Australian Infrastructure Budget Monitor - Infrastructure Partnerships Australia