Innovative Long-term Transport Policymaking: from Predict and Act to Monitor and Adapt

Innovative Long-term Transport Policymaking: from Predict and Act to Monitor and Adapt


V Marchau, W Walker, B van Wee, Delft University of Technology, NL


We describe an ?adaptive? approach to policymaking for long term transport policies that overcomes shortcomings of traditional approaches. It allows adaptations in time as knowledge is gathered.


An important part of transport policymaking involves long-term decisionmaking. On the one hand, decisions are taken now that will have significant, long-term consequences (e.g. building a road, railway line, or airport). On the other hand, long-term objectives might require near-term actions (e.g. traffic safety objectives, travel time reliability targets, environmental objectives). Since the future is uncertain, transport policymakers must take uncertainty into account in their policymaking (e.g., uncertainties about future ?external? developments, future transportation demand, modal choices, and how these choices affect accessibility, environment, and safety).

The way these uncertainties are handled is strongly related to assumptions one has about the future. In general, there are three broad categories of ways of dealing with uncertainty: (1) ignore or reduce uncertainties, assuming that present trends will continue into the future, (2) find policies that are robust across plausible futures, assuming that the future can be predicted well enough to identify policies that will produce favorable outcomes in one or more specific plausible future worlds, and (3)
implement adaptive policies, assuming that the future cannot be predicted.

The first and the second approaches are commonly used in transportation policymaking. This limited handling of uncertainty might lead to policy failures, because not all relevant uncertainties have been considered in advance. For instance, the competition from low cost air carriers and price reactions of ferries were not taken into account in planning for the channel tunnel project, which resulted in a significant overestimation of the tunnel?s revenues and market position, with devastating consequences for the project. Demographic and economic developments are normally dealt with via scenarios, but other uncertainties, such as shifts in activity behavior and related mobility, changing opinions on transport performance by crucial stakeholders, and trend breaks, such as technological breakthroughs, are not handled very well ? if at all. As a result, decisionmaking with respect to transport systems turns out ?wrong?, is avoided, or becomes delayed (e.g. in order to perform more research or more pilot tests).

The aim of this paper is to present an adaptive approach and discuss its relevance in the field of transportation. Adaptive approaches take immediate actions that might be needed right away and create a framework for future actions that allow for adaptations over time as knowledge about the future accumulates and critical events for implementation take place. This paper:
· Specifies an adaptive approach;
· Motivates its relevance for long-term transport policy analysis;
· Illustrates long-term adaptive policies for solving road, rail, and air transport problems;

Due to space limitations, this abstract is limited to suggesting how the adaptive approach could be applied to the reduction of road congestion. Assume that a country intends to introduce a kilometer based charge in order to reduce road congestion (e.g. the UK or the Netherlands). The policymaker faces many uncertainties related to, amongst others: the future costs and capabilities of charging-technologies; the attitudes of actors and institutions, including acceptability of the policy by the public; developments with respect to road pricing in neighboring countries a well as in the EU; details of the charge (e.g., will it depend on place and time, or on emission characteristics); behavioral responses of the road users; and derived revenues. Therefore it is impossible to develop a fixed blueprint for the policy and its implementation in advance. Waiting for these uncertainties to be resolved will delay implementation considerably. In such a case, an adaptive approach might prove helpful. In the first stage of an adaptive approach, a flat rate kilometer charge might be introduced. At the same time, an information gathering system is set up that monitors how implementation is proceeding, and makes sure that needed policy interventions are taken in a timely and effective manner in case the original policy objectives with respect to congestion reduction are not achieved. Depending on future information about technology developments, acceptability, privacy issues, and other uncertainties, the rates can be adapted and differentiated and fixed car ownership fees can be lowered. Hence, in contrast to traditional approaches, by this adaptive approach implementation can start immediately. In addition, a framework is created for future actions that allow for adaptations over time as knowledge about road pricing uncertainties accumulates and critical events with respect to the implementation of road pricing take place. Using road pricing and other cases as examples, we will demonstrate the successive steps of an adaptive approach.


Association for European Transport