How and Why Are Planners Making Plans, Resulting in Growth in Urban Road Traffic Volumes?

How and Why Are Planners Making Plans, Resulting in Growth in Urban Road Traffic Volumes?

WINNER OF The Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport Award


A Tennøy, Institute of Transport Economics / University of Life Sciences (UMB), NO


How and why are plans made and adopted, that according to accepted scientific understanding of correlations between urban development and growth in road traffic, result in more road traffic ? despite clear aspirations to reduce urban road traffic?


Sustainable urban development is an important objective in many cities and countries. Reduction of (the growth in) urban road traffic is generally accepted as an integrated part of sustainable urban development. There is seemingly a relatively widespread consensus on which means are needed in order reduce urban car traffic volumes (physical and fiscal constraints on road traffic, improvements for public transport, walking and cycling, transport reducing spatial planning) (Næss 2001, European Commission 2001, Owens 1995). Many of these mechanisms are not employed to full advantage. On the contrary, in Norway urban road system capacity is undergoing expansion, the pace of development of public transport facilities are not keeping up with improvements in car traffic facilities, development of infrastructure for walking an bicycling is developing slowly, urban sprawl and ?wrong location? of operations are allowed, and car use is rising too.

Research question
Our research question is: How and why are planners making plans and politicians adopting them, that according to generally accepted scientific understanding of the correlations between urban development (land use development and development of transport systems) and growth in urban car traffic volumes, result in more urban car traffic ? despite clear aspirations to reduce urban car traffic growth?

I an initiative study, based on literature reviews and case studies, we defined a number of possible explanations or hypothesis that can explain this (Tennøy 2004a);
- Conflicting objectives and values
- The politicians? rationality and the rationality of politics
- Lobbying
- Institutional and organisational factors
- The planners? rationality and the rationality of planning
- Knowledge and lack of knowledge among important actors
- Disagreement/uncertainty on effects of various means
- Focus in planning
- Use of transport models in urban planning

In order to test these hypothesis, and to achieve a deeper understanding, two in depth case studies were carried out, studying how the use of large transport models influences the land use and transport planning and its results (Tennøy 2004b). Later, two surveys were carried out, among politicians and one among land use planners and transport planners, focusing on how these groups see objectives, values and the usefulness and effects of various means for reducing urban road transport (Tennøy 2007, 2005).

The ETC paper will discuss explanations to the research questions based on findings in these studies, supplemented by ongoing analysis of in depth interviews with 12 politicians and 18 planning professionals.

European Commission (2001): White paper. European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide.
Næss, Petter (2001): Urban planning and sustainable development. I European Planning Studies, Vol. 9, 2001
Owens, Susan (1995): From ?predict and provide? to ?predict and prevent??: Pricing and planning in transport policy. I Transport Policy Vol. 2, No. 1, pp 43-49, 1995
Tennøy, Aud (2004a): Hvorfor og hvordan vedtas planer som gir vekst i biltrafikken? (How and why are plans adopted which result in more road traffic?). NIBR Working Paper 2004:120.
Tennøy, Aud (2004b): Transportanalyser i planleggingen ? til hinder for bærekraftig byutvikling? (Transport analyses in planning ? an obstacle to sustainable urban development?). NIBR Working Paper 2004:121.
Tennøy, Aud (2005): Hva mener politikere og fagfolk om viktige aspekter i areal og transportplanleggingen? (What do politicians and planners think of important aspects of integrated land use and transport planning?) NIBR notat 2005:132.
Aud Tennøy (2007): Differing comprehensions of important aspects in land use and transport planning as explanation to production and adoption of plans resulting in growth in urban car transport volumes. In Balberg, Inger and Hege Hofstad (eds) (2007): Urban Sustainability and Sustainable Mobility. Papers from the 8. Nordic Environmental Social Research Conference June 18-20 2007. Workshop 2 and 3. NIBR .


Association for European Transport