2020 Vision: Heaven, Hell or Somewhere in Between?



2020 Vision: Heaven, Hell or Somewhere in Between?

Authors

HEADICAR P, Oxford Brookes University, UK

Description

Contributors to this session '2020 Vision - the radical agenda' were asked to come forwarifwith "blue sky ideas for transport and land use policy and sustainability in 2020".

Abstract

Contributors to this session '2020 Vision - the radical agenda' were asked to come forwarifwith "blue sky ideas for transport and land use policy and sustainability in 2020".

Invitations to look to a date just beyond the current planning horizon, especially into a new milleninm, are a temptation to envisage apocalyptic futures. The title of the paper might suggest that this is what is being offered here. The result could be entertaining - in he nature of a black comedy perhaps - but in math not very probable.

Past experience would suggest that 23 years is not very far ahead if we are contemplating significant change in land use patterns and travel behaviour. Despite the occasional scares of traffic gridioek and air quality emergencies the all too believable prospect is that we will continue to muddle through the next two or three decades as we have done the previous ones. Reflections on our inability to take effective action in response to past warnings about the environmental implications of long term traffic growth - the Buchanan report Traffic in Towns' of 1963 for example or the Club of Rome report 'Limits to Growth' of 1972 - urge great caution in imagining that the current round of rhetoric will make very much difference in practice.

This does not rule out the possibility of change or question its desirability. The planning profession is founded on precisely the opposite premise, ie that events can be influenced to create a more favourable outcome than would occur otherwise. But nobody - especially planners - would pretend that anything resembling 'heaven' is likely to be achieved over such a short timescale (if ever). But equally, unless we all take leave of our senses, it will not be 'hell' either.

The much more salient issue is the 'steer' we seek to exert over the next 20 years as the basis for the next 100. In this sense the period to 2020 is critical. It is the period which will determine whether we are actually capable of breaking with trends established over the last century before we reach 'saturation' levels of car ownership and use. This in tum will determine whether, from a transport perspective, we can accommodate the disciplines required by environmental sustainability to safeguard us against the longer term global apocalypse that really is in prospect.

It is difficult for politicians and professionals involved in everyday transport planning to come to terms with such very distant dimensions of time and space. Perhaps we should therefore focus instead on the physical manifestations of 'heaven' and 'hell' that can already be identified at the present time. At the local level very considerable disparities exist in transport and environmental conditions and - more seriously - these are spatially differentiated in a systematic way. There are many people and places which enjoy something as close to 'heaven' as we might hope to see on this earth. But equally there are others which represent an affront to a civilised society. The majority are somewhere in between - hence the continued prospect of "ousiness as usual'.

Publisher

Association for European Transport