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Unlocking Transport Innovation: A Sociotechnical Perspective of the Logics of Transport Planning Decision-Making within the Trial of a New Type of Pedestrian Crossing

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Abstract

This paper reports on research that utilises an in-depth case study and key informant interviews to assess the difficulties encountered during an innovative transport planning project in Auckland, New Zealand. Analysing the architecture of decision-making, the research illustrates how existing sociotechnical solutions within the transport planning assemblage can support ‘institutional obduracy’ through the everyday work practices of transport engineers. A network of ‘tools of trade’, regulatory provisions, organisational values and processes and professional norms are found to shape the decisions they make. The paper also examines the interface between central-local government roles and responsibilities in determining the approval or rejection of non-standard street treatments/devices.
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... Within these programmes, infrastructural and system support for active travel are poor and rates of walking, cycling and scooting are generally low. In many (sub)urban neighbourhoods, particularly on the city fringe active travel is not a feasible mode choice [47,48]. Likewise, variable access to frequent public transport services limits its utility in many outer city locations [49]. ...
... The infrastructure re-design was paired with a research project to understand the effect of the street changes on traffic behaviour, pedestrian and cyclist usability, traffic crashes, mode use, levels of physical activity, and community perceptions of safety and social connection [54]. Future Streets encountered several obstacles in the design and delivery of the intervention including funding uncertainties, conflicts around project governance, regulatory barriers, and rigid project management processes which resulted in delays to implementation [48,51]. Ultimately, the infrastructure was delivered between 2016 and 2017. ...
... For Future Streets in particular, there were conflicts between the intention to be innovative and nimble, and the delivery system's requirement for consistency and repeatability. There was also a lack of clarity about the trial system [48], and innovative techniques such as using temporary measures were therefore not possible within the delivery expectations of the project. ...
Chapter
Taking a socio-technical systems approach, the aim of this chapter is to describe the barriers and enablers to innovative street projects that promote wellbeing. We explore these barriers and enablers through the lens of five proposed, current, or delivered niche street re-design projects or programmes in Aotearoa New Zealand. Through a thematic analysis of project and programme information, the key themes of leadership, funding, policies and procedures, organizational norms, community and delivery tensions, and social environment emerged. These themes were used to analyse the extent to which the projects and programmes succeeded as niches and influenced the wider system. While there was varying success across the projects and programmes in influencing the wider regime and social landscape, the analysis found that niches need to be supported within government planning systems as a way of managing investment risk and testing future scenarios. The lessons provide direction for those seeking to expedite transport system change so that positive health, safety, environmental, and social outcomes can be realised.
... Firstly, the aspiration for experimentation among planners and decision-makers may conflict with responses to professional liability pressures. Secondly, the choice and use of DST are decisions often made among urban planning teams, with no reference to strategic guidelines provided at organisational or institutional levels (Opit & Witten, 2018). Thirdly, there is a lack of DST adaptable to multiple local contexts , which has prompted stakeholders to choose and use a broad range of tools to best suit their diverse planning needs. ...
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Urban planning stakeholders can use decision-support tools (DST) to foster transformation towards sustainable urban morphologies. This paper proposes an analytical framework to support urban planning practitioners in assessing how the use of DST might impact planning outcomes due to path dependence. We identify five key dimensions of path dependence in a spatial socio-technical system as analytical framework to assess the influence of DST on planning outcomes. Potential impacts on urban planning outcomes are analysed by applying the proposed framework to a particular spatial socio-technical system, namely New Zealand's use of DST to support urban planning decision-making towards sustainable urban morphologies. The assessment framework and comparative case study analysis illustrate how the interaction between planning culture and some DST features can influence decisions pertaining to urban morphologies and raise awareness about DST-induced path dependence.
... • A community engagement process that went far beyond normal practise, seeking to integrate local and professional knowledge to optimise design • Taking a team approach to design, with urban designers, human factors specialists, engineers, public health specialists and social geographers all contributing to the design process • taking an area-wide design approach, to capture a range of local end to end journeys • using green spaces as part of the transport system, • prioritising pedestrians on side roads (although the final solution was somewhat over-engineered) • testing uni-directional protected cycle lanes • Bus-stop designs that integrate protected cycle lanes • integrating placemaking and cultural components within a transport project Some aspirations for the project did not come to fruition. New designs for crossings on the major arterial road and on side roads were not permitted to proceed through the planning process for complex reasons (Opit and Witten, 2018) and novel designs to afford pedestrian priority on side-roads were rejected due to incompatibility with rules. Despite these failures, good provision for pedestrians was still provided using treatment options more routinely available. ...
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Te Ara Mua - Future Streets is a controlled before-after study of neighbourhood infrastructure changes that aim to make walking and cycling safer and easier and reflect cultural identity in Māngere, Auckland, New Zealand. The project intervention was delivered through an innovative and challenging partnership between the research team and funding/delivery agencies. The purpose of this paper is to explain the underlying concepts behind Future Streets and the process of delivering an area-wide community street retrofit. Project documentation were reviewed so that the key concepts, steps and activities in project delivery could be described. Variations from planned delivery, the reasons for these variations, and broader delivery successes and challenges are also briefly discussed. A substantial community engagement process informed design objectives, which in-turn informed retrofit designs. The street modifications have been implemented and a different streetscape now exists for key routes in Māngere, giving greater affordance to walking and cycling and a more attractive urban realm. The initial response to the modifications from the community are generally positive although the loss of parking in favour of protected cycle lanes is causing concern for some. A range of difficulties in delivering the intervention included unclear governance, different researcher/practitioner cultures, unrealistic timeframes, project funding uncertainties, and regulatory barriers. Nevertheless, Future Streets is positively influencing new delivery projects and transport policy, and for next steps process improvements should be employed to make demonstration projects like Future Streets easier. Closer cooperation between the science and transport sectors are needed to test and progress transport approaches which have the potential to positively influence urban form, and the health and wellbeing of residents of towns and cities.
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