Planning for success: the status quo is failure

TCCS decisions should be made to align the best “plan for success” (strategy) but in fact the decisions are still made under the “illusion of continuity”, that our car centric ways can be continued indefinitely. The climate change emergency is ignored and with it, we fail to plan for a future that looks different to the past. The traffic modelling and thinking in TCSS has a bias towards the status quo and inhibits the transition of our transport culture to a low carbon one.

Many of the quotes in this article about issues with traffic modelling as currently practised from Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, at the ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021.

If that is the future (climate change), the idea of present infrastructure and transport management policies being usefully informed by business as usual traffic is utter nonsense.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

I think that now and for the rest of our lives, we will live in a disequilibrium world: chaos is always close and business as usual is an illusion, there is no usual. Therefore, I’d say we need dynamically specified models, which can accommodate imperfectly reversible relationships, discontinuity and past dependence and give outputs of an evolving uncertain pattern in explicit time, not an equilibrium one.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

The illusion of continuity -doomed to fail

The assumption at TCCS that the future can be predicted from the past – the illusion of continuity. That more people drive than walk is the results of 100 years of promoting the motor vehicles as the best way to build our cities. That there are more cars how is used to justify decisions in their favour to the disadvantage of other forms of transport. Continuing driving motor vehicles as we do is untenable because of induced demand – eventually all the roads with fill and the system will fail. We cannot build our way out of congestion. Listen to what Minister Steel says in the ACT Legislative assembly, he uses the current dominance of the private motor vehicle to justify decisions in favour of it. (Examples: LATMs and speed limits.) We are racing towards the road failure. Rather than adverting disaster, we planned more roads.

The Illusion of Continuity – reinforcement of the status quo becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Illusion of Continuity. canberra.bike 9 April 2022.

Their common philosophical starting point is that the future will be sufficiently like the past that right relationships have observed or thought to be observed in the past will continue to be stable enough to use as a guide to the future, reliable enough to support decisions, maybe with a few modest caveats, but no serious doubt about the conclusions. COVID-19 and climate change both challenge the credibility of that view.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

A decent model would have been able to give quite a good prediction of the future, different from the past and something like that slide. But nobody wanted to know. That’s not a failing of the models, of course, I suppose it’s a failure of imagination or courage in the way they were used.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

Modelling success – mitigating climate change

We have a climate change emergency (discontinuity) and we know our best chances of success lie in the rapid reduction of green house gas (GHG) emissions. We must shift to other modes of transport that have lower emissions or better no emissions. Active travel – walking and cycling – is ideal.

We need to build our cities differently. 15 minute cities are the idea that the urban form should permit people to complete most of their trips (which are statistically relative short) by walking or riding a bike. Mode shift takes time and is achieved by promoting those modes of transport we want, through the prioritisation of resource and space to them. It matters not, that they are not popular now. It is a break with continuity and modelling for a successful outcome.

Mode shift: the change in the mode share of a demographic within a given area.

Planning for Success. canberra.bike, 9 April 2022.

What I cannot understand is how we also fail to carry out serious modelling of the other scenario: success. What happens to transport if we are able to reduce carbon output sufficiently to avoid that calamity forced evacuations, migrations and the rest? Now, I’d ask you to agree that the most likely condition for such a success would include rapid progress in reducing the volume and distance of travelled substantially, completely, obviously, by fossil fuel vehicles, but also the total amount of travel including electric vehicles with a cars or planes and therefore also the carbon emissions from manufacture of the vehicles and construction of the infrastructures.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

It’s commonplace in official statements that we must use our cars less, we must favour walking and cycling and buses metro systems, we must replace short distance flights by better trains. This is no longer a minority or crank idea. It is the very widespread received official wisdom

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

Modelling is now challenged

What we’re now seeing is that model based assessments are under challenge in circumstances outside professional conferences, and official reports.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

Current traffic models hold us back

My own position is that there are some inbuilt features of the best established models, which tend to underestimate the dimensions and speed of behavioural change when needed, and therefore contribute less than helpfully to sustainability.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

Traffic modelling is not transparent

My own position is that there are some inbuilt features of the best established models, which tend to underestimate the dimensions and speed of behavioural change when needed, and therefore contribute less than helpfully to sustainability.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

The industry is co-dependent and sometimes complicit

If we do want to use models to help define and assess policies for success, the questions that arise will they be the same models and will they be used under the same institutional arrangements?

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

The main clients, public or private, are often the main funder and promoter of specific projects. The modeller’s own business plan needs contracts for the sort of model they are good at. All these parties are co-dependent, sometimes complicit.

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

How to promote healthy scrutiny

Statutory restrictions and procedures do not always make scrutiny easy. So how to promote healthy scrutiny and challenge? Does it require independent arbitration, separation of client and promoter? Open access to the models of themselves? Statutory funding for challenge? Could we have a consulting industry of skilled modellers who would be prepared both to provide the models and to critique them?

Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy at UCL, ANZ6 – Climate change: challenges for transport models, Modelling World International 2021 ANZ6 21 April 2021, YouTube, accessed 4 April 2022.

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