When we talk about strategic transport modelling we mean modelling that connects transport forecasting to the higher-level aims outlined by the Mayor: economic prosperity and inclusion, community and personal well-being, and an environment fit for future generations. It’s not enough to model the transport system; we need to model transport as part of the society’s ‘quality-of-life’ system.
Strategic transport modelling needs to be debunked fully, and soon; otherwise too many of our colleagues in other professions will conclude what Edwin Starr did about war – it’s good for absolutely nothing – and they’ll keep saying it again and again. Yes, we need to feed the outputs of travel forecasting and transport system models into economic growth and land development models: no, that can’t be in a black-box form. The forecasting mathematics that link an extended metro line, an upgraded motorway section, or a new public transport tariff structure to increased economic growth are, of course, complex; but we need to be able to provide a credible narrative explanation of our modelling approaches. This narrative must be comprehensible to colleagues working in local plan development, inward investment targeting, public health or any other relevant profession, or what we do will remain an arcane ‘dark art’ that we engage in purely to satisfy ourselves that we are spending our transport budgets wisely.
Transport for West Midlands, together with the seven metropolitan districts and collaborating with Highways England, previously created the West Midlands PRISM model, a travel demand and trip routing model that covers private car and public transport travel within the metropolitan conurbation and connections with the surrounding shire settlements. The Coventry Area Strategic Model provides similar functionality, with improved local resolution to reflect the housing market area in the locality.
Currently we are procuring updates and enhancements to these models to 'up our game' in forecasting and appraisal, using the latest best practice. This will allow us to incrementally develop our forecasting capability to address challenges we face now – local housing plans, inward investment decisions, workforce up-skilling, network resilience, clean air zones – while at the same time keeping our eye on a new strategic modelling paradigm.
We recognise that industry holds the answers that will address our questions: we are commencing a procurement process to for the services that we will purchase to meet our modelling needs. Our next step is to publish a set of agenda-setting documents and hold a Supplier Engagement Day on Tuesday 5th June at our offices in Birmingham – registration required.
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