Decision Makers' Guidebook
The decision-making context
What limits cities’ ability to make their own decisions?
Cities are rarely able to make decisions on land use and transport strategies on their own, but the constraints on them differ from city to city. We have identified three types of constraint, and found, in PROSPECTS, that it is typically medium sized cities which suffer most from them; smaller cities often have more freedom, while larger ones often have more power.
Lack of direct control
Most cities have some division of responsibility for some policy areas. While many have exclusive responsibility for land-use and for traffic management, most share responsibility for road building, public transport infrastructure and information provision. However, a significant number do not have direct responsibility for public transport operations or pricing measures. In some cases the responsibility lies with other levels of government, but increasingly it is the private sector which determines public transport and pricing decisions. Within cities there is the further problem that responsibilities, particularly for land use and transport, are often split between departments. This problem is becoming more serious as the interactions between transport and other policy sectors such as health and social policy become more important. Lack of horizontal integration between these sectors, and their disciplines, can be a significant barrier to progress.
Intervention from other levels of government
Even where cities have direct responsibility, they may well be influenced strongly by adjacent authorities, by regional bodies, and by national or European government. As we found in PROSPECTS, all cities' decisions are influenced to some extent by other governmental authorities. The strongest influence comes from adjacent authorities; that from the European Commission is much the weakest.
Involvement of other stakeholder groups
Business, environmentalists, transport users, the general public and the media can all have a major influence on decision-making. In the cities which we surveyed in PROSPECTS, business and the general public have the greatest influence, and transport users the least.
How should cities respond to these influences?
There is no single answer to this question. Each city will experience different constraints and need to decide how best to handle them. This is one reason for making this guidebook advisory rather than prescriptive. However, some general guidance is possible. The key first step for each city is to understand who can influence decisions and to what extent. The second is to involve them in as many stages of the decision-making process as possible. Where other agencies are directly responsible for specific policy instruments, some form of partnership will be needed, preferably in a form which is legally binding. Where other government bodies have an influence, arrangements for joint working can help. DGEnv stresses the importance of horizontal integration between the sectors within an authority, spatial integration between adjacent authorities, and vertical integration between tiers of government. An EU project on institutional issues, TIPP, makes a series of recommendations both for more effective institutional structures and for working more effectively within existing ones.
In the UK example shown, two tiers of government (city and county) work together, and adjacent lower tier authorities (districts) contribute advice. In the Norwegian region of Jaeren, 10 municipalities and the county have jointly developed a sustainable land use and transport strategy for the city region, through consensus and with active encouragement from government.
Other stakeholders should be encouraged to participate fully in strategy formulation (Section 5). It should thus be possible to develop a common understanding of objectives, the problems to be tackled, and the possible strategies and implementation sequence. However, each group will have its own objectives and priorities, and compromises may be needed. In such situations it is important not to lose sight of the overall goal, and to reach agreements which get closest to meeting the city’s objectives. In some cases, it will be possible to have significant impact on the decisions of the other agencies involved; in others, where they are wholly free agents, it may be that their decisions will run counter to the overall strategy. A permanent joint monitoring body can help to maintain cooperation. In the extreme, where an agency prohibits progress towards an otherwise agreed strategy, it may be necessary to seek changes in legislation to permit more effective strategy formulation.
How far ahead should cities plan?
Most countries require cities to produce plans, and specify a time horizon for them. For example, French Plans de Deplacements Urbains are required to look ten years ahead; UK Local Transport Plans are developed for a five year period within the context of a 15 to 20 year strategy. The EC is considering a recommendation that all cities of over 100,000 population should be required to produce Sustainable Urban Transport Plans, covering a five to ten year period, within the context of a 20 to 30 year horizon. In PROSPECTS, we found that most European cities produced short term plans, but there were differing views on the need for medium and long term planning. Most medium term plans cover a five to ten year period, and most long term plans a period of ten to twenty years. Our guidance is aimed at cities which are planning over a five to twenty year period, and should help in responding to any requirements from the EC. Longer term plans are appropriate where land use and infrastructure changes are being considered, since these may take time to implement, and will certainly continue to influence the way in which the city develops over a longer period. However, the further into the future we predict, the less certain will be the circumstances in which our plans will operate. There is therefore a trade-off between need to consider longer term effects and uncertainty in doing so. Two approaches to tackling this are formulating strategies for different scenarios, which we consider in Section 11, and appraisal under uncertainty which we look at in Section 13. Provided that one or both of these are pursued, it makes sense to produce combined land use and transport plans over a 15 to 20 year period, and to develop shorter and medium term plans in that context.
What factors influence longer term plans?
Within the timescale for even medium-term planning, the context for decision-making can change markedly. All but seven of the 54 European cities surveyed in PROSPECTS Deliverable 1 identified major changes in the past decade. Twelve mentioned objectives which had become more important; for most this was the environment and sustainability, but two mentioned safety and one each equity, congestion relief, energy and quality. Five mentioned economic trends, predominantly growth. Seven mentioned the introduction of a new strategy at either local or national level. Twenty identified new policy measures being introduced; these were predominantly public transport and demand management, but five mentioned new roads. Eight referred to new land use policies, with all but one involving tighter controls and increased densities. Six mentioned improvements in government decision-making processes. Four from Eastern Europe listed reductions in public ownership. Seven identified financial or public acceptability constraints.
The same number identified major changes which would influence future policy. Eight mentioned objectives which would become more important; again these were mainly environment and sustainability, but two mentioned quality and one energy. Five anticipated substantial urban growth. Two mentioned the introduction of a new local or national strategy. The majority listed policy measures which would become more important. Of these 18 were public transport improvements and 13 demand management, including three listing road pricing; five mentioned new roads. Ten anticipated greater control over land use, and increased density of development. Eight expected improvements in government decision-making structures, two reduced public ownership and involvement, and two greater public involvement.