Decision Makers' Guidebook
Barriers to implementation
Why are barriers important?
A barrier is an obstacle which prevents a given policy instrument being implemented, or limits the way in which it can be implemented. In the extreme, such barriers may lead to certain policy instruments being overlooked, and the resulting strategies being much less effective. For example, demand management measures are likely to be important in larger cities as ways of controlling the growth of congestion and improving the environment. But at the same time they are often unpopular, and cities may be tempted to reject them simply because they will be unpopular. If that decision leads in turn to greater congestion and a worse environment, the strategy will be less successful. The emphasis should therefore be on how to overcome these barriers, rather than simply how to avoid them. ECOCITY provides a useful illustration of the ways in which such barriers arise, and of how obstacles have been overcome, in case study cities.
What are the principal barriers?
In our work in PROSPECTS, we grouped barriers into the four categories listed below. More recent work in TIPP has demonstrated that failure to adopt a logical approach to the process of strategy development can also impose a barrier to effective planning. This Guidebook is designed to help cities avoid this happening. TIPP also provides a set of recommendations.
1) Legal and institutional barriers
These include lack of legal powers to implement a particular instrument, and legal responsibilities which are split between agencies, limiting the ability of the city authority to implement the affected instrument (Section 3). The survey of European cities in PROSPECTS indicates that land-use, road building and pricing are the policy areas most commonly subject to legal and institutional constraints. Information measures are substantially less constrained than other measures.
2) Financial barriers
These include budget restrictions limiting the overall expenditure on the strategy, financial restrictions on specific instruments, and limitations on the flexibility with which revenues can be used to finance the full range of instruments. PROSPECTS found that road building and public transport infrastructure are the two policy areas which are most commonly subject to financial constraints, with 80% of European cities stating that finance was a major barrier. Information provision is the least affected.
3) Political and cultural barriers
These involve lack of political or public acceptance of an instrument, restrictions imposed by pressure groups, and cultural attributes, such as attitudes to enforcement, which influence the effectiveness of instruments. The surveys in PROSPECTS show that road building and pricing are the two policy areas which are most commonly subject to constraints on political acceptability. Public transport operations and information provision are generally the least affected by acceptability constraints.
4) Practical and technological barriers
While cities view legal, financial and political barriers as the most serious which they face in implementing land use and transport policy instruments, there may also be practical limitations. For land use and infrastructure these may well include land acquisition. For management and pricing, enforcement and administration are key issues. For infrastructure, management and information systems, engineering design and availability of technology may limit progress. Generally, lack of key skills and expertise can be a significant barrier to progress, and is aggravated by the rapid changes in the types of policy being considered.
How should we deal with barriers in the short term?
It is important not to reject a particular policy instrument simply because there are barriers to its introduction. One of the key elements in a successful strategy is the use of groups of policy instrument which help overcome these barriers. This is most easily done with the financial and political and cultural barriers, where one policy instrument can generate revenue to help finance another (as, for example, fares policy and service improvements), or one can make another more publicly acceptable (for example rail investment making road pricing more popular). These principles are discussed more fully in Section 11. A second important element is effective participation, as outlined in Section 5, which can help reduce the severity of institutional and political barriers, and encourage joint action to overcome them. Finally, effective approaches to implementation can reduce the severity of many barriers, as discussed in Section 15.
How can we overcome barriers in the longer term?
It is often harder to overcome legal, institutional and technological barriers in the short term. There is also the danger that some institutional and political barriers may get worse over time. However, strategies should ideally be developed for implementation over a 15-20 year timescale (Section 3). Many of these barriers will not still apply twenty years hence, and action can be taken to remove others. For example, if new legislation would enable more effective instruments such as pricing to be implemented, it can be provided. If split responsibilities make achieving consensus impossible, new structures can be put in place. If finance for investment in new infrastructure is justified, the financial rules can be adjusted. TIPP makes a number of recommendations for longer term institutional change. Barriers should thus be treated as challenges to be overcome, not simply impediments to progress. A key element in a long term strategy should be the identification of ways of resolving these longer term barriers.