Write-up: launch event

Seminar 1 – launch event
Presentations and audio here.

David Banister (TSU, Oxford University) argued climate change necessitates a shift in thinking, away from forecasting the future past narrowly on the past. He explained backcasting as providing more normative view of the future/s, involving more participatory thinking. Importantly backcasting makes uncertainties – like oil price – explicit.
- How can we use participation to open up new possibilities, rather than limiting policy options to the currently ‘possible’?
Saamah Abdallah (nef Centre for Well-Being) talked about how we might plan for well-being, and how that might change our approach to transport – such as integrating consideration of what are currently seen as ‘policy externalities’. Saamah identified subjective well-being as a simple measure of success or otherwise of government policy.
- How useful is subjective well-being as a measure – given that acceptable responses to the question may be culturally variable?
Karen Lucas talked about the need to ensure the already disadvantaged don’t lose out further from de-carbonisation. She defined transport poverty as the overlap between transport disadvantage and social disadvantage, leading to inaccessibility and hence social exclusion. Most studies so far on transport poverty are qualitative, and models have yet to properly address the issue. Accessibility is often measured as if it were universal, yet it is very different for young people or for elderly people.
- How can the ‘transport poverty’ approach incorporate a structural dimension of transport disadvantage; for example, if cycling networks are inclusive of older and disabled people?
James Woodcock talked about the many ways in which transport affects people’s health; including injuries, air pollution, and physical activity. He outlined the substantial potential benefits that a shift towards more active transport could have, particularly among older people. For younger age groups the existence and levels of benefits are dependent on whether injury risks are kept low (for example, Dutch rather than London levels).
- Why is health still so marginal to transport planning, when ultimately transport leads to large amounts of injury, ill-health and death?
Peter Jones explored how the disciplinary context for transport studies shaped the questions asked and modelling methods used. The two first paradigms, engineering and economics, respectively focused on vehicle movement and person trips. Later paradigms raise new questions, for example, related to activities and accessibility, or attitudes and psychology. He finished by asking what a revolutionary change in disciplinary paradigm might look like; arguing that this would be a more social scientific approach that embraced cross sector impacts and subjective experience.
- How can transport academics and practitioners create a community around a paradigm that does not yet exist?
Mike Batty talked about the potential for Big Data to transform modelling. His talk was illustrated by a range of case studies looking at people and vehicle flows from buses to hire bicycles. Massive datasets, such as Oyster card data, can now provide new ways of analysing and representing movement. Mike linked this to understanding the social physics of the complex city, a city made up of increasingly smart networks.
- To what extent might Big Data embed existing exclusions? – it may offer 100% samples, but if there is little data collected on marginal modes or trips, the question may be – 100% of what?

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