Nature of Transport Policy

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The Nature of Transport Policy

Author : Dr. Brian Slack

NOTE: Parts of this section have been removed because of their inclusion in the textbook "The Geography of Transport Systems" published in June 2006 by Routledge.

1. Defining Policy and Planning

The terms "policy" and "planning" are used very loosely and are frequently interchangeable in many transport studies. Mixing them together is misleading. Policy and planning represent separate parts of an overall process of intervention. There are circumstances where policy may be developed without any direct planning implications, and planning is frequently undertaken outside any of direct policy context. However, precise definitions are not easily come by. For example here are two definitions of policy:

"A set of principles that guide decision-making or the processes of problems’ resolution" [Studnicki-Gizbert, 1974].

"The process of regulating and controlling the provision of transport" [Tolley and Turton, 1995].

Transport planning is facing a similar issue related to its definition:

"Transport planning is taken to be all those activities involving the analysis and evaluation of past, present and prospective problems associated with the demand for the movement of people, goods and information at a local, national or international level and the identification of solutions in the context of current and future identification of economic, social, environmental, land use and technical developments and in the light of the aspirations and concerns of the society which it serves" [Transport Planning Society, UK]

"A programme of action to provide for present and future demands for movement of people and goods. Such a programme is preceded by a transport study and necessarily includes consideration of the various modes of transport" [European Environment Information and Observation Network]

In this chapter the following definitions are used:

Transport policy: The development of a set of constructs and propositions that are established to achieve particular objectives relating to socio-economic development, and the functioning and performance of the transport system.

Thus, transport policy can be concomitantly a public and private endeavor, but governments are often the most involved in the policy process since they either own or manage many components of the transport system. Governments also often perceive that it is their role to manage transport systems due to the important public service they provide.

Public policy is the means by which governments attempt to reconcile the social, political, economic and environmental goals and aspirations of society with reality. These goals and aspirations change as the society evolves, and thus a feature of policy is its changing form and character. Policy has to be dynamic and evolutionary.

Transport planning deals with the preparation and implementation of actions designed to address specific problems.

A major distinction between the planning and policy is that the latter has a much stronger relation with legislation. Policies are frequently, though not exclusively, incorporated into laws and other legal instruments that serve as a framework for developing planning interventions. Planning does not necessarily involve legislative action, and is more focused on the means of achieving a particular goal.

2. Why Transport Policy?

Transport policies arise because of the extreme importance of transport in virtually every aspect of national life (Button 1993). Transport is taken by governments of all types, from those that are interventionalist by political credo to the most liberal, as a vital factor in economic development. Transport is seen as a key mechanism in promoting, developing and shaping the national economy. Many regional development programs, such as the Appalachia Project in the US and the 1960s and the contemporary Trans-European Networks (TENs) policy in the EU are transport-based....
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