Transport is a complex issue at any given time, particularly in cities. Bristol is no exception. It’s a high-population area with existing infrastructure that isn’t coping efficiently with increasing demand. High levels of congestion lead to poor air quality, reduced safety for cyclists and pedestrians and an unreliable public transport system. With the number of homes and jobs in Bristol set to rise in the next 20 years, it is vital that the transport system fully supports the city’s growth.

Bristol City Council were aware of the challenges the city faced, and launched their draft Bristol Transport Strategy in 2018 to try and tackle them. However, any solutions would be far from simple, and they wanted the public to understand the complexities involved when they opened the draft Strategy up to public consultation.

They needed a tool that would enable them to consult the public, whilst also educating them about the complex challenges and tradeoffs involved in creating options that would benefit the whole city. They opted for Simulator: a deliberative, interactive tool that helps citizens learn through the process of participation.

Bristol City Council’s transport Simulator

Respondents move sliders to the left or right to allocate points to areas they consider a priority. As they do so, they are given information on what the consequences for their choices might be in a real-life setting. This interactive model simulates trade-offs that planning, transport and environment officers need to consider before implementing decisions – for example, more cycle lanes might reduce road area for cars, resulting in more vehicle congestion in certain areas.

The priority simulator tool has provided a more engaging way for our citizens to get involved in the consultation process. I have received a number of comments on how easy it is to use and I am convinced that having the simulator tool has encouraged more people to take part in the consultation than using traditional consultation methods.

Jodi Savickas, Transport Policy, Bidding and Strategic Projects Manager, Bristol City Council

Due to the educational quality of the tool, the responses that Bristol City Council received were more informed, thoughtful, meaningful and valuable than they might have been using a more traditional consultation method. In the back end, handy charts displaying live data enable site admins to keep track of respondent numbers, as well as peak times for responses.

An example of the administrator’s dashboard in Simulator

The consultation was well-promoted by the council and covered by local press in the city. The ability to share responses via social media gave people the chance to see how other citizens would prioritise transport issues too, making the process more interactive and providing transparency, as well as increasing the number of participants. All of the responses to the simulator will inform the final Bristol Transport Strategy which will be adopted in full by the council in 2019. 

To view a copy of Bristol City Council’s Simulator, click here. Responses will not be sent to the Council as the Simulator has now closed.