Blue bus on road during daytime

Photo by Mangopearcreative on Unsplash

The transport sector employs about 2% of the global workforce and is used by the rest of us on an almost daily basis. This makes transport and travel strategy a top agenda for policymakers at every level of government.

Whether it’s proposing the location of a new cycle lane or developing a long-term regional plan, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to doing transport the ‘right way’. In reality, the decision-making process requires participation from everyone — pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, local residents, commuters, and tourists — to name just a few groups.

We thought we’d showcase some of the fantastic work recently done by our customers and how they’re using Citizen Space to put the wheels in motion on their transport strategies.

Birmingham City Council

One of the biggest trends in local transit policymaking is the shift towards low-carbon modes of transport. We’ve come a long way since the Great Smog of London, yet air pollution still remains “the largest environmental risk to public health”.

So, what is the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions in our city centres?

To solve this question, many local authorities used the pandemic as an opportunity to bring in Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs) — things like Pedestrianization schemes, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), and bus lane conversions. One of the most visible was the launch of over 50 e-scooter trials across the UK.

Birmingham was an early adopter, introducing their public hire e-scooter trial in 2020, and it did so with an existing framework in place for public consultation and feedback. Since adopting Citizen Space in 2011, Birmingham’s ‘Be Heard’ hub has gathered opinions from local residents and businesses on every single one of their ETRO schemes.

The Birmingham approach was to allow e-scooter parking in designated zones on public paths or pavements. These were strategically placed near campuses, businesses, and transport hubs to make multi-mode journeys easier. Local residents were then invited to make ‘Objections’ or ‘Comments’ on the scheme, before a decision was made on whether to make the specification permanent after 18 months. With geospatial responses, the Council could easily pinpoint problematic parking zones that required a rework, or where demand wasn’t being filled.

On a national level, data from the Birmingham e-scooter trial will inform the Department for Transport’s (DfT) future policy and legislation — such as how we might allow privately owned e-scooters on public roads and paths while keeping everyone safe. In light of Birmingham City Council’s recent announcement about funding and finance, it has become more important than ever for local governments to deliver transport strategies that have backing from residents, and not blow their budgets on unpopular or ineffective schemes. Public consultation has been a standout beacon of success for Birmingham — providing insight into opinions on a wide range of transport policies, including blanket speed limits or locations for electric-vehicle charging spots.

East Lothian Council

In the sparsely-populated East Lothian Council area, there has been more of a focus on connecting rural communities and providing easy-to-follow travel guidance for visitors. Their vision is to create a network of transport interchanges called ‘Journey Hubs’, which would be located within walking distance for most residents of East Lothian.

Each Journey Hub would integrate different modes of transport and promote sustainable or ‘active’ travel, with features such as:

  • Electronic information boards (with real-time bus and rail times)
  • Public-hire bicycles, electric bikes, and electric car club vehicles
  • Private bicycle and car parking
  • Maps and wayfinding information
  • Electric vehicle charge points

However, it’s not just a case of copy-and-paste, as every Journey Hub would serve a slightly different purpose — with a different set of features being appropriate for villages, towns, or industrial parks. To answer these questions, East Lothian Council used Citizen Space surveys to gather feedback from local people and employers.

A ‘Likert scale’ question asked residents to rank (on a scale of 1 to 5) what features they wanted to see in their local Journey Hub, such as access to free WiFi, phone charging, sheltered seating areas, or parcel delivery lockers. A major theme of their survey was accessibility, and where Journey Hubs could be built to best serve their purpose — i.e. Is it more important for them to be located close to amenities, close to population centres, or close to a motorway?

Rounding off their survey, East Lothian offered respondents several means for hearing about project updates — such as emails, newspaper updates, social media posts, or conversations in person — living up to the “We asked, You Said, We Did” communication framework that the Citizen Space platform encourages.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI)

On a regional scale, Northern Ireland’s devolved Department for Infrastructure is currently in the process of setting its transport agenda for policy and investment until 2035. In particular, the ‘Eastern Transport Plan (ETP)’ will cover five local councils in and around the Belfast metropolitan area.

It’s an ambitious plan, and the report recognises how it needs to “reflect upon and help combat wider economic, social and environmental challenges”. It means that, just as the scope of the project is large, so is the complexity of a public planning and consultation context.

This is where Citizen Space comes in — with the Department of Infrastructure creating an early-stage development survey to better understand views across the region. This was made to be as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible, with a series of guided series of questions that will inform three steps:

  1. The problems that need to be solved (challenges)
  2. The desired end goal (vision)
  3. How to get there (the objectives)

One of the core aims of the project is to protect both the built and natural environments — and to achieve this — the Department intends to categorise all roads and streets depending on their function, ranging from “People Places” to “Strategic Movement Routes”. This will inform where investment into policies like segregated bike/bus lanes, LTNs, or ULEZs could be implemented for maximum social and environmental effect.

At this early stage, geospatial planning played a crucial role in the survey, with postcode data being collected to link citizen responses to their locations. This provided the Department with an eagle-eye view of the project, allowing them to spot trends within particular groups, such as people who live close to main roads or far away in remote areas.

By doing this, ETP 2035 will be able to create a joined-up strategy that links each of the five council’s Local Development Plans. Expect to see more public consultations and surveys in the coming months as these plans are fine-tuned and edge closer to reality.

Citizen Space is a citizen engagement platform trusted by government around the world. Government organisations and public bodies use Citizen Space to connect with more citizens, increase engagement and improve processes.

To learn more about what Citizen Space can do for your organisation, book a free demo and we’ll walk you through it.