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Transport policy doesn’t operate in a vacuum

First publishedin ITS International
March April 2014
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Colin Sowman ITS Editor
Intertraffic offers traffic planners and other transportation professionals the opportunity to view and find out about the latest cutting-edge technology in the market. Behind the scenes, engineers have been working away to solve the technical problems traffic planners are facing and some they didn’t even know they had. Indeed it seems the technology is now available for authorities to do almost anything: to detect, select, identify, measure, charge, prosecute, influence and inform the travelling public.

However, there is a danger, increasingly highlighted, that the technology is running ahead of the pace that the travelling public is willing and able to accept or understand. Simply because a transport related scheme is now technically possible, it does not mean it is publically acceptable. There has already been a ruling against the ‘unjustified’ use of ANPR/ALPR (ITS International Sept/Oct 2013), the French Ecotax is now on the back burner after widespread protests and recent exposés of government eavesdropping has unsettled many individuals across the globe. 
In some instances additional efforts to communicate the aims and benefits of a transport scheme can overcome an inbuilt public resistance to change - but the industry has something of a poor record in this area; take the example of speed and red light cameras. In other cases it may be that regardless of the amount of explanation, a proposed scheme remains unacceptable and a rethink is necessary.

As you will read in this issue, there is potential for the application of ITS to be socially divisive while in another feature we see that in cities around the world the demand for mobility is set to increase threefold. Doing nothing is not an option.
As always the technology is neutral – it does not impose a rule, it only enforces it – and going forward traffic planners will not have the luxury (if they ever did) of operating in a traffic bubble. Although they may not be the decision-makers, increasingly traffic planners will not only have to understand the technology of a proposed scheme, but also the wider effects such a scheme could have on the travelling public and so inform decision-makers accordingly.

Should the politicians decide to implement a scheme that could provoke negative reactions (well founded or not), traffic planners will have to up their game in informing the public of the scheme’s benefits as well as considering other measures to mitigate the negative effects.    

So while viewing the equipment on display at Intertraffic, or reading about it in our daily online updates at www.intertrafficlive.com, thought must not only go into applying the technology but how this can be done in an acceptable way.

Just another thing to think about as you enjoy the show.

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