Segregated, tree-lined pedestrian and cycle lanes in Hong Kong. Credit Chris Choy. Copyright Arup/Chris Choy.

+ Prioritising the needs of local communities in transport planning will pay dividends to users, local authorities and developers.

Too often transport planners are focussed on outputs – a new railway station, motorway junction, cycle way or pedestrian crossing. But a successful city transport strategy should focus on how transport can create outcomes such as improving health or fostering economic regeneration.

After all, who are we – as transport consultants – working for? Our clients may be the local transport authorities and agencies or developers seeking planning permission. But aren’t they just the paymasters? Surely the people who live and work in the communities are the real clients.

They will probably want a pleasant place to live with easy access to work and other services. They will probably be concerned about safety, reliability and cost. They’ll probably care about the quality of the environment and the air they breathe. And hopefully they’ll be concerned about how easy it is to walk, cycle and exercise.

Looking at outcomes, you might see that a new railway station could enable sustainable housing growth, meaning that more affordable housing can be provided. People could live closer to where they work. And the additional travel demand could be accommodated on the existing transport network.

Or a new cycle way might give people the option of using their bicycle regularly for local trips. This would help to improve fitness levels and air quality as well as reducing the burden on the healthcare and transport systems.

By considering outcomes, city transport strategies become real-life solutions for communities. And if the people in those communities feel that transport is meeting their needs, then the paymasters are likely to be happy too. Contented voters mean political support, an engaged community means support for development and a happier workforce means increased productivity.

To understand the desired outcomes, we need to take a long-term view and focus on prosperity and well-being for everyone in the community. The key issues are likely to include economic growth, regeneration, and access to services such as employment, education, retail, health and leisure. And we must consider the inter-relationships with other policy areas, so that transport policies support other policies.

Fundamentally we need to plan for people, not just plan systems. That means recognising what drives behaviour. People are not always rational in their decision-making – we need to understand that the heart and the gut can be a greater influence than the mind. Finally we must ensure that city transport strategies are flexible. Because the only certainty is change, we need to make sure that our transport systems can adapt and evolve to serve future generations.