Sustainable Transport Evidence and modelling Paradigms: Cohort Household Analysis to support New Goals in Engineering design (STEP-CHANGE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Institute for Transport Studies


There is an accepted need to promote step changes towards more sustainable urban environments, notably in transport and travel, which we will focus on. While many model-based desk-studies have aimed to simulate such environments as part of a decision support tool, they adopt many unvalidated, hypothetical assumptions, particularly in the way that major transport focused interventions might impact on both behaviour and the effectiveness of the infrastructure. There is very little real evidence of what works and what can be used to promote such changes, deriving from either the physical nature and make-up of urban environments and in the way that people choose to act and behave. This 5 year proposal will build on the momentum of major EPSRC- and ESRC-supported activity at the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) at the University of Leeds and the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) at the University of Manchester in order to fill this evidence gap, providing an empirically grounded frame for the modelling of transformational futures.The project seeks to produce a step change in current knowledge and practice using a mix of new data sources, methodological innovation in analysis of this diverse data, development of new planning practices and procedures and supporting modelling tools. To this end it will develop visions of urban futures of 2050 which are both resilient to external change and sustainable. The knowledge and procedures developed as part of this project will provide a foundation upon which planners and others involved in decision-making in relation to urban transport, at both local and national levels, can start to put in place the necessary changes to achieve the resilient and sustainable visions of 2050.The proposed research is ambitious and novel. We will undertake the first largely qualitative longitudinal panel study of households which focuses on their transport activity, in particular delving into questions of why they do certain things and how change might be brought about. This work will be complemented by study of historical information over longer periods of time, making use of available information from a variety of transport and non-transport databases, coupled with testimony from planners and others in two study areas who have experienced changes first hand. The task of bringing these diverse data sources together will be innovative and seek to effectively explore ways of integrating these materials in a number of different ways which recognise the complexity of decisions and practices around transport and allow us to draw some understanding of why step changes occur. We will use the results of these analyses to feed into more theoretical work which will consider firstly the potential for new planning procedures and practice and secondly new modelling tools which provide the means to help achieve the step changes necessary in transport for sustainable and resilient urban futures by 2050.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries The immediate and medium term beneficiaries of this project will be: - Transport and urban planning practitioners, including commercial consultants and policy makers, at both the local and national levels - Local authorities and other planning and transport agencies - The national and international transport research community - The national and international social science research community In the longer term the transformational potential of this research in helping to bring about a step change to resilient and sustainable environmental futures planning, offers major economic, social and cultural gains to the general public. Benefits There will be three principal areas of benefit from the research in which practitioners, researchers and authorities will share: - Resources - the project will create and make widely accessible rich, new data sources. These will build the capacity and extend the reach of the UK's archive of qualitative evidence. Extending beyond the transport arena into the broader contexts and dynamics of urban life they will offer new perspectives to current and future researchers in a range of fields. - Knowledge - the development and application of innovative methodologies to the analysis of these new data will furnish practitioners with transformational tools for planning, visioning and modelling step-changes to resilient and sustainable urban environments. They will also inform new thinking on mixed-methods and models of behaviour and agency in the social sciences. - Engagement - our approach to methodological synthesis and the adaptive use of metaphors from a range of subject areas challenges both disciplinary and practice boundaries. It offer new lines of communication between engineering and social sciences and between researchers, practitioners and policy makers. Facilitation We will facilitate access to these benefits in the following ways: - A series of workshops and focus groups attached to Strands 2 and 4. These will engage stakeholders, partners and the wider practitioner and researcher communities in explorative, deliberative and didactic sessions on the evolution of policy and practice, futures visioning and planning, and data use. - Annual reporting made publicly accessible in the form of a regular E-bulletin. - Information and updates posted on our project website, which will include an interactive forum for comment and feedback on strand development, preliminary findings and workshop outcomes. - Thematic working papers, which will be available from the website, and the publication of articles aimed at leading transport and social science journals. - Further dissemination through our collaborations with project partners and visiting researchers, and through papers given at national and international conferences. We will also explore possibilities for wider public engagement, including: - Extending web-based publicity and forums for interaction. - End-of-project review and evaluation sessions with mixed sub-samples of cohort members - Bidding for inclusion of project-based public events in the ESRC's annual Festival of Social Science Both ITS and CRESC have established track records in user engagement and knowledge transfer. One of the key roles of the Project Advisory Committee, drawn from project partners, academic visitors and other stakeholders, will be to advise further and more specifically on dissemination and outreach opportunities.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/I00212X/1 01/01/2011 01/04/2012 £1,267,585
EP/I00212X/2 Transfer EP/I00212X/1 02/04/2012 12/08/2016 £1,091,728
Description This award was the first part of a two part project - it was originally one project, but was then split as a result of the PI moving institutions. As such there were no findings to this project, rather the findings are associated with the 2nd part of the project.
Exploitation Route See comments above.
Sectors Environment,Transport

Description The findings have been widely reported to various user groups both through presentations and workshops. Some groups have expressed further interest in taking these ideas forward. We have also contributed ideas derived from the project to a UK Government Office for Science thinkpiece on future mobility.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Transport
Impact Types Societal