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Guidance for transport planning and policymaking in the face of an uncertain future


  • Lyons, Glenn
  • Davidson, Cody


Uncertainty of outcome is widely recognised as a concern facing decision-makers and their advisors. In a number of spheres of policy, it appears uncertainty has intensified in the face of globalisation, economic instability, climate change, technological innovation and changing consumer preferences. How can planners and policymakers plan for an uncertain future? There is growing interest in, and use of, techniques that can help decision-making processes where deep uncertainty is involved. This paper is based upon one of the most recent international examples of a foresight exercise employed to examine uncertainty – specifically that which concerns uncertainty over the nature and extent of future demand for car travel. The principal focus of the paper is on the insights and guidance this examination of uncertainty brings forth for transport planning and policymaking. To accommodate deep uncertainty requires a flexible and open approach in terms of how policy and investment possibilities are formulated and judged. The paper argues for a focus upon the Triple Access System of spatial proximity, physical mobility and digital connectivity as a framework for policy and investment decisions that can harness flexibility and resilience. Uncertainty becomes an opportunity for decision-makers with the realisation that they are shaping the future rather than (only) responding to a predicted future. The paper outlines two forms of policymaking pathway: regime-compliant (in which adherence to trends and the nature of the world we have known pushes policy) and regime-testing (in which the nature of the world as we have known it is brought into question and vision pulls policy decisions). Stronger orientation towards regime-testing to assist in managing an uncertain future is advocated.

Suggested Citation

  • Lyons, Glenn & Davidson, Cody, 2016. "Guidance for transport planning and policymaking in the face of an uncertain future," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 104-116.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:88:y:2016:i:c:p:104-116
    DOI: 10.1016/j.tra.2016.03.012

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:transa:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:1-11 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Nadezhda S. Mikova, 2016. "Climate Change and Our Future: Anticipating Trends and Challenges Using Media Data," HSE Working papers WP BRP 65/STI/2016, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    3. repec:eee:trapol:v:58:y:2017:i:c:p:39-45 is not listed on IDEAS


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