10 things you need to know about Accessibility Planning

Accessibility planning – answers to ten simple questions:

  1. Why is Accessibility Planning needed?
  2. Why have these problems occurred?
  3. Can Accessibility Planning be described in one short sentence?
  4. How do I identify partners?
  5. Is Accessibility Planning a statutory requirement?
  6. Is it just the latest government initiative?
  7. Do I need to know about modelling?
  8. Where should I start?
  9. Do I need to consult with local people?
  10. How can I get further help?

Why is accessibility planning needed?

For most people, at most times of day, for most trip purposes, accessibility has been getting worse in recent years. Accessibility planning is the process by which this trend is being reversed, securing improvements for all people but particularly for those in greatest need.

Why have these problems occurred?

Car ownership and use has grown faster than available road space; decline in bus passenger numbers has resulted in increased fares and lower network coverage; service provision and markets have become more specialised resulting in centralisation to obtain economies of scale; people are living in more dispersed locations; and maximum rail speeds have fallen on many lines.

Can accessibility planning be described in one short sentence?

Yes – It is about ensuring that all people can reach the services and facilities they need.

How do I identify partners?

Partners should be people and organisations with a clear stake in tackling problems. Stakeholders include decision makers, funders, suppliers of evidence, service providers, consumers and representative groups.

Is accessibility planning a statutory requirement?

Each part of the UK is rolling out delivery of accessibility planning in different ways. Since the early 1990s, planning policy has developed to clarify national and local accessibility aims e.g. PPG13 and SPP17.

  • In England the current focus is on the accessibility strategies, which form part of the 2006 statutory Local Transport Plans.
  • In Scotland the approach has been to undertake accessibility appraisals of all government expenditure since the issue of Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance in 2004.
  • In Wales accessibility planning has been set within the context of the national spatial strategy since 2002.

Accessibility aims continue to be harmonised across sectors spreading the requirements for accessibility planning more generally.

Is it just the latest Government Initiative?

Improving accessibility has always been one of the primary goals of transport planning but its relative importance has increased in recent years. Accessibility depends on both the mobility of travellers and the ability to reach destinations for particular trip purposes. To make things simple, transport planners have tended to assume that accessibility will be improved if mobility is improved and in the past the focus of decision making has often been on mobility.

However the main problem with mobility aims, and the reason why they have proved to be controversial, is that it is difficult to say whether more or less travel is preferable. The balance between economic, social and environmental aims depends on local circumstances and the people affected. As a result of the widely recognised policy requirements for transport to support wider sustainable development needs, accessibility is now recognised as the generally supported aim for delivering a strong economy, an inclusive society and a clean environment – and by implication deciding how much movement there should be.

Do I need to know about modelling?

No – just being able to read a map is a good start. However accessibility planning is an evidence based process and models can help with managing and interpreting the large amount of data which is now available on transport, land uses and service provision. Specialist help on modelling is not expensive and many people find it is cheaper to purchase modelling support than to develop the in-house skills.

Where should I start?

Identify what is already known about accessibility problems from existing evidence by asking senior staff across each sector and validate findings through analysis of transport network coverage. The results of this provide the basis for more detailed surveys and analysis to support option generation, project development and fund assembly. Tackle issues in manageable packages to avoid getting bogged down.

Do I need to consult with local people?

When consulting with local people it is important to be specific about the accessibility barriers faced. It should not be assumed that simply putting on new public transport services will solve the problems. Barriers are often multi-dimensional and relate to information, cost, reliability, safety, culture, scheduling and service delivery approach. When accessibility problems are identified consultation with communities is important to ensure all relevant issues are considered and a dialogue should be developed through to scheme delivery.

How can I get further help?

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