MORE releases guidance to help transport planners deal with an uncertain future

By Tom Cohen, University College London

At the time of writing, unforeseen events are in everyone’s thoughts.  Transport planners, for example, probably did not imagine that they would be contemplating the closure of urban public-transport networks or a slump in demand for flights. This is because we are trained to believe that we can predict the future and that the future will largely resemble the past.

COVID-19 tells us that this does not work.  And, early in 2020, MORE released a deliverable intended to assist the transport community in working in an uncertain world.  We shan’t claim that we timed things deliberately…

Deliverable 3.3 from MORE has the official title “future scenarios for TEN feeder routes”, reflecting its role in the project, but it might more usefully be called “how to use futures methods to support transport planning”. Its starting point is a reminder that we cannot know the future. Then, using the well-establish method of scenario-based planning, it goes on to help transport planners and policy makers to embrace uncertainty and to plan accordingly.

The “magic ingredient” of scenario-based planning is to develop at least two different stories about the future, both of which could be true, but which can’t both be true at the same time.  The minute one accepts that there are at least two plausible but incompatible versions of the future, one is freed from the (very human) belief that the future can be predicted.

The rest of the document helps planners to think through the implications of multiple futures and to develop strategies that will hopefully perform well in multiple scenarios.

The full report “Future scenarios for TEN feeder routes” is available here.