How to make forward-looking decisions in the transport sector

Norconsult assists the Norwegian Public Roads Administration in challenging the transport sector to rethink models and methods in the face of rapid changes, uncertainty and future mobility.

"We need to start planning to take into account uncertainty in our transport analyses and models in a way that no longer relies solely on forecasts (high-medium-low) and/or most likely outcomes, but where visions and scenarios are more actively used to explore and develop a broader scope of opportunity for the future," writes Ingrid Dahl Hovland, Director of roads, in an opinion piece in Dagens Næringsliv.

There is considerable uncertainty as to how we get around in the future. Technological development, the pandemic's effect on travel habits and uncertainty related to societal development are just some of the factors that come into play. It is no longer enough to rely on knowledge of yesterday's technology and travel habits to predict the future. There is therefore a need to further develop the industry's mindset, analytical tools and methods and to develop the expertise of agencies, companies and professionals.

A gathering with international experts

This winter, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and Norconsult invited international and national experts to a seminar and workshop on future-oriented transport analyses. The purpose was to share expertise and insight into the transportation needs of the future and the effect of different transport solutions in both urban and rural areas. There has been a need to obtain relevant insight and inspiration from academic communities and professionals representing different aspects and areas of expertise.

Among the participants was Charlene Rohr, technical director of Mott McDonald. She stressed that we must not only be concerned with calculating socioeconomic benefits, but that we must look at what values really matter to the society we want to develop. Glenn Lyons, Professor of Future Mobility at the University of the West of England, said we need to get used to working under greater uncertainty and developing "analytical resilience" in planning processes. Luis Willumsen, who has over 35 years of consultancy experience and has written several books on transport modelling, pointed out that simpler early-stage transport models can help make us more aware of the effects that are of great importance for the choice of solutions.

Recordings of the lectures are available here.

Establishing a good basis for decision-making

Norconsult has recently submitted a report to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration summarizing the collection and recommendations for further work. The report is a good basis for further investment and development of analytical tools and methods. Tor Atle Odberg, Eivind Jamholt Bæra and Linda Alfheim in Norconsult have been central to the work. The main objectives identified in the report are to:

  • Curate and use an updated knowledge base and state-of-the-art insight within models and methods
  • Develop planners’ understanding of their roles in a way that is more adapted to tomorrow’s challenges.
  • Facilitate regular competence enhancement and cooperation

Another important recommendation is that transport agencies should use scenarios more extensively. This recommendation follows up the work of the Expert Committee, appointed in connection with technology for sustainable freedom of movement and mobility (2018), which, among other things, pointed to the need to combine several methods as well as the need for stress testing, increased use of scenarios, and trend studies.

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration already has two ongoing projects related to scenario development, both in connection with KVU Northern-Norway and scenarios for sustainable passenger and freight transport in Norwegian cities (from 5 000-100 000 inhabitants) through 2050.

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