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What's fuelling transportation planning?

Transportation planning (automotive and public transit) used to be based largely on engineering and economic development criteria. But in recent years, environmental, social and demographic concerns have gained in importance. What factors determine how these new aspects are taken into account?

The identity and training of planners appear to play a decisive role in their planning style.

Kevin Manaugh, a researcher in the Department of Geography and the School of Environment at McGill University, conducted a survey of 311 North American transportation planners. This allowed him to identify four styles of transportation planning: the technical approach, which prefers to rely on scientific and technical data; the political approach, which seeks to advance ideas based on personal convictions; the collaborative approach, which is based on public consultations; and the militant approach, which strives to include disadvantaged populations in public consultations.

The identity and training of planners appear to play a decisive role in their planning style. Thus, those who belong to a minority group or who have a certificate will opt more often for a militant style, while those with an engineering background will choose a more technical approach. According to Manaugh, integrating social and environmental values into the initial training and continuing education of planners would help raise their awareness.

The chosen planning style is also determined in part by the employer. Thus, greater importance is given to social values when the employer has decision-making processes that take the needs of the entire population into consideration. Kevin Manaugh's work suggests that it is possible to influence the attitudes of transportation planners by providing municipalities and regional transit agencies with institutional policies that place greater emphasis on values such as the environment and social equity.