30 years of managing uncertainty to plan the future of mobility, accessibility and society

Back in the early 1990s Derek Halden was working on risk assessment in bridge management, alongside research on transport policy and realised that if we applied the same ‘systems thinking’ to transport policy that we applied to bridges, transport policy was nearly certain to collapse. A summary of this work can still be read in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers “Managing Uncertainty in Transport Policy Development”, 30 years later he caught up with Glenn Lyons who continues to champion accessibility planning to manage uncertainty.  

Glenn and Derek have, perhaps strangely, never worked together or had more than fleeting conversations about their shared interest of accessibility and society so a proper conversation seemed overdue. They took the opportunity to record their discussion which starts in the 1990s and seeks to come to terms with the current challenges facing transport and society.

The discussion lasts nearly an hour so the index below should help to access relevant contents quickly:

  • 0 mins to 4 mins – Nearly 30 years ago Glenn finished his PhD and Derek wrote a paper about managing uncertainty in transport using accessibility planning. As young professionals seeking change, how did the great and the good of the transport profession react?
  • 4 mins to 9 mins – Is transport planning shaping society or do we need the broader concept of accessibility planning partnerships to provide the necessary influence to achieve change?
  • 9 mins to 13 mins – How can we focus more on delivering the scenarios we want rather than predicting futures we don’t want – what we might call vision and validate?
  • 13 mins to 16 mins – Transitions in society and professions are taking too long, but overhauling a global industry takes time.
  • 16 mins to 23 mins – We can learn much from history about managing social change. The problem with today’s 21st century decadence is that managing change may involve more problematical social collapse than in previous social revolutions with more unpredictable outcomes.
  • 24 mins to 28 mins – The capabilities to actually plan and deliver better accessibility are growing and supply chains to make improvements continue to develop.
  • 28 mins to 33 mins – Can national government be an enabler of a better society rather than simply passing the buck on to others including local authorities for the most thorny wicked problems? There are lessons from culture and arts from which government can learn, but in transport the dance continues.
  • 33 mins to 38 mins – Professional integrity for transport professionals, politicians and all leaders shaping society is challenging, and in fast changing world values seem more uncertain, so we need a diversity of perspective.
  • 38 mins to 43 mins – How much can the transport profession change to make more of its capabilities, relying more heavily on partnership to achieve change.
  • 43 mins to 52 mins Who leads social change? Do tech giants need government if they have captured the economic and social geography of the world? Without leadership, autocracy and fascism will thrive, but transport governance which makes new connections can save the type of society within which all people can thrive.
  • 52 mins to 58 mins – Managing transport and social change requires a fundamental re-framing of the challenges. What might the business models include? Can we use frameworks from natural philosophy since the rules of physics have applied much longer than humans?

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