Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is supporting the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to update its Local Transport Plan (LTP). We have developed a draft Core Strategy that proposes a new vision for travel in the West Midlands where people can thrive without having to drive or own a car.
The Core Strategy sets out the importance of creating good, sustainable access to opportunities and ways the transport strategy should be supported by complementary land use policy. It particularly highlights the need to build the right things in the right places, with new developments planned and delivered in a way which supports progress against the LTP’s objectives.
According to the latest forecasts by the Office for National Statistics (2018 projections) the West Midlands Combined Authority area is expected to reach a total population of approximately 3.2 million by 2043. This is over 320,000 additional people and 160,000 new homes over the next 20 years. This is like adding the equivalent of another city the size of Coventry to our region. If this is not planned well then there could be some significant impacts on the efficiency of our transport system, the safety and attractiveness of our communities, as well as undermining our net zero carbon ambitions. A strong policy theme in this Big Move is to ensure that we plan new growth and new developments in a way that supports good access to key services and opportunities to support less car-dependent lifestyles.
The benefits we are targeting from a better transport system will be achieved by focusing on six ‘Big Moves’ which relate to the avoid, shift, improve framework. Making progress against these will require a sustained effort over 20 years or more. A strong policy theme in this Big Move is to ensure that we plan new growth and new developments in a way that supports good access to key services and opportunities to support less car-dependent lifestyles.
Yet even with new infrastructure associated with new developments, this growth will have implications for the wider transport network. If left unaddressed, the positive impact of regeneration and growth in the region will likely to be undermined or wiped out by unconstrained traffic growth.
Aligning transport and land use planning better together with opportunities for digital connectivity, to address some of the accessibility challenges which cannot be easily tackled by better transport is vitally important. Consequently, the role of the “Triple Access System” which describes how accessibility depends very much on transport, land use, and telecoms should be appreciated. We must therefore continue to improve how new development is planned, designed and delivered (in a coordinated way alongside wider transport policy) to help minimise the transport impacts and maximise the attractiveness and success of sustainable modes.
The Core Strategy is therefore clear that to achieve our aims and the vision of growth that helps everyone, it is important to consider: –
- Ensuring accessible new development that can be used by people of all abilities regardless of whether they have access to a car
- Getting public transport and active travel networks right for new developments
- Making the most of digital connectivity
This Big Move will therefore lay out the importance of:
- Improving accessibility, and how accessibility could be better understood and enhanced within our transport strategy not simply in terms of mobility but considering land use planning policy and digital connectivity in the context of the triple access system.
- Setting out transport centric land use policy and planning positions to ensure the planning process is an important part of encouraging behaviour change and helps reduce the impacts transport may have on communities and the environment.
- Setting out transport centric digital connectivity policy positions, aligning with the published West Midlands Digital Roadmap for enhancing digital connectivity. This in turn will better integrate digital accessibility and improve everyone’s access to opportunities.
Most existing communities and new developments are still planned around the needs of the private vehicles, with sustainable transport modes an after thought. This locks in car dependent behaviours, undermining efforts to encourage more sustainable travel.
We will have reduced the impacts of growth on the region by using land more effectively and reducing additional travel demand by private car.
People will be living or working in places which do not need a car to access them. Those who need a car, can access a car club vehicle and have convenient access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
All communities have excellent walking, cycling and public transport access to local schools, shops, healthcare and leisure activities so that most local trips are made by sustainable modes of transport. As a result, neighbourhoods have less traffic, better air quality and people are more physically activity because they can safely and easily walk, wheel and cycle for everyday journeys.
Careful consideration is given to servicing and deliveries to minimise the impact of goods vehicles on local roads.
We want to create a new kind of city-region, one where people and businesses can thrive, access all that the West Midlands has to offer; but also where they can live more sustainably without having to make sacrifices.
|Our Core Strategy says we need to:||How our Big Move will contribute to these goals:|
|Improve Accessibility||Improving accessibility through a positive 'decide and provide' approach should become the guiding principle for both new growth in the West Midlands (i.e. new developments) but also how we reimagine our urban areas over time.
Importantly first we'll need to redefine what we mean by 'accessibility'. Previously we would have narrowly defined this by how easy it is for people to use the transport system to get access to jobs and services. Now we need to think much more broadly about what accessibility means for people and businesses. In some cases the solution may not be a transport intervention, it could be that existing places need to change to bring more of people's everyday lives closer to where they live. To achieve this will need a far greater interaction between the way in which we plan places and transport and to reimagine neighbourhoods and communities to bring shops, schools, doctors etc back. How new areas are developed or changed over time will also need to include these kinds of principles.
The region will also need to keep ahead of the technology curve to ensure that our residents and businesses can take full advantage of advances in digital technology to support new ways of working and living. Although our region is largely well supplied with super-fast broadband and 4G connectivity, there are some cold-spots in the network that require filling and we will need to exploit all that 5G has to offer in the coming years.
|Reduce traffic||We want to grow our region in a way which fundamentally improves people's way of life, preferably being able to do more of their daily activities within a short walk or wheel from where they live; which is our '15 minute neighbourhood' concept. In addition we need to exploit the opportunities at regional interchanges to ensure that people can access other services (e.g. health and leisure) by public transport; this is our '45 minute region' concept. A knock on impact of this will hopefully be fewer vehicles on the roads. However, we cannot just assume that one will lead to another.
As well as reducing the need to drive we also need to create the conditions where households feel that they can reduce the numbers of cars they own. In doing so we can create our virtuous circle where travelling by alternatives to the car just become habit for more and more journeys. In the case of new developments, this might also mean being restrictive on how we provide for parking to discourage high car ownership where there is less need to.
|Electrify transport||Although we want to see lower levels of dependency on cars in the region, we do recognise that the car will remain the most flexible form of transport for many journeys. We therefore need to support the transition to zero emission vehicles to deliver growth in a sustainable way. We can do this by ensuring that new homes and developments are built with access to charging points and that existing communities, particularly those homes with no access to an off-street parking place, are able to charge on-street near home. In the future, more community-led car clubs and car sharing options will also support greater use of zero emission vehicles.|
Key Issues Facing People and Businesses
Despite emerging after many towns and cities in the West Midlands were established, the private The car has become ever more popular in our physical world and our way of life has changed, with people seeking continued opportunities.
Yet as people’s accessibility needs are often very complex, the car has become the popular mode, as this removes much of the complexity from individual in our journeys. In fact, for many, the car has become a necessity. But for those without access to a car, access employment, education, retail and other opportunities accessibility becomes far more difficult, and with greater car usage, the worse this becomes, with trade-offs needing to happen, if people desire improved accessibility, without accessing a car.
In reducing dependency by delivering on alternatives to the car, we need to take a user-centred approach along with a whole-of-systems view, to identify opportunities to improve on accessibility and address issues across all elements of the transport and land use system, together with the role digital connectivity will play going forward.
This ultimately means looking differently at how we currently assess transport options for accessing things, which can be is overly simplistic at times; focusing predominantly on journey times and distances people are from their nearest bus stop, and considering far wider factors which are at play.
Door to door accessibility should be carefully considered within the local context and have regard to different urban, suburban, and rural settings of the region. Yet currently, we witness a shortfall in the density mixture of services and land uses together with an unequal distribution of core amenities.
Our current network of more sustainable transport options further fails to serve radial routes and is focused on commuting journeys to our main towns and cities. Along with often poor integration that makes multi-modal journeys more difficult, this brings further shortfalls in terms of time, distance and contour measures and may not capture adequately, key accessibility barriers.
A more realistic vision of different spatial areas and their contexts will need to take place, especially for more rural, suburban and isolated areas.
The role of digital connectivity in changing our travel behaviours has rapidly taken place in light of the impacts of the pandemic, particularly with the shift to online shopping and hybrid working patterns now being witnessed. During the pandemic the importance of digital technology become clear to us all – for work, communicating with family and friends, providing entertainment, and in managing our health.
There are both positives and negatives to be gained from increased digital connectivity. On the one hand it for many it opens up new opportunities for accessing services and helps substitute and remove some need to travel but there are some in certain occupations (e.g. which may not be conducive to working from home). For those who may not be in a position to benefit directly from the wider benefits digital connectivity and ensuring that wider accessibility continues to be the primary critical consideration.
Commuting only accounts for 20% of all travel but generates a significant element of public transport usage. Therefore, as patronage levels are now struggling to return to previous pre-pandemic levels, this has resulted in significant challenges being faced by the public transport network in the region. A key challenge to overcome is ensuring all communities are not being left behind by the digital divide and that businesses are fully able to benefit from the new digital revolution emerging.
Key Issues Facing TfWM and Partners
Appreciating our regions demographic profiles; by different subgroups is required to understand their accessibility levels, between the population as a whole and those more socially excluded groups. For example, access for disabled people or those having specific mobility requirements need to be fully considered if good transport provision is to serve areas of social deprivation. This will mean drawing on far wider access considerations like ensuring pavements are useable and free from obstructions; the provision of low floor vehicles; step free access onto station platforms; network overcrowding; interchange penalties; taxi and community transport options; and disabled parking provisions to name but a few.
The needs of other excluded groups including ethnic minority groups, young people, and older people, who predominantly are more prone to inequalities of income, witnessing relatively lower levels of car ownership and exposure to geographical and time-based determinants also need to be fully considered.
There is also no one size fits all approach to tackling accessibility and a range of solutions are often required, relevant to people’s need and places. For example, what accessibility requirements are needed for a busy centre is often very different for more localised high streets, highways in rural locations or that of a suburban neighbourhood.
Land use policy has significantly changed our mobility levels, resulting in the complex travel behaviours we now see today - largely driven by the ability of the car to offer direct access to a large variety of places in a way that was previously unimaginable.
As the car has become the primary mode of personal travel for many, it has shaped the way the urban form has been developed and how existing urban areas (built before car ownership was wide-spread) have needed to adapt. As we have such a range of differing urban forms, this has caused challenges especially in balancing provision for cars with its impacts on wider travel options and place making.
Ultimately transport policies which affect levels of mobility of our citizens and the accessibility of places have had differential effects on the value of land; further affecting people’s and businesses’ decisions on where to locate. The impacts can be both positive, where accessibility improves, or negative, where accessibility worsens.
A further challenge exists with the type and location of development. In contrast to significant, large developments which will likely deliver on wider transport measures, many pockets of dispersed new development can be more problematic as the cumulative impact of these combined, often significantly impact on travel behaviours. Smaller developments are often assessed only in isolation, limiting the mitigation measures imposed on them compared to larger scale developments.
Wider master planning may help provide a more holistic approach to ensure improved transport options are provided for new developments, especially in a given area or community, helping to deliver on our ambition of 15 minute neighbourhoods and inclusive growth.
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The WMCA has sought to prioritise and support development on brownfield land first and foremost – using the existing urban fabric close to good transport links and services, to reduce the need for additional private vehicle travel and help bolster demand for public transport services. Yet a shortfall in brownfield sites still exist. Where development on brownfield land can take place, the importance of retrofitting with regards to regeneration activity is relatively under-considered, and only covering limited urban land.
We know space is at premium in denser locations with well-established public transport, with often only pockets of brownfield land being available, and at a higher cost to developers. In addition, where good locations have been chosen, developers prefer to repeat past practices that lock communities into high levels of car dependency, with the nature of contemporary development activity not currently grappled with effectively in policy making.
Within the Core Strategy, the importance of ensuring new development is walkable with good access to public transport infrastructure and designed in a way that ensures retrofitting can take place will help densify areas and change how building stock is used going forward, reducing distances travelled and improving levels of accessibility overall.
A key issue transport and land use policy makers are grappling with is these separate disciplines often decided through separate independent governance structures which can lead to inconsistencies in decision making and limit opportunities for collaborative, place-based approaches being adopted. Yet both transport and land use policy makers are wrestling with very similar challenges of supply and demand, whilst also trying to meet common social, economic and environmental objectives.
With independent governance structures in place, continued unsustainable practices in land use planning have, in some instances, dictated over transport with housing targets coming first and foremost. This has then limited transport policy influence and its ability to deliver on sustainable patterns of travel with the focus being on a ‘predict and provide’ approach. This has then continued to form the basis for much of the UK’s transport planning ethos, with transport assessments continuing to merely follow development planning that have already pre-determined high car dependency levels and an areas full growth potential not adequately being assessed.
Land use spatial plans covering the region also comprise of differing timeframes and are at different stages in their plan lifecycles. Unlike other city regions, there is also no one overarching spatial framework in place, helping to guide regional transport policy making and bring about consistency. In turn, this creates issues for delivering on good accessibility by a variety of modes and produces a legacy where it becomes challenging to deliver improvements in accessibility and behavioural change.
Since LTP4, there has been some key advancements in land use planning and accessibility. These being:
The four Local Development Plans for the region have continued to be developed and delivered, yet all are at differing stages in the plan making process. Below sets out these differing stages for each area:
- Birmingham Plan – Current local plan adopted in 2017 with a review started on the Issues and Options consultation in late 2022. Policies to encourage people to live at the centre of the city such as Paradise, Smithfield, Snow Hill and Eastside bringing many thousands of new jobs, new retail and leisure space and new public realm which will reduce the need for travel altogether.
- Coventry Local Plan – Adopted in 2017 with the Council working on the evidence base for a local plan review.
- Solihull Local Plan – Current local plan adopted in 2014 but with the local plan review going through an Examination in Public.
- Black Country Plan Review – The Black Country Authorities in late 2022 announced that the joint local plan review will not be pursued, and each local authority is now progressing with their own individual local plan.
Significant large-scale developments are coming forward with master plans being developed for significant regeneration areas like HS2 development, the NEC, Coventry’s Sustainable Urban Extensions, the Smethwick to Birmingham Corridor and Walsall to Wolverhampton Corridor, as well as major town and city centre regeneration projects. With such significant development planned over the next few years, this will bring with it significant transport challenges. It will be vital we support these developments with good transport networks which can support growth and unlock sites effectively whilst also connecting people to the key opportunities these developments will bring.
All future development needs to be built in a way that is better suited to our future vision for travel, yet this may take a long time for our built environment to be renewed in this way. Similarly, it may take a long time to change and deliver significant transport infrastructure changes across our region which fully encompass new technologies being developed and deployed.
Finally, all new development needs to be planned, designed and delivered (in a coordinated way alongside wider transport policy) to help minimise transport impacts and maximise the attractiveness and success of sustainable modes. And while some progress has been made in this space, we will aim to work closer with local planning authorities as well as scheme developers and other key stakeholders to bring these disciplines closer together going forward.
As mentioned in the key issues section of this Big Move, people’s access needs are often inherently different and there are many complex components to delivering on good accessibility. These being the distribution of potential activities (urban form), the characteristics of those destinations which people require (systems thinking), the performance of the transport system itself (connectivity, inclusive mobility and their individual barriers) and the characteristics of individuals (personal circumstances), which often influence their travel – be it cost, psychological barriers, safety or inequality issues which they experience when using transport. All these components then come together to allow for transport opportunities, and inherently ‘good accessibility’.
Based on this, good accessibility should therefore be re-defined as the ease with which an individual or community can reach their desired activities, based on a set of measurable factors which go beyond those traditional accessibility matrixes, covering not only what we require for the public transport network in terms of service provision but how walking and wheeling options together with DRT and our built environments will improve accessibility. These should then be built into our wider vision for delivering and measuring good accessibility.
Delivery of our Local Transport Plan will require us to set a vision for accessibility clearly within our wider vision for delivery of 15 minute neighbourhoods within a 45 minute region, based on a combination of walking, wheeling and riding modes - that requires neither an expensive private vehicle or a full driving licence.
This will require a willingness to provide a good range of services in our neighbourhoods which can be accessed by “walking, wheeling, cycling or scooting” taking no more than 15 minutes, and a good range of places across our region to undertake work, leisure and socialising that can be accessed by “ride” modes within a 45 minute trip.
This vision also has to be combined with an appropriate mixture of land uses, connected through high quality public transport and a wider appreciation of how good accessibility will depend on transport, land use, and telecoms combined.
- TfWM will develop accessibility KPIs and targets to allow ongoing monitoring and improvement of people’s access to key services and opportunities by sustainable modes.
- We will ensure this new framework for accessibility is fully embedded in all decision making processes within TfWM, to deliver on good accessibility across all modes of the transport system.
- TfWM and its partners will adopt a decide and provide (rather than predict and provide) approach to new developments and associated transport enhancements.
- We will seek to deepen our understanding of the role played by land use planning and digital connectivity, alongside transport accessibility (through the triple access system) and aim to influence the inter-related mechanisms of these three areas to bring about better economic, environmental and social outcomes.
- TfWM will work with local authorities and developers to identify opportunities to enhance accessibility in local areas and new developments, including:
- Adopting 15 minute neighbourhood principles
- Providing good PT links
- Ensure excellent active travel links and permeability
- Providing car clubs and other shared mobility services
- EV charging infrastructure
We know that in the past, land use and transport policy has not always been joined up effectively and a more coherent approach is required, to improve people and place based outcomes and enhance our understanding and measures which then deliver on greater accessibility in the longer term.
We also know that significant amounts of new housing and employment development is required in the region to accommodate the forecast population growth. But even with new transport infrastructure serving new development, this growth will have implications for the wider transport network, particularly the cumulative impacts of new development. Left unaddressed, the positive impact of regeneration and growth will likely to be undermined or wiped out by unfettered traffic growth, if not handled carefully in policy.
Creating good, sustainable access to opportunities is therefore critical to this approach and will greatly help in delivering inclusive growth as well as in developing a successful, transport strategy, which is fully supported by complementary land use policy.
We must therefore continue to improve how new development is planned, designed and delivered (in a coordinated way alongside wider transport policy) to help minimise transport impacts and maximise the attractiveness and success of sustainable modes across all our communities.
Spatial planning goes beyond traditional land use planning to bring together and integrate policies for the development with other policies and programmes which influence the nature of places and how they function.
And while many of the spatial planning ambitions of our local authorities are localised - based on local authority boundaries, it is fundamentally important that cross-boundary collaboration takes place, with acknowledgement of the role TfWM can play at the strategic, regional level.
Our position in land use planning should be about us providing a transport vision for partners to consider through the transport objectives laid out in the LTP 5 and should be aligned within their own spatial plans. The transport objectives presented within the LTP 5 reflect key considerations for spatial planning which are framed around our 5 Motives for Change. TfWM can also help promote key strategic policies to achieve these ambitions including 15 minute neighbourhoods within a 45 minute region which then support local partners in providing a strong framework for local areas to employ in their own spatial planning and development priorities.
We especially acknowledge our role in supporting local authorities with their adoption of place-based approaches to development, through their local plan and its in our remit to influence and promote regional, strategic transport interventions outlined in the local transport plan.
We therefore fully recognise the importance of statutory local plan development undertaken by our partners and we aim to ensure all local plans reflect the regional priorities as illustrated within the LTP 5. This then facilitates opportunities within development to encourage sustainable travel while reducing private car trips, provide well-designed walkable and wheelable neighbourhoods with appropriate mixes of land use uses and densities for healthier and liveable communities, and enable access to opportunities for all people in the region.
TfWM will work alongside Local Planning Authorities to encourage new development in accessible locations by:
- Encouraging higher density development in locations with good accessibility close to high frequency transport corridors and hubs
- Promoting mixed use development which provide a balance of land uses – served by sustainable transport infrastructure and services
- Adopting a brownfield first approach
TfWM will collaborate with local planning authorities to ensure that all local plans and supplementary planning documents are accompanied by a robust transport evidence base and policy framework to maximise the accessibility and sustainability of new developments (in line with Planning Design and Principles Guide).
TfWM will ensure that any enhancements to the Key Route Network are co-ordinated carefully with local plan proposals along the corridor to maximise the benefits of investment.
We know that land use and transport policy could be better co-ordinated to deliver on a more coherent approach going forward. This would help provide more people and place-based outcomes and to enhance our understanding and measures which then deliver on greater accessibility in the longer term.
To help deliver on these issues, greater use of master planning should be explored, which if done effectively can help convey a more strategic and comprehensive approach to new development; ensuring sustainable transport infrastructure and shared mobility options are fully built into an areas vision and design from day one.
This is especially important for all large-scale strategic development. However, it’s also vital we consider smaller developments clustered together in a given area or corridor where individually they don’t generate significant levels of traffic, but when combined, their cumulative impacts can be significant. If we don’t address these cumulative impacts they can lead to long term transport implications and hinder effective growth.
Undertaking master planning will also help align our overarching principles laid out in the LTP core strategy with that of local plans as well as help capture good sustainable transport routes both through the development itself as well as beyond site boundaries to the wider, existing transport network. Therefore, master planning should be seen as a key tool for strengthening our partnerships with Local Planning Authorities, in delivering synergies within land use and transport planning and in helping to enhance people’s levels of accessibility within new development.
WMCA will support and encourage the use of Masterplans to help shape and inform new developments to enable their needs to be planned holistically. Masterplans can be used to help ensure that land is used efficiently while also creating high quality and sustainable places.
Transport issues should be considered from the earliest stages of plan-making and development proposals, so that the potential impacts of development on transport networks can be addressed and a range of transport measures coordinated and opportunities from existing or proposed transport infrastructure and services including changing transport technology and usage can be considered and realised.
Masterplanning allows new developments to be planned and delivered more effectively including appropriate opportunities for avoiding and mitigating any adverse effects.
We know that significant new development is planned over the coming years in the region and our ambition within the LTP5 is to deliver on better quality of life and places with safe, quiet and better street design which encourages active and sustainable travel modes.
We also know that how we design our streets, including the West Midlands Key Route Network (KRN) KRN, is vitally important in helping to influence travel behaviours and to create good places and promote good health and well-being.
Working closer with our partners including scheme developers will be essential to ensure design improvements to local, multi modal, transport networks are delivered and to mitigate the impact of new development on the transport network and the environment. We want new developments to be designed in ways which encourage low traffic neighbourhoods with local speed and access restrictions; parking management measures; and road space reallocation to riding, walking and wheeling; which through good design principles, will allow for good street environments to be developed which encourage sustainable travel.
In addition, for our long-term sustainable transport and growth ambitions to be delivered, designing development in the most sustainable manner, through ensuring that sustainable transport principles are embedded into the planning, design and future development of local plans and master plans for sites will be a core fundamental feature. This in turn will deliver a step change in sustainable land use and transport planning, ensuring that all new development is located in places with high levels of sustainable transport accessibility and services, with good ‘Streets for All’ design considerations being integral to transport schemes and contributing to making high quality places and promote good health and well-being.
WMCA will work with local planning authorities to develop a new Planning Design and Principles Guide, setting out how sustainable transport principles and triple access planning will be embedded into the planning process and any TfWM review of development proposals e.g.
- Formalising the sustainable travel hierarchy and guidance on design and funding of sustainable transport infrastructure and services.
- Providing guidance on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, logistics and servicing, car clubs, mobility hubs and other transport innovations.
- Guidance on embedding 15 minute neighbourhood principles in new development.
Over the last two years there has been a significant shift in demand towards home digital access and connectivity. There is a need to support the communities and businesses of the West Midlands and their ability to work, upskill and learn from home. This will also reduce the need to travel for work and reduce the overall demand on the transport network.
The pandemic saw a step change in the adoption rate of digital solutions and the digital revolution has now transformed the way we communicate and access many services. As the underpinning infrastructure, consumer devices and software continues to evolve we must continue to innovate so this supports our residents to live life to the fullest.
Digital connectivity alongside wider travel demand management measures can help to reduce the need to travel by providing residents with the ability to work, shop and access services such as medical appointments from home. In doing so we can reduce the number of trips made by car, improving air quality and creating more welcoming places for people to walk and cycle.
And whilst there are many opportunities for improving access by using digital technology, digital access is not simply interchangeable with physical access; and there are many requirements that still practically, need to be met through physical access and social interaction.
Good digital infrastructure is crucial for two reasons: to ensure that the digitally enabled transport services are reliable (such as Demand Responsive Transport (DRT)), and to give people better access to other services from home so they do not need to actually make some trips.
Ensuring that digital connectivity will benefit as many people as possible, will also require us to address our digital skills gap as well as the affordability barriers of those on lower incomes.
The West Midlands has areas of significant strength in digital. WM5G’s activities have secured the best 5G connectivity of any CA area. The region was selected for an initial pilot of the £5m ‘beat the bots’ digital retraining programme, and recently secured an additional £1.5m from Government. TfWM are widely recognised as national leaders in using data to drive service improvement, and have been crucial public sector partners to firms working on the future of mobility.
In 2021 the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and its partners published the West Midlands Digital Roadmap taking an evidence-based approach to digital connectivity. The roadmap recognises the potential of digital technology to transform the regional economy and build economic resilience.
This is clearly a new and emerging area and not fully understood within the context of accessibility more widely. Therefore, we need to tackle digital exclusion whilst ensuring the right balance is struck between facilitating digital access alongside physical access through mobility as well as through wider spatial planning.
WMCA will work with partners to reduce digital exclusion in our communities – through training, better digital service design and access to appropriate digital devices, taking forward the 5 Core missions as set out in the WMCA’s Digital Roadmap:
- Securing access for everyone to digital opportunities, particularly those in poverty
- Sharing and using data to improve people’s lives
- Becoming the UK’s best-connected region
- Realising the potential of digital to transform our economy and build economic resilience
- Using digital public services to build a fairer, greener, healthier region.
TfWM will work with its partners to build a better understanding of how digital connectivity and accessibility can and does support wider accessibility to services and opportunities in the West Midlands, including identifying locations and communities that are experiencing digital exclusion.
We will continue to build on our understanding of the potential benefits of digital connectivity – linked to wider work on accessibility and setting out support for the WMCA digital roadmap.
Transport Digital Platforms
Another factor is that our digital services have the chance to help build better digital skills in the public. Digital services need need to be inclusive in order to avoid the further exclusion of segments of the society with limited or no access to digital services. Transport is something we all use, so digital services for transport are likely to have wide usership. It is essential that we make our digital services and platforms as easy to use as possible, to serve all of the different demographics. This could potentially provide a springboard for some groups of people to use other digital services.
WMCA and local authorities have a range of tools for transport services with numerous digital platform. Digital apps such as the TfWM - Powered by Swift app, along with the various other Swift Payment apps are a key part of the local transport programme and can assist digital accessibility in two crucial ways. The first is by providing high quality information and services. In order for digital connectivity to improve transport services, the information provided needs to be accurate and up-to-date. This includes live train/bus/Metro times as well as route planning and best available tickets. If we can provide high quality digital services, this is a way that digital connectivity increases mobility. The digital services we provide are not limited to websites and applications, but also digital access points such as free Wi-FI at stations and interchanges, as well as live updates at stops.
Our transport apps, free Wi-Fi, live updates, etc., are all reliant on physical infrastructure to be up-to-date and well maintained. Furthermore, infrastructure put in place for transport objectives can also be used to support other areas where digital infrastructure is required. If transport infrastructure can support other areas, that can allow better services for a lower cost.
Another way that digital services can improve transport is with effective and transparent use of data. Any data we gather on the running of our transport system must be gathered for a purpose and help towards the effective movement of the public in the West Midlands. TfWM aims to publish data where appropriate.
TfWM’s Data Insight Team provides transport data services across West Midlands Combined Authority and our partners.
The service collects, analyses and reports on data.
Data is available on;
- traffic counts
- vehicle classifications
- public transport passenger counts
- road traffic collisions
- managed survey framework
TfWM and its partners will explore new opportunities to provide enhanced and inclusive travel information, transport services through enhanced digital platforms and by publishing transport data for others to use.