Sixth annual Smarter Choices Survey of English Authorities

Published on Thursday, 13 September 2012 11:26
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Transport consultant JMP is undertaking the sixth annual Smarter Choices Survey of English local authorities in partnership with the Department for Transport. 

Each year the survey tracks progress in smarter choices policy and implementation, and provides a useful benchmark of how the use of smarter choices is changing.

2012 sees transport consultants JMP undertake the sixth annual Smarter Choices Survey of English local authorities in partnership with the Department for Transport.  JMP's Martin Higgitt, an Associate Director who leads the company's work in influencing travel behaviour and delivering programmes of smarter choices, takes up the story.  

"The sixth annual survey was issued last month, and it is therefore an opportune time to look back at some of the headlines from 2011.  Despite the funding barriers that have recently been experienced by many authorities smarter choices activity continues, and we hope authorities will respond to this year's survey."

Looking back at the results from the fifth annual survey in 2011, one of the principal findings is that the implementation of smarter choices measures is still continuing in the majority of Local Authorities.

In 2011, topical questions were included to cover the changing availability of funding, and explored what local authorities were doing to respond to this.  The responses from local authorities revealed that a wide range of funding sources has been sought. 

Funds have been successfully acquired from a number of these sources including opportunities with partners such as the health sector and from European funding streams.  The Local Sustainable Transport Fund has also been successfully accessed.

The types of smarter choices measures applied remain largely unchanged, with workplace travel plans, public transport information and car sharing still being implemented by the majority of local authorities.  There is however evidence to suggest that personalised travel planning projects are increasing.

Smarter choices measures are still seen as a tool to primarily address congestion and accessibility objectives within local transport policies.  The beneficial effects on the local economy and carbon emissions are also seen as important, although respondents to the survey do not see these as the most important objectives. 

However, with the increasing interest in smarter choices and their role in promoting economic growth, we also asked if any authorities have started to assess the economic benefits of the measures and prepare Benefit-to-Cost Ratios to illustrate this.  Almost 20% of respondents stated that they are now using this method to monitor and evaluate effectiveness of their smarter choices work.

Building local capacity and ensuring that there are strong links within the community is becoming increasingly important in delivering smarter choices.  Annette Smith, an Associate Director at JMP said "the message from these results supports the localism agenda.  Partnership working with community groups and residents has increased by 19%, from 50% in 2010 to 69% in 2011, and similarly, partnering with voluntary organisations and charities has increased by 16% (from 55% to 71%)."

Prospects for the year ahead were perceived to have improved by practitioners since the 2010 survey.  42% of respondents (compared to 11% in 2010) believed that smarter choices implementation will continue at the current level, and only 31% of respondents thought that smarter choices would be under threat due to funding cuts (compared to 60% in 2010).  A further 27% believed that smarter choices will become even more important as funding for other schemes deteriorates.

Results from the 2012 Smarter Choices Survey will be published in October.  A summary of key trends from the 2006-10 surveys is available here.

Source: ©JMP

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