Our final FTVG feature is on the About Community Engagement (Team ACE) project, formed of Katie Lamb from Transport for the South East, Agnese Polonara from Systra, with Abigail Harris, Carla Strimbei, and Ellie Hodges from WSP.
The project focuses on delivering “meaningful engagement”, particularly in rural communities. Meaningful engagement benefits everyone and improves the success of transport schemes, empowers communities, and has the potential to stimulate behaviour change – all of which have a positive impact on environmental, economic, and social well-being. Additionally engagement on contentious transport projects can be a key determiner of their success or failure.
Katie sets the scene further;
“Statutory engagement can often end up being a tick-box exercise and fail to reflect a true representation of people and their needs. This can lead to people feeling their input does not matter.”
Many factors are often quoted as barriers to engagement, from lack of interest from the public, to lack of time and resources. The team aimed to demonstrate how these barriers can be overcome in the context of engagement in rural communities, leading to the development of the ACE Toolkit – their website which acts as a one-stop-shop for engagement tips, tricks, and best practice.
Team ACE were brought together by a shared interest in rural mobility at one of FTVG’s collaboration workshops. Through the early stages of their project, FTVG provided funding and advice on how to focus their efforts.
“We were originally called the Rural Mobility Engagement Group, but thanks to the advice from the FTVG Steering Group, we decided to focus on engagement in rural communities as it is a key determining factor in the success of rural mobility schemes” said Carla.
In a rural setting, dispersed communities and more limited communication channels often mean that typical engagement methods aren’t always the most appropriate. This challenge formed the basis for the project as it began, as Agnese explains;
“Rural residents can feel left behind when it comes to transport planning, leaving many relying on personal vehicles or isolated due to declining public transport options. Effective and meaningful engagement is key to tackling these issues.”
With a defined rural focus, the project’s first phase delivered a literature review and industry insights survey, before testing some ideas in rural communities.
The team recognised the importance of testing any proposed new approaches with the rural communities they were targeting.
“We worked in partnership with Somerset Council to conduct initial engagement on their Local Transport Plan update” said Abby, “We are very appreciative of Somerset’s willingness to partner with us and their trust in our approaches and process.”
Starting with an online engagement survey, the team tested preferences for different engagement approaches as part of the Local Transport Plan update. They then hosted two public events in the villages of Dulverton and Watchet; and two focus groups with the Exmoor Focus Group and Somerset Bus Partnership, involving a total of nearly 300 participants.
The group reflected on the benefits and challenges this approach brought, with Ellie believing they were the most interesting and valuable activities on the project;
“These sessions gave us the possibility to test the findings and emerging tools. They were well received and offered engaging activities suitable for a variety of ages and abilities, generating discussion with several people asking questions about interventions”, she said.
Agnese agreed, adding; “It was interesting to hear how people talked about transport issues and needs of the whole community rather than just as individuals. This highlighted that engagement with rural communities can encompass the community as a whole, rather than specific issues impacting the lives of attendees.”
Carla noted that there were sometimes communication challenges when working in this environment;
“Sometimes we found it challenging to communicate the meaning of transport to our audience”, she said, “Some people did not engage, claiming that they did not use any form of transport, and they are unaware that this includes other topics including parking, roads, road safety, and active travel.”
However, the team took away some valuable lessons having been out to rural communities;
“Thanks to the presence of community leaders and elected officials during the activities, more people got involved” said Abby, “They provided a friendly-face that initiated introductions to the topic on our behalf.”
The findings helped the team to reflect on common mistakes and best practice for engaging with rural communities.
Based on the findings of their study, the team created the ACE Toolkit to provide a single source of information around how to start a conversation about transport, enable a co-creation process, gather support for a project, or find a solution to a transport issue.
These steps were summarised into an Engagement Roadmap which is now hosted on the ACE website to help guide anyone though the planning of an engagement event. Further resources including a worksheet and event planning checklist have also been created alongside this.
Ellie and Katie reflected on the two main lessons they took away from the project.
Ellie said, “For me this revealed the importance of community leaders and existing networks when starting out with rural engagement. Community leaders are well known, trusted ambassadors for their communities who understand the challenges, needs, and existing networks of communication of those we were engaging with best. We would encourage involving them as early as you can.”
Katie added “I also think it is important to ensure your messaging is clear and tailored. Our research highlighted the need to provide a feedback loop to ensure those involved feel heard and empowered to engage again. This sets a clear expectation of what their engagement means to the project, policy, or scheme. As part of our efforts, we provided follow ups and links back to our toolkit so respondents could see how their involvement shaped outcomes from our work.“
The team hope to build a bank of resources through their website, enhancing it with blogs and updates as their research evolves. They also wish to create a forum for rural engagement to be discussed amongst professionals that can truly pave the way from consultation to participatory engagement.
The groups key outputs can be found here:
In our second feature article about this year’s FTVG projects, we discuss the work done to research the benefits that could be generated by a different signalised junction configuration, known as the XT Junction.
The XT Junction team is formed of Omar M, a transport engineer for MDS Traffic Planners & Consultants, Elena Soboleva, a senior transport planner at Jacobs, plus Gautam Godavarthi and special adviser Steve Jones from Mott MacDonald.
Together with support from Emily Pittaway from Mott MacDonald on social outcomes, and Lior Steinberg from Humankind on urban planning, the project aimed to assess the potential benefits and drawbacks of the XT junction.
The XT Junction is a type of displaced right turn junction that has seen some limited use in the UK and USA. It reduces the number of conflicts at t-junctions by introducing a second set of traffic signals on one approach of the junction that enables drivers to get into position for making or completing right-hand turns.
Originally designed to improve traffic flows, the team wanted to examine how the junction provides a more holistic and equitable range of improvements for all road users.
Omar defined the project’s goal as; “To advance the modern transport agenda in terms of sustainable and inclusive transport infrastructure for the future and support the UK’s aspiration of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
FTVG provided funding support and access to expertise to contribute throughout the project. This support enabled the group to make wider connections and pursue research into the potential of the XT junction design.
The team modelled a range of hypothetical XT junction layouts varying in size and configuration using LinSig, Vissim, Sidra, and Infraworks software.
“We tested multiple scenarios using LinSig to benchmark the capacity savings and signal cycle time optimisation of the XT junction design compared to a standard T junction, with varying degrees of active travel provision”, said Gautam.
The team worked collaboratively across the UK, The Netherlands and Turkey to work through their ideas and consult with traffic engineering experts to ensure that their research was rigorous and informed. The team explored where their junction design could deliver benefits to other road users to meet some of the challenges raised during the consultation phase.
Lior came into the project with these concerns front-of-mind; “My initial reaction to the XT junction was ‘wow this is cool,’ but on second thoughts, I realised it could create more complexity and confusion, particularly for vulnerable users” he said, “But I came to see the potential of this innovation in reducing the need for wider roads and freeing up resources for active travel options. In the end, what may seem like a simple trick can lead to more sustainable solutions for all.”
The team found that the XT junction has the potential to increase capacity by up to 33% compared to a standard T junction, which can be used to benefit traffic flow, reduce congestion or improve crossing times for active travel modes.
The design can also potentially reduce operational carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 35%, which could help highway authorities and councils aiming to contribute towards the UK’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Commenting on the outputs, Elena said, “Our hope is that this inspires people to find innovative solutions to traffic problems without resorting to significant physical junction upgrades.”
The XT junction solution allows for more efficient use of the available space at a T-junction, creating additional capacity for both vehicular traffic and active travel modes without the need for major physical upgrades.
The team want to restart the debate about the use of XT Junctions in the UK as a way to deliver on Net Zero ambitions and cater to the needs of more sustainable modes.
“We realised that the XT concept, while similar to some existing junction designs, was different in how it could deliver improvements holistically across a range of user groups – not just motorised vehicles”, reflected Steve upon completing the project.
His colleague Emily added; “All social benefits we’ve found in the design would be very minor if we only delivered it at one or two locations. XT junctions would have to be rolled out on a larger scale for a tangible beneficial social impact to be realised, and these would to all need to incorporate pedestrian and cycling infrastructure to maximise the impact.”
The team’s next steps therefore are to promote the benefits of the junction to a wider audience and ensure the benefits they’ve calculated can be fully realised.
Reflecting on the road ahead, Omar concluded; “The outputs of the project could be used by transport planners and policymakers as part of their toolkit for improving the performance of t-junctions. The project’s results should encourage transport planners to consider alternative designs that provide holistic benefits to active travel users and vehicular drivers while reducing environmental impact.”
The team will be presenting their findings at this year’s Transport Practitioners Meeting in Greenwich, June 28th – 29th.
Links to their papers and explanatory videos can be found here:
FTVG are pleased to profile the findings from each of their projects this year, and participants’ reflections on taking part. Our first feature covers the Engaging Young People in Consultation (EYPiC) team; formed of Bernard Fanning, Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation at The Nichols Group, and Dr. Gemma Bridge, an independent researcher based in Leeds.
The project’s focus is to capture insights from young people (aged 18-25) to identify ways to better engage them in public consultations. The project also captured views from key stakeholders across the public sector to understand their perceptions of the barriers and enablers to youth engagement.
“We were both initially interested in researching new ways of reaching out to wider audiences in public consultation, such as augmented reality”, says Gemma, “But as we delved deeper into these techniques, we found there was a much broader issue around getting people to engage with public consultations in the first place”
Bernard added, “We found that current participation in public consultations is limited, particularly from certain groups such as young people. We decided to focus on this aspect in particular as we both felt younger people are often overlooked in the planning process.”
FTVG supported a series of networking sessions to bring people together with similar ideas, with both Gemma and Bernard joining the session on engagement. They were then matched with two mentors and supported through a series of project milestone meetings with the FTVG Steering Group.
“FTVG provide loads of support”, said Bernard, “From the initial pitches, to understanding what’s expected. We have been supported financially as well as academically. I really enjoyed the Steering Group sessions whereby you get insight and critique from industry experts. This really helped frame the project and ensure a great end product.”
The team conducted a literature review to identify barriers and opportunities to engaging young people in public consultations. They then conducted an online survey, which received over 250 responses, followed by three online focus groups with young people in England. They also spoke to a range of planning and consultation professionals to gain insights from the wider industry.
Gemma suggested that, “Collaboration was key for us; with both of us working remotely, we used various tools like Notion, Super and Canva to compile the findings from all stages of data collection and draw out the key themes.”
The group were keen to ensure diversity within younger demographics was adequately represented too. Gemma reflected on the work needed to ensure this was embedded into the project.
“We found it difficult initially to reach and engage with a diverse range of young people, but we were determined to make sure that we enabled as many young people to take part as we could. We used a survey recruitment platform called Prolific and we collaborated with gatekeepers like colleges and youth groups to ensure we got a good mix of young people involved”
“Getting young people’s insights was fascinating”, added Bernard, “We reflected on what we understood about consultation at that age which was also very eye opening. It helped to better understand what barriers they faced.”
The final interviews with industry experts helped to frame some of the issues and challenges and develop a clear and user-friendly set of recommendations.
Based on their research and industry feedback, Team EYPiC have now produced two support packs to give an outline to the tools and to better engage with younger people. This includes a pack for schools about the importance of consultations and engaging young people and a pack for local authorities and organisations running consultations to summarise the recommendations.
A valuable part of the process was then testing these outputs with the stakeholder groups once more.
“When doing research that affects a particular group of people, it is critical to collaborate with them as early in the process as possible, and include them when developing outputs so that the outputs are actually useful”, said Gemma.
Bernard agreed, adding, “This was an important point for me in learning how to run a research project well. Gemma was so adept as it is her background and skillset. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and learnt on the way how you can distil lots of data into key tangible takeaways.”
The group hope that these road-tested products can be genuinely helpful to transport practitioners in bringing more young people into the consultation process. Bernard hopes it helps to emphasise that young people should not be treated as a single homogenous group;
“I hope that we have given decision makers food for thought when looking to go to public consultation. Our tool helps them to think about objectives, the setting of the consultation and should lead towards better outcomes.”
Gemma wants the legacy of the project to lead wider industry change when it comes to engaging younger people;
“At the moment, there are no specific regulations in England that require young people to be included in public consultations. It would be great if our toolkit could be used to promote to raise the profile of young people in consultations so that they can get their voices heard.”
The group will be presenting their findings at this year’s Transport Practitioners Meeting in Greenwich, June 28th – 29th.
Their engagement materials and research can be found here:
The team’s webpages can be found here:
Our final project feature looks at a group looking to address an important gap in representation in public consultations.
Group members Gemma Bridge and Bernard Fanning met through LinkedIn and the collaboration workshops hosted through FTVG.
“I wanted to undertake a collaborative project with others in industry to be able to further explore the idea of how to better engage the community in planning processes”, said Gemma, an independent public and oral health researcher.
“I felt that it was an exciting prospect to deliver a product or solution outside of my day job” added Bernard, head of digital strategy and innovation at The Nichols Group, “I was inspired by the recent Gender on the Agenda campaign and thought I’d like to test myself to see if I could make a difference in a similar way.”
Both recognised that public participation in transport consultations is often limited; particularly from certain groups such as those from ethnic minorities, women, and people with disabilities. Representative voices from young people (aged 16-25) are also lacking.
However, the project started out originally from a mutual interest in Augmented Reality (AR) as a consultation tool.
“I’d previously been working on research around AR and presenting solutions to people”, outlined Gemma, “But I realised it was better to understand what people wanted rather than come up with a solution.”
Bernard added, “When Gemma proposed the concept of using AR in a consultation setting, something chimed with me; partly because of my day job and partly because I believe technology will become more integrated to our lives. We reflected upon this and decided to focus on understanding who may benefit from different types of engagement and why they don’t engage at the moment.”
The group are driven by a desire to encourage broader participation in the consultation process to ensure as many different views as possible to come to the table. They believe it is important that young people participate in transport consultations because they will be using new infrastructure more than most in the future.
However, the reality is often that current consultations have limited demographic coverage, so Gemma wanted to understand what was driving this lack of engagement among younger people;
“I would like to better understand what young people want so that they can be brought into the picture for consultations”, she said, “We got the ball rolling with a literature review to understand the landscape and then developed an online survey based on gaps emerging from previous studies.”
The team are preparing for a series of online discussions in November 2022 to provide a space to talk about the barriers to engaging in public consultations.
“We want to gather some comprehensive data and intelligence that planning authorities can use to engage as many people as possible between the ages of 18-25”, said Bernard “This will ensure young peoples voices are better included in the future.”
The group also plan to use the demographic information from their surveys to understand specific issues affecting different age groups and backgrounds and use this to tailor an advisory toolkit for use in the public sector.
The group hope to create some positive insights for local authorities and government on how young people would and wouldn’t like to engage in consultations. They also want to be able to highlight some of the key challenges and barriers young people perceive when it comes to consultations.
“The reasons for a lack of youth engagement are currently uncertain; people link it to limited attention spans, perceived lack of interest, or inaccessible documentation”, outlined Gemma, “But without the voices of young people, current consultations are inherently limited and biased.”
Bernard believes that with a better understanding of younger people’s attitudes to engagements, the group hope to contribute towards more inclusive decision-making.
“Better youth engagement would make cities and places more inclusive for people as we develop, and new modes and technologies are brought into cities and towns”, he said.
The group hope to grow a network within the sector and collaborate across the industry to realise these outcomes, as well as deliver a product that can have a lasting legacy for future transport and planning professionals.
A team from the UK, Turkey and the Netherlands has joined forces to investigate an innovative new approach to junction design. Taking inspiration and design principles from a junction type commonly used in the United States – the Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) – the team is testing a new T-junction layout called the “XT Junction”. The team hopes this new design can achieve capacity improvements, reduce delay, and lessen environmental impacts compared to more traditional engineering and signalling solutions.
The team is formed of Omar Mohsen, a transport engineer with MDS Traffic Planners & Consultants, Lior Steinberg, an urban designer and co-founder of Humankind, plus Steve Jones, Elena Soboleva and Gautam Godavarthi, transport specialists and modellers from Mott MacDonald.
The group came together through a combination of LinkedIn posts and meeting at conferences;
“I first met Steve at a conference in 2020 when he was presenting on the potential for the DDI junction design to be used in the UK”, said Omar, “I recognised some similarities between the DDI and XT idea and got in contact with Steve to see if he and his team could support taking this further.”
Steve added, “When Omar told me about his ideas, I was immediately interested and could see parallels with my earlier research work on the DDI. I was therefore only too happy to support the team to develop and test the concept further.”
Through producing a series of video-casts – Omar was able to enlist the support of Elena and Gautam from the Mott MacDonald modelling team, and Lior to offer people-centric and active travel expertise to the group.
“I was inspired by the DDI’s creative design and the people who were committed to confronting conventional thinking to achieve its realisation”, says Omar, “I’m passionate about seeking innovative ways to improve social and environmental outcomes through improving road conditions.”
The group are currently progressing with a literature review to illustrate how the DDI crossover idea has emerged.
Drawing from the features of the DDI, the XT design switches minor road traffic to the opposite side of the carriageway before entering the junction. This combines both movements to and from the minor road into a single conflict-free movement, reducing the number of traffic signal phases and improving safety. The layout can be accommodated within the current footprint of the junction and can even reduce the amount of carriageway required in the layout, releasing space for improved landscaping and active modes.
Once the group have demonstrated a proof-of-concept for the layout using theoretical examples, they will proceed with modelling the impacts of the junction design on real-life congested junctions.
FTVG is funding both the theoretical and practical tests of the junction layout.
Elena said, “We’ve been spending the past few weeks sketching the designs in InfraWorks and ensuring they meet UK standards, now we’re starting to simulate these in traffic signal modelling tools such as LinSIG and eventually on microsimulation platforms such as VISSIM.”
Gautam added, “What’s exciting at the moment is that we’ve started conversations with National Highways in the UK to provide us with traffic data and forecasts for a real-life case study. Using this data, we hope to replicate current congested conditions in our models and then illustrate how the XT Junction layout can address these”
The team have begun to test the new layout in VISSIM, which is already starting to yield some encouraging results.
The outputs from the traffic models will help to quantify the benefits of the new layout in terms of travel times and reduced congestion, applied to a specific case study.
It is hoped that with the design outputs and modelling results, the team can make a convincing case for change for implementing the new layout in practice.
By the end of the project, the team will produce a paper outlining how the XT Junction will:
“The profession of traffic engineers has been busy for decades with building bigger and wider roads to move more cars. It’s refreshing to have professionals who try to rethink from scratch the way we arrange the built environment” said Lior, “FTVG has connected like-minded people with a desire to deliver improved social outcomes through innovative and creative thinking.”
The initiative has provided a valuable platform for incubating idea, which the group hopes will deliver innovation in traffic engineering infrastructure, as well as professional development through being able to promote their ideas to the wider traffic engineering and transport planning community.
Over the next few weeks, FTVG will be featuring a series of project profiles for each of teams taking part in this year’s initiative. Our first project project feature looks at at ways to improve engagement with rural communities through the development of a Rural Mobility Toolkit. The team is made up of Ellie Hodges, Carla Strimbei, Abby Harris and Katie Lamb from WSP; and Agnese Polonara from Systra.
After hearing about the FTVG competition Laura Brooks, who successfully won the FTVG competition last year, the group from WSP decided to apply for funding. They formed a team with Agnese from Systra who took an interest in the project after seeing their post on FTVG’s LinkedIn page.
Speaking about her involvement, Agnese comments;
“I am taking part in this project because I have some experience in engaging with rural communities and I am aware of the importance that themes such as sustainability, climate change and economic growth have for them. Transport can play a big part in supporting the objectives of rural communities, and I believe that the toolkit we are developing will help other professionals like us creating fruitful conversations with rural communities.”
Collectively through their experience in transport planning, the team have seen disparities between public transport available in urban areas compared to rural counterparts. Ellie believes;
“It was important to focus on rural mobility. More specifically, we wanted to explore the obstacles and holdbacks for rural dwellers when it comes to behaviour change and uptake of different mobility solutions”
Through their work the team have seen how statutory engagement can often fail to reach a broad section of the local population, especially rural communities, and the way schemes are communicated can lead to residents being disinterested and feeling their opinions cannot influence schemes. Carla added;
“We would also like to understand what engagement techniques and communication strategies can effectively involve rural communities in transport decision making.”
After successfully receiving funding from FTVG, the team first sought to conduct a literature review to examine the work done to date in the rural mobility and public transportation fields, with a focus on engagement practices. Abby outlines this step further;
“We looked at a number of documents including ‘The Future of Rural Mobility Toolkit for Midlands Connect’, ‘The 30-minute rural community paper by WSP and Foot Anstey’ and the ‘Smart Villages and Rural Mobility paper by the European Network for Rural Development’, among others. We recognise the importance of reviewing a wide range of documents by various types of authors in order to gain a rounded perspective of the current situation.”
The next step for the team has been to create a survey to engage with transport professionals and local authorities.
“The survey explores experience of engagement and perception of current engagement practices.” said Ellie “We hope to gain a range of industry opinion before arranging in person focus groups to hear from rural residents. These workshops will allow us to have an in-depth conversation with local residents regarding their needs”
An online toolkit will be developed once all the findings have been collated. The goal is for it to be available for use by professionals, local authorities, and local residents in rural areas. This toolkit will be split into two parts: resources for professionals and LAs, and resources for residents and communities.
“The toolkit will provide materials to encourage and enable rural communities to actively participate in developing tailored rural mobility solutions that suit their daily needs and wider values.”
The team hope to gain a better understanding of challenges and opportunities of rural transport and to explore innovative engagement techniques. As well as providing a platform to enable better communication between transport professionals and rural residents, the team are looking forward to developing their professional skills and networks. Carla hopes that the eventual application of the toolkit will be very broad;
“We hope to build connections through networking with transport professionals across different companies. Furthermore, we hope to be able to share our findings with colleagues and apply our knowledge to rural transport projects going forward”
The team’s survey on rural engagement practices runs until 28th October.
A link to complete it is available here.
FTVG is pleased to announce four projects which have been awarded funding for the 2022/23 initiative.
The projects include:
Each team now begins an 8-month project development phase, with support from the FTVG Organising Committee and Steering Group to deliver their research and report back on their findings. The eventual winner of the competition will be announced in Summer 2023.
Visit www.ftvg.co.uk over the next few months to find out more about each project.
As part of this year’s FTVG initiative, five project groups pitched their transport research ideas across three collaboration workshops. These included:
Videos for some of these pitches can be viewed in the links above.
Invitations are now open to join one of these project teams and help deliver a collaborative, cross-sector research activity. If you would like to get in contact with any of these groups, email email@example.com
Once project teams are formed, all groups will be invited to submit their funding application to be considered by our Steering Group. If approved, funding will be provided by the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund to deliver these ideas over an 8-month period, and present them at the Transport Practitioners Meeting in Summer 2023. A prize of additional funding and promotion will be available to the winner of our “Outstanding Project” award.
After collating this year’s expressions of interest, FTVG is pleased to announce a series of online collaboration workshops to bring groups of like-minded people together.
This year’s forums will cover three topic areas, including:
The purpose of the forums is to turn individual ideas into team projects, and will focus on:
The forums are open to all and will be hosted between February 25th and March 4th and you can find Eventbrite links to sign up for each session in the links below. Following these sessions, we will be supporting participants to form into groups and to develop their initial idea into a funding submission – due for May 2022.
Following a successful inaugural year involving 5 project teams, the Future Transport Visions Group (FTVG) is now inviting expressions of interest for a new programme of research and development projects in 2022.
The initiative is targeted at people in the first ten years of their transport career, and provides a platform for them to develop research and innovation in collaboration with other like-minded professionals. Applications are open to:
FTVG fosters collaboration; drawing together individuals with similar interests and ideas across multiple organisations and geographies. All applicants entering the competition will be invited to a series of collaboration workshops to help form teams. These teams can then formally apply for funding through the initiative.
The format of the initiative has changed based on feedback from last year. It now includes an expanded programme, providing successfully funded teams with a 8-month window to undertake their project. This year’s initiative will culminate at the Transport Practitioners Meeting 2023, where all participants will get to present their findings, and the winner of our Outstanding Project Award will be announced.
The winners of the previous competition – the Gender Equality Toolkit in Transport – have gone on to speak at multiple conferences, and also received additional funding to develop their idea further.
Applications can be submitted via the “Expressions of Interest” button on the top right of this page.
You can find out more about the requirements and key dates here: