“The ethics of transport planning” – Professor Stephen Potter talks at the HCDI seminar on Friday 29th May 2009



Human Centred Design Institute® 

(HCDI) Seminar


Time: 12:00pm-1:00pm, Friday, 29th May 2009

Venue: Human Centred Design Institute, Brunel Design, London UK

Seminar: “The ethics of transport planning”

Speaker: Stephen Potter, Professor of Transport Strategy at The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.


Presentation slides –> http://www.slideshare.net/ajovalasit


Abstract :

This presentation will explore the ethical issues behind what appears to be a technical design process – that of transport planning decisions. It will draw upon the transport/land use designs explored in Britain’s new towns (and Milton Keynes in particular) which help to highlight the ethical decisions involved.

This will illustrate the way that the design of towns and cities affects our travel behaviour and constrains our ability to choose to travel in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Indeed, we can get locked into unsustainable travel behaviours and feel powerless to behave otherwise. This leads to the now prevalent negative attitude towards transport policy initiatives and often outright opposition to sustainable transport developments.

Urban design professionals argue that high density settlements are the main way that sustainable transport choices can be provided, as such designs produce conditions which make for good public, and also suppress car use. However, although such an approach is possible in major conurbations and city centres, this is a difficult and contentious approach for suburban Britain. For most places ‘big city’ design solutions are not politically viable.

Perhaps we should be looking to more innovative approaches. These could blend a variety of new measures, such as the ‘smarter travel’ initiatives as well as new emerging technologies. However these require a different way of doing transport planning to the traditional ‘big infrastructure’ transport policy approaches. New physical design approaches often require the redesign of the processes and structures to implement and manage them, and this may be the key barrier to success.


Speaker : Professor Stephen Potter


Stephen Potter is the Professor of Transport Strategy at the Open University. http://design.open.ac.uk/potter/index.htm

He is based in the Design Group at the Open University and has sought to develop a design perspective towards transport studies. He has undertaken research on a variety of transport subjects, including policies to promote cleaner vehicle technologies, low carbon transport systems and more sustainable travel behaviour. This work has included projects on the use of scenarios to identify innovation priorities in the UK railway industry, the design management of transport projects and managing the inputs of actors and users in the development of sustainable transport technologies. His most recent work in the latter area involves a new CEC framework study, U-STIR (User-stimulated radical transport innovations). He also well known for his work on the design of taxation measures to promote environmental objectives and is a member of the Green Fiscal Commission.

Other research work has concentrated on issues of design for the environment, and he is currently working with Professor Robin Roy and Dr Sally Caird on factors influencing the adoption and use of low carbon products and systems. This includes work funded under the Carbon Connections research programme in partnership with the Energy Savings Trust.

Stephen is also chair of the Open University’s Research Degrees Committee and leads a cross-discipline training programme for PhD students. This is linked with his book, Doing Postgraduate Research.



Human Centred Design Institute ® (HCDI)

HCDI is a University Research Centre (URC) that brings together expertise in Human-centred Design which combines methodologies and technologies from design, engineering, computer science, artificial intelligence and philosophy. Human-centred Design leads to machines, systems and products which are physically, cognitively and emotionally intuitive to their users. The Human Centre Design seminar series are events designed to encourage communication and teamwork with colleagues across the university and experts leaders in human-centred related topics http://www.brunel.ac.uk/about/acad/sed/sedres/dm/hcdi







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