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blog: Wow, ITP is 20 years old!

Author: Colin Brader
We can be heroes...

Wow ITP is 20 years old! In 1998 I left mainstream consultancy driven by a belief there is room in a commercial world for consultants that want to make a real difference to the way we travel, and that convention is always there to be challenged; ITP was born.  

Time often makes you reflect, and so often the conclusion is “Well it was better in the old days”! Was it? The birth of ITP coincided with the launch of the ‘New Deal for Everyone’ Transport White Paper that sought to integrate transport and land use, quickly followed by a series of daughter documents including From workhorse to thoroughbred: a better role for bus travel. Happy days, and wasn’t it just so obvious; integration and public transport, all topped with the real prospect of charging for scarce road space.  All of this riding on the back of the SACTRA report that stated, and showed, that building roads leads to more traffic. 

Colin Neil Kinnock Square

Hope was infectious, and at that time even sustainable development was possible. Urban extension proposals were attached to almost every city. In Northampton and Cambridge ITP worked on facilitating growth through high quality public transport – hitting all the right bells and blowing all the appropriate whistles. Then it all started to crumble a little. The dream faded as the White Paper was put to one side, edge of town development was put under review and SACTRA treated like it never existed.

At that time, I really thought the transport planning profession was at last able to play its right and proper role in moulding the ways our cities work.  At last, our thoughts and feelings were on the table, with little compromise.  Obvious maybe, but not always popular or perceived to be electable!

Brt Lagos Square

Nevertheless, challenges abounded. Maybe the fundamental change we sought to be part of could be replaced by a nudge in the right direction. Our work on safe routes to schools developed into smarter choices, the Government guidance we wrote on car clubs and car sharing is still acknowledged. Even if in the UK we had to think of small acorns, overseas we scaled some significant oak trees. Being ever-present from conception to operation of Lagos BRT-Lite, Africa’s first and still most intensely used BRT line, was a proud moment.

… just for one day?

So now we find ourselves with much the same problems as those of 1998, but without the policy framework to support the changes for which we hoped. What now seems to drive our thoughts is not the problems of movement, but how best to use technology. Often it feels to me like we are holding a gun the wrong way around. Zero-emission autonomous vehicles are a near-certainty, but their implications are still to be worked through. They are undoubtedly an answer to a problem, but the jury is out on quite what that is. Greater autonomy in transport, as well as the way it affects how we shop and work, will have a fundamental affect upon our cities, and how we use and access them. It feels to me that it has never been more important for transport planners to understand the continued evolution of the city, understand people, understand motivations and articulate desires – essentially, what we need to thrive and grow.

So, the exciting times are ever present, challenges are always there, and our spirit of adventure and challenge is not diminished. At ITP we encourage all our staff to jump headlong into the issues facing society and mobility in the 21st Century, to not be afraid of being unconventional, and to make their voices heard – we know “we can be heroes” and we are confident that it can be for more than just one day!

Colin Brader is ITP’s founder and Chairman

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