2. Options generation

Once problem identification, assessment and prioritisation are completed, a broad spectrum of options should be generated to solve the prioritised problems. Developing a range of reform and investment options is critical to addressing the problem effectively and achieving the best value from transport initiatives.

In generating options, the approach taken should include developing a full range of possible reform and investment options that consider supply and demand factors.

Options should address only the specific problems identified in Step 2. If there are other problems that could be addressed concurrently, these should not be considered when generating options. The focus of options generation is on the identifying options that address the problems identified.

2.1 A model for considering options

A model for generating options is shown below. This model is a useful analytical tool for ensuring that the full range of options is considered.

Figure 2: Model for generating options

Model for generating options

The model adopts a strong focus on reform initiatives, reflecting the potential of demand-side reforms to address many of the problems facing existing infrastructure networks. It is important that both reform initiatives and supply side solutions are carefully considered in developing options.

Reform options include:

2.1.1 Regulatory initiatives

  • Changes to the way both infrastructure and infrastructure services markets are regulated from a competition perspective – such as changes to regulatory regimes, access regimes, market structures and frameworks
  • Changes to the regulations surrounding markets – such as safety and environmental regulations, technical standards and licensing.
  • Changes to administrative and institutional frameworks – such as public service delivery processes, approval processes, coordination and cooperation processes, assurance processes, contractual provisions and funding agreements.

2.1.2 Better use initiatives

  • Technological innovations – including intelligent active management systems, intelligent transport systems, smartcards, smart metering and product technical standards (such as energy efficiency standards)
  • Influencing the way people behave – through workplace practices (such as flexitime and teleworking), commuter travel planning (such as ride sharing and encouraging walking or cycling for part of the journey to work) and providing information (such as timetabling)
  • Economic pricing and charging – such as the introduction of full economic pricing infrastructure, network charging and road tolls.[1]

2.1.3 Land use reform

  • Development planning controls – such as measures to encourage higher density development, limit car parking provided with new developments and require developments to include active travel facilities
  • Changes to land use planning to provide a land use solution to infrastructure problems and better integrate land use and transport decisions.

2.1.4 Service reform

  • Increased services – through new routes, more frequent services and longer operating hours
  • Improved integration between modes – such as better coordinated timetables and interchange arrangements
  • Other reforms designed to improve services – such as priority measures for public transport, fare reform and improved information for customers.

Importantly, options should contribute to meeting the transport system objectives and targets defined in Step 1.

2.2 Thinking broadly

It is important to think broadly in developing options to solve transport problems.

2.2.1 Consider reform and investment solutions

Increasingly, many Australian jurisdictions are focusing on reform solutions as a core element in transport planning. This aims to achieve a better balance between reform and investment solutions and focus on low cost solutions to deliver better transport outcomes.

When working through the options generation process, the real risk of ‘gold plating’ capital investment solutions should be acknowledged. Practitioners should carefully consider the alternatives to these options. For example, as shown in Figure 3, options to reduce congestion along a particular road corridor may include making better use of the existing network through smarter traffic management or changes to the adjoining road hierarchy, promoting ride sharing in workplaces along the corridor, providing facilities to encourage bus travel and changing future land uses near or along the corridor.

2.2.2 Pricing

Pricing is an effective tool for managing demand on transport networks. Practitioners need to genuinely consider pricing and the full range of potential benefits it can deliver.

For example, tolls can lead to more efficient allocation of road space. Tolls also maximise the value for money for both new and existing transport capacity by allocating scarce road space to the highest value use.

Pricing can also attract private sector investment in transport infrastructure through generating revenue streams.

2.2.3 Consider packaging and sequencing

A critical element in options generation is to consider how individual options can be packaged together or sequenced or better coordinated for a more efficient and effective outcome.

Practitioners need to be open to the idea that the most suitable option may include a combination of different options: for example, user charges coupled with introducing bus lanes.

Practitioners should also consider the sequencing of options. In some instances, capital investment should only take place after other reforms are in place. It may be possible to adopt lower cost reform measures to avoid or delay large capital investments. It may also be possible to make low cost capital investments in the short term to delay larger scale investments.

2.2.4 Focus on integrated solutions

The integrated nature of the transport system should also be considered. Options with a narrow focus are less likely to be effective. When developing options, practitioners should be alert to solutions that:

  • Incorporate different modes of transport
  • Encourage active travel
  • Improve transport connectivity and accessibility
  • Support or drive desired land use changes.

Practitioners should also recognise that an option that solves a particular problem on one part of the transport system may cause or exacerbate problems in other parts of the system.

2.2.5 Be open to innovative solutions and new ideas

The understandable tendency to concentrate on types of solutions that have been adopted in the past should be resisted, as it can lead to potentially successful new options being dismissed or overlooked at an early stage.

The range of potential options is continually expanding due to new technologies, a better and broader understanding of the impacts of different solutions, and the ability to disseminate highly customised data to users of the transport system.

Tightly targeted road pricing, monitoring and enforcement of high occupancy vehicle lanes, real-time public transport arrival information and smartcard ticketing are just a few of the options that have emerged in recent years. Practitioners should be open to innovative options, even if these options are untested.

2.2.6 Think outside the transport system

In some instances, solutions may be outside the transport system. For example:

  • Offering shopping vouchers or free grocery delivery for people who use public transport to travel to their local shops may encourage more people to visit the centre by bus or train.
  • Changes in land use that lead to increase in residential areas and shops may change the number and direction of people movements within and between precincts.
  • Landscaping a park to make it safer and more pleasant for pedestrians may increase the number of people walking between their homes and a train station.

Understanding the root causes of problems is critical to thinking outside the transport system. This may require casting the analytical net wider to obtain additional evidence and a wider range of data and information.

Practitioners should also consider packaging these kinds of solutions with ones focused directly on the transport system.

Turning these solutions into initiatives may require collaboration with private sector partners or government agencies outside the transport portfolio.

2.2.7 Bring the right team together

Having the right people in room when options are discussed is important: the people present must have both the capability and the authority to think broadly about potential solutions. Options generation can benefit from top-down thinking that considers wider transport strategic plans and bottom-up thinking that focuses on solving a particular problem. This requires input from practitioners with expertise in strategic planning as well as those with expertise in project planning.

The following figures illustrate possible reform and investment options for two transport problems.

Figure 3: Generating options - two examples

Generating options - two examples

[1] The Austroads Guide to Traffic Management provides complementary guidance on the efficient use and management of roads