2. Policy choices or settings

Governments make high level strategic policy choices (both transport and non-transport) as direction-setting decisions. They are made at senior levels of government, involving the minister(s) with responsibility for transport, but typically include other ministers and cabinet.

Chapter 1 flagged the question of whether policy choices are inputs or outputs. It is proposed here that they can be both.

Non-transport policy choices made by governments are clearly inputs to the transport infrastructure planning process: for example, government policy choices related to the economy. However, transport considerations can be important inputs to non-transport policy and planning processes.

Once a focus on the planning for transport is adopted, several situations can arise. Figure 2 shows transport policy choices as an ‘output’ of the highest level of planning for transport. In that process, the ‘objectives-problems-options’ focus means that policy choices, like other outcomes in the ATAP Framework, will be aimed at pursuing the goals and objectives identified in Step 1, and will be based on sound evidence-based assessment.

Such a structured approach, with policies as outputs, may not always be feasible. In many cases, policies are already set by government (policy settings) and are therefore ‘inputs’ to the system planning process.

In practice, both of these situations can apply. For example, policy choices may be fixed when a government is first elected. However, as time passes, the government may revise its policy choices based on stakeholder engagement and strategic advice resulting from the planning process.

Like goals and objectives, policy settings often change when there is a change of government.

Policy choices often address systematic issues that occur repeatedly across the system, such as road congestion. Key high level strategic transport policy choices or settings can include:

  • The relative roles of land use initiatives and transport initiatives
  • The relative roles of different modes (e.g. preference for greater use of public transport in urban areas, or an increased share of freight to be moved on rail where feasible)
  • The relative roles of transport investment/infrastructure and reform/non- infrastructure solutions (see F3)
  • The relative role of making best use of existing infrastructure (e.g. traffic management) and building new infrastructure
  • The priority of initiatives in particular locations (e.g. regional and remote locations)
  • The relative emphasis on maintenance and rehabilitation compared to new capital works
  • Total funding for transport and aspects of its allocation (e.g. pools of funds by purpose, category or program; priority funding for particular locations or outcomes; funding for specific issues or types of initiatives)
  • The roles of the public and private sectors (e.g. in the finance, design, construction, ownership and operation of motorways)
  • Positions on partnering arrangements (e.g. ATC processes, alliances, public private partnerships) between different levels of government and between government and the private sector.

Agencies and transport organisations also make lower level ‘operational policy’ decisions (e.g. the rostering of bus drivers). Those decisions should be consistent with, and in the context of, the strategic policies. Operational policy is not considered further here.