2. Stage 1: Problem identification

The aim of this stage of the Framework is to identify and describe the problems that are preventing the goals and objectives defined in the previous step from being achieved.

Problem identification provides the platform for investigating a broad range of interventions and generating options. Initiatives developed in subsequent steps of the Framework should address the problems identified here.

The process of problem identification involves the development of clear, straightforward problem statements that can be linked directly with the specific goals and objectives already identified in Step 1. These statements should clarify how the problem might prevent the achievement of these goals and objectives.

Problem statements are tested and refined through more detailed analysis undertaken as part of problem assessment and prioritisation (see sections 3 and 4 below).

When identifying problems, the following should be taken into account:

  • Problems prevent the goals and objectives identified in the previous step from being achieved. This should include the full range of objectives identified in the previous step – including objectives for different levels of planning and markets (see F1, section 3.1).
  • Problem identification should consider not only ‘problems’ or ‘challenges’, but also constraints on opportunities that are preventing the goals and objectives from being achieved.
  • Identification should be based on empirical observations, such as data and information obtained from surveys, demand modelling, interviews and studies from a wide range of sources.

Problem identification should result in problem statements that describe the nature of the problem facing the transport system and its components.

2.1 Scoping the problem

When scoping problems, the following should be taken into account:

  • The scope of a problem should be defined by what is preventing the achievement of the objectives.
  • Problem identification should not be confined to existing situations or issues. Emerging and potential future problems should also be considered.
  • Problems can be different for the various planning levels. For example, achieving a goal of reducing road crashes may require a specific engineering ‘fix’ at the link level (such as safety barriers or road widening), a series of rest areas at the corridor level and safety education initiatives at the network level.
  • Problems should be seen as multidimensional. It is important to ‘cast the net wide’ when identifying problems. This means considering the full range of economic, social and environmental factors and canvassing a broad spectrum of potential problems, such as accessibility, business needs, availability, prices/cost, capacity, emissions and safety.

In scoping the problem, it can be helpful to map out what the problem is and its relationship to transport system objectives. A couple of mapping techniques can be used to undertake this exercise. The techniques are:

  • Investment Logic Mapping
  • Benefit Dependency Mapping.

The techniques are discussed further in T6. These techniques may assist in gaining an early understanding of the problem and its relationship with transport system objectives, and in identifying the underlying rationale for an intervention.

Investment logic mapping goes a step further and maps out early concepts for potential solutions to the problem, which are then properly assessed in Step 3 (see F3).