Over dimensioning transport infrastructure is as bad as under dimensioning. Planning the road access system of the largest planned Retail Park proposed by Lend Lease in Pescaccio, Rome, is a good example of this dichotomy. Previously planned and designed over-dimensioned infrastructure had led to negative financial results that rendered the investment unfeasible. Systematica was called at a later stage to propose an alternative solution, peer reviewing the initial proposal and presenting a new Transportation Plan, re-questioning planning principles and demand assumptions.
To cut a long story short, the reduction of around €150m of the previous estimate of €250m was achieved and feasibility was proven through scientific evidence.
The success of the above achievement can be summarized in two major elements on which the study was pivoted. The first is travel demand estimate. Travel demand is a determinant element in the transport and infrastructure planning process. Said forecasting exercise can be based on existing Trip Generation manuals however can also be tailor-made and based on visitors’ forecasts, availability of alternative transport modes, comparative-cum-empirical analysis of similar structures in the vicinity, etc. Despite the solid base of case-based Trip Generation manuals, they often fail to comprehend and address the case specificity of different projects. Commercial analytical tools are considered to be highly informative, being based on the user population within the Project’s catchment area and are worth being used for transport forecast purposes.
The second aspect is related to a culture of transport planning hinged on heavy infrastructure proposals, free flow solutions, etc. This has historically been questioned (and often doubted) by Systematica, primarily for its urban quality concerns that prevail on traffic engineering surgical solutions for a problem that is often unsolved (as it creates others!). The proposed Transport Plan distributed investments on various parts of the network, aimed to leverage the potentials of existing and planned transport connections and avoid additional and independent access infrastructure. The benefit of this “acupuncture approach”, against a surgical one, are dual and represent a certain win-win condition. On the one hand, the upgraded infrastructure is used by city users during retail off-peak hours, such as the rush hour and often create new connections that would increase route choice options and reduce travel distances. On the other hand, by using and upgrading existing infrastructure the public benefits from the continuous maintenance efforts that the Private sector would be interested in for its own benefits.
At times, a few sound principles can make things happen; if those principles are based on doing less, then it is even better for all: network commuters, retail users, the Public Administration and, not least, the Private Investor.