Does the Mayor know how broken TfL’s models are?

Andrew Gilligan has publicly admitted several times that the models used by TfL to forecast the consequences of changes in the road network are broken.

Although mathematically complex, these models are based on wrong assumptions, namely that transport users are automatons that can’t/won’t/don’t change behaviour. The reality, repeatedly demonstrated by many, following the lead of Professor Goodwin and Sally Cairns, is that people adapt to new circumstances by changing the time or the mode of travel.

The result is a typically British exercise in futility and waste: millions of pounds are spent in preparing studies that:

  • are intellectually meaningless (GIGO)
  • feather the pockets of unscrupulous “consultants”
  • block real change

We have repeatedly said that a much more useful exercise is to examine what happens on the ground when long-term roadworks occur.

We go further: we suggest that, when long term roadworks need to be implemented, it is a golden opportunity to plan and execute experiments with the view of establishing permanent motor traffic reduction.

We therefore welcome Caroline Russell’s Question to the Mayor on this topic (below), but it seems Sadiq Khan doesn’t understand the issues.

Capturing data on temporary road closures Question No: 2016/1980 Caroline Russell
TfL does not routinely collect data on temporary road closures or changes, in terms of traffic levels, changes to peoples’ travel patterns and satisfaction with travel conditions. Do you agree that this is a missed opportunity to gather evidence to support changes that could encourage more active travel and if so should TfL start routinely gathering this evidence, for example during the three month closure of Tower Bridge?
The Mayor
TfL routinely collects anonymised data from a network of over 1,590 Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras as well as traffic signals and automatic traffic counters. This enables investigation of changes in traffic levels and patterns, and travel behaviour during temporary closures or changes to the network. Since 2010, the TfL Road Network Customer Satisfaction Survey has helped provide TfL with a better understanding of road users’ expectations. TfL is supporting customers, road users and stakeholders including local residents and businesses ahead of the City of London’s closure of Tower Bridge by providing information and advice to reduce disruption to their journeys. I have asked TfL to monitor traffic levels, patterns and road users’ response to this closure and to adapt advice and information accordingly.

The problem with Khan is that so far he has approached answering questions from Assembly Members in an arrogant non-informative way. So we cannot tell: did he not understand or did he choose to provide a non-answer?

We urge Russell to ask again, giving more concrete examples. Here are two:

  • Transport for London is planning to remodel Old Street Roundabout; will it take this opportunity to examine the effect of curtailing through traffic on the Old Street/ Clerkenwell Road corridor?
  • Tower Bridge is a very unpleasant bridge to cycle on. The carriageway is narrow; if one plans for two cycle lanes there is space for only one motor traffic lane; so the best solution is to make Tower Bridge one way, with alternate direction in a.m. and p.m. Will TfL study the changes in travel patterns during the closure to validate a plan to make Tower Bridge one way?
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