As we look to rebuild our economy, and signs of life begin to return to offices/construction sites, it will be interesting to assess the likely short to medium term impact that the “new normal” is expected to have on consumer behaviour for our preferred modes of transport, and the knock on effect for how we use our town and city centres.
As the lockdown lightens, the use of cars, bicycles or walking, will continue to be preferred ways of getting around. However, as we see changes to working patterns unfold, ongoing restrictions for shopping and leisure use and the distance one can realistically travel on foot or bike, the desire to “stay local” is likely to lead to a reduction in public transport use , and an increase in demand for these ‘’isolated’’ modes of transport.
These changes in behaviour will lead to a number of challenges along the way, not least for consumers , for whom health, wellbeing and a focus on the environment will continue to grow in importance, but for whom the desire to increase car use could conflict with their principles, and with the continued drive to improve sustainability and meet the Governments targets.
Government initiatives to improve public transport and encourage sustainable modes such as car sharing, or park and ride to meet sustainability policies and targets will conflict with requests to maintain distance, and the desire to protect health which the use of isolated transport can provide.
How will decades of transportation growth adapt to allow consumers to access town centres? For transport users:
- Those consumers willing to continue to use public transport are less likely to accept travelling on crowded trains, buses and trams , especially at peak times.
- In addition to the increased focus on localism, consumers will want to travel less far, less regularly, and at ‘’off peak ‘’ times for both work and leisure , to lower cost and to distance.
What do we anticipate Councils and developers should consider for successful town centres and their regeneration strategies?
- Transport policies and strategies will need to be flexible to reflect this “new normal”.
- Towns centralised around their transport hubs will need to consider the new norm for working and travel practices
- True mixed-use developments will be needed to attract footfall and be flexible in their use and adaptability.
- Strategies will need to strike a delicate balance between accessibility and sustainability.
- Lease flexibility , more than ever , will be needed.
As the economy strives to move on, and habits continue to change such as the even greater dependence on technology, now more than ever Town and City Centres are competing with the home as a place to work, shop and socialise. If they are to thrive, then transport options need to be more flexible to adapt to the new norm.