Monash University
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Travel plans for new residential developments : insights from theory and practice

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posted on 2017-03-01, 00:19 authored by De Gruyter, Christopher
Continued demand for new housing development is expected to add further pressure to existing transport networks and services in many urbanised areas. Given these challenges and a limited ability to add more capacity to the transport network, it is appropriate to consider the role of demand-side strategies, such as travel plans. Travel plans aim to manage car use among building occupants by providing a package of site-specific initiatives and facilities that support access by more sustainable forms of transport. They can be required through the land use planning and approvals process for new and expanded buildings, such as offices, schools and residential developments. However, there is a limited understanding of the effectiveness of travel plans when applied to new residential developments. Furthermore, the implementation of travel plans at new residential developments has not been sufficiently explored. This thesis aims to assess the effectiveness of travel plans for new residential developments and identify opportunities to enhance their effectiveness. A mixed methods approach comprising five key research components is adopted to achieve this aim, including the application and integration of both implementation theory and planning enforcement theory. The first component involves a survey of councils to examine the scale of travel planning practice for new urban developments in Victoria, Australia. Results show that half of the councils had previously required a travel plan for a new development, primarily to offset the impact of less car parking being provided. Around 100 travel plans were found to be required during 2010-12 alone, yet 80% of councils had not monitored any of those travel plans. The second component develops an appreciation for the perspectives of industry actors involved in travel planning for new residential developments through a set of interviews. This shows general support for travel plans at new residential developments, but limited confidence in the ability to implement them successfully. Implementation challenges were found to centre on a lack of enforcement, uncertainty regarding implementation responsibilities, and a general of lack of ownership of travel plans when applied to residential settings. The third component provides an assessment of the quality of travel plans prepared for new residential developments against a best practice framework. This shows considerable scope to improve travel plan quality, particularly in estimating expected travel patterns of future building occupants, specifying how the travel plan will be managed and implemented, and outlining clearer processes for monitoring and review. The fourth component provides an assessment of the effectiveness of travel plans at new residential developments. A set of multi-modal trip counts reveal that car use at new residential developments with travel plans was 14 percentage points lower than matched control sites. In addition, it provides some preliminary evidence of residents ‘self-selecting’ into developments with travel plans, with this accounting for a relatively small yet non-trivial proportion of observed differences in travel behaviour. The fifth and final component views the research findings through the lens of both implementation theory and planning enforcement theory to identify opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of travel plans for new residential developments. Short-term enhancements include greater ownership and engagement of ‘implementers’, improvements to travel plan quality, provision of guidance material and training, and a more pro-active and facilitative style of enforcement. Long-term enhancements include sound planning requirements, a stronger industry focus for residential travel planning and ensuring an adequate number of technically competent staff are available for enforcement. An integrated theory of implementation and enforcement, with consideration to both top-down and bottom-up styles of implementation, and both facilitative and systematic styles of enforcement, is developed to guide future travel planning practice. This thesis provides a number of original contributions to knowledge in the field of travel planning for new residential developments. Overall, it is concluded that while travel plans can be effective in reducing car use at new residential developments, a number of opportunities can be realised to enhance their effectiveness. Acting on these opportunities will require sufficient resources and commitment. However, this will ultimately improve the way in which travel plans are developed, implemented and monitored at new residential development into the future, thereby supporting a greater uptake of more sustainable forms of transport.


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Principal supervisor

Geoffrey Rose

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Department, School or Centre

Civil Engineering


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Engineering

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