Influence of professionals in urban transport planning


WHAT has prompted and fuelled the use of private cars in developing nations?

Whilst population, land-use and the search for employment may have played some role, experts argue that professionals or decision makers are partly to blame.

The practice of ‘predict and provide’ by engineers has created additional problems to urban transportation.

The problem with many engineers is that they have adopted in their professional practice, aims which emphasise the operational aspects of transport systems rather than the system’s contribution to development.

Perceptions of engineers, being the largest professional group in the urban transport sector, tend to carry a lot of weight or influence.

In Third World countries, engineers have an overall influence on development, and some transport professionals remain wedded to engineering solutions based on meeting rather than managing travel demand.

Thus, the preoccupation and obsession of many of these road/highway engineers with issues of optimisation have led to problems of congestion.

Where theories and techniques of road capacity optimisation, and measures of traffic flow efficiency were first developed in the West, such applications were found unsuitable in poor developing countries where mixed traffic is very common (non-motorised and motorised traffic).

Today, the role of the car and roads seems to have been reversed; originally the motor vehicle was designed for roads.

Today, however, they are designed to suit the city.

While the motor vehicle was fitted into the pace of life; life today has to be adapted to the speed of motor vehicles.

Instead of asking “What’s transportation for?”, roads have been designed to become suitable outlets for the car industry, rather than a convenient mode of transport for the people.

The Malaysian Institute of Planners (Sarawak and Sabah Chapter) is organising an International Public Transport Conference with the theme ‘A Platform for Change’ at the Borneo Convention Centre, Kuching on Aug 4-6.

A total of 10 speakers will be sharing their knowledge and experiences on this subject.

The focus is on the practical strategies, collaboration of the stakeholders and exchange of workable ideas that will assist the conference participants in carrying out the works — ranging from the planning of urban transport strategies to the implementation of urban transport projects.

The institute invites you to join us for this international gathering of experts, practitioners and campaigners dedicated to promote sustainable urban public transport.

Go to the official website at for details.

The writer is a member of the Malaysian Institute of Planners. Opinions expressed are his own and information quoted is from various sources and literature used by the writer in his academic research.