News | Projects | 15 March 2022
Why the Manual for Smart Streets will help level up authorities’ transport technology

ITS Policy lead at the Department for Transport, Darren Capes writes:

Different Local Authorities have very different approaches to delivering traffic management. Some have a large amount of roadside technology, fully-staffed control rooms and a large amount of expertise. Most may only dream of this.

There are very good reasons for this. Different authorities have different political priorities and pressures that often focus more around high pressure areas like education, adult social care and children’s services than they do transport. Authorities look after widely differing networks, have different transport policy aims, and different priorities. The challenges are exacerbated by the fact that we need to meet some fairly major challenges over the next few years around preparing for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, around decarbonisation, around access to transport, micro mobility and a whole range of other things. These mean that not only are we asking local authorities to continue to be good at the job they do and provide best value and good quality services, we’re asking them to address a whole range of new policy challenges that will require new technologies, new ways of working and new types of intervention.

The Manual for Smart Streets is a major new reference document for local authorities to guide authorities in using technology to deliver service, both existing and new. It provides roadmaps to help local authorities in using technology to deal with traffic and travel management now and in the near future. This includes how traffic signals will develop to connect to vehicles into the future, how new sources of data can link into implementing other services in the local authority, information for how people could move around, and how technology can provide a wider control and management of the network to the local authority.

The Manual is written to help ensure that every Local Authority starts to think about the fact that the coming ten years will see a change in transport in a way that we haven’t seen before in our lifetimes, and I think people need to appreciate that need to have the skills to be ready to react to that.

Before moving to the Department for Transport four years ago, I had spent my entire career working in road construction, traffic and transport for Local Authorities, and I like to think this experiences gives me a slightly unique position in having sat on both sides of the fence. I understand that for many authorities, in fact for most authorities, transport isn’t top of the agenda in terms of what the public and elected members want but is in many ways the ‘oil’ that allows everything else to function effectively. It’s also true that increasingly capable vehicles, apps and services will lead to growing expectations among the public of how transport should work and be delivered to them.

If transport is going to get any kind of funding – if it’s going to get any kind of recognition at a local level and any kind of support from local councillors, those responsible for its delivery have to be able to tell the story of why technology is important to make cities and counties and regions better, and so we have to equip those people to be able to do that.

This is where the manual for smart streets is very important because it’s about thinking about the ‘use cases’ transport can support and linking the technology required to do this to the benefits it can deliver for wider society.

Published back in 2007, the Manual for Streets has become an essential document for anyone delivering a local road network. The Manual for Smart Streets will become a sister resource to that and just as essential in the months and years to come.

The Manual for Smart Streets is officially launched on Monday 21 March.  Sign up here.

(Picture – TTF)