Appendix M Workshop on Wider Economic Issues of Road Maintenance
Record of Meeting
Roads Maintenance Review - Wider Economic issues, impacts, costs and benefits
Workstream Meeting 7 - 18 August 2011, Perth Museum
Present Karl Johnston (KJ) Economic Adviser; Donald Morrison (DM) Head of Asset Management, Finance and Technical; Raymond Convill (RC), Trunk Roads Policy (All Transport Scotland); Jim Valentine (JV) Perth and Kinross Council, SCOTS Chair SCOTS Vice-Chair; Jane Horsburgh (JH) Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland; Iain Docherty (ID), Professor of Public Policy and Governance, University of Glasgow; John Lauder (JL), Sustrans; Keith Irving (KI) Living Streets, Scotland; Neil Greig (NG) Director of Policy and Research, Institute of Advanced Motoring; George Mair, Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) (part 2 only)
Richard Abell (RA), TRL
Apologies: Ewan Wallace, Aberdeenshire Council; George Eckton and Mirren Kelly (COSLA); Professor Stephen Glaister (SG), Director RAC Foundation and Professor of Transport and Infrastructure, Imperial College London; and David Eaglesham (DE), Road Haulage Association
Item 1: Welcome and Introductions
JV welcomed to Perth members of the Workstream as well as specially invited guest speakers. This meeting would have a different format with a series of presentations on roads and public realm, and Richard Abell of TRL would provide a presentation on TRL's report on "Economic Impacts of Changes in Maintenance Spend on Local Roads in Scotland". JV explained that up to this point the Workstream had had difficulty in identifying the non-measurable aspects of roads maintenance, since relatively few quantified examples exist. The purpose therefore was to seek to address this, gather examples if possible, and allow TRL to include such outcomes in its final reports for the Workstream.
The following provides a short summary of points made by each speaker. Each presentation has been forwarded to TRL for consideration in its work for the Workstream. Several common themes emerged around public involvement, "broken windows theory", and that although evidence for the benefits of public realm is lacking, this does not prevent a strong argument being put forward.
Item 2: Presentations
1. Keith Irving (KI) - Living Streets Scotland
KI said that relevant campaigning charities welcomed the Scottish Government's aim of tackling deterioration of roads and pavements due to the detrimental impact on people's quality of life, particularly as walking is the most common physical exercise, and is becoming more pertinent for Scotland's ageing population. Customer Satisfaction is a challenge. The 2006/07 Audit Commission Report showed Clean Streets 3rd and Road and Pavement Repair 13th in list of 5 most important thing for deciding where to live.
KJ pointed out that the Best Value Performance Indicator survey showing areas of public concern in the Presentation was for clean streets (graffiti and lack of cleanliness) rather than poor road surfaces. (The UK Audit Commission discontinued this data set in 2009.)
KI cited "broken windows" theory whereby as small areas of public realm deteriorate, this often leads to much greater subsequent costs, and illustrates one approach to the value placed on maintenance. As overall condition deteriorates, people feel unsafe and this deters walking. Research from Groningen, Netherlands, shows that well kept public areas had fewer incidents of dishonesty. Separately, in Edinburgh trips and falls leading to liability claims are almost ten times that of defective roads, and quantifying the impact on the NHS would be worthwhile. The Royal Mail also collects similar information on this topic. (TS Note: Do Local Authorities have similar details for staff who routinely walk, eg Traffic Wardens?)
Over 10 years, Edinburgh Council paid out £2.3m in claims from footway incidents but only £250k for claims for car damage. Compensation payments for pedestrian falls are more than £3m for 23 of the 32 Councils in Scotland.
KI said that there is also good anecdotal evidence that improved public realm leads to increases in residential and commercial property values, retailers value good footways and argued that even without firm evidence, as all appear to agree on the assertion, a strong case should be made for continued investment in roads maintenance.
2. Robert Huxford (RH) - Urban Design, Director
RH explained that walking is under-reported in survey data which excludes journeys that begin and end in the same place. He said that there is no reason why maintenance should be treated differently from other public realm policies which explicitly state that they do not just consider movement. Since design and safety are implicit in Scottish Government public realm policy, then there is no reason to exclude maintenance which performs a similar function. Roads are the "glue" that keep communities together. There are also strong connections to policies on health and obesity , as well as equalities since women will often view their public realm differently from men, primarily because of fear of crime and being alone in an unsafe environment. He said that Blackburn with Darwen Local Authority has shifted some health spend to roads winter maintenance spend to reduce accident costs. (Note: Quality of Life Section of its Local Transport Plan provides some information on the links identified between maintenance and walking:
He also suggested that existing powers for untidy buildings should be extended to roads, as there is evidence that if a private sector company owns a public realm area the maintenance rates are higher, and upkeep is to a much higher standard. Similar to the Broken Windows thesis, RH said people judge security on cues such as (roads) maintenance, and if people think others are investing in their area, this impacts on their behaviour (e.g. recycling rates are often higher in short streets).
There is good physiological evidence that a person's brain is hard wired to appreciate green space. Evidence shows property values are higher and people are healthier near green space. The hypothesis, scientific explanation and evidence therefore combine to make the case, and without the need for surveys, individuals do have a clear impression of their local area.
RH commented on a survey that showed the public judge the need for maintenance on appearance (e.g. a heavily patched road). He also supported the 'broken windows' theory described by KI.
RH also proposed that public behaviour followed the Central Normal Theory - people adopt the behaviour of others (e.g. levels of recycling, riots).
3. Andy Clegg (AC) - Perception, Landscape and Opportunities, Perth and Kinross, Parks Development
AC highlighted how high quality public place is crucial to an area with before and after depictions of regenerated spaces. New techniques and training are required to meet standards found elsewhere in Europe, where the approach to achieving high standards of public realm appears implicit. He also considered that the value for money of maintenance works is high, but agreed this is difficult to prove and he had not seen examples where quantified benefits had been provided.
He referred to the Centre for Built Architecture's (CABE) 2007 report "Paved with Gold" which asserted that "investment in design quality brings quantifiable financial returns and that people value improvements to their streets."
It also includes evidence from retailers regarding improved footfall following improvements, and additional health benefits.
Other CABE studies (2008, 2007, 2004 and 2001) had all promoted the benefits to quality of living from improved streets. A survey had shown 85% of people felt the quality of public space and the built environment had a direct impact on their lives. Design improvements are not limited to the quality of carriageways and footways but can include pedestrianisation, clearer signing, better placing for street furniture, CCTV and alcohol free zones.
AC quoted health benefits from increased walking (e.g. 1 less death per year for males aged 61-80 years with heart disease would save the NHS in Scotland £85m per year.
He then discussed landscape / scenery, formally recognised in the European Landscape Convention. Surveys confirm that Scotland's landscape is particularly important in attracting visitors, and with benefits for (and from) tourists, good quality roads are essential to reach many areas, which themselves must be in good condition. In 2009, Scottish National Heritage (SNH) has suggested a link between car tourism and visual experience but there is little evidence and this has not been quantified.
(TRL Note: The Landscape institute (2011) has looked at quantifiable benefits from the landscape but this did not separate out the effects of roads.)
Willingness to Pay criteria might be one option to explore further, though this is often related to higher value schemes, and is complex. (TRL Note: There is no evidence of completed analyses that may be relevant for this study.)
One option is to remove street clutter and replace traffic management with planted out areas that communities can manage. Shared space which focuses on essential road lines and signs helps to minimise costs, and by investing in quality and not style, there is scope to reduce long term maintenance costs. One important lesson is that the 'wants' of local people may differ from the view of planners and designers and may be cheaper.
4. John Thomson (JT) - Institute of Civil Engineers, Municipal Group
JT argued that "Effective infrastructure is invisible" and that, while in some contexts and places, low standards are acceptable, as a public area is improved, people take greater pride in their area. This in turns leads to inward migration and more successful businesses. The converse is even more significant because of the potential negative impacts. He acknowledged that it is difficult to identify when these shifts happen, and there is no clear evidence to prove the case (particularly if that case has to be made within a Finance Division of a Council) despite it being intuitively correct. JT suggested that studies had shown that when infrastructure quality has deteriorated, the costs of recovering from the deteriorated (poor) quality are much greater than the cost of maintaining the existing good quality.
RH suggested this chimed well with Public Motivation-Hygiene theory, one interpretation of which argues that "People are made dissatisfied by a bad environment, but they are seldom made satisfied by a good environment."
(TRL Note: An Australian Government website (reference not given) states a direct impact on well being from the quality of the infrastructure, but no valuation is given.)
(TS note: Not all members of the public will agree on when these points are reached on the proposed spectrum. However, there may be certain factors around which most people can agree and when a tipping point has been reached.)
5. Lindsay McGregor (LM) - SCOTS Lighting Group, Chair
LM started by expressing surprise at the apparent lack of quantified evidence for the Review.
LM explained first that Local Authorities are not legally required to provide lighting, but once installed, there is a duty to maintain it on both public and private roads. He said that there was limited evidence to demonstrate the benefits of lighting, though the assumed benefits are well accepted, and case studies do exist. For example, evidence suggests that lighting prevents road accidents, and also has spin off benefits, such as improving security and extending amenity and commercial viability of an area. Furthermore, 40% of fatal and serious accidents occur between 7pm and 8am, yet only 25% of journeys are made at this time. This suggests a correlation with darkness. (TS note: This may also be due to tiredness and alcohol.) The Cochrane Collaboration reported that a reduction of 30% in Road Traffic Accidents follows improved lighting. LM noted that 2.6% of accidents are fatal with lighting present but this rises to 4.3% without lighting.
Lighting is also considered to have an important effect in crime prevention. Painter and Farrington (2002) reported in Dudley, West Midlands, improved street lighting led to a 41% fall in recorded crime (a similar study in Stoke-on-Trent showed a decrease of 43%), which was not displaced. The regeneration of Whitehaven, Cumbria, is also considered to be related to significant improvements in lighting, and a light festival now takes place with 300,000 people attracted to the area, with commercial benefits.
It was acknowledged that there is contradictory evidence on this topic, particularly in respect of Motorways and other Trunk Roads in England from which the Highways Agency had seen no impact on accident rates from switching off lighting. (TS Note: Where traffic flows are low and safety may not be compromised. The Highways Agency applies a Midnight Switch Off in order to reduce carbon emissions rather than to achieve accident savings.)
(TRL Note: A new guidance document on street lighting (ACPO and Institute of Lighting) supports the benefits of street lighting but does not provide quantified benefits.)
6. Bruce Reekie (BR) - Perth and Kinross, Waste Services
Local authorities have a duty to keep its own land tidy by picking up litter, etc. Like others on the day, BR also cited evidence from the USA of analysis of "broken windows" theory, such as less littering behaviour, and a high correlation between clean pavements and safety. There is, however, a low association between how clean "downtown" pavements and visits to the area. Cigarettes, litter from fast food outlets as people eat on the go, fly-posting and graffiti are all recognised as negatives for the perception of an area (including to tourists). Cleaner streets formed part of the 'zero tolerance' approach in New York, USA, but in a follow-up survey, people thought too much had been spent on street cleaning and the money would have been better spent on property improvements.
BR commented on the cost impacts of maintaining good quality carriageways and footways. For example, there is also a direct link between street sweeping and grit used to keep roads and footways open during severe winter weather, and costs incurred in removing it.
BR said that when aggregated with other maintenance and management issues, street cleaning and cleanliness can impact on how attractive residents view their local areas and amenities, with impacts on business footfall and economic development.
7. John Lauder (JL) - SUSTRANs
JL said that he was greatly encouraged by the positive views that he had heard about the significance of maintaining public spaces, though presentation of the case would be important. He pointed to three of the Scottish Government's own policy objectives as making the case for road maintenance: Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2010a); Route Map to Healthy Weight (Scottish Government, 2010c); and Climate Change Act and its 2020 Milestones (Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2008).
In his view, meeting cycling target of 10% for all trips by 2020 (currently it is 2%), and daily active travel via well maintained pavements, are needed to achieve the ambitious climate change targets set for Scotland. As to whether public realm can be maintained to existing standards, JL argued that it must, even with forthcoming budget constraints.
8. David Ubaka (DU) - Transport for London
DU said that the UK Government in 1980's made a fundamental error in failing to invest in Britain's infrastructure, and many negative consequences resulted from not taking design seriously. This lead to a determination to create a mechanism to value urban realm. The "Pedestrian Environment Review System" (PERS) is a walking audit tool that uses a qualitative system to assess the level of service and quality provided for pedestrian access across a range of pedestrian environments. It considers "links" (ie any footway, pathway or highway), crossings, routes (made up of links and crossings), public transport waiting areas, interchanges and public spaces. It also takes into account factors such as security and maintenance.
This tool enabled a monetary value to be established. One point on the PERS scale (-3 to +3 where higher scores are positive) was found to be equivalent to a 5.2% (£13,600) increase in residential prices, or 4.9% (£25 per square metre) on retail rents. Generally, property prices were found to go up by between 5% and 7% if adjacent to a park, a phenomenon termed 'value uplift'. (TRL Note These changes do not directly fit into the STAG criteria but nevertheless are economic consequences of changes in maintenance funding.)
PERS provides the evidence base for much of the maintenance and public realm work carried out by TfL. It also ascribes a value to paying for infrastructure which relates to the notion of investment by local authorities in an area, which the private sector will match. He also said work is ongoing to add an asset management aspect to PERS.
As for individual projects, TfL emphasises 3-dimensionality to ensure that utilities will first be repaired properly and require little subsequent maintenance. All disciplines involved must notify a central Board of planned works, and any related utility works are, ideally, deferred to fit the same timescale to avoid duplication (TRL Note: 45% of the cost of an improvement scheme in London was for utilities works). As lead official DU also insists that new works can be readily maintained, often with materials that can be locally sourced, and residents are consulted to determine their preferences and requirements.
DU pointed to how a downward spiral of neglect, leads to extra costs later to put right an area.
Item 3: Discussion and Questions
The Steering Group members and those who had provided presentations went onto discuss some issues raised.
In response to KJ, DU said that TfL's evaluation of the benefits of its public realm projects had been very positive (typically yielding ratios of 2.5 - 5.5) and with any indirect benefits stripped out. He also confirmed that investments are decided upon strategically to prevent nearby areas being impacted negatively; designed to get maximum benefits for London as a whole; and that policy decisions about which areas need to be targeted first are also considered. "The Cut" at Waterloo was cited as an example of a previously run down area that is now much improved after investment, and which had a beneficial ripple effect on surrounding areas to improve standards generally.
KJ asked whether any research has been carried out into whether any towns or cities where quality public realm and other cycling / walking policies have been introduced provide evidence of the benefits of the approach. RH said that it is not possible to experiment by allowing an area to deteriorate, but suggested ongoing research by Oxford Brooks University might prove useful, with DfT's sustainable travel towns - Worcester, Peterborough and Darlington - providing some evidence, as well as London where, for instance, the number of cycling journeys has increased significantly since 2000 with investment in cycle ways as well as Bike Hire schemes.
KI questioned why cycling and walking needed to prove their case. KJ said that evidence on the effects of cars and HGVs is simply more widely available. JT suggested that the question be turned round to ask what is the impact of reducing spend on maintenance / public realm. It can be difficult to separate out the impact of poor maintenance in a town or city from other negative effects which occur at the same time, say, a factory closure. Others pointed to the fact that Government policies and plans often proceed without clear evidence, such as why people in Scotland are more obese than others in the UK.
The discussion closed and JV and KJ thanked all guests for taking time to provide such valuable presentations to the Group.
26th August 2011