This week TPS attended and exhibited at the Act Travelwise conference in Birmingham, which brings together like minded individuals and organisations working within the field of sustainable travel and travel planning, from across the UK.
Throughout the day delegates heard a range of thought provoking and informative presentations, and TPS Director, John Hacker, was pleased to be asked to present within a session entitled ‘Best Practice in the Business Sector’. It is a sector within which TPS delivers a range of services to support our clients.
Here John tell us more about the thinking behind his presentation, which related travel planning to post-Christmas dieting!
‘I was hopeful that I could devise a presentation which struck a note with the audience, and left them with something to consider.
The presentation I decided upon was entitled ‘Should we step away from the sad step in 2017?’ My intention was to challenge the extent to which modal shift targets are used within the sector, and to question whether opportunities to celebrate best practice are fully taken advantage of. It’s a topic we have discussed as a team on many occasions, and so in part, it was good to get it off my chest.
So where does the ‘sad step’ come into this? Joe Wicks (aka The Body Coach) is a fitness guru and bestselling author of Lean in 15. His approach to fitness and dieting is to suggest simple, easy to implement steps that if stuck to, can improve our health and wellbeing in a sustainable manner. The ‘sad step’ in Joe’s world is the dreaded scales. The message in his book is quite simple … focussing on the numbers (i.e. our weight) when dieting can be counterproductive. Weight loss, for many, can be hard to achieve, and it is maybe the least important measure of the success of a fitness and dieting plan. A failure to drop weight can leave many disheartened within their plan in general, resulting ultimately in them giving up. Conversely, those who quickly achieve their weight loss goals can think it is job done, which again, can result in a long term plan being cut short.
But what about the wider benefits? We may not drop in weight, but if we are healthier, happier, fitter or stronger, is that not more important? Throw away the sad step and concentrate on other more important benefits, is Joe’s message.
If you haven’t spotted it, here is the link to travel planning. How many Travel Plan Coordinators or organisations give up on their long term strategy because short term targets to achieve a modal shift aren’t being achieved? Do we become disillusioned, and left wondering what is the point? In my experience, this happens on an all too frequent basis.
So do we set ourselves up to fail, due to an unhealthy fascination with modal shift targets? Yes, modal shift is important (and it is key to point out that I’m not suggesting otherwise), but is it realistically achievable in the short term in the majority of cases?
Modal shift is ultimately just one indicator of the success of a Travel Plan, and it is maybe the hardest to achieve. By reporting (or focussing) upon this indicator alone, it is my view that we are often missing out on the opportunity to report upon other much more realistic and achievable short term benefits of a travel plan programme. Taking it one step further, it is my opinion that a failure to recognise and communicate these wider benefits results in many business Travel Plan programmes not extending beyond an initial funding period … which is a current shortcoming within the sector.
As a consultancy our experienced team develops and delivers Travel Plan programmes within a wide range of businesses. The key to the success and importantly, longevity, of the majority of these is not in having achieved modal shift (indeed, in many cases this has been minimal) but that travel planning has moved beyond a planning requirement or an initial pipe dream.
We deliver Travel Plan programmes that become engrained within a business, making it business as usual. How do we achieve this? By realising and in turn advising others of the fact that a successful Travel Plan isn’t just about reporting a reduction in the proportion of single occupancy car trips, but about reporting on the much wider range of Travel Plan successes; from the introduction of discount ticketing initiatives, to the roll out of corporate engagement campaigns, through to the securing of long term funding and senior management buy in (which is an important success in itself). Indeed, if we had focussed and reported upon modal split alone, few of these measures would have got past a well written planning report.
So how do we move beyond this, as a sector? To me, the answer is quite simple, and doesn’t require revolutionary change. Best practice travel planning is already being delivered within businesses up and down the UK, all of whom, in their own way, will be reaping the benefits. If we celebrate and communicate these success stories there is a much higher chance that Travel Plans or behaviour change programmes will achieve their long term objectives … ultimately, there is a greater chance of modal shift.’
If you would like to know more about our expertise in providing travel planning support to businesses, please get in touch for an informal chat.