Research and Innovation Projects
This page outlines DSC’s research, development and innovation projects, organised by topic.
Emissions impact of home working
Emissions impact of home working in Scotland
This research project was commissioned by ClimateXChange, a research centre on climate change, to forecast the buildings and transport emissions of home-working in Scotland since the COVID19 pandemic.
Working from home has the potential to reduce carbon emissions associated with commuting and office space. However, these reductions must be balanced against an expected increase in emissions from heating and other energy use at home. This is what has been done in this research project in collaboration with Element Energy Ltd, a firm based in Cambridge specialised in energy and climate change. The main findings are that the effects of home working depend on household circumstances and behaviour, and that transport planning should not assume that home working is necessarily a way to reduce total emissions; that will become even more true if transport decarbonisation advances faster than home heating decarbonisation, which is quite possible.
The forecasts made in this project were linked to the STPR2 scenarios developed with DSC’s TELMoS model for Transport Scotland which incorporate a recent DELTA enhancement to treat remote workers as a separate category.
Economic impacts of transport
Economic impacts of major transport infrastructure
This study reviewed and summarised the available ex post case studies into the economic impacts of major transport infrastructure investment, and assessed their implications for the appraisal of future investment proposals. The case studies chosen, in order of completion of the final phase of the infrastructure project, are: the Severn Bridge, the M62, the Humber Bridge, the M40 Motorway and the A55. A summary of other findings on the M25 is also included. The chapters of the original DSC report are available here. An edited version of the material was included in an OECD report.
The role of the coach in the economy
This project was carried out in 1999 by David Simmonds Consultancy and Cambridge Policy Consultants for the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK. The main objectives of the study were to identify:
the contribution made by coach-based tourism to the economic prosperity of the country and of particular areas
the extent to which this contribution may be increased by better provision of facilities for coaches, their passengers and their drivers, or may be diminished by restriction on coach operation.
An additional objective of the study was generally to improve understanding of the highly diverse range of activities which make up the non-scheduled coach sector. The consultants' work on the project included:
assembling data from existing tourist surveys
a questionnaire survey of a sample of operators seeking information on how many passengers they carry in different types of work
a telephone interview survey of operators, seeking their views on "good" and "bad" provision for coaches at destinations
discussion with a variety of local authorities and operators of attractions (the "Case Studies" regarding the significance of coach tourism to them, and their attitudes towards coach operations)
the adjustment and use of the existing Cambridge Model of tourism to allow the economic impacts of coach tourism to be measured across different sectors and areas.
Click here to read a summary of the study findings.
Parking policy and urban land-use
This topic was the subject of two studies by DSC in collaboration with MVA Consultancy, both as part of MVA's broader "Parking and Traffic Restraint" programme for the UK Department of Transport (now the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions). The first of these studies (1996) was a preliminary exercise to use the START/DSCMOD combination, previously applied to Bristol as part of the "Transport Effects of Urban Land-Use Change" project, to test the land-use impacts of alternative parking restraint strategies. The second study (1997-98) study involved a review of the literature on parking policies and land-use, and on the modelling of such relationships, followed by a reapplication of DSCMOD now linked to the TRAM transport model of Bristol. This was considerably more successful, since TRAM (unlike START) had been developed specifically to examine restraint strategies, but still highlighted the need to consider such strategies in the context of other processes of land-use change. The findings of this second study were reported in Parking Review October 1998.
Environment, public realm and quality of life
During the summer of 2012 we completed a study for Greener Journeys on the environmental value of the bus, with particular reference to the potential contribution of bus services to meeting the UK Government's targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report can be found on Greener Journeys' website.
As part of the Department for Transport’s New Horizons programme, DSC and the University of Oxford Transport Studies Unit investigated the influence of urban quality and of improvements in the public realm on business location, and the potential consequences of such impacts. An extensive review was carried out, followed by modelling using the GMSPM model of Manchester to assess how the estimated impacts of urban quality improvements on business and employment location might compare with the locational impacts of transport policies. A paper reporting the work was published in the Journal of Environmental Management.
Transport effects of land-use and economic change
This study was carried out for the UK Department of Transport during 1995-96. It examined the transport implications of various versions of the "Compact City" concept, which had been widely discussed in recent years. To do this DCS, in collaboration with MVA and ITS, carried out a series of tests using MVA's START model of the Bristol area. Some use was also made of DSCMOD, to examine the land-use impacts of the transport policies assumed. Ten tests were carried out, focusing on a "compact city" achieved by reversing past trends of decentralisation. (The feasibility of achieving such a change in trends was not part of the brief for the study.) In general, the results showed that even this major reverse of past tendencies would have only a small overall impact on transport demand or on car use, though the local impacts of some of the development options could be more dramatic. The study was the subject of an article in Traffic Engineering & Control, December 1997, and of a paper by Coombe and Simmonds, 1999.
Developments in modelling, analysis and forecasting
Role of transport and environmental variables in land-use
As part of the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council's research programme on Sustainable Cities, the University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies carried out research to improve some aspects of the calibration of the DELTA/START model of Edinburgh. This involved running a series of tests to investigate the importance of transport and environment impacts on land-use under various alternative strategies. DSC provided the DELTA model (linked to MVA's START model), and assisted in the application of the results and the running of the model. ITS' main findings from the research were reported in papers presented to the PTRC Summer Annual Meeting, 1997 and to the World Conference on Transport Research, 1998.
IMCHEL stands for “IMpact of CHange ELsewhere”. The IMCHEL model is a spatial-economic model of the UK that is designed to be used as a high-level add-on to our regional or city-level models, in particular to assess the impact of major transport proposals outside the region or city represented in the model. The original IMCHEL was developed in 2010 as part of a project commissioned by Devon County Council. The lessons learned from the use of IMCHEL for Devon and others contributed to the design of the Strategic National Model.
Variant tests method
This project introduced and tested an example of using different components of DSC’s DELTA package in different ways so as to isolate the contribution of particular components in the forecast response to interventions such as new transport infrastructure. Papers illustrating the method were presented to the European Transport Conference in 2011, and to the Applied Urban Modelling symposium in 2012. The method provides a means of answering questions along the lines of “how much of the impact is due to changes in investment patterns rather than changes in migration?”, which are often raised but had not previously been open to a systematic answer, and has been used in many of our modelling studies.
Modelling housing type and tenure
MH14 is a component of DELTA which allows the DELTA user to build and use models in which housing supply is measured in terms of numbers of dwellings [with the scope to classify them by tenure (social rented, private rented, owner-occupied) and type (eg houses, flats)] rather than in the usual terms of housing floorspace. This was originally developed for Department for Transport during a project completed in late 2009. It has since been used in projects of Auckland Council (New Zealand) and for Transport for London.
Microsimulation of land-use change
SimDELTA is a microsimulation model of households and population which DSC developed for Department for Transport in 2007-8. (“Microsimulation” means that it simulates the behaviour of individual households, in contrast with conventional modelling (and the rest of our work), which represents the collective behaviour of categories of households). During 2010-11, DSC added a car-ownership component to SimDELTA, and carried out further testing of the statistical properties of the model. A paper about this work was presented to the CUPUM conference at Lake Louise, Canada.
For DfT we developed a system of functional regions, based on 2001 Census data, as an alternative to the standard Travel-To-Work areas. The analysis allowed areas or regions to be defined at different levels of detail, from hundreds of units down to just two. The illustration below shows the England and Wales grouped into eight regions based on maximising the intra-regional commuting. The functional areas and regions identified have been used in a variety of subsequent modelling work.
Functional Regions: England and Wales
Developments in appraisal
As part of DETR's work on the development of new methods for the appraisal of transport schemes and policies, DSC were commissioned to carry out a review of accessibility concepts and their role in such appraisals. This study was carried out, with inputs from ITS, MVA and Oxford Brookes University, during 1997-98. The research focused on three themes:
the potential relevance of accessibility;
the relationship in the present state of the art between accessibility measures and user benefit measures; and
the relevance of accessibility to changes outside transport demand, such as car ownership, location and development pressures.
Integrated land-use/transport appraisal
Transport planning and investment are increasingly seen as means to achieve wider economic and social objectives, but the standard methods of appraising transport proposals make sweeping assumptions about non-transport effects which may not be valid in practice and which do not allow the decision-maker to see or understand the non-wider consequences. DSC first worked on this problem in 2001, preparing a review of the issues and possible ways forward for the Government Office for the North-West. We returned to the topic in 2011 when we were commissioned by Transport for London to implement a new appraisal method, initially known as “land-use/transport economic efficiency” analysis or LUTEE. This was the subject of a paper presented to the European Transport Conference in 2012. Following a number of teleconferences plagued by confusion between LUTEE and LUTI (land-use/transport interaction), the name of the new method was changed to “Unified Land-use/Transport Appraisal” or ULTrA.
In 2017 TfL commissioned DSC to complete the implementation of the approach for London and to apply it to a number of demonstration tests. The approach seeks to measure the gross benefits of each kind to each of five categories of actors or agents:
property owners and developers
government (all levels)
The first three categories are all identified by zone (and potentially in more detail e.g. type of household). All households and firms are treated as renting property, the rents going to the property owners and developers. The “other” category captures benefits which cannot be clearly attributed to any particular group or location e.g. those of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and (arguably) of regeneration or rebalancing.
The core of the method (as outlined in the 2012 ETC paper) is to measure changes in consumer surplus using conventional rule-of-a-half calculations, as in standard transport appraisal, but here based on the “disutility” of living in any particular zone as the “price” variable and the number of households of each living in that zone as the “quantity” variable. This calculation is done for each household type, for each zone, for each year. Equivalent calculations are carried out for producers and property-owners/developers. Transfers between each category and the government sector are calculated.
A summary (as a poster presented at the 2019 European Transport Conference) can be found here.
In a 2012 project for the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) we assessed the scope, quality and robustness of available evidence which could be used in a potential cost-benefit analysis of a possible change to UK clock time - the "summertime/double summertime" proposal, which involved advancing the clocks by one hour all year round. The report is available on the BIS website.
In 1992, the European Commission engaged DSC to examine the costs imposed by the then prevailing difference in the end of summer (daylight saving) time, whereby Ireland and the United Kingdom changed to wintertime at the end of October, a month later than the rest of Western Europe. The study, carried out in collaboration with ACT Consultants, identified substantial costs, but concluded that these were small relative to the disbenefits of a longer summertime period in the other countries. This finding was taken into account in the Commission's recommendation that the end of summertime should be harmonised at the end of October; this has been the practice since 1996 and was made a permanent arrangement by a Directive in 2000.
In 2003/4 we carried out two studies for the British Urban Regeneration Association, looking at the reasons for the different outcomes of one very successful regeneration project – Norwich Riverside – and a quite opposite one – Rochester Riverside. Summaries can be found here.