Oxford suffered for many years from increasing traffic volumes and deteriorating air quality. In response to this problem, the County Council and City Council developed the Oxford Transport Strategy (OTS), a package of approximately 90 schemes costing £18m, to change how people move around the city to more sustainable patterns. Implementation of the OTS began in 1993. However, the OTS has proven to be a controversial initiative, facing opposition from various groups including car users and city centre businesses. To test a range of hypotheses which suggested that the Strategy would have a positive impact on traffic patterns, air quality, human health, buildings and the local economy, it was proposed that a comprehensive range of monitoring activities should be undertaken, before, during and after OTS implementation. EMITS has been designed to monitor the effects of introducing traffic restraint measures in Oxford. The Oxford Transport Strategy (OTS) is a comprehensive package of around 90 individual schemes and measures being implemented on an incremental basis over a seven year period. The strategy is designed to lead to significant reductions in traffic levels and improvements in the environmental conditions in the centre of Oxford. EMITS is an innovative multi-disciplinary environmental monitoring progamme which will assess the broad effects of implementing OTS. EMITS' objectives are to provide a comprehensive before and after comparison assessment of the transport, environmental, public health and economic effects of the implementation of the OTS and to assign financial values to the effects of OTS, including the environmental and public health effects of the changes in traffic levels. It is planned to make known to an international audience, the processess, results and findings of the EMITS project.
The EMITS project objectives were to:
- Provide a comprehensive before and after comparative assessment of the transport, environmental public health and economic effects of the implementation of the Oxford Transport Strategy
- Assign financial values to the effects of the OTS including environmental and public health effects of the changes in traffic levels
- Make known to an international audience the processes, results and findings of the EMITS project.
The EMITS project was designed to evaluate the following hypotheses:
- the implementation of specific traffic management measures and associated instruments (the OTS) had led to a reduction in traffic, as identified during the duration of the EMITS project (1/3/1996 to 1/7/2002). The reduction should have been evident both: in certain streets and as an overall measure of traffic in the city centre.
- That it was possible to show: a lower level of air pollution in the streets designated for traffic reduction, and as a result identify; a reduction in respiratory and cardio-vascular symptoms and; a reduced rate of decay in the built environment due to the reduction in the pollution.
- At the same time, the OTS: should have resulted in the overall accessibility of Oxford City Centre being maintained or enhanced (although not necessarily for private car users); should not have caused an unacceptable increase in traffic, traffic related problems, and in particular, air pollution in other streets due to traffic redistribution effects, and should have resulted in the relative economic vitality of Oxford compared with other centres being as a minimum preserved and ideally enhanced (after allowing for extraneous changes in the local and national economy).
The expected results included analyses of data showing links between the OTS and changes in the key indicator thematics of: traffic and transport; air quality; public health; buildings and structures and economic vitality and to prove/disprove the hypothesis presented above and which the project was designed to test.
The project has delivered technically in respect of efforts to test the EMITS hypothesis. However, the second and third objectives have only been partially met. There are few recommendations from the project and no financial values have been assigned to the effects of the Oxford Transport Strategy. In addition, there are no recommendations as to how the issues might be addressed “beyond EMITS”. The final technical report is more structured by thematic than by task so the results are discussed in this way. Traffic and transport indicators - the project has shown that the measures introduced as part of the Oxford Transport Strategy have had a measurable affect on transport and travel indicators in the City and hypothesis 1) of a traffic reduction is therefore proven. Air Quality – The project has failed to prove reduced air pollution. The sampling strategy and analysis of data collected was inadequate. There was no indication of the cost implications of poor air quality. Public Health - The project has failed to prove a reduction in respiratory and cardio-vascular symptoms. No significant conclusions have been reached on the links between changes in traffic and human health and there is no explanation given for this and therefore no guidance for future similar studies. There is no evidence of the cost implications of associated health changes. Buildings and structures - The project concludes “that there is some evidence to indicate a decline in soiling rate along roads where traffic levels have declined after OTS”. However, there are other conflicting comments and no recommendations as to how best to resolve the issues involved. Economic vitality - Conclusions are very general and do not specifically relate to the hypothesis and/or statement. Therefore, the project has failed to prove that OTS will result in the relative economic vitality of Oxford compared with other centres being as a minimum preserved and ideally enhanced (after allowing for extraneous changes in the local and national economy). In the final report, there are no links between the Project results and important environmental policy and legislative implications and the integration of environmental policy into other EC policies. The report fails to address a number of issues including; value for money; innovative and demonstration value; socio-economic effects; and long-term indicators that will continue to be monitored after the end of EMITS.
Dissemination - Overall, the objectives for dissemination were not fully met, for example, at the time of writing this web summary, the final conference had not been held and the proposed project video was not produced. However the following communication tools were developed during the course of the project: A project website; three projects leaflets: Oxford Transport Strategy Assessment of Impact – November 2000 4 pages A4 with LIFE logo; Monitoring the Effects – 6 pages A4 with LIFE logo; EMITS brochure – 6 pages A5 – published May 2000; four annual reports. No clarification has been provided regarding the necessity of pre-post public attitude and opinions survey in future projects using the EMITS legacy. Limited evidence has been provided that EMITS has been used in subsequent iterations of the OTS and air quality action plan and other related activities.