The Visioning Project: Part of the Transition Engineering Process
The availability of transport options and energy sources is a strong determinant in the development of land use patterns. The current transport infrastructure and vehicle technology in developed countries has emerged during conditions of low-cost and abundant fossil fuel. It is not possible to simply substitute renewable fuels from any combination of resources in a way that reduces fossil fuel consumption while requiring no changes in land use, infrastructure and vehicle technology. However, many research scenarios focus on fuel substitution rather than transitional change of urban form and adaptation of public expectations. The paper presents a conceptual framework for the coherent integration of development projects involved in the new field of Transition Engineering. The research results focus on one of these projects, the visioning project. The research objective for the visioning project was to gain an understanding of the nature and magnitude of the systemic infrastructure changes that would be required to provide a modern quality of life using only renewable energy resources. A method was developed to generate feasible-sustainability concepts. The method first quantified the renewable energy resources available for transport in a New Zealand town, including biofuel, human power, and renewable electricity. Then transport system design concepts were generated using basic energy flow balance modelling for each major transport activity, e.g. personal mobility, access to markets and services, goods movements. The feasible-sustainability concept involved adaptive changes to the pre-transition urban form and infrastructure. The resulting urban form was recognisable yet radically different from the pre-transition neighbourhood. This feasible sustainability transport system concept, based on a realistic use of renewable energy could fill a gap in the shared cultural vision that people in developed countries have about the long-range future, and should inform strategic investments in the near term.