Table of Contents

2.3 Road User Support

A road user perspective lies at the heart of what the World Road Association (PIARC) terms the ‘the big shift’ – the transition in road administrations from the main goal of building and maintaining road networks to one of road network operations providing services to road users. The shift is typically a two-stage process (World Road Association 2003) involving:

  • transitioning from road construction and maintenance to road network optimisation
  • shifting from road network optimisation to road network user support.

The first shift focuses on transitioning from building roads to the optimising the use of existing roads or road networks. This optimisation is typically achieved by better traffic management, whether at a road segment, network or intersection scale (Parts 4, 5 and 6 of the Guide to Traffic Management respectively, Austroads 2016a, 2019b and 2019c).

The second shift is from road network optimisation (essentially traffic management) to the support of road network users (i.e. support for traffic participation or traveller information). It lies at the heart of traffic operations. It constitutes a shift in emphasis in the way traffic management and operations and related activities are seen. The traffic manager sees good traffic management as leading to better optimisation of the network, whereas the road user who ‘participates in traffic’ is interested in network optimisation in only an abstract way (if at all), but is interested in the ‘services’ provided by the traffic operations manager.

This service oriented view underpins the way traffic operations are looked at and managed. The traffic manager’s view and traffic operations are essentially in the supply domain (Figure 2.2). This is consistent with traffic management being in large part aimed at maximising the availability of road capacity. Road users and their needs on the other hand are clearly demand oriented. The interface between the demand and supply domains is where the services are positioned.

Figure 2.2: Road user support

Fig 1_1

Source: Adapted from World Road Association (2003), Figure 2.3.

To meet the requirements of road users it is important to understand how the various road user groups identify and rank the road service attributes. Austroads (2006) research showed that reliability and travel time are consistently the most important attributes across all three types of road users that the road manager can influence (Table 2.1). Commuters regard speed as a somewhat important attribute. Of the public transport attributes that road managers can influence, results from other surveys have found that reliability was the most important attribute followed by travel time and ease of access to stops.

Table 2.1: Relative importance and ranking of categories of road service attributes by user group

AttributeCommuterFreightPublic transport
Travel time1 – highest1 – highest2
Reliability111 – highest
Ability to maintain schedules2
Accessibility/B-double network coverage343 – lowest
Traffic signals45
Unexpected or temporary delays5 – lowest6 – lowest

Source: Austroads (2006).