Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brainfood: Transforming Times Square

Gordon Price, a Canadian urban planner and politician (and Eyes on the Street in Vancouver Canada), has taken his camera and toolkit to Times Square to observe what is going on in New York to convert what is now overwhelmingly car space into a vibrant urban space for people.
Click here to view Price Tags 107 – NYC1: Times Square.

He writes from Vancouver this morning:

Astonishing things are happening in New York City, most especially at ‘the centre of the world’ - Times Square. Inspired political leadership is ‘copenhagenizing’ some of most car-congested streets in one of the most pedestrian-crowded places on the continent. In this issue of Price Tags, see what they’ve already done, and what to expect in the coming months.

More on Gordon Price and his work:

Gordon Price is the Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. (www.sfu.ca/city). In 2002, he finished his sixth term as a City Councillor in Vancouver, BC. He has written several extensive essays on Vancouver and transportation issues (The Deceptive City, Local Politician's Guide to Urban Transportation (www.vtpi.org/localpol.htm). He also publishes an electronic magazine on urban issues, with a focus on Vancouver, called “Price Tags" (www.pricetags.ca). In 2009, he was appointed by the Mayor of Vancouver as a member of the “Greenest City Action Team.” He sits on the Boards of the Sightline Institute and the International Centre for Sustainable Cities, and the executive committees of local chapters of the Urban Land Institute and Lambda Alpha.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

World Streets Sentinels - Eyes on the Street
(A wide-open world-wide peer observatory)

Sentinel n. – "A person or animal that watches over, guards a place or group from unwanted surprises."

We live in a world and work in a sector in which not quite reliable information and rather too easy thinking often abound. Thus while the main objective of World Streets is to provide reliable access to what is going on at the leading edge of thinking, policy, and practice in the field of sustainable transportation worldwide, we also at the same time have an obligation not to lure our readers into thinking too simply about these issues and falling for what they may at first glance think to be "solutions" to their problems and aspirations. The challenge to sustainable transportation reform is already tough enough, without being encumbered by half baked ideas and wishful thinking. We can do better than that.

And that is where our worldwide network of correspondents/World Eyes on the Street Sentinels project comes into play. Since each of these colleagues are not only knowledgeable about the sector, including from the vital sustainable transport perspective, but are also close to the cities and streets in question, they help us to develop a more balanced, better informed approach to reporting on the sector. We count on them for this, and indeed they have been invited to participate because in every case we know them to be independent critical thinkers

It is hard to make the point more vividly than the map you see here thanks to Google - the globe, that is the world we need to band together to defend. And in parallel with this a mapping of people and cities ("eyes on the street" in the unforgotten words of Mrs. Jane Jacobs), which is where we have to face and solve the challenges of our cities, one by one

Geographic coverage: While much of the leading edge innovation is taking place in Europe and Japan, and to a lesser extent North America, there is a lot more to the world than that, with good ideas coming as well from cities in other places. It is important that Streets goes for more than the low-lying fruit, and we intend to make an especial effort to get strong coverage in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the former Soviet Bloc countries, and all of Asia. And without good coverage of China and India, the whole thing would be just one more truncated exercise

Women: World Streets is committed to a policy of full gender parity as an essential motor for the fundamental cultural change that is necessary to move to a policy of sustainability and social justice. We are trying very hard to engage female correspondents, leaders and change agents in cities around the world with a wide variety of backgrounds, resources and cultures. (And if you have canidates for us, please please do let us know. It's important.)

Youth: We are committed to working with younger people in all programs and activities under the New Mobility Agenda, and in the process help through our association and exchanges further prepare them for future leadership positions in a world that badly needs their energy and commitment. If you check out the short profiles that appear in the Correspondents rubric you will see the result of this push.

Groups: We like the idea of bringing in groups of people and actors as "World Eyes", and if you check out the latest map you will spot a number of them reporting on street life in their city. The door is wide open for others

Location: For reasons of discretion (not a strong point on the net) we are inviting our Eyes volunteers to chose some public place to be located on their city map. It’s all part of our global/local orientation. Even here at the beginning we already have a nice variety, for example our friend Adhiraj Joglekar in Mumbai can be found at the Opera House, while in Bilbao Mikel Murga will meet you on the front door of the Guggenheim Museum and in Boston Michael Alba is waiting for you just inside left field in Fenway Park. I am available right next to the children’s pond in the Luxemburg Gardens a short walk from my office. The idea is to open up the city and make it a human space and not just one more virtual abstraction. So it will be good if we can meet in your favorite place in your city.

What else? For the rest all we need from our colleagues on this is (a) their approval, (b) name and email as they wish it to appear, (c) a URL taking the visitor to a program of particular interest to them, and (d) a small photo which we can then paste into their entry. And of course the location in which you wish to "receive" your visitors. (If for some reason you prefer to remain anonymous to the world in any or all of these respects, no problem, we can also work that one out I am sure. The important thing is those hundreds, eventually thousands of lively eyes on the street. Mrs. Jacobs would have been proud. I can promise you that)

Map: For the current version of the Sentinels map click here.

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Op-Ed: Jeff Kenworthy on Cars, cities and paradigm change:
- Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

Cars and cities: Time for a paradigm change

The current economic meltdown in the USA was triggered by the toxic loans now held by banks all over the country. These toxic loans are focussed in the highly car-dependent parts of US cities and were partly triggered by the extraordinary prices for oil experienced in mid-2008, which made such locations simply unsustainable from every perspective, especially the financial one. It highlighted the extreme fragility of the US urban development pattern characterised by urban sprawl and excessive dependence on cars.

More deeply it began to show that the current long wave business cycle or 5th Kondratiev wave has reached an end. The end of the four such previous long wave business cycles dating back to the 18th century was characterised by an economic recession and depression. At the moment we see some of the death throes of this current cycle in the deep crises within the global auto-manufacturing industries and a general crisis of confidence in the whole financial world that underpins the current long wave business cycle. The temptation is to support the old “paradigm” in the form of bailouts, to extend the life of such a cycle. But did the age of steam and railroads survive the age of electricity and the internal combustion engine? It did not and no one today would conclude that it would have been sensible to try to forestall the new era.

A more effective response and better use of such precious funds is to embrace the new long wave business cycle or new dawn that is waiting to break over a world desperately in need of social, economic and environmental restoration. What is this new long wave business cycle waiting in the wings? It is the age of sustainability. Cities are inevitably a focal point for the dawn of this age and there are new imperatives that need to be embraced, which offer the basis for a whole new economy. Not only do they promise a new economic boom, as happens with each new business cycle, but they hold within themselves the seeds of a whole new healthier way of living, which can also restore the local, regional and global commons.

There are ten critical dimensions in urban development and transportation that can be embraced to bring forward this new era of sustainability.

(1) The city has a compact, mixed-use urban form that uses land efficiently and protects the natural environment, biodiversity and food producing areas.

(2) The natural environment permeates the city’s spaces and embraces the city,
while the city and its hinterland provide a major proportion of its food needs.

(3) Freeway and road infrastructure are de-emphasised in favour of transit,
walking and cycling infrastructure, with a special emphasis on rail. Car and motorcycle use are minimised.

(4) There is extensive use of environmental technologies for water, energy
and waste management – the city’s life support systems become closed loop systems.

(5) The central city and sub-centres within the city are human centres that emphasise non-auto access and circulation and absorb a high proportion of employment and residential growth.

(6) The city has a high quality public realm throughout that expresses a
public culture, community, equity and good governance. The public
realm includes the entire transit system and all the environments
associated with it.

(7) The physical structure and urban design of the city, especially its public environments are highly legible, permeable, robust, varied, rich, visually appropriate and personalised for human needs.

(8) The economic performance of the city and employment creation are maximised through innovation, creativity and the uniqueness of the local environment, culture and history, as well as the high environmental and social quality of the city’s public environments.

(9) Planning for the future of the city is a visionary ‘debate and decide’ process, not a ‘predict and provide’, computer-driven process that just produces more and more traffic growth.

(10) All decision-making is sustainability-based integrating social, economic, environmental and cultural considerations, as well as compact, transit-oriented urban form principles. Such decision-making processes are democratic, inclusive, empowering and engendering of hope.

Capitalising on the business opportunities inherent in the above urban agenda will put nations in a much more competitive economic position that rides the crest of the new economic wave that must inevitably come.

Jeff Kenworthy, J.Kenworthy@curtin.edu.au
CUSP Institute (Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Contribution by the author to the world wide collaborative project “Messages for America: World-wide experience, ideas, counsel, proposals and good wishes for the incoming Obama transportation team”. See www.messages.newmobility.org for latest version of this report of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Transport Realities in South Africa: Slow, but maybe a start

By Gail Jennings, editor: MOBILITY

Transport planning and practice in South Africa has done little to enable people to become full citizens of our country, and access the economic and social opportunities available to us since 1994. Poor households spend between 20 and 30% of their household incomes on trying to get from A to B.

Mobility is central to our human rights, and access to economic opportunities, health care and education, friends and family, goods and services. Our mobility is still impaired by spatial segregation, under-investment in infrastructure and public transport, and the assumption that we are all current or future car-drivers. Many resources remain inaccessible to the people who need them most. In addition, rapid urbanisation and a growth in the size of the middle-class has seen more private cars on the roads, with declining air quality and increased congestion.

Yet in 2008, the transport budget was five times higher than that of 2003… What happened?

The Soccer

The long-overdue process of fixing South Africa’s public – and non-motorised – transport needed some sort of impetus, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup has provided just that. Increased mobility choices and improved motorised and non-motorised transport (NMT) infrastructure will be lasting legacy of the football tournament.

Spatial planning

South African cities – and Cape Town in particular – are recognising that transport is a ‘land-use issue’, not a ‘roads issue’ – and are talking about establishing integrated grid-based movement systems, densification, and consolidating and intensifing development on the accessibility grid.

‘We need movement systems that provide convenient and affordable access to a city’s resources and amenities for everyone,’ says Catherine Stone, Catherine Stone, Director: Spatial Planning & Urban Design, City of Cape Town.

‘A movement system must be structured to create a public transport orientated, equitable pattern of access so that all people can reach a broadly similar range of opportunities and facilities in the city.’

Non-motorised transport (NMT)

Many of the poor, and unemployed, cannot afford public transport, let alone private cars – and bicycles offer flexible, door-to-door low-cost mobility.

However, a lack of bicycle-friendly infrastructure, startlingly aggressive driver attitudes, cultural taboos, and an appalling road-safety record (as many people are killed on the roads each year as are victims of violent crime – about 18 000) deter many commuter cyclists.

Nevertheless, faced with the undisputable evidence that bicycles are a highly efficient, desirable and affordable mode of transport – and the prospect of football fans from countries that regard bicycle transport as the norm – policy makers are changing gear.

In 2008 the national government issued an NMT policy, and some provincial and local governments have done the same.

‘We want to promote modal choice’, says Ngwako Makaepea, National Department of Transport, Director: Transport Policy. ‘Bicycles are a realistic mode of transport, and they are vital for our anti-poverty strategies.’

Already, national government-sponsored initiative Shova Kalula (‘pedal easy’) provides bicycles to rural and peri-urban learners, farm workers and health workers, and cities such as Cape Town, Tshwane and George are implementing city-wide connected bicycle lanes. NMT activists in Cape Town are having some success as ‘watchdogs’ over the City’s transport planning department, conducting informal NMT audits on roads and infrastructure plans and advising on improvements.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

South Africa has looked to other developing countries for lower-cost, high-quality public transport, and has seen that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is replicable here.

BRT vehicles run along dedicated lanes, and offer commuters a safe, convenient and reliable service with a regular, all day and evening time table.

Construction of BRT stations are well underway in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, and although the systems are about far more than 2010, their first phases need to be operational by then.

‘Rea Vaya [Joburg’s BRT] is not so much a transport intervention as a quality of life intervention, says Cllr Rehana Moosajee, City of Joburg Mayoral Committee member for Transport.

There will be place for current bus operators in the system, although mini-bus taxis will be excluded from the trunk routes.

The BRT, however, hailed as the solution to many of our transport ills, is seen as the bringer of financial ruin by many in the mini-bus taxi industry. As providers of flexible, affordable, customer-driven transport for decades – when government failed to do so – many in the taxi industry regard public transport as ‘their’ territory. They’ve threatened – and implemented – strikes, violence, and ‘war’ if the BRT goes ahead.

Currently, the minibus-taxi industry moves about two-thirds of public transport passengers in South Africa, says Herrie Schalekamp, Centre for Transport Studies, UCT. ‘Consequently, interventions in the public transport market require substantial interaction with this industry if they are to succeed.’

Cape Town and Joburg have been in continuous negotiations with the taxi industry, and various memoranda of agreements have been signed…

The mini-bus taxi industry

‘However, considering this sector’s continuous opposition to change, a poor relationship between public authorities and minibus-taxi organisations, and evidence from international cases of similar interventions, the successful implementation of BRT and concurrent corporatisation of the minibus-taxi industry is not a foregone conclusion,’ notes Schalekamp ruefully.

Rail gets ready

Early 2009 saw the launch of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (PRASA), which combines the assets and employees of the South African Rail Commuter Corporation and Metrorail, with long-distance rail and intercity bus companies (which previously fell under Transnet). PRASA will invest R25 billion over the next three years to improve its service offering and restore of rail as vital component, focusing on passengers and reducing the over-reliance on road-based transport. Also on the horizon is greater integration between buses, taxis and rail, with a single ticket system across modes and municipalities/provinces.

Already Metrorail has offered hugely successful luxury express services, from Khayelitsha and Gordon’s Bay to Cape Town, and Tshwane and Soweto to Johannesburg. While good, safe and reliable service, and clean facilities might be the norm to our readers abroad, this is a relatively new ‘concept’ to South African public transport users. The service cuts travel time by about 30%!

‘Never in the history of Soweto have commuters been treated with such dignity and respect, says Sophie Mathabane, a private clinic nurse to takes the Express in Johannesburg. For many women, safety is the deciding factor in making this modal choice.

And then there’s Gautrain…

Gautrain Rapid Rail Link – with a maximum speed of 160 km per hour – will take a mere 15 minutes to travel between OR Tambo [Johannesburg] International Airport and Sandton Station…

“Gautrain is set to change the commuting habits of residents as well as their lifestyle choices such as where to live, work and play,’ says Jack van der Merwe, CEO of the Gautrain Management Agency. ‘It’s a catalyst for a new form of urban development where existing suburbs are becoming people-friendly high-density, economic cores and inner cities are being rejuvenated.’

The Link will inckude ten stations on an 80km route, between 5-8km apart. Trains will run every 12 minutes during peak hour. Passengers can transfer easily to other modes, such as BRT, taxis and trains.

The excitement we South Africans feel about Gautrain, the various BRT routes, and bicycle lanes, is bittersweet. We long to no longer feature as one a country with the world’s worst road crash statistics. We want safe, reliable, affordable, accessible, sustainable, shared transport choices – and why shouldn’t we?

As Schalekamp puts it, transformation of public transport in this country may yet be driven not by the public sector, or policy, or minibus-taxi operators, but by public demand for improved services.

On major city landmarks and numerous websites, the countdown to the 2010 FIFA World Cup kick-off ticks by the second… But for many South Africans, that countdown represents the arrival of one of basic human rights: access.

Gail Jennings is editor of MOBILITY in Capetown, South Africa.

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Honk! Don Carleone wants into Carsharing

Paris, France. Friday, April 17, 2009

The phone rattled, and this time it was a voice that I knew all too well. "It's me," the voice rasped, "Don Carleone" (as if I could forget that voice!).

"How's things going, Rico?" (Rico??)

And without waiting for an answer, he said, "Never mind. There's a limo outside waiting to bring you here -- so just leave off whatever it is you are doing and get over here. I gotta talk to you about some of those carsharing guys you told me about last time."

I had almost forgotten that the Don had shown so much interest in carsharing, but I knew that he was into diversification these days. Ever since Bernie dropped out he has been looking around for big numbers.

I'll never forget the first time I mentioned the word "carsharing" to him and saw that he was frowning. It was more than a year ago.

He asked me what it meant, and I tried to explain. (I told him this: Carsharing is what you get when people stop using their own cars and instead use a shared vehicle whenever they need one. Think of it as a very handy short-term rent-a-car that is right around the corner and costs a lot less than owning your own car. It works best if you live in a city that has decent public transport. There are more than a thousand cities around the world today where you can join a carshare club. (See http://www.carshare.newmobility.org/ for details.)

Then I remember I jabbered a lot about carsharing being such a great idea because it represents a terrific first step toward "decoupling" the desire to use a car and the actual ownership of the car -- an important change toward a more sustainable transportation system. And on and on.

Now, the Don is not exactly what you would call "into sustainability," but he did stop me to ask if any of these guys, the thousand (or whatever it was) carshare operations in cities around the world, made any money at what they did. I said that some did and some didn't, but that the operations are starting to become more profitable as they gain more experience.

The Don seemed to like what he was hearing, which was not surprising because he always had liked international opportunities. After a long pause, he said, "Tell me something, Rico. How many cars do you figure there are in the world? And how much do you think those stiffs pay to keep them on the road?"

Of course, I don't like giving the Don answers on anything like that without being able to check it out first by computer, but I took the risk and gave him some ballpark figures. I told him there were something like 800 million motor vehicles on the world's roads, that the annual growth rate of new cars ran anywhere from five to ten percent a year, and that it cost something like $7,000 of a bit more per year to cover all the costs for owning one, at least in the wealthier parts of the world.

The Don is fast. Without losing a minute, he said, "Hey Rico! Have you ever multiplied those numbers together? 'Cause if you do, you are looking at a $5 trillion-plus price tag. That's a lot of zeros And the whole pile is growing at 5/10 percent a year? With that kind of potential I am not even going to miss Bernie."

"But I need to know another thing, too. What part of the world market do you think those carshare guys could eventually corner if they got their act together?"

I had never thought about that before. Let's see. Studies suggest that carsharing becomes a serious economic option for city dwellers who drive less than 5/6,000 miles in one year. Other statistics suggest that, with wide regional variations, this also happens to be the average figure for annual car travel in many places. Putting these two together would suggest that perhaps in good time as much as one-half of the entire world of car owner/drivers might be candidates for carsharing.

I could tell I had the Don's attention and I could see him juggling those numbers and smiling broadly at the same time. A happy man.

He wheezed, "Rico, you've given me a pretty good idea here. I'm even starting to like you. The way I see it, if you think of carsharing as a whole new business, it could account for up to half of all the money that people spend in the world car market — not only for the cars themselves but also for the insurance, parking (and we like parking), fuel, and all the rest. Let's round off. Call it $3 trillion a year. That's a number, ain't it? And I, the Don, want a piece of that market. A big piece!"

That was the last time I had seen the Don, until the phone rang last night. And as I was getting into his waiting stretch limo with the armor plating and one-way bullet-proof glass (the motor was running -- as I said, the Don is not really into sustainability), I tossed my laptop into the car, just in case he wanted more background on this carsharing stuff. With the Don, it pays to get it right the first time.

When I arrived at the great house and entered between the snarling Dobermans and the usual large gentlemen with the sunglasses, I found the Don waiting for me with a glass of wine. That was nice, but I still was wondering what he had in mind.

"Rico," he said, "My boys tell me that you are doing a thing called World Streets or something like that. Is that right?"

What could I say but, "Right, Don."

"And I hear that you are asking all those carsharing guys to get together at some point this summer, maybe one of your lousy Car Free Days, and organize open houses all over the world to invite the public in, and in general cooperate with the big guys in their cities to make sure that the Day works out for you. I got that right?"

I replied, "Right again, Don."

Then he said, "So here's my question, little guy: How many of these guys have already signed on to do this? My boys tell me that things are going a little slowly over there."

"Well Don," I whined, "this sort of thing takes time. We have just recently asked them to get involved, and they have a lot of other things to do to keep their businesses running. But the first groups have already come in, and I am sure that we will have a number of others join in by the time we have actually set the date."

I have rarely seen the Don so mad. "A number of others?" he roared. "Rico, I want all of them. This is a trillion dollar business and we need to get moving on it. Tell them that the Don wants them in. Or else."

He was really angry, and I think that if you are running a carshare operation anywhere in the world, you would do well to listen to the Don. He is famous for his long arms and short temper. And you can't say that I didn't warn you.

* Note on the above photo of the Don. You probably know that he does not like to have his picture taken for public exposure, but he let me snap this one on the grounds that I would keep working with him on this. You know how it is.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reminder: Road Diets (Plenty of fat left)

There are hundreds of things, known by thousands of names, that you can do with a little careful preparation and technical competence to move your city and its streets in a few months toward greater sustainability, without having to wait for good news and great gobs of taxpayer money from the capital. And they are not all brand new innovations just out of someone’s high priced laboratory (or still stuck inside).

One of these is an approach known in many places as “road diets”, also referred to variously and with variations as lane diets, street narrowing, road space reallocation, and eventually merging into broader approaches including complete streets, traffic calming, livable streets, etc.

A road diet is commonly defined as: a studied reduction of a roadway’s width or lanes, intended to change traffic patterns while improving safety and livability. If you get it right -- and that is both a technical and a communications task -- it brings local economic and even real estate value advantages along with the rest.

Ten years ago, March 1999, Dan Burden and Peter Lagerwey of the Walkable Communities project collaborated on a short (17 page) illustrated report under the title Road Diets: Losing width and gaining respect in which the authors ask: "Can our nation's roads gain efficiency, mode share and safety by getting leaner? Many are doing just that".

That was a full decade ago. In the meantime . . .

Back in 1999 Burden and Lagerwey explained to us that:

"Roadway conversions discussed here may be just the ticket to start remaking unhealthy, unsafe city neighborhoods or commercial districts and turn them into more robust, vital, economically sound places. Road conversion may be undertaken to create safer, more efficient ways to provide access and mobility for pedestrians, bicycle riders and transit users, as well as motorists. They improve livability and quality of life for residents and shoppers. Just as with human diets, road diets without doctors’ (transportation planners and engineers) analyses and prescriptions, might be foolhardy."

If it sounds like a nice idea but one destined to go nowhere fast, have a look at the following from the US:

First step the latest Wikipedia entry on road diets right here to get a running jump

“There are perhaps over 20,000 road diets in the United States, with another 500-1,000 being conducted each year. The city in North America with the greatest number of road diets (29) is San Francisco. The city with the greatest number of road diets, per capita, is Hartford, Connecticut (12). One or two new road diets are added to each of these cities annually. Retail merchants in Seattle are now some of the strongest proponents for these projects, since reduced travel speeds allow for easier and safer parking, improve store access and boost overall walking and livability conditions in neighborhoods ... all of which leads to improved commerce.”

A nice presentation by Jennifer A. Rosales, under the title Road Diet Handbook (February 2008) provides a good summary of the state of the art in the United States.

You might also want to check out(and possibly contribute) the Livable Streets Network StreetsWiki entry on road diets.

Next steps here: Three options. You are invited to comment just below. Alternatively, we can rewrite the entry together. Or best yet, crank up a road diet project in your city or neighborhood. Let us know.

The Editor

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Toolbox: Potential fit between World Streets and Twitter?

We have long believed that a good question can be a lot more useful as a spur for excellence than most of what are often passed off as answers. So in this spirit, and as part of our unending search for new tools for sustainability, let me simply draw your attention to the small reader poll you will see just to your left and invite you to share your views there. Another option is to weigh in just below as a Comment.

Here is some background on Twitter. And here, in case you missed it, on World Streets.

And then if the response and subsequent research proves this worth pursuing further, well we will pursue it. Either ourselves or through the contributions of friends, partners and collaborators who are invited to weigh on what I suspect is a non-trivial question.

Now, your turn to make your voice heard.

The Editor

* Image from www.briansolis.com/2009_02_01_archive.html - See Fair use

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Transit-Oriented Development - Tokyo-style

Tokyo-style Transit-Oriented Development, a Lesson in Variety and Interconnectivity

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in Tokyo resembles the streetcar suburbs of the US from the turn of the 20th century; private transit operators build high density suburbs along their transit lines to boost ridership. In Tokyo, however, each station area supplies access to most daily services by walking.

Furthermore, most TODs offer large numbers of service sector jobs and some professional jobs. This high level of mixed-usage gives each development a rudimentary independence concerning individual lifestyles; but the grouping of TODs interconnected by an efficient rail and bus system makes them successful. TOD stations are also served by feeder buses and the rail lines connect directly with subways, allowing seamless access to the city center.

Along with the built environment of the TODs themselves, the center which they encompass is fully navigable by foot, bus, or subway. As the TOD resident is freed from car use at both ends of their trips, cars, while owned by many, are only used for non-commute and non-daily activity trips. In many cases, the vast rail system allows TOD residents to carry out most leisure activities by mass transit.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) further reinforces a transit oriented lifestyle. Relatively high gas prices, expensive and limited parking, and narrow roads (a capricious measure) further reduce the impulse to drive and make the cheaper mass transit option even more attractive. Along with its density, these measures make mass transit the only viable option for commuting

Although replicating Tokyo’s densities would be beyond imaginable, following its example of providing high service levels that make inter-TOD travel convenient id the primary lesson to take away from its experience. The Tokyo region developed its style of TOD from a near clean slate; but Japan’s allowing of private industry and transit operators to develop denser, mixed-use areas around transit stations is crucial as a means to realize these types of development at this level. This private development has also led to the efficient use of stations, where transit operators provide non-transport related services, such as shopping.

In closing, TOD in Tokyo is more than a type of development, it is a lifestyle. While car use is not precluded by Tokyo’s urban form, cars serve their function in a responsible manner. Furthermore, owning a car is a choice; thus all persons of all levels of ability are able to meet their needs, for which TOD in Tokyo allows millions to meet in a manner that is sustainable and equitable.

Gabriel Banks, PhD Candidate - gbanks@ut.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp
Professor Nobuaki Ohmori, Lecturer - nobuaki@ut.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp
University of Tokyo Department of Urban Engineering,
Tokyo Japan

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Op-Ed: Privatizing Street Parking

There are a lot of good reasons for cities to charge for public parking. It is more efficient and equitable. Urban parking facilities are a valuable resource, costing $10,000 to $50,000 to construct, with a typically annual value of $1,000 to $2,000 in land, construction and operating costs. Many vehicles are worth less than the parking spaces they occupy; underpricing parking forces people who own fewer than average vehicles to subsidize their neighbors who own more than average vehicles.

Currently in North America, most parking is provided free, financed through development costs and municipal governments, and therefore borne through mortgages, rents and taxes. Charging motorists directly of using urban parking facilities typically reduces automobile trips by about 20%; in other words, about 20% of parking facility costs, traffic congestion, accidents, energy consumption and pollution emissions results from the common practice of paying for parking indirectly rather than directly.

That said, it is probably best for municipal governments to maintain tight control over their parking pricing systems. Chicago recently leased its parking meters to a private company for 99 years, simply as a way for the city to collect a short-term windfall (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/transportation/chi-parking-meters-20-mar20,0,871852.story).

Privitization could be fine if designed to maximize user convenience and economic efficiency, but not if the goal is simply to maximize revenue. At a minimum, privitization should require state-of-the-art payment systems, gradual and predictable price changes, performance standards, and a much shorter lease period so future councils can change their policies.

For more information see:

"Parking Pricing" ( http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm26.htm )

Richard Arnott and John Rowse (2007), ‘Downtown parking in auto city’, Boston College Working Paper 665 (http://econpapers.repec.org); at http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/bocbocoec/665.htm.

Marcus Enoch and Stephen Ison (2006), “Levying Charges On Private Parking: Lessons From Existing Practice,” World Transport Policy & Practice, Vol. 12, No. 1 ( http://ecoplan.org/wtpp/general/vol-12-1.pdf), pp. 5-14.

Daniel B. Hess (2001), The Effects of Free Parking on Commuter Mode Choice: Evidence from Travel Diary Data, Lewis Center for Public Policy Studies, UCLA ( www.sppsr.ucla.edu/lewis/WorkingPapers.html).

Douglas Kolozsvari and Donald Shoup (2003), “Turning Small Change Into Big Changes,” ACCESS 23, University of California Transportation Center (www.uctc.net), Fall 2003, pp. 2-7.

Todd Litman (2006), Parking Management Best Practices, Planners Press (www.planning.org).

Todd Litman (2006), Parking Management: Strategies, Evaluation and Planning, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org/park_man.pdf ).

Todd Litman (2006), Parking Taxes: Evaluating Options and Impacts, VTPI ( www.vtpi.org/parking_tax.pdf).

Todd Litman (2006), Parking Management: Innovative Solutions To Vehicle Parking Problems, Planetzen ( www.planetizen.com/node/19149).

Gary Roth (2004), An Investigation Into Rational Pricing For Curbside Parking: What Will Be The Effects Of Higher Curbside Parking Prices In Manhattan? Masters Thesis, Columbia University; at http://anti-bob.com/parking/Rational_Pricing_for_Curbside_Parking-GRoth.pdf ).

Tom Rye and Stephen Ison (2005), “Overcoming Barriers to the Implementation of Car Parking Charges at UK Workplaces,” Transport Policy, Vol. 12, No. 1 ( www.elsevier.com/locate/transpol), Jan. 2005, pp. 57-64.

Donald Shoup (2002), Curb Parking: An Ideal Source of Public Revenue, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (www.lincolninst.edu), Presented at “Analysis of Land Markets and the Impact of Land Market Regulation,” (Code CP02A01).

Donald Shoup (2005), The High Cost of Free Parking, Planners Press (www.planning.org). This is a comprehensive and entertaining book of the causes, costs and problems created by free parking, and how to correct these distortions.

Donald Shoup (2006), The Price of Parking On Great Streets, Planetizen ( www.planetizen.com/node/19150).

USEPA (2006), Parking Spaces / Community Places: Finding the Balance Through Smart Growth Solutions, Development, Community, and Environment Division (DCED); U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/parking.htm).

VTPI (2003), Parking Cost, Pricing And Revenue Calculator, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org/parking.xls).

Todd Litman
Victoria Transport Policy Institute
Victoria BC, Canada

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Letters: Signal priority for city buses

Dear Editor:

Here is a wonderful and useful document from TfL (Transport for London on "Bus pre-signals": a technique used to enable buses to move ahead of queues on the approach to signalised junctions and areas where there is insufficient carriageway width to provide physical measures. (TfL is the integrated body responsible for London’s transport system, under the authority of the city's mayor.)

Whether its prioritising buses on roads that narrow down in to a bottle neck or when one wants buses to pull out from a bus stop in the left lane straight in to the right lane as they need taking a right turn at next junction - An absolute must read.

I pray for the day when something as simple as this hits Indian cities like Mumbai and Pune - hope its sooner than later.

Adhiraj Joglekar
Eyes on the Street correspondent in Mumbai, India

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Carsharing on World Streets

World Streets actively supports carsharing as one of the key baseline new mobility modes that have to be brought in as part of the multi-level package needed to manage the transition to sustainable transport in all cities and communities around the world. Note the fact that we say all and not just certain kinds of cities. Stay tuned and you will see how this work.

The New Mobility Agenda created the World Carshare Consortium in 1997 as a free, cooperative, independent communications and collaboration forum in support of carsharing projects and programs, worldwide. World Carshare offers a convenient place on the web to gather and share information and independent views on projects and approaches, past, present and planned future, freely and easily available to all comers.

Through this date World Carshare has has brought together more than 450 members, hosted more than 3000 exchanges of questions and information, organized or participated in several dozen national or international workshops or conferences, generated a number of independent reports, provided policy counsel to both cities and carshare projects, helped draft legislation, and more generally served as a spur to carshare development internationally. (These contributions have been deeply appreciated by leaders in the field, as you can see from the testimonials that are summarized here.)

Here is what the map of visitors for 12 April 2009 looks like. Basically it provides a good resume of where carsharing is being practiced and studies today. We are going to see this map expand steadily in the years immediately ahead.

In a recent world survey (November 2008) we identified more than one thousand cities and communities in the world in which you can pick up a share car this morning. This number has come close to doubling over the last two years, and there is no sign of this rate of growth leveling off.

Why have we over all these years supported a concept that may to some appear to be so off-beat and marginal as carsharing? Simple! We think it's a great, sustainable, practical mobility idea whose time has come and whose potential impact is quite simply huge. Carsharing: the missing link in your city's sustainable transport system.

In Spring 2009 Streets will report on carshare development at the leading edge, and will be hosting a series of interviews with leading figures and projects in every country in which it is presently practiced. Stay tuned.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Honk! Polish cyclists can't drink and drive

- From our vigilant Eyes on the Street reporter Marek Utkin in Warsaw.
Under a law passed in 2000 in Poland, anyone riding a bike under the influence of alcohol faces a fine or up to two years in prison, depending on the level of their intoxication.

This law was engineered (for not to say doctored) before Poland's access to the EU: one of the requirements, imposed by the EU on its candidate members was to increase the detectability of the crimes. The cyclists became scapegoats...

This law, which places the cyclist after two beers on the same footing with a drunk driver of 20 ton truck or bus full of people, received a wholehearted welcome by police officers, especially in the countryside.

It turns out it is a way easier (and safer) to arrest a local farmer John, returning home by bike after closing of bar, than to stop a speeding car, which might be full of the thugs in track suits or -- even worse -- its driver could be a distinguished Member of Parliament (which is quite often phenomenon and means troubles for every policeman).

This law proceeded to the Constitutional Court, as absurd and draconian and which can drag whole families into poverty -- and currently two thousand Poles (mainly fathers of the families) are in prison for riding a bicycle whilst under the influence of alcohol. In spite of this, Poland's Constitutional Court has upheld a ruling that drunken cyclists should be tried as criminals, treated like drunken motorists and face prison if caught.

The average sentence for riding a bike after booze is 11.5 months imprisonment.

There was a proposal that intoxicated cyclists should be treated like drunken pedestrians, who face a fine rather than jail, as both use their own muscles to achieve motion. The Constitutional Court (lead by the chairwoman, a typical car-bound person), ruled that cyclists use public roads and are considerably more dangerous because of the speeds they can travel.

Drunken pedestrians use the public roads too and I would be careful not to exaggerate the speed of a drunken cyclist. Taking into account that the energy (hence the possible damage) equals mass time velocity [M x V], the mass of the cyclist plus bike rarely exceeds 100 kilograms while the speed decreases with the level of alcohol in blood.

The whole affair unveils the attitude of Polish authorities to the cycling in general. Both the cyclist, as the motorist in Poland could have 0,2 promille of alcohol in blood. In Germany the cyclist could have 1,6 promille of alcohol (and the car driver -- 0,5 promille).

In Poland in road accidents with alcohol in background, ca. 86% of them caused drunken car drivers and only in 14% of them have been involved drunken cyclists. In majority of the accidents with drunken drivers casualties or heavy injuries occurred. In accidents with the drunken cyclists the number of injuries and casualties was much more lower, and the victims have been often the cyclists alone.

In Polish prisons ca. 1931 people have been jailed after being caught in flagrante delicto for cycling after boozing (more wait in the custody). Cost of keeping all these sinful cyclists in prisons equals about EUR 10 to 12 million per year. For that much money Poland could build about 250 kilometers of cycle paths along the most busy national roads.

Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/europe/7994857.stm
- As to the photo we have been unable to ascertain if the cyclist pictured is drunk. Or for that matter Polish. Our investigations continue (See Comments below for results). The editor.

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Get to know your neighbors on World Streets

Over the last 24 hours more than 200 people have checked in to World Streets from the following countries to have a look:

Look at this against the present status of our world Eyes on the Streets map (started only on 5 April and just getting going.)

I kind of wonder what this is telling us.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Honk! Livable Streets Promised Land

This just in from our friends over at Livable Streets and Streetsblog in New York City.

We share this with you because we have long been convinced that one of the keys to the kinds of pattern breaks which are needed to make our cities more sustainable and people-friendly are precisely these skills of convincing visualization to show in very concrete terms what the changes are going to bring about. When this is well done, it helps to take the fear of uncertainty out – most of us after all are not necessarily welcoming of change. Particularly when the future being proposed to us is not all that familiar.

If you click here you will be taken to the front door of this entry, which will one click later take you to their “photosim” interactive graphic. You will also be invited to join their (free) Livable Streets Initiative (very handy and highly recommended) as well as invited to join their contest with a two-step before-and-after picture simulation of a project you would like to see in your own city. And if you do, make sure to share it with us here on World Streets. This kind of change management is of interest to us all.

Note: Strongly recommend you have a look at the comments which are coming in on their site. Some of them are very challenging and very sensible.

The Editor

From Livable Streets:

Here's a nice visual of what cities will look like when the livable streets movement has completely emerged from the wilderness (sorry for the extended metaphor, couldn't help it today). GOOD Magazine ran this photosim done by our very own Carly Clark in their transportation issue, with text by Streetsblog Editor-in-Chief Aaron Naparstek. They've got a whole interactive graphic that walks you through the elements of a livable street, and -- hats off to my coworkers -- it looks great.

GOOD is also putting on a photosim contest where readers can submit their own designs for a livable street. If you send something in, don't worry too hard about impressing the jury. Aaron will be the only judge.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bad News Dept: “Manual for Streets” ignored in Wales.

“Manual for Streets, published March 2007 by the UK Department for Transport, gives new advice for the design of residential streets in England and Wales. It represents a strong Government and Welsh Assembly commitment to the creation of sustainable and inclusive public spaces.”

“The Department’s policy-making process received an award recently, with Traffic Management Division winning a Royal Town Planning Institute prize for its Manual for Streets. The award recognizes that it is radically changing designers' and local authorities' approach to residential street design for the better. It emphasizes that streets should be places in which people want to live and spend time in, and are not just transport corridors. In particular, it aims to reduce the impact of vehicles on residential streets by asking practitioners to plan street design intelligently and proactively, and gives a high priority to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport.” – From the Dft project website (below).

The report is available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/manforstreets/

Yes but when you get to the street in Wales here is what you see (Ian Perry reporting from Cardiff). . .

All Local Authorities in Wales have failed to respond to the offer of training or more information on the Manual for Streets according to one of its authors. The document is based on solid research and has won much praise and many awards and yet Local Authorities continue to design streets as they always have...

Only one person out of the 20 people in attendance at a presentation on the Manual for Streets organized by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, held in the council offices of Cardiff Council, worked for a Local Authority (and not Cardiff), with the remainder working in the private sector as engineers or consultants – who reported that private developers were interested in applying the findings of the research into Manual for Streets, but wary of Local Authorities refusing to adopt streets.

It would seem that the public sector in Wales is not interested in embracing different practices.

Thanks to the watchful Eyes on the Street and World Streets Correspondent, Ian Perry, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Editor’s note: We strongly invite commentary and if available further information on lessons to be learned from this experience.

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Frequency of publication (Reader views)

On the day that World Streets opened its doors, 2 March 2009, we asked our new readers to take the time to share with us their views on what they preferred in terms of frequency of “publication”. In addition to private exchanges and conversation on this, we also opening up a small poll and left it open for the first two weeks, during which time 43 readers took the trouble to share their views with us. What the poll told us lined up quite closely with the emails and other exchanges.

More than half, as you can see here, advised that they would prefer a weekly edition for consultation, while close to a third reported that monthly would be just fine for them. Five of the respondees indicated that they thought ad hoc and no fixed schedule will be the way to go, while only 2 voted for World Streets as a daily.

Now we asked that question with several things in view. First, our desire to avoid info overload, certainly the direct cause of losing your audience on the net or pretty much anywhere. We had in fact the idea of a daily/weekly in target from the beginning. i.e., something that is sufficiently interesting each day that some if not all of our readers might book mark and have a quick look with their morning coffee. But at the same time, organized in such a way that the faithful though busy reader could drop in at any point and have direct access to the full last week of postings.

As to those asking for something monthly, our plan is to do something along those lines, but we have yet to figure out how. Finally, as daily users of the web we appreciate that stuff is happening in our sector in various corners of the world all the time, some of it interesting and to the point here, so we also wish to make Streets a resource readable available at all times. Which is what you have here.

Our job is to make this interesting, relevant and efficient for you. We are off to a pretty good start, but stay with us, more and better is ahead.

The Editor

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Op-Ed: Mikel Murga on Look beyond Transportation

As a Basque-American working in both Boston … and Bilbao, I would suggest to those in charge of Transportation, something very simple: Look beyond Transportation. This should lead to:

1) Focus on City Making, which should be specially palatable to President Obama. City Making addresses many of the basic issues driving the new administration: Education, equal opportunities, mitigation of income disparities, etc. All in line with the old dictum of “Stadt Luft Macht Frei”. But at the same time and from a transportation perspective, it allows to focus on above targets, and not just on functional benchmarks, because a city by itself fosters density of residence and density of jobs of services.

This translates in turn into the right environment to foster good public transport, good walking and cycling environment and good and attractive public spaces as meeting points for their citizens. This suggestion also entails the examination of suburbs in search of opportunities to create an urban culture through infill of its core area. This is an area where Europe offers many examples of such a level playing field for their citizens, clear economies of scale and more attractive public spaces

2) Adopt new indicators for the contribution of the transportation system, both positive and negative. These indicators should go beyond our current level of service measurements plus operating costs, congestion and external costs. The goal is to incorporate transport contribution towards savings of the household transportation budgets and new business efficiencies through agglomeration of economic activities, as two quick examples

3) Re-Balance the Transportation System, by leading a program as ambitious as President Eisenhower Interstate Program. This Interstate II would be based on High-Speed Rail, in order to decrease dramatically the current modal share of auto and aviation, thus mitigating the growing levels of congestion on both modes, decreasing external costs, and fostering new regional development based on the new rail infrastructure. This in turn will reinforce the economic role of our cities as they compete globally with other world cities which already benefit from efficient transportation systems. Notice for example the short number of years during which Spain has reached second place in terms of total miles currently planned, added to those under operation and those under construction.

4) Redesign every new transport project as a city making opportunity. Those choosing to visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao are surprised by the quality of the city environment. The explanation lies on the fact that the new stations of the recent Subway and new Light Rail were taken as an excuse to create high quality public spaces and new high density residential and employment developments. This virtual cycle, which might include land value capture schemes, should be part of the evaluation of every new transport project in a multi modal context.

Mikel Murga, mmurga@mit.edu
Research Associate and Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
President, Leber Planificación e Ingeniería
Cambridge, MA and Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain

Contribution by the author to the world wide collaborative project “Messages for America: World-wide experience, ideas, counsel, proposals and good wishes for the incoming Obama transportation team”. See www.messages.newmobility.org for latest version of this report of the New Mobility Agenda.

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Honk! Can Segway do the trick?

We wish engineers, inventors and anyone else who chooses to get involved, all the good luck in the world when it comes to trying to bring on line new and more emissions/energy effective vehicles and power sources.

Indeed, we are convinced that the shift from old to new mobility will in large part be mediated by technology. However we have to be a bit careful with this because at the same time it is important to bear in mind the time window which we believe is the proper focus of policy and practice, and of course of technology – i.e., the two to four years directly ahead.

This is significant and in many discussions of various ways of achieving more sustainable transportation arrangements, we often hear much about the advantages of new vehicle, motive, and fuel technologies, as if they were going to be able to do the job that needs to be done. This of course is impossible, unfortunately, when we bear in mind the realities of the penetration path of these technologies, which are measured in many years and indeed decades by a time they begin to have a significant global impact on greenhouse gas reductions, energy savings, etc..

It is tempting of course for us to look at proposals for this particular class of technologies, all the more so since they often are well supported by institutions and interests behind them. You do not have to look very far to find many such proposals, often wrapped up in very appealing packages and arguments. But we really need to think hard and keep them in perspective.

Here is one example that has been brought to our attention today by our "eyes on the street" colleague in Ottawa, Chris Bradshaw, in which he makes the point: ”It seems Segway's announcement today, http://www.segway.com/puma/, is right up your alley.”

Well, if we check out that reference here is what the Segway people have to say about their product:

“Think of it as a digital solution to an analog problem. Segway’s P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) prototype represents the shift that’s needed for the future of transportation. It values less over more; taking up less space, using less energy, produced more efficiently with fewer parts, creating fewer emissions during production and operation, all while offering more enjoyment, productivity, and connectivity”

Hmm. I invite you to have a look at the Segway product and proposal as outlined here, and to share with us your reflections and reactions to it, perhaps both in general but more specifically within the time and strategic framework that World Streets is working with. Personally I do not see it.

True enough, if Segway and other innovators with similar softer technology packages are able to bring to market vehicles which people will buy and use instead of less efficient and more wasteful technologies, this would be useful at that specific micro level. But from the global and time perspective that we are destined to work with, it just doesn't add up. Sorry.

To end a more positive note, I would with your permission like to cite the statement made under the heading “Full speed ahead with new technology” in the welcoming note posted here.

“New mobility is at its core heavily driven by the aggressive application of state of the art logistics, communications and information technology across the full spectrum of service types. The transport system of the future is above all an interactive information system, with the wheels and the feet at the end of this chain. These are the seven leagues boots of new mobility.”

Thus it is our view that technology is no less than enormously important in the party moved to sustainability, but the way in which is going to make its difference will be when it is brought in to provide the information and communications infrastructure needed to render our new mobility systems effective and competitive. We will never get there without them

Your comments are as always very welcome on this.

Eric Britton

Editor, World Streets

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