Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Battle for Street Space - Part I

Earning a Public Space Dividend in the Streets

- Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Abstract: Experiments with shared space or “naked streets” have captured imaginations and considerable media coverage in recent years. Most of the excitement stems from surprise that streets without kerbs, road markings or signage can work well and achieve “safety through uncertainty”. This paper looks at another equally important insight from shared space.
It focuses on a series of innovations that, like shared space, re-arrange the roles of streets in new ways to yield a “dividend” of expanded urban public realm, with little or no loss of transport utility. Such a space dividend should be especially welcome in dense cities that are both congested and short of public space.


What are streets and roadways for? An obvious answer is traffic movement. But that is clearly not the whole story. A second role is to allow the reaching of final destinations— the role we call “access”. Thirdly, streets can be valuable public places in their own right. In addition, moving high-speed motor vehicles differ enormously from movement by low-speed, vulnerable modes such as bicycles. Unfortunately, speedy motor traffic movement and the other roles of streets are in serious conflict. For almost a century, the tension between these roles has been at the heart of debate over street design (Hass-Klau 1990; Jacobs et al. 2002). This article reviews emerging resolutions to this tension.

The Battle for Street Space

The essence of a street is that it serves all these roles simultaneously—providing for traffic movement and access, and as public space for urban activities. However, mainstream roadway management has spent many decades seeking, like Le Corbusier, the “death of the street”. It tends to turn everything between kerbs into “traffic space” where motor vehicle movement is the design priority (Patton 2007).

Motorised traffic, slow modes and pedestrians are strictly segregated in both space and time. The role of streets as “public realm” has been largely restricted to the pavements (sidewalks) and to pedestrian zones. Most cities are desperately short of attractive public space and space for the networks needed by the gentle but vulnerable modes such as walking and cycling.

Since the 1930s, traffic engineers have routinely classified every roadway in a hierarchy according to the degree to which it serves either traffic movement or access. Major arterials and expressways which are at the top of the hierarchy are managed primarily for maximum vehicle mobility. Any access functions are carefully limited to contain “friction” with the mainstream traffic. Only streets at the lowest level of the hierarchy are used mainly for access. Furthermore, the planning process often seeks to remove as much activity as possible (and hence, the “public space” role) from roadways and their vicinity. The influential UK report of 1963, Traffic in Towns by Colin Buchanan, reinforced the idea that segregation was essential (Hamilton-Baillie 2008).

The roadway hierarchy has no place for streets that serve both traffic and multiple other purposes (Svensson 2004). Yet, traditional urban streets and main streets remain ubiquitous. They provide (inadequately) for both access and mobility and are sites of perennial conflict. Such conflict is especially obvious in the heavily used streets of many dense Asian cities. The conventional traffic engineering approach offers little guidance for such multi-role streets (Svensson 2004).

Expanding Public Realm without Evicting Motor Vehicles

Recently, a series of promising street management innovations has emerged that re- assert in new ways the multi-purpose nature of the street. (See Box Story “Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets”.) They offer ways to increase the public realm without removing the motor vehicles or seriously undermining the utility of the motorised traffic system. Does that sound too good to be true?

These innovations exploit common insights and principles. First, they involve making a strong distinction between “traffic areas” or “highway” and public space or the “public realm” (Shared Space project 2005). Traffic areas are the realm of conventional traffic engineering where high-speed motor vehicle movement is primary, with its flow carefully segregated from slower users like pedestrians and cyclists.

Second, some of this redefined “public realm” can be shared. It includes new spaces designed for the peaceful co-existence of public place activities, slow movement by vulnerable modes as well as motor vehicles, especially those seeking access to the vicinity. The key to such co-existence lies in keeping speeds low, ideally to no more than about 30 km/h (Shared Space project, 2005). Low speeds mean that motor vehicles need not be excluded but those present will mainly be making access movements or on the “last mile” (or the first) of their trips.

Third, these innovations shift the boundary between public realm and traffic space, so that a surprising amount of what we now think of as traffic space becomes part of the low-speed public realm. In shared spaces and in other slow zones, such as Tempo 30 zones and bicycle boulevards, whole streets and intersections are converted to public space. In multi-way boulevards, public realm includes everything from the building line to the outer edge of the central, high-speed traffic lanes. This newly expanded public realm serves local motor vehicle access, slow-mode movement, public space roles and sometimes some through-traffic (with low priority and at low speed). Only the high-speed traffic movement is excluded and kept within traffic space.

Fourth, a key design goal is that both the public realm and traffic space should work better by being kept distinct (Shared Space project 2005). Cities still need high-speed traffic space of course, just as some pure pedestrian space must also remain. But a surprising amount of shared public realm could be reclaimed without diminishing total traffic capacity. The key is that most of the expansion of the public realm envisaged here would take over traffic space that does not work very efficiently anyway. For example, the capacity of many of today’s motorised traffic lanes is reduced by turning movements, kerbside drop-offs, parking, loading and other street activities. After transforming such spaces into public realm, the remaining traffic space can be re-designed more thoroughly for its traffic function. Moreover, the new public realm retains some traffic function, albeit at low speed, as a safety valve at times of extreme congestion.

A high percentage of traffic volume in most cities is carried by roads at the top of the roadway hierarchy. Much of the remaining traffic is in fact short-distance traffic, or is on the first or last “mile” of a longer trip, or is circling for a parking spot. Such traffic does not need high speeds. In fact, a slower environment is more appropriate for access movement. Furthermore, although public realm requires very low peak speeds, the approaches discussed here also usually reduce the need for stopping and starting, so that average speeds and travel times are often little changed. Therefore, reclaiming such space as public realm has less impact on traffic performance than one would think based purely on the percentage of traffic space “lost”.

Expanding the low-speed public realm would also allow us to be much more tolerant of a diverse range of small, vulnerable vehicles that currently do not fit easily into our transport systems. These include bicycles, in-line skates, skateboards, kick scooters, wheelchairs and many other “Personal Mobility Devices”.

Barriers to Change

As with most innovations, change will take more than a simple policy decision. In most countries, roadway management practices are deeply embedded in institutions, their missions, objectives, performance-measures and boundaries of responsibility between agencies; in professional guidelines, codes and design standards; and in traffic rules and road user education.

Fortunately, little change is needed in conventional roadway management when it is applied to its appropriate domain i.e. the highspeed arterials and highways. It is only within an expanded public realm and at its boundaries that drastic change is called for. Standard practice must no longer apply to such spaces. Level of service (LOS) has no place here. Nor do conventional approaches to road safety, such as removal of “fixed hazardous objects”. Roadways that form part of the shared public realm should not resemble highways despite the presence of motor vehicles. Design principles for such streets, including signage and road markings, must be different from those for traffic space.

The public realm of streets needs a whole new set of procedures, guidelines and metrics of success. More research is needed to develop them. This is beginning to happen through experimentation in many countries (Shared Space project 2008; Hamilton-Baillie 2008; Jacobs et al. 2002). The Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have revised their guidance manuals on street design (e.g. DfT 2007). Traffic engineers will need to adapt their problem solving to the special challenges of designing shared public realm. They will need to collaborate more with urban design professionals and urban planners, who will also need to take more interest in the streets that they have long neglected.


This article has provided a quick review of promising new ways to reconcile movement, access and place-making within our precious urban rights of way. New public space is gained through including low-speed access movement by motor vehicles within the public realm. It is this “public space dividend” that has been my focus. It may be too soon to tell if these ideas can deliver on their promise. We may only find out by trying them out.

This article was first published in the May edition of JOURNEYS, an Academy publication of the Land Transport Authority of Singapore(LTA). We thought that many of our readers might not have picked it up, so we are most pleased to reprint here with their kind permission and that of the author.

Paul Barter is an Assistant Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where he teaches infrastructure policy, urban policy, transport policy and an introduction to public policy. He has published studies of transport policy in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. His current research interests are in innovation in transport demand management, public transport regulation, and contested priorities in urban transport policy.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Satoshi Fujii: Think your way to travel less

The most effective target is car users, and the most important point is to provide an opportunity to think their way to travel less. For achieving environmentally sustainable society, various types of pro-environmental behavior to reduce CO2 emission are believed to be called for. These include: adjusting the temperature of air-conditioning, turning off lights and electronic appliances as often as possible, and . . . the reduction of car use.

Among various pro-environmental behaviors that people can perform in daily life, car-user-reduction behavior is known to be the most effective option. Yearly CO2 reduction by reduction of car use for 10 minutes a day (588 kg;/year) is around 20 times greater than adjusting the thermostat by 1 degree through the year (32 kg/year), and around 300 times greater than the one resulting from turning off a TV (32 kg/year).

However, this “fact” is not well known to drivers. Therefore, their pro-environmental behavior would often be inefficient in terms of CO2 reduction, even though they were to be highly motivated to reduce such greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, practical measures to promote people’s voluntary behavior change to reduce car use are strongly called for in environmental policy making.

In order to reduce car use, many developed countries including European countries, Australia and Japan have implemented mobility management. Mobility management focuses on attempting to change travel behaviour using communication.

A typical mobility management communicative measure is a travel feedback programs (TFP). In the TFP, participants receive information designed to modify behaviour. Such feedback would be effective because it induces behavioural awareness, an essential element in modification.

This feedback may also prompt participants to increase their knowledge of specific methods for modifying their travel behaviour. A meta analysis of effectiveness of TFPs shows that about 20% car use has been reduced on average for those who participated in the programs.

This substantial effectiveness of such communicative measures implies that people can change their behavior for the purpose of contributing to public wellbeing.

It was also implied that a reason for them not to change their travel behavior in the past would be just a lack of opportunity to think their way to travel less. Thus, a program to provide such an opportunity to think their way to travel can have a substantial effect in reduction of car use.

Transport policy makers, and environmental policy makers, need to give attention to the fact that car use reduction is the most effective approach for CO2 reduction from daily life, and mobility management such as TFPs offers a promising method for significant car use reduction.

Satoshi Fujii is professor of psychological-based transportation planning research in Kyoto University and director of the Japanese Conference on Mobility Management. e-mail: ujii@trans.kuciv.kyoto-u.ac.jp

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Tell us what you think about World Streets (in 2 lines)

Two boys were playing football in my street this morning.
What a wonderful sight. Time to reclaim our World Streets!

Paris. 19 June 2009. See that crowd? - you are there somewhere. One of forty thousand readers of World Streets. On March 2nd, after six months of hard work, we published Vol. 1, No. 1 of the planet’s first independent daily wholly devoted to advancing the sustainable transportation and sustainable cities agenda worldwide.

Now it's your turn. Click here to tell us how we're doing. Two lines will do just fine. Two lines, two minutes, and you have your favorite sustainability daily sitting on your desk tomorrow morning. Fair enough? (And it's sustainable.)

Number visitors signing in to support World Streets: starting 19 June and to this date.
Number messages supporting World Streets to date

Since Streets opened its doors in March close to forty thousand of you have already dropped in to have a look, joining us from your homes and work places in from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Europe, Finland, France, Germany, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States, And by way of reminder you will below find a map reporting the origins of the people who checked in this morning.

Glad you are enjoying it, and here is something that you can do for us in turn

We are now trying to figure out how to pay for the whole thing, and while we have received close to two thousand dollars in generous donations from about two dozen subscribers and friends of World Streets over the last weeks in response to our Support Streets campaign, this is far from enough to ensure that we can keep up the work needed to bring this to you in style you want and deserve. Which means that we are now going to have to turn to agencies, foundations and concerned individuals of means for support. And that is where you come in.

So, dear reader, what do we ask of you today? Very simple, take two minutes to pen a couple of lines telling us that you think Streets is a valuable public service, signed with your name, affiliation if any, city and country. This will then allow us to approach eventual sponsors and show them that this thing is for real.

Do you think you might do that? Here is an example that came in just this morning from one reader in South Africa:
" I really do think that World Streets is the best of all the sustainable transport sites, as the news is updated all the time, always a reason to visit the site.". Gail Jennings, Mobility Magazine, Capetown South Africa
Thanks Gail, that’s a fine start and exactly what we were looking for to launch the process. Now let's see what happens.

Click here to send us your message.

Eric Britton
Editor, World Streets

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Drive Train Technology vs. New Mobility

- Chris Bradshaw, Ottawa, Canada

The real efficiency in transportation will come from social innovations, or should I say, return to social practices. As a former carshare provider, I consider sharing to be mankind's oldest technology. "Technology?" Yes, because it takes some invention to get it to work so that it is sustainable -- so that it doesn't self-destruct.

When sharing occurs on a small scale -- within the family or between neighbours and friends -- it needs little technology other than people being kind and attentive to a small number of others. Simple individual memory keeps track of favour and payback. Many cars are shared on this informal scale.

When it occurs at a larger scale, more formality is necessary. And there is a role for electronic/communications technology and formality of roles. Who owns the cars? Who makes sure they are roadworthy? Who makes sure each user pays his rightful share of the common costs? Who decides whether rules on access are being followed.

More complicated? Yes, but also more flexible and more powerfully efficient. The informal method can only handle maybe three drivers, and what happens when two of them want the vehicle for the same time slot?

Formal sharing can handle the 20-60 users that currently is the rule, and that is for a boutique market that hasn't yet led to land-use reforms that will squeeze out distance for all people's trips. It is also before we get advanced carsharing in which several members going the same way simultaneously can share (trans-seat,' see next), and at the destination, the car is released for another route and driver, rather than sitting idle, thanks to each leg of the trip being separately reserved.

Our suburbs and our competitive consumption patterns ("I have more/better 'stuff' that you.") have done a great deal to make sharing a dirty word.

People have been coached by champions of consumer growth to protect their privacy, no matter how lonely that makes them. And how expensive it is to acquire so much stuff, most of which is not the right model for the buyer, is under-utilized, and is ineptly maintained? People drive cars alone not just because they want fast, no -wait transportation; they also are buying privacy (and if many other people are seeking the same on the same section of road at the same time, the no-wait criterion will vanish). Many, much of the time, don't even want to share a ('their') car with other members of the household.

But we are seeing with the internet that people who are guarded in their dealings with neighbours and friends are quite open with complete strangers in the anonymous world of the internet. Formal carsharing uses this propensity to provide essentially anonymous sharing, mediated by a computer and its service organization. My concept of transit, which I have dubbed "trans-seat," uses shared vehicles to allow this sharing to expand from consecutive to simultaneous, but without the ridesharing experience which tries to create an instant community, but soon becomes 4-7 people plugged into personal MP3 players and phones.

It seems that people are more keen on being open to strangers when they aren't trapped into a repetitive situation. This is the market which "trans-seat" will try to tap, making it a kind of sharing between ridesharing and transit. With each seat accessible to the outside via its own door, there will not be any need for sharing physical space inside the vehicle. There will also be no "standing" area -- either you have a seat or you are not a passenger (no second-class patrons).

Reservations will also be possible, so that a trip across town via several vehicles, for a small fee, can be seat-guaranteed (including a bicycle seat) for each 'leg' of the trip.

The 'trans-seat' vehicle's driver, another member going somewhere, but who meets higher driver standards, will get a break on his travel fees for doing the extra chore of piloting (although not going off his route, as those accessing a seat will walk to a 'pod' -- pedestrian-oriented depot -- on the nearest arterial on their own (taxis and valet carsharing/rental will still do the door-to-door thing).

These are some of the elements of sharing in transportation that I have been thinking about. They are all intended to squeeze out all the extra metal and space that are not productive. That re-establishes walking as the primary mode for neighbourhoods, transit and 'trans-seat' for inter-neighbourhood travel in cities, and common-carriers (bus, train, boat, plane) for the rarer long trips.

There won't be much room for the personal car, except in museums. If we get it right, people will find more freedom and enough privacy to make them wonder what was it they saw in having, maintaining, storing, and earning money to transform public thoroughfares and semi-public parking lots into private spaces, especially when they have to pay the piper for the privilege.
About the author: Chris Bradshaw retired from city & regional planning in 1996, and co-founded Ottawa's carsharing company, Vrtucar in 2000. He has been an advocate for walking and pedestrian rights for 30 years. In retirement, he is championing a society-wide transition to a second-generation version of carsharing (integrating car-sharing, taxis, ridesharing, car-rental, and delivery). He lives 'car-lite' in downtown Ottawa with his wife of 40 years.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

WHO on Road Safety: 'We are responsible for our future'

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday its first global report on road safety worldwide. The news is grim.

The report is based on data drawn from a survey of 178 countries. It concludes that something on the order of 1.3 million people are dying in traffic accidents each year, that this number is accelerating, and that anywhere from 20 to 50 million people are injured as a result of traffic crashes. If you check out their five minute video on this page, you will hear them reminding us that these numbers sum to one person being injured in traffic every second, and someone dying -- being killed rather is a more accurate way to state it -- every thirty seconds. (Keep that image in mind as you work your way down this page.)

Of these totals roughly half (46%) of the victims killed on streets and roads worldwide are pedestrians, cyclists, and riders of motorized two wheelers – the most vulnerable road users.

Dr. Kelly Henning, director of global health programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies, the foundation that has sponsored and paid for the work behind the report, recommends that the answer lies in more laws and better enforcement of them. To this the report adds recommendations for increased use of seatbelts and helmets, along with tougher punishment of drunken drivers.

The point needs to be made that these recommendations are heavily influenced by the fact that over 90% of the world’s fatalities on the roads occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which have only 48% of the world’s registered vehicles. But as we here know both these figures are increasing every year. And we know too, sadly, that the measure currently in place to reverse these trends are altogether inadequate to do the job.

Those are certainly good steps in the right direction if properly conceived and implemented, and certainly golden counsel for the low and middle income countries in which the slaughter is the most tragic. However it will never have the impact which is needed if driving is to be less of a personal tragedy, social menace, and economic catastrophe.

It is our view here at World Streets that we need to dig deeper if we are ever going to get a major reversal of this disastrous trend. One of the authors of the report, Adnan Hyder, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, gives us a clue when he points out that:

Road safety is an area in which we truly as a global community can say, 'We are responsible for our future'.

Let's step back and take a quick look at this from a new mobility perspective and see what that might suggest.

First a reminder as to why people get killed or injured in traffic? Because someone is traveling too fast in a motor vehicle, which is far heavier than the victim and hence less likely to suffer the same level consequences.

Now if you have been following over these first three months the various detailed statements and views from many quarters that collectively define the New Mobility Agenda, you will note that our dual focus is (a) to reduce considerably the number of cars, buses and trucks on the road (less traffic but with better mobility), and (b) when it comes to areas in which there are pedestrians and cyclists on or near the road to slow it down dramatically. Less traffic moving slower is certainly the best answer to this part of the old mobility challenge.

The WHO recommendation on this reads: "Decreasing speed is an important way of reducing road traffic injuries, particularly among vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists). Urban speed limits should not exceed 50 km/h, while local authorities should be able to reduce these where necessary - for example around schools or in residential areas."

However as is often the case in the complex and highly diverse world in which we live, the ultimate solution is going to be some combination of all of the above. And for sure different combinations and permutations for different places.

Click here for WHO video presentation of report.

We at World Streets and our collaborators in different parts of the world look forward to working with all those behind the WHO report in order to see how we might contribute to the process which now needs to be put in place to deal with these issues from the very beginning.

* To obtain a copy of the WHO report, please click here.

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Media! Information led transportation - Check this out

Our friends from over at Zipcar sent us this little three minute video yesterday which we gladly share with you, with a couple of thoughts in mind. It shows how they have worked with the iPhone team in order to provide you with a couple-of-click interface for finding, ordering, entering etc your short term rental car. Very nice!

But what is of more interest to us is the underlying concept, that of providing you with a first rate in-the-pocket interface between the means of transportation and the way to get hold of it. What this spells out in capitals is that we are going to see these kinds of applications for all carriers coming on very fast now, and if you stay up with Google’s work on this, you will see that the noose is closing.

Let’s see now, you can use it for a shared car, a shared bike, a taxi, and of course the list will go on very fast indeed. This is a strong argument for the future, a more sustainable transport future if only we get it right. Which is the job of governance.

Now let's have a look at their video.

"At Apple's WWDC in San Francisco, Luke Schneider of Zipcar shows off a new application for the iPhone. The new software enables Zipcar users to find and reserve the nearest available vehicle on a city map. It also sports a feature that will beep the horn of the reserved Zipcar and unlock it when the user is close by."


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why transport planners need to think small

Why transport planners need to think small to tackle climate change

- Simon Bishop, Delhi, India

No matter how big or small all movements have their heresies and orthodoxies. In the domain of transport policy, questioning the primacy of motorized public transport over cycling and walking is like suggesting that the world may not be flat after all. The mercury rose and emails flew on the Sustainable Transport Sustran online discussion group earlier this week when Beijing’s announcement to make the city ‘a public transport city’ by 2015 hit the wire.
One contributor questioned Beijing’s strategy, which was based solely on raising levels of rail and bus ridership to 45%. Once the mainstay of China’s urban transport system, the bicycle, didn’t even get a mention.

From where I'm sitting in Delhi I added that there is a tendency to see 'motorized, mass public transport', through rose tinted glasses as if it is 'the' solution to growing automobile use. A huge amount of emphasis is put on the Metro and now BRT as ways to solve congestion (never mind about all the other externalities). Bicycles and legs are ignored despite holding a huge modal share, over half of all trips in Delhi.

I think it was the Indian economist Dasgupta who showed that you could make public transport free in the UK and still only effect a very small shift to it from the car (6%). The fact is that cars are damn convenient and people will use them unless they are literally prized away from doing so. The vast majority of people use public transport in London and NY because they have to. It’s well nigh impossible to park your car and it will cost you big time if you do! I hope that Beijing's approach will witness parking restraint and pricing as a lynchpin of its policy, otherwise it will be a funding drain and a white elephant.

The rose tinted spectacles also ignore the role of cycling as faster and more convenient than the bus over short to medium distances. Why swap a more convenient form of transport for a less convenient one? The only other thing that can compete with the car over these distances is the motorcycle, which should also be deterred for safety reasons and its high emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide.

Presently people don’t ride, or use cycle taxis because motorised vehicles make them less safe. They need an ‘image makeover’. And planners continue to ignore rider comforts like tree cover and vendor zones in hot countries air pollution all over.

Cheap interventions like prioritising access for cycles and pedestrians across high speed vehicle canyons should be a priority. These interventions save lives, make cycling and walking practical, and come in cheap - kilometre for kilometre a cycle track in London would cost less than 1/400th the amount of the Jubilee Line extension.

In terms of our greatest challenge, global warming I am perturbed. Where you have quality bus systems (with good timetables in the off peak and feeder services) they consume amounts of per capita energy rivalling that of the car. Quoting London, the average actual CO2 emissions of a bus is 40% that of a car, PM10 emissions are 3 times and SO2 emissions 25 times greater - that's not much of an improvement and certainly not enough to stabilise carbon emissions at 450ppmv. In Taipei, taking account of door to door emissions, the Metro actually consumes more energy than a car!

The counter argument to all this is that Asia is not London and you can’t compare ridership levels in London with Asian cities. True for now, but planners need to think about the future. What people put up with now is not what they will put up with as they get richer and have choices. Delhi does not yet have a public transport network that those with a choice of private, motorized transport would opt to use. The figures that we quote on fuel efficiency for buses in Asia NOW are not those that will exist with the kind of network needed to get wealthier citizens on the bus. And by the way I’m not talking about rich citizens, I’m talking about ones who can afford motorcycles that run on less than 1 rupee a kilometre.

To get motorcyclists and car users to switch in future, or at least stay on the bus, even WITH very strong demand management measures and low fares, we'll need to increase frequency, add A/C in some cases, bring down the 'crush factor' and widen geographical scope, all of which will inevitably result in more energy consumed per passenger. It's hard to disagree with this line of thinking without adopting a line of ‘one standard of public transport comfort for 'the West' and one for the developing world’.

This should not be construed as an argument AGAINST public transport, particularly buses, after all the more of us that use them the better, and there will always be a need for those who cannot cycle or walk, but it IS an argument for Beijing to re-discover leg power, put greater emphasis on travel demand management, and control urban sprawl. If the world is to face its greatest challenge, that of averting catastrophic climate change, we have no choice.
The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.
-Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity, 1974

- Simon Bishop is working as a transport and environment consultant in Delhi, where he lives with his family. In India he has worked on bus and cycling projects like the Delhi BRT and helped set up the Global Transport Knowledge Partnership. Before coming to India two years ago Simon worked in London as a planner on demand management and travel marketing schemes, receiving an award from the Mayor for "London's Most Innovative Transport Project". He authored 'The Sky's the Limit' - Policies for Sustainable Aviation' while working as a policy adviser in the Institute for Public Policy Research.

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Bad News Dept. Sustainable Transportation's Dirty Secret

"We are a generation of great talkers."

How optimistic can one reasonably be concerning our ability at this point to meet the enormous challenges facing our sector and the planet in time to make the needed big differences in the years ahead? Here are two comments on this that were made back in 1996, subsequent to a high level international conference on just this subject. Each runs about one minute:

* Try this "dirty secret" comment from 1996 - Click here
* And this "what next" comment - Click here

Sometimes it can help to remember the past. Listen for example to this one minute extract from a presentation given by the editor to a planning session of the OECD Environment Directorate on the occasion of a review of the accomplishments of the high level 1996 Vancouver Conference, "Towards Sustainable Transportation". That meeting, in the words of the OECD "brought together over 400 policy-makers, governments and NGO representatives to assess the state of the art knowledge in reducing transport's environmental impacts and to chart a path towards more environmentally sustainable transport systems". And what exactly did those "400 policy-makers, governments and NGO representatives" accomplish, sustainable transportation-wise?

* Click here for 1996 audio file.

1996 text accompanying Dirty Secret presentation:

That, in our words, is Sustainable Transportation's Dirty Secret. Worse yet, the sad truth is it does appear to be not just a transient anomaly but rather a sign of our times, of our generation, of our egregious (un)willingness to organize ourselves and get around to doing (a lot) better.

Check out the leading edge of the research, the many related web sites and all the conferences on global warming, carbon dioxide build-up, ozone depletion, and the rest, and one comes to a pretty simple, pretty solid conclusion. From an unbiased eco-perspective we are misbehaving very badly indeed. And what is worse yet is that, rhetoric aside, there is little out there on the radar screen that promises much better. Indeed the numbers all suggest that things are going from bad to worse. Emissions targets are being timidly set, after a huge amount of hemming and hawing. And then flagrantly missed. What a bad, what an inexcusable joke.

That, in our words, is Sustainable Transportation's Dirty Secret.

I see this presentation as a much needed call to a more thoughtful, more innovative, more layered ("packages of measures"), more open, and more technology-assisted approach to the challenges of sustainability in a frankly non-sustainable world -- a world of people, habits and political arrangements that to all appearances has no real intention to make the fundamental changes that are needed for the planet and in our daily lives.
I ask you, what are the differences between the way we are looking at all this today, and back in 1996? Have we made any notable progress over these thirteen long years?

No certainly not. So what we need to do now to kick-start the system? (The system, incidentally being us.)

Your comments and ideas on this are as always warmly invited. And for the rest, back to work.

Your faithful editor

PS. Here in closing is a remark and proposal I made to the meeting by way of activation and follow-up -- click here for the one minute audio file. It was not well received. Check it out here to see why.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reducing transportation's carbon consumption - Comments

Last Thursday, 11 June, we posted here an advanced working draft of a proposal and recommendations for a joint work program of the US Dept of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency in our area of expertise -- to be submitted after peer review here, and subsequent amendment, to the public site of organized by the National Journal in Washington DC where expert opinion is being gathered in a broad-based collaborative effort to provide high profile information and insights for the incoming Obama policy teams in those two important institutions.

The original question posed by the National Journal team can be found here. along with all the responses to be posted as of this date. Our original draft posting of 11 June here.

* Click here for Comments and peer discussion as of this date. (Recommended!)

Our continuous challenge here, and beyond, is how can we help assemble the ideas, energies, and expertise of the broadest range of sources and views to help inform and guide public policy. While the other half of democracy is active citizenry, it is not always so evident how to achieve that. Each of us has to do their part.

This process of public consultation and open peer review of which you have one exmaple here is one we take very seriously, and if you have the time and taste to dig in here you will see why. As editor I find that this interactive process of mutually challenging our ideas is one of the great strengths of this World Streets project.

And you, of course, are invited to add your comments to the above.

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Honk! 6 Reasons The World Needs More Girls on Bikes

- April Streeter, Gothenburg, Sweden, in Treehugger

High Heels Plus Cruiser Bike photo
Photo thedigitel via flickr.

Most bike commuters find that the negative assumptions they had about bike commuting are mostly false. This goes double for women, who might find that riding in high heels is easier than walking in them; a special wardrobe is not necessarily required (though fun); and that biking boosts a sense of freedom in ways a car no longer can. Benefits to women are multiple, and the benefits to society are just as big. Read on for how we all get dividends when women take to their bikes.

Click here for full text of April's Treehugger article:.

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Gunfight at the OK Corral ( Saving the carshare maiden)

This just may prove to be the longest 22 minutes you'll confront today. "Gunfight at the OK Corral" is a video produced with a star cast, and which, though far too long for what it has to say and exasperating from beginning to end, is nonetheless worth a spin for what it tells us about what happens in an important area when old thinking faces off with the New Mobility Agenda.

Click here to call up the video.

We suggest you get comfortable and if you have not yet done your stretching exercises today, this will give you an excellent opportunity to do them as you follow the drama of the presentation.

Let us leave it to Jack Welch, Ms. Welch, and the confident top team of Hertz Rent-A-Car to explain to us what they intend to do to become the dominant player on the world carshare scene in the next three years with their fledgling Connect by Hertz carshare operation. It is a curious episode, but a good reminder of how very different the new world of public policies and private practices is at time in which the old arrangements no longer make much sense. We all still have a lot to learn.

From our perspective here at World Streets this is no small matter, since carsharing has a key role in the transportation reform process that now needs to be engaged. We call carsharing a "one percent solution" -- which may sound like not much, but it is a critical one percent. So must be ready to learn from anyone who has something to teach us about how to make it work better.

We are posting this to both World Streets and to our expert forum at the WorldCarShare consortium, and invite your comments and observations. Kind thanks to Kevin McLaughlin of the long established and successful Autoshare.com carshare operation in Toronto for drawing this to our attention.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Honk! Not all coming up roses for cyclists in Paris

Every day you get out there and every day there is this thin line between the sheer joy and efficiency of cycling in the city, and all that lurks out there on the street to possibly ruin your day (and more).

Click here to view video

This eight minute amateur video has been created by a Parisian cyclist with the idea of showing to all you out there that even with more than 400 km.s "protected cycling provision" and 20,000 free public bikes on the street, it is not indeed all roses in the City of Light. We have our problems too. Eternal vigilance and then you are going to be OK. But this shows how much more work is needed even here until we will be able to apply Gil Penalosa's eight-to-eighty rule for safe cycling -- safe for the eight year old child and safe for the eighty year old cyclist.

I find it highly didactic and a useful point reminder of all that needs to be done every day in all our cities to create safe cycling environments. The crucial handshake with law enforcement certainly jumps out at one, as does the process of co-learning and adaptation of all who are out there and moving around in the very mixed, highly charged new mobility environment.

So off we go again. Plenty to keep us all busy for a few more years and certainly no reason to throw in the towel. (Thanks to Eyes on the Street partner Andrew Curran in Vancouver for the heads-up.)

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Friday, June 12, 2009

World Streets greets 2009 Cities for Mobility World Congress

Greetings from World Streets to our City of Stuttgart friends on the occasion of their forthcoming 2009 Cities for Mobility World Congress.

* Click here for 2009 Congress program.

The 3rd World Congress of Cities for Mobility will be held from 14 - 16 June 2009 in the city of Stuttgart. The event addresses municipalities, public transport and private companies, universities and NGOs. The main focus will be laid on the social dimension of transport with special attention on the provision of mobility opportunities for motorized and non-motorized traffic users. For more click to http://www.cities-for-mobility.net

We look forward to your reporting back on your findings and recommendations for next steps. We understand that you are going to have more than four hundred participants with very strong representation from cities across all continents of the Global South. We hope that they will be forthcoming in their views as well and will be pleased to air selected commentaries and reports from them in these pages.

By the way, today's World Streets' editorial -- Reducing Transportation's Carbon Consumption - Plan B -- is very much in line with the basic theme of your conference, and you may also find some value in the Comments from colleagues round the world that are coming in to challenge and complement it.

Best wishes from us all for your well deserved success next week.

Eric Britton
Editor, World Streets

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Op-Ed. Safe cycling strategies: Lessons from Europe

- Eric Britton, Editor and slow city cyclist

The following was drafted yesterday in response to a lively discussion over at www.LivableStreets.com , looking at different approaches to providing cycle paths and other forms of street architecture modifications, major and minor, to protect the cyclist. The discussants were looking at this in the context of New York's ongoing efforts to develop a major cycling program after many years of neglect. International experience at the leading edge, mainly in European cities that are doing the job, puts some interesting lessons on the table. Here is a look-in from Europe.

For starters, let’s make sure that we do not allow ourselves to get too comfortable too fast. By that I mean I am not at all sure that the best approach to safe cycling is to start by shopping around for the most attractive cycle path designs to be put in your city's streets here or there. I can understand the temptation but we have here a systemic problem which requires more than occasional attractive street architecture.

Safe cycling is based on the existence of networks which provide a safe travel environment over the areas and routes most taken by cyclists. By which I mean to say that a lovely cycle facility here and there does not by itself promote safe cycling (in fact conceivably it can make cycling even more dangerous). What is needed from the beginning is without letting up to drive toward that basic network. To accomplish this, it means targeting a solution set that is pretty pervasive, far more so than most plans today even dare aim for.

What do you do when what you need to do definitely outstrips the resources, approaches and plans that are traditionally available to you? The only way to get the job done then is to change the rules. That happens in five main parts.

1. Speed reductions: ("Don ‘t leave home without them.")
The first pillar of new mobility policy is to slow down the traffic on EVERY street in the city. I do not say this lightly and I understand the extent to which this runs against long-standing practices and what people regard as their fair interest. But there is no longer any mystery about this at the leading edge. I do not imagine that there is a competent (note the word) traffic planner today who will argue for top speeds in excess of 30 mph in the city. 30 mph is terrific, and though too fast for safe cycling is something which we can reasonably target for the Main Avenue's and thoroughfares. For the rest a policy of 10/20/30 is feasible, fair and do-able. Once you get over the shock.

2. Reclaim street space:
The second prong of the strategy is that the creation of a safe network requires taking over at least portions of a quite large number of streets in the city. This is accomplished in two ways, the first being the alteration of the street architecture, taking over lanes for fully protected cycling. The most popular, parking lane out/bike lane in, often works very nicely when the cycle lanes work against the flow of traffic. The second prong of street reclaiming is the hard edge of speed reductions. In these cases top speeds on the side streets drop to something like 10 to 15 mph, with 10 leading better than 15. Again for most cross-town traffic in Manhattan this should not be a problem.

3. "Occuper le terrain": (French for safety in numbers. )
You are seeing that in New York already, though I have to guess you are not yet at the tipping point on that. But the more people you get out on the street on their bicycles every day, the more that everybody involved moves up a couple of notches day after day in the learning process. The cyclists learn how to behave better to protect themselves in traffic, drivers get accustomed to looking out for those small wavering frail figures, the police learn how to play their part in this learning process, and the system they have today learns and adapts.

4. "Street code":
The Highway Code, a collection of laws, advice and best practice for all road users, which mainly functions as a written basis for learning to drive as well as stipulating the letter of the law (licensing, required safety equipment, default rules, etc.) In Europe this happens at a national level, with room in some places for stricter local ordinances. In the US mainly a state prerogative.

I understand that you are looking into this for New York. Many European cities are advancing on the idea of establishing a far tougher "street codes" specifically adapted to the special and more demanding conditions of driving in city traffic. This is becoming especially important as we start to see a much greater mix of vehicles, speeds and people on the street. The underlying idea is that culpability for any accident on street, sidewalk or public space, is automatically assigned to the heavier faster vehicle. This means that the driver who hits a cyclist has to prove his innocence, as opposed to today where the cyclist must prove the driver's guilt (not always very easy to do). This is not quite as good as John Adams' magnificent 1995 formulation whereby every steering wheel of every car , truck and bus would be equipped with a large sharp nail aimed directly at the driver’s heart-- but it can at least help getting things moving in the right direction.

5. It's a Learning System:
Once you start to break the ice to the point where provision of cycling facilities even starts to be an issue, it is probably best to think of the city and the street network as a learning system. And learning of course takes place over time, and if you are lucky leads to a continuous stream of adjustments as you go along. There may be a bit of comfort in that, if you are patient enough, because what it definitely means is that any cycling improvements you can conceivably come up with today has to be thought of not as a solution but as the start of the path. This is very definitely process oriented planning.

* * *

So we really do know what to do, and we do know that it requires a combination of foresight, originality, guile and pragmatic planning from the beginning. Fortunately there is plenty of international experience which backs this up.

Paris is an example that I live with and cycle in every day over a decades-long period of steady adaptation and change. It is definitely not Copenhagen or Amsterdam. It is work in progress. Only a few years ago Paris was a city that was planning almost exclusively for cars and yet over the past decade has gradually began to build up a network for safe cycling. Perhaps not so much safe as safer, and the role of the planners here is to use the full cookbook of approaches in a dynamic organic manner so that each day things get a little bit better. Because all this has become part of the culture, the mainstream culture, it is no longer a big deal and so do the good works are able to go on every day.

Of course if cycling is your game it would be great to be able to import whole hog those terrific physical infrastructures that are found in Dutch and Danish cities. But this takes decades and I do not see it happening overnight in most US cities, New York among them. What is interesting about the Paris example, and we are certainly not the only one, is the manner in which safe cycling infrastructure is being built up step by step and day by day. We are not yet at the point at which we can feel comfortable with Gil Penalosa's "8 to 80 rule", remember, where cycling is safe for your eight-year-old daughter and your eighty-year-old grandfather. But give us a time and we will get there - and I hope you will too.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Benevolent virus approach to sustainable cities

- Luud Schimmelpennink, Inventor of the free city bike, Amsterdam

Back in the 1960s, when I was young, and I thought smart, the idea occurred to me and some of my friends that bicycles were surely the best way for people to get around cities. We could see that for ourselves every day on the streets of Amsterdam. However as we thought about it, it struck us that something was missing. So we came up with something we called the White Bicycles. Free bikes.

A benevolent virus approach to transportation reform

It could not have been more simple. Basically all we did was get together with anyone who wanted to pitch in, collect a couple of dozen old bikes, paint them white, and then “park” them out on the street for anyone to pick up and use as they wish. The project was immediately a success (in over view) and attracted a lot of media attention, not all very kind to our idea. The success was that the bikes provided free, safe, zero-carbon public transport and were heavily used by citizens who simply wanted to get somewhere on their own personal timetable. That was great because that was our idea, our motivation for doing the whole thing.

However, the world being the kind of complicated place it is, and bicycles being such frail things out in public places on their own, it did not take all that long for most of the white bikes to disappear into places unknown, some ending up in our canals. At the same time, and somewhat surprisingly, the police decided that they were illegal because the law required that all bikes should be locked in public. And ours of course were not. It did not take very long for the newspapers and others to chime in with their opinions that this was a crazy idea that never should have been done in the first place. A failure.

But this little idea, this so-called failure, was maybe not quite as stupid as they were announcing. To the contrary, this little idea changed enough in at least some people's heads that it eventually set off a series of free or almost free shared bike projects around the world, for many years modest and not well-known. But certainly as everyone reading these "messages" will know , within the last couple of years all of this has started to change. And ever since the day that the city of Paris had the "crazy" idea in 2007 of putting 20,000 shared public bicycles onto their streets, this little idea is starting to have some very significant impacts. Maybe it was not so stupid after all

Today, a full generation after those young people got together to paint all those white bikes in Amsterdam, a growing group of people are coming to share the belief that every city in the world should be looking carefully at the idea of creating a public bicycle project of their own. The world has had enough experience with them over the last decade that we know there are many different ways of going about it, not all of them necessarily exactly aping our original concept of painting them white and leaving them anywhere. And if you hear from time to time about this or that project running into this or that trouble, relax because the idea is so simple and so powerful that these difficulties are going to be overcome by all of those smart people in that place who really want it to work. A great idea engages, and engages widely.

But here in closing is my final, respectful and a bit less direct message which I should like to share with all of you in Washington who have been charged by President Obama with the responsibility of creating sustainable transportation projects, sustainable cities and sustainable lives for people of all economic and social classes across the United States. Do not shy away from an idea just because it may at first glance strike you as a bit crazy. Sometimes that is the way it is with a new idea that really could make a difference. So before automatically saying no, just because the idea strikes you at first as untenable, get comfortable, sit back and think it through from the beginning. You may find that within it are the germs of a great idea. A benevolent virus.

Some URLs

Luud Schimmelpennink
Y-tech Innovations Centre
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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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Reducing Transportation's Carbon Consumption - Plan B

The following question has been asked of the expert group on Monday in the "insider discussions" concerning transportation policy for the incoming Obama administration that are taking place under the aegis of the National Journal in Washington DC:

How Should EPA And DOT Reduce Transportation's Carbon Consumption?
How can Washington regulate and reduce the transportation sector's oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions? What are the appropriate roles and responsibilities for the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency? How should those roles be incorporated into the climate change legislation and surface transportation reauthorization that Congress is expected to tackle?

As a member of the panel I was invited to respond. My presentation follows.

Summary: "Ready. Fire. Aim!" Better not do that. So before we get off to the races with our answers and recommendations, let me suggest that we first step back a bit and make sure that we have a full understanding of the important underling issues and forces that need to be taken into consideration. And then once we have this in hand we may end up getting an entirely different set of responses. We need a carefully thought out consistent base for informed public policy in a very different world context. In order then: (1) Strategy; (2) Actions; (3) Actors.


First step. STOP! Remember? " Ready! Fire! Aim?"

We certainly don't want to start in the middle of such an important question -- a big problem I might add we often encounter in many of these proto-transportation/environment discussions. It seems as if as soon as the discussion opens everyone in the room stands up and starts to trot out their favorite concept, project or technology -- and then carry on as if their favorite pony somehow fits with the real priorities. As if all that were something that could be left to a shared implicit understanding. Well, it can't!

So before rushing into discussions about roles and responsibility, legislation and reauthorization, important as they are, let's see if we can first come to some sort of agreement concerning the basics that provide the foundation for all these questions and their eventual answers. Which is to say that we need a strategy fit for these times.

It's 2009 and one thing of which we all are fully aware is that the conditions out there are very very different from anything we have ever known in the past. So this is unlikely to be a matter of fixing stuff and marginal adjustments here and there. We have to reinvent the sector in the most profound manner that we can. And for that we better know where we have to go.

So what are the basics of this new mobility system, this new paradigm for transportation policy and practice at all levels? We have to get a handle on the big issues, the big trends and the big priorities, before we start to rush in to answer this questions of detail. My proposal to shake things up a bit here before we start to get too comfortable with what we pre-guess are going to be the answers – starting by setting before you a sequence of eight defining policy statements or propositions which in my view constitute the true bedrock of the issues and the choices we now need to make.

(As you move down this list I invite you to make a mental or jotted note to the "yes or no" query in each case. It may be that you agree with some of these points, but not others. We can then ideally go down the revised list here or in some other forum and THEN have a shared basis for deciding what next. Without a strong foundation fit for our times, we will risk just playing at the edges with stuff which is not central to the challenges at hand. At enormous opportunity cost.)

Let's have a look at our eight basic propositions:

Proposition 1. Climate emergency: The most urgent single policy challenge confronting us today in America and in every part of this planet, and requiring immediate and urgent action, is that of climate modification. The core of the problem lies in our continuing massive generation of life-threatening greenhouse gas emissions, which despite all the hot air and claims of success, continue to swell every day: every month, every year, and in every part of the world with close to zero exceptions. This is the bedrock issue of public policy today and we cannot afford to run away from it any more. (And yes step one is to recognize that we are running.)
• Peak oil: And if climate modification seems too abstruse for your taste, we always have the co-issue of peak oil, which has the advantage of hitting almost all of use directly where it hurts most, in the wallet. So if you prefer we can use this as our whip for immediate, large scale action and intervention, on the understanding that at the end of the day the two run in very close parallel. And since that is the case we will continue to use GHG as the guiding metric in this case, for all the reasons that are set out here.

• Yes (i.e., Accept as probably valid) or no (not sure or possibly just wrong)?

Proposition 2. Global policy goal: The over-arching goal of public policy across the board should therefore be massive GHG reductions. (See Prop. 4 below for more background on this point.)
• Yes or no?

Proposition 3. Transport share: The transport sector accounts for roughly 25 +/- 5% of this total load (And something like twice that when it comes to fossil fuel consumption.) . It is thus a priority target for public policy.
• Yes or no?

Proposition 4. Sustainable transportation: Turns out that we are in luck. Happily, GHG reductions work as an excellent surrogate for just about everything else we need to fix in our sector as well: namely, giving us a strong strategic framework and leverage to attain all of the necessary preconditions of sustainable transport, This includes reductions of traffic and its consequences, rationalization of speeds, fossil fuel savings, energy independence, affordable mobility, personal and public economics, public health, social equity, etc. Drive down GHGs and we are well on the way to achieving the rest. (Now, it does not automatically solve all our specific sustainable transportation problems, but it does give us the robust envelope of priorities and conditions within which to make our specific choices.)
• Yes or no?

Proposition 5. Time window: The critical time window to achieve these reductions is the 2 to 4 years directly ahead. (Hey! the period of the first Obama administration or your own period in office.) And less we forget, planetary stresses are so severe that any failure to put off these near-term large-scale reductions will have disastrous consequences.
• Yes or no?

Proposition 6. Scale: How big should the reductions be in this suddenly very short target period? Whatever it is it must be bold. It must be on that scale to have the level of impacts that are required to avoid the worst. It may have to be as high as 20 to 50 percent for the four year period. But of course the exact target will depend on place, etc.
• Yes or no?

Proposition 7. Traffic reductions: The only way to achieve the scale reductions required in that tight timeframe is through achieving corresponding scale cutbacks in motor vehicle traffic, and more specifically in terms of VMT/VKT (vehicle miles/kms travelled) reductions. (There is NO OTHER WAY TO DO IT. And don't think that this is going to be a purely negative policy. To the contrary with a well thought- out policy we can get more and better mobility with a lot less traffic - and that has to be our overarching goal.)
• Yes or no?

Proposition 8. Feasibility: We are in luck. This is not utopian thinking. Our sector has so much fat in it that we are going to be able to slim it even at the very high levels which are needed. Using technology aggressively (that is IT and organizational skills) we are going to be able to get more bang per mile, more bang per gallon of the vehicles that are out there on the road. We are going to have more, better and fairer mobility with less traffic, less pollution, less energy, and less wasted public money. And it will be a policy with far more options and choices at that any period in the past. Did someone say . . . yes we can?
• Yes or no?

* * *

How are we doing? To this "insider" the least that I can say is that this simple list gives us the core of the strategy which we now need to articulate, then work to get some kind of strong consensus on (it won't be universal, you will see), and finally put to work.

In summary whatever we give attention to in this high emergency context:
• Must be capable of achieving significant bottom line GHG reductions in the two to four years directly ahead.
• And offer a new combination of more mobility (access)0 and less traffic.

If your preferred technology or policy option passes these two tests, then it is an eventual candidate for short sting . And if not, not!


We now have a pretty good idea of what we need to do -- next comes the task of figuring out how we are going do it. The means, the actions, policies, services, technologies, procedures, institutions, roles, pricing arrangements, legal frameworks, enforcement, finance and all the rest.

So, what are the sorts of things that we need to be giving attention to in this new paradigm. To get us going on this, let's sketch some examples of the literally thousands of tools, technologies, measures, policies, services, instruments (economic and other) that can be combined to achieve our ambitious objectives. Here are a first handful of different approaches to get the discussions going.

1. Trip elimination/travel substitution
This is the most powerful single instrument we have at our disposal, though some of them, land use changes come to mind, are going to lie toward the outer edge of our target period. Still, there is a lot that can be done to bring them on line into our time frame. Bearing in mind that we are talking about the elimination of motorized trips here (think carbon transport), among the wide spectrum of choices available : trip planning, chaining, grouping, land use shifts, scheduling (4 day weeks for instance), teleshopping and tele- quite a few other things as well, and the substitution of electronic for physical travel (of which there is a huge variety of examples). Most of these are low cost , readily implementable, and if we get them properly orchestrated can be made into significant components of the overall new mobility reform strategy. We also have seen enough successful examples of their use in a wide variety of circumstances that this indeed not be an area of great uncertainty and failure. Plenty of solid experience and information out there to build on.

2. Move away from SOE (single occupancy vehicles) – and toward something better
There is a huge range of approaches for increasing load factors in the cars out there on the street, without impinging on free choice or increasing costs in unfair manners. To the contrary, once we get the policy frame right, the new arrangements will be "BFC" – better, faster, and cheaper for those who decide to shift over to them. Voluntarily mind you, and as much for anything else for economic reasons.

Here is a first sample of the sorts of things that are available to get us going on this: ridesharing, carsharing, taxi sharing, competitive public transit, and new forms of group service that are heavily reinforced by new information technologies and organizational forms.

3. Move from motorized to non-motorized transport
This process is already in place well engaged: cites at the leading edge are giving a greatly expanded role to and support of bicycles and walking. The examples are many, varied, clear and there for the taking and adaptation. The key being infrastructure modification, about which there are two key points to be made here. First, none of it is to require new construction, Rather the public space is taken from what previously were used (for the most part poorly) by high-carbon and also space-inefficient transport, and recycled to these no-carbon, space efficient, healthy and finally social systems of private transport. True auto-mobility if you will. Beyond this, the shirt from motorized to non-motorized transport has to be accompanied by a ballet legal measure favoring lighter slower transport, enforcement of the law, and fiscal and tax shifts.

4. New forms of public and shared transport
There is enormous room for improvement here since public transport has by and large been fossilized in what are basically early 20th century delivery and institutional patterns. Fixed route, fixed schedule. This is no substitute for car travel, but we now have to clean out the stables of laws, ordnances, practices, and open up the possibility of a true renaissance in the sector. Most of this is going to involved small and medium sized (and some large) vehicles with motors (and in the year immediately ahead mainly internal combustion engines, albeit of greatly improved performance in the three key areas (fuel efficiency, emissions, and costs)). The whole thing to be driven as is the case in almost all of these new mobility services by great gobs of information and communications technologies that are going to give the services the very high levels of performance that is possible once you set your mind to it. (The upper limit of new system construction is state of the art tramways, which we are seeing being built on the streets at reasonable levels of cost (though not always) and within our time frame (albeit at the upper limit).

5. Infrastructure adaptation
The key word for the new policy in our plan period is adaptation -- not construction. There will be no time for any large new infrastructure road, bridge or metro projects, but enormous opportunities for adapting the infrastructure we already have in place. Our roads and streets are so unstrategically used today in most places that it is almost imposable to have done worse. (We must have been trying.) So as we reduce the number of moving and parked motor vehicles to replace them with more effective services, this will open up a renaissance of adaptations, opening up room for safe cycling, walking and public spaces, including eventually local parks and play and recreational areas. These parts of the streets become not just conduits as in the past, but even destinations. And the adaptations will include slow streets, complete streets, naked streets and all the rest.

Parking policy, practices and pricing will be important components of this fundamental overhaul. There are few places in the world today that have a completely rational parking policy – the only one that can help us attain the objectives of this Plan B transition strategy. And it is not just a matter of eliminating parking but also in making it more efficient. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are still going to have lots of cars in and around our cites, so we getter know where to stash them conveniently when not in use. Once again lots of IT in that.

6. Economic and fiscal instruments
The present pricing, fiscal and legal instruments in most part of the world favor, for historic reasons, private cars and motorized transport more generally. The playing field is not level, and there is enormous room for using these instruments to more toward full cost pricing. And full cost pricing, fair pricing is going to provide incentives for the better forms of mobility which are needed if we are to make the transition to a low carbon society with all that entails. And as we have seen with the vigorous debates and divergences encountered in virtually all congestion or road pricing proposals in this first decade of the new century, these are complex considerations which need to be handled with subtlety and care. But it can be done, and it should be done.

To conclude this section on actions and measures: the point is that there are a huge range of concepts and tools that are available to be put to work to shape the system in the years immediately ahead, so the question becomes not so much what but how to do it. Which brings us to our third and final section of this recommendation.


To open up this final section, let's refer back briefly to the opening question: "What are the appropriate roles and responsibilities for the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency?"

Big question, but rather than try to answer this universally and in an abstract sense here, let's instead take and examine how this might workout in the case of a single and rather simple new mobility example: carsharing.

Here are a few useful truths about carsharing to get us going on this

• Carsharing is not by itself going to solve the problems of local transport in our cities, suburbs and rural areas. It is just one new mobility tool ,among many.

• The actual number of cars and trips ultimately is never going to be that huge. Carsharing is neither going to solve all our problems of local transport, nor will it save the US automotive industry.

• Carsharing is thus what we call a "one percent solution", in addition to which it has this unusual lynchpin role. But even where we have it in place and working well, we are still going to have to figure out the remaining ninety nine percent. And that is what the New Mobility Agenda is all about.

• That said, it has a key role to play, namely as a vital linchpin in the pallet of new mobility modes. Carsharing serves in a dynamic sense to provide a bridging strategy for people, first to test how they might live without actually owning a car, or at least one less car. Or perhaps never to buy a car in the first place and still be able to drive when they need one. Carsharing is flexible and trying it requires little commitment or cost. But once in any given place a reasonable number of non-car mobility options begin to appear, the idea of carsharing begins to take a new shape. For some multi-car families it will allow them to shed one of their cars. For others once the full range of non-car options is in place, there will be people who are in a position to get rid of their own car altogether.

• As it happens there are more than one thousand cities in the world where you can pick up a carshare vehicle this morning. And that this number had doubled in the past three years alone. It is thus a fully operational system and on a high growth trajectory, which already provides some useful clues for the supporting role that these government agencies might execute.

• It is now fair to say and based on the wide range of experience already in existence, that every city and many smaller communities across the United States, including in rural areas, are potential candidates for carsharing. That carsharing until now something practiced in the main in the States by relatively affluent city dwellers, is also something that needs to be explored both for poorer people.

• So the question then becomes, what can these federal agencies do to bring about this important alternative mobility arrangement quickly, universally and well?

Rest of this section to follow.

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World Streets This Week (Archives)

Here you can call up with a single click all editions to date of World Streets This Week, Volume 1, starting with the first edition published this year on 2 March.

To create a paper version for easy reading away from your computer, all you have to do is to print the browser frame. This will yield a handy paper or PDF edition of the selected week's content.

Volume 1: 2009

* No. 17. Week of 28 June 2009
* No. 16. Week of 21 June 2009
* No. 15. Week of 14 June 2009
* No. 14. Week of 7 June 2009
* No. 13. Week of 31 May 2009
* No. 12. Week of 24 May 2009
* No. 11. Week of 17 May 2009
* No. 10. Week of 10 May 2009
* No. 9. Week of 3 May 2009
* No. 8. Week of 26 April 2009
* No. 7. Week of 19 April 2009
* No. 6. Week of 12 April 2009
* No. 5. Week of 5 April 2009
* No. 4. Week of 29 March 2009
* No. 3. Week of 22 March 2009
* No. 2. Week of 15 March 2009
* No. 1. Week of 8 March 2009

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