Wednesday, September 30, 2009

World Streets and the One Percent Solution
(And that includes you.)

You know this as well as I do. There are no single, mega-dollar, build-it, big bang solutions for transportation systems reform. Only large numbers of, for the most part, generally quite small things. Small perhaps in themselves, one by one, but when you put all these small things together you start to get the new and far better transportation systems that we need and deserve. Large numbers of small things, each doing their part in concert. We call them "one percent solutions". And you are part of that process.

Likewise for World Streets. After seven months of unfailing daily publication and more than 85,000 readers we know we are doing an important job. But if we are to continue to appear we need the support of many people and groups. One percent solutions. Get next to us and push. For the planet, for your city, for your children.

* But before you take this any further, you may wish to have a look at what our readers are saying about World Streets and how it is fitting in with their daily work routines and quest for new ideas and perspectives. And why one hundred of them think it is worthy of your support. Click here for more - http://tinyurl.com/ws-readers.
Contents
1.The One Percent Solution
2. Program summary (Opens in own window)
3. Ten reasons why
4. Next steps
5. Afterword: Why one per cent?
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1. The One Percent Solution

To support the work behind this four-year collaborative project, we have decided to turn to a certain number of cities, public agencies, transporters, consultants, foundations, certain private sector groups, and others known to us and leading the way through their own actions and efforts, and invite them to step forward and contribute a very small portion of the finances needed to cover the costs of the Journal.

Specifically, we are proposing an annual contribution from each on the order of one percent of our operating costs. Let us explain this somewhat unusual idea.

2. Program summary

To be quite sure that our case is fully understood, we would ask you to spend a few minutes with the following four-page PowerPoint summary which has been prepared to provide a brief but comprehensive overview of what this project is all about -- and which you can access directly here - http://tinyurl.com/ws-sum. (Opens in own window.)

Thank you for taking the time to do this. It makes it easier for us to give you the full context.
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3. Ten reasons why you should pitch in your percent:

1. Because it is the right thing to do. (And it is simple and cheap.)

2. It demonstrates that you give credence to critical vital climate/transportation link and the need for acting now -- and not waiting about for some kind of long term deus ex machina that may or may not solve your and the planet's problems.

3. World Streets is, or at least it can be, extremely time efficient for you and your team. The publication component of this four-part package can be channeled to your staff and associates in a way that eats up no more than a few minutes of their time. However it is also put before them in a form in which they can easily consult and expand their search for projects, concepts and tools they would like to know more about.

4. It does not bore -- to the contrary, it challenges and energizes the minds of its readers. It will make your smartest people smarter yet.

5. It gives you an efficient way to track some of the things going on at the leading edge not only in your own country or regional grouping. Its genuine worldwide, North/South, East/West (and South/North) focus, reporting from source, brings to your attention projects, ideas and clues that otherwise you are just about certain to miss.

6. By stepping forward you provide proof that you are part of the growing movement that is in the process of turning sustainable transportation from a marginal activity with a basically rhetorical feel-good spin, into the defining mainstream of 21st century transportation policy and practice at the leading edge.

7. By your initiative you are making World Streets available to others in your city or region and, in the process, creating an extended sense of common purpose which is largely still missing in most places.

8. By doing your bit, you are helping make these ideas and materials available to cities, researchers, activists, and others all over the world, including many others who otherwise cannot even afford this one per cent.

9. As a colleague and supporter, you and your team are in a position to work with the editorial staff to let the world know about your leading projects and accomplishments.

10. And finally, if you do not step forward to do this, who will?

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4. Next steps

Get in touch and we can talk about your subscription and about how to make World Streets work best for you. If you are working in an agency or some other group with funding, we hope you will talk to your bosses and others working there to see how they might find a budget to pitch in and lend a hand.

If you are on your own, even a single percent, which is on the order of USD 1,500.00 is likely to be too much. But don't be shy. You can always subscribe or make a personal gift in the amount you choose. For more on that please click here to http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2009/06/subscribe-to-worldstreets-today.html

Finally we want this to be simple and for our part we have a number of ideas about how these sponsor relationships can be organized so as to have substantial impacts on the city or sponsor in question. But all of that in due course. For now get in touch and we can work out the details.

Eric Britton
Managing Editor

8-10, rue Joseph Bara 75006 Paris France
editor@worldstreets.org | +331 4326 1323 | Skype: newmobility

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Afterword: Why one per cent? A sustainable transport lesson learned


This is a deeply symbolic figure in the context of the worldwide struggle to sustainable transportation - a world in which there are no Big Bang solutions. Rather our day to day reality is the challenge of highly complex, ever shifting, kaleidoscopic, almost often genuinely chaotic situations of many parts. These are the kind of real life situations that require the identification and then the careful orchestration of very large numbers of mainly quite modest actions and measures which, when rolled into a strategic multi-layer package of policies and services can make that big, transformational difference.

Carsharing is an excellent example of this complexity, though far from the only one. After more than a decade of work and presence on the front lines of policy and practice in the field (see www.carshare.newmobility.org for details), we can state with conviction that carsharing constitutes a vital building block for the move to sustainable transportation. Let me say that again in other words because this is a critical point.

Again . . . It is altogether unlikely that any place on this gasping planet is ever going to move toward a truly sustainable mobility system in the very short delay envisaged by our project unless there is a good dose of carsharing in its local solution package. Now this is an important point, which few cities and agencies have grasped thus far. And of course, it changes everything.

But that is not the end of the carsharing story. The other half of this mature vision of suitable transport in and around cities is that, even when carsharing is up and working to its full potential, it is only going to account for no more than one or two percent of all trips in the service area. Some seize this point and conclude that this shows that carsharing is not very important in the overall scheme of things. Wrong! It is critical. We have stated it in these terms for years: "Carsharing is the hammer on the last nail in the coffin of old mobility".

And, dear reader, that is exactly the nature of the complex building blocks and packages that make up sustainable transportation reform: they complement, they complete, and they synergize. And there are hundreds of them.

An excellent analogy of what we now hope to achieve in gathering support for World Streets.

6. Recent visitor map:

Last eighty people to pick up a copy of World Streets this morning. Are you there?



7. Pushing for Sustainable Lives: Car Free Day in Kaohsiung Taiwan

Who are these wonderful children, and what are we doing together? Well, they are part of a drum playing band organized for the public events in support of the car free day last week in Kaohsiung Taiwan. And what they are doing is showing you how they too are ready to push for sustainable transportation, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. You may note if you look closely that they live with Downs Syndrome, and judging from the smiles on their faces pretty well indeed.

Anyway, your editor much prefers their fashion to push to his own. And you? Are you ready to join us? It's an awfully small planet and one that needs you too.



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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Dead Freeway Society

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

The Strange History of Portland's Unbuilt Roads
by Sarah Mirk Photos by Jason Kinney
Source: The Portland Mercury - http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/the-dead-freeway-society/Content?oid=1676323

Scattered all over Portland are artifacts of a city that could have been. Bikes rush down a concrete ramp on the west side of the Hawthorne Bridge that 40 years ago originally connected to an expressway instead of grass. Tiny Piccolo Park off SE Division was the site of homes demolished to make way for the pylon of an unbuilt freeway. These vibrant sites are tombstones. We are a city of dead freeways.

While other American cities have built, built, built, Portland's freeway history is boom and bust: massive road projects were planned, mapped, and sold as progress by one generation, then killed by another. When current transit planners visit from exotic Houston and DC to admire Portland's progress, what they are really admiring are the roads not built—freeways erased from the maps decades ago.

"UNCLOUDED VISION"

The offices of Portland City Hall did not always boast bike maps. The city striving to become the nation's greenest still bears the signature of America's most famous car-centric transit planner.

Sixty-six Septembers ago, a Portland city commissioner invited the powerful (and, these days, infamous) transportation planner Robert Moses to come to Rose City and write its road construction plan. Moses, a freeway mogul whose most lasting legacy is the massive byways slicing apart New York's boroughs, brought a team of men and holed up for two months in a downtown hotel. After exploring the city and crunching numbers, the men whipped up an 86-page blueprint for Portland's future.

It was in this plan that Portland was first divided by the inky lines that would eventually become I-205, I-84, I-5, I-405, and Highway 26. It was Moses' men who first drew the Fremont Bridge onto a photo of Portland. In white ink, they imagined the freeway to be a suspension bridge running across the river and down into the current Overlook neighborhood. But they also imagined a lot more.

To modernize and meet the demands of a growing economy and expanding population, back in 1943 Moses argued that Portland must surround itself with freeways—an inner ring carrying traffic through the city with another freeway ring encircling its outer limits.

"Every citizen of Portland has a right to be proud of the fact that this community is prepared, while there is still time, to face the future with unclouded vision," wrote Moses.

In 1956, the US Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, promising the federal government would cover 90 percent of the costs of all new freeway construction, kicking off a freeway construction boom in Portland and around the nation. The last electric light rail company in Portland went out of business the day after the region's first freeway was built in 1958.

RELOCATION IN ACTION

In late August, just over I-405 from Portland State University, Shawn Granton stood on an orphaned section of the South Park Blocks. The measly chunk of lawn and the Southwest neighborhood around it was cut off from downtown when the freeway plowed through the area in the mid-'60s. The freeway was part of an urban renewal plan, Granton explained to a dozen gathered cyclists. It removed an entire block of high-density apartment complexes—the kind the city now wants to build downtown under its modern urban renewal policy that awards developers tax breaks as an incentive.

"Freeways become big walls in cities and divide neighborhoods," said Granton, who has led his dead freeways bike tour of the city for three years. In shorts and sunglasses, he shouted over the thunder of the freeway. The grassy nub on the south side of the freeway was left intact as a compromise after neighbors complained about the removal of a block of parkland.

In 1964, the Oregon State Highway Division put out a helpful pamphlet on how to remove people whose homes would be demolished by the construction of I-405. "Relocation in Action" follows one Miss Crosby, age 63, who lives on a $100 monthly welfare check and whose diverse, mostly lower-income apartment building is about to be leveled to make way for the road. Like everyone else in the building, she is nervous about finding a new home. All turns out well in the end, of course: a helpful highway employee helps Miss Crosby secure an apartment in the Northwest Towers, a 13-story "modern, fireproof" building near downtown.

BOOM!

Jumping on the federal government's desire to pick up 90 percent of the tab, the city and state tore out a path for I-84 through the Eastside and for I-5 through North Portland. The Fremont Bridge went up—white, just like Moses imagined. This was a glorious age of freeways. Construction rolled forward with few roadblocks.

"The I-5 through North Portland had a huge impact, but the people had no voice," says Val Ballestrem, education manager of the Architectural Heritage Center, who wrote his master's thesis on Portland's anti-freeway movement. "There were some people living in the path of I-5 who got together, met with city officials, and were told, 'There's nothing you can do.' And they just gave up."

"There was no requirement at that time to do an environmental impact study for big projects like this," explains Metro Planning Director Andy Cotugno. "City and business thought it was a great idea and the neighborhoods that got impacted had no rights at that time." A photo of the construction shows a street lined solely with empty porches—the homes behind them had already been razed.

By the time Portland wrote up a (failed) bid to host the 1968 Olympics, planners had built enormously on Moses' vision for a freewayed Portland. The map printed inside the glossy yearbook-sized Olympic sales pitch includes not just the freeways we know today, but also the Mount Hood Freeway running up SE Division, Laurelhurst Freeway along 39th Avenue, the Sellwood Freeway, Prescott Freeway, and a mile-long freeway tunnel running under the West Hills.

BUST!

But 10 years later, everything had changed. The Mount Hood Freeway, Laurelhurst Freeway, and others were erased from the planned map of Portland's future. I-205 had been whittled down from a planned eight lanes to six—its extra space being designated for a public transit right-of-way that just last week finally became the much-celebrated MAX Green Line. Portland had essentially reversed direction in one short decade, while nearly every other major American city was still gung ho about the roads ahead.

The first freeway to dissolve was Harbor Drive. Built in 1942, the wide slab of asphalt ran over what is today Tom McCall Waterfront Park, now where tourists and idyllic children roam with ice cream, Barack Obama spoke, and once a year the Oregon Symphony shoots live cannons in a performance of the 1812 Overture. In the '50s and '60s, the freeway, streaming with big-finned cars, was featured on postcards promoting a modern Portland. By 1975, it was gone.

"There was a shift in local government in the late-'60s. It went from a good-old-boy network to a much younger generation of politicians," explains Ballestrem. Urban planning historian Gregory L. Thompson wrote that when one young politician arrived in Portland in 1973, the politico noted that everyone had a copy of anti-freeway handbook Rites of Way tucked into their hip pocket.

When the state began buying up land next to Harbor Drive to widen the waterfront freeway in 1968, a citizen alliance against the expansion found open ears at city hall and the governor's office. Old-school traffic engineers said closing the freeway would be a disaster, but Governor Tom McCall, Mayor Neil Goldschmidt, and County Commissioner Don Clark heard the citizens' opinion that most car traffic could be rerouted to the city's newly built freeways, like the I-5. Throughout the summer of '69, Portlanders organized "consciousness-raising picnics" to rally people against Harbor Drive. Three years later, a governor's task force declared that the low-traffic, 30-year-old road should be ripped out and replaced with a park.

SAVING SOUTHEAST

Riding high from the Harbor Drive victory, environmentally minded politicians and Portlanders took on the next freeway foe. Money was in the bag from the federal government to build a freeway like North Portland's I-5, which would cut through Southeast to aid suburban commuters. This Mount Hood Freeway would have been four city blocks wide for the entire length of SE Division. The highway commission had already started buying up the right of way and tearing down old homes along Division when opposition started picking up steam.

Unlike I-5, though, the neighborhood had legal channels for their protest. Not only were the freeway planners required to write up an environmental impact statement for the project, but also Portland was in the midst of a major downtown revitalization effort.

"You connect the dots. You had a freeway that would create more sprawl at a time [when] we're trying to do things to recapture downtown," says Metro's Cotugno. "In the process it would divide a community. Why should the inner-city neighborhood just roll over to produce a suburb?"

Neighbors worried about air pollution and the neighborhood filed a suit against the freeway, using the environmental impact statement to argue that the freeway's site was poorly chosen. Meanwhile, Oregon bigwigs pulled strings in Washington, DC. The alternative transit-minded politicians scored a big win in August of 1973: Congress changed national law to allow regions to kill planned highways and put almost all the federal money set aside for those projects into non-freeway transit projects instead.

Soon after, a judge decided in favor of the anti-freeway neighbors. If the state wanted to build the Mount Hood Freeway, the judge said, they would have to restart the nearly decade-long planning process. In fall 1974, Governor McCall officially informed the federal government that his state would be "deleting" the Mount Hood Freeway. Instead, $23 million of the $165 million freeway pricetag would go into building the region's public transit system.

THE PRICE OF "PROGRESS"

The Mount Hood Freeway's $165 million budget looks like pennies compared to the costs of our current freeway projects. Oregon and Washington are currently embarking on the largest single transportation project in the region's history. If the states' transportation departments get their way, the current six-lane I-5 bridge to Vancouver will become a 12-lane, $4.2 billion bridge called the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). Unlike the freeway projects of old, light rail and a better bike path are included in the CRC design. But there are many parallels. Modern environmental groups like Coalition for a Livable Future say the 12-lane bridge will increase traffic and promote sprawl. Some of the old-time activists who organized the anti-Harbor Drive picnics are these days attending rallies against the CRC.

"It's another one of these roads that's being espoused as 'We have to have it in order to make everybody's lives easier,'" says Ballestrem. "But it's going to do the same thing that all these other big roads did. Building a bigger road is just going to encourage driving the automobile."

Out of the national network of 43,000 miles of interstate freeway built with federal dollars in the 20th century, Metro's Andy Cotugno says only about 25 freeway projects did not get built across the entire country.

Then and now, Portland's pioneering spirit has always taken the road less traveled.

Historic postcards provided courtesy of local know-it-all Dan Haneckow (cafeunknown.com). Much of the historic information in this piece is from Gregory L. Thompson's article "Taming the Neighborhood Revolution: Planners, Power Brokers, and the Birth of Neotraditionalism in Portland, Oregon" (Journal of Planning History).

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The Road Not Taken

- Robert Frost (1874–1963).

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Climate change imperils 3,351 coastal cities worldwide (Two-thirds of which in the Global South)

Why have we pegged the action program of the New Mobility Agenda to (a) the ongoing process of climate emergency and the unbearable destruction of our planet and cities that goes with it and (b) to the imperative need to get large scale improvements in the two to five years directly ahead? For this reason . . .


UN-Habitat: Few coastal cities to be spared by climate change


All too soon, the harsh reality of climate change is upon us and the facts are becoming common place. But at a time when over 50 percent of humanity lives in urban areas, UN-HABITAT’s new State of the World’s Cities Report 2008/9: Harmonious Cities sets out to determine which cities are in danger and which communities might well be drowned out.

In the 20th century, sea levels rose by an estimated 17 centimetres, and global mean projections for sea level rise between 1990 and 2080 range from 22 centimetres to 34 centimetres. The low elevation coastal zone – the continuous area along coastlines that is less than 10 metres above sea level – represents 2 per cent of the world’s land area but contains 10 per cent of its total population and 13 per cent of its urban population.

There are 3,351 cities in the low elevation coastal zones around the world. Of these cities, 64 per cent are in developing regions; Asia alone accounts for more than half of the most vulnerable cities, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (27 per cent) and Africa (15 per cent). Two-thirds of these cities are in Europe; almost one-fifth of all cities in North America are in low elevation coastal zones.

Concerned about the prospect of large scale devastation, in his foreword, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations states that, “Cities embody some of society’s most pressing challenges, from pollution and disease to unemployment and lack of adequate shelter. But cities are also venues where rapid, dramatic change is not just possible but expected.”

Aimed at policymakers and planners, the new UN report warns that few coastal cities will be spared.

In the developed world (including Japan), 35 of the 40 largest cities are either coastal or situated along a river bank. In Europe, rivers have played a more important role in determining the growth and importance of a city than the sea; more than half of the 20 largest cities in the region developed along river banks. Quoting a report by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the authors note that the populations of cities like Mumbai, Shanghai, Miami, New York City, Alexandria, and New Orleans will be most exposed to surge-induced flooding in the event of sea level rise.

In Asia, 18 of the region’s 20 largest cities are either coastal, on a river bank or in a delta. 17 per cent of the total urban population in Asia lives in the low elevation coastal zone, while in South-Eastern Asia, more than one-third of the urban population lives there. Japan, with less than 10 per cent of its cities in low elevation zones, has an urban population of 27 million inhabitants at risk, more than the urban population at risk in North America, Australia and New Zealand combined.

The report points out that by 2070, urban populations in cities in river deltas, which already experience high risk of flooding, such as Dhaka, Kolkata, Rangoon, and Hai Phong, will join the group of most exposed populations. Also, port cities in Bangladesh, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and India will have joined the ranks of cities whose assets are most exposed. Major coastal African cities that could be severely be affected by the impact of rising sea levels include Abidjan, Accra, Alexandria, Algiers, Cape Town, Casablanca, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Djibouti, Durban, Freetown, Lagos, Libreville, Lome, Luanda, Maputo, Mombasa, Port Louis, and Tunis.

An assessment of the vulnerability of Alexandria, the most important economic and historic centre along the Mediterranean coast (the cities of Alexandria, Rosetta and Port Said) suggests that, with a sea-level rise of 50 cm, more than 2 million people would have to abandon their homes, 214,000 jobs would be lost, and the cost in lost property value and tourism income would be over US $35 billion, which does not include the immeasurable loss of world famous historic, cultural and archaeological sites.

Researchers studying the impact of climate change on Dhaka predict that the city will be affected in two major ways: flooding and drainage congestion, and heat stress. The elevation of Dhaka ranges between 2 and 13 metres above sea level. This means that even a slight rise in sea level is likely to engulf large parts of the city. Moreover, high urban growth rates and high urban densities have already made Dhaka more susceptible to human-induced environmental disasters. With an urban growth rate of more than 4 per cent annually, Dhaka, which already hosts more than 13 million people, is one of the fastest growing cities in Southern Asia, and is projected to accommodate more than 20 million by 2025. The sheer number of people living in the city means that the negative consequences of climate change are likely to be felt by a large number of people, especially the urban poor who live in flood-prone and water-logged areas.

The report points out that Lagos, with a total population of nearly 10 million inhabitants, lacks adequate infrastructure to cope with flooding. “Normal” rainfall brings flooding to many areas of the city, largely as a result of inadequacies in sewers, drains and wastewater management. Any increase in the intensity of storms and storm surges is likely to increase such problems, as much of the land in and around Lagos is less than 2 meters above sea level. Many low-income settlements are built in areas at high risk of flooding (many on stilts), largely because safer sites are too expensive.

Observing the worrying prospects for cities facing climate change, in her forward, Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UNHABITAT, calls on cities and national governments to address these challenges and opportunities by adopting innovative approaches to urban planning and management that are inclusive, pro-poor and responsive to threats posed by environmental degradation and global warming. She continues to say, ‘From China to Colombia, and everywhere in between, national and local governments are making critical choices that promote equity and sustainability in cities. These governments recognize that cities are not just part of the problem; they are, and must be, part of the solution.’

# # #

Source: UN HABITAT http://www.preventionweb.net/english/professional/news/v.php?id=4289

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Saturday, September 26, 2009



Transportation
(More follows.)

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Kolkata: Old buses and trucks banned from city streets
(Is this really the way to go?)

The Bengal government has acted to implement the High Court's decision to check road accidents and cut down pollution levels. Vehicles more than 15 years old to be taken off Kolkata's streets. Local environmentalists cheer. World Streets is not quite so sure. The ban applies to about 2,500 buses, 500 mini buses and 6000 taxis, roughly one fourth of the total number in the city. We invite discussion and updates. (Kindly read Comments below for more.)


1. Finally, Bengal govt drives out Kolkata's old wheels

Source: IBNLive. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/finally-bengal-govt-drives-out-kolkatas-old-wheels/96692-3.html

Kolkata: Ten years, 14 hearings and 10 extensions of deadlines -- that's what the Bengal government has taken to implement the Calcutta High courts decision to check road accidents and cut down pollution levels.

Vehicles more than 15 years old will now be taken off Kolkata's roads from July 25.

The ban would apply to about 2,500 buses, 500 mini buses and 6000 taxis, roughly one fourth of the total number in the city.

"I know that the public will face difficulties once the illegal vehicles are seized. But we can't help. Despite repeated reminders the operators have not replaced the old vehicles,” says Bengal’s Transport Secretary, Sumantra Choudhury.
In the past few days, many accidents killed several people on Kolkata's roads.

In many cases it was found the vehicles were old and that the owners were resorting to illegal means to keep them running. Yet private transport operators have threatened to oppose the ban

"All unions are uniting to protest against this decision. We have no other alternative,” says President, Bengal Bus Syndicate, Swarnakamal Saha.

The state government is also impressing upon bus operators to do away with the commission system for staff on ticket sales and replace it with monthly incentives in an effort to clamp down on rash driving.

Transporters say replacing old buses with the new is a long process and withdrawing large number of buses will create havoc and public discomfort in the days to come.



# # #

Source 2:
Green activists happy, vehicle owners worried over ban order

Source: Thaindian News, http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/green-activist-kolkata_10073716.html

Kolkata, July 20 (IANS) The city’s green activists have welcomed with a sigh of relief the Calcutta High Court (HC) judgement banning commercial vehicles, registered on or before January 1, 1993, from plying in the metropolis. But for thousands of bus and minibus owners, the order Friday came as a shock as they claimed that about 80 percent of commercial vehicles will be off the roads once the judicial directive comes into effect March 31, 2009.

“The judgement is very unfortunate for thousands of bus and minibus owners and many other people who are directly or indirectly involved in this profession. We are planning to move the Supreme Court soon after getting a copy of the High Court order,” Sadhan Das, West Bengal Joint Council of Bus Syndicate (WBJCBS) general secretary, told IANS.

He said about 70 percent of the total vehicles plying in Kolkata and its three adjoining districts - South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Howrah - are commercial.

“If these vehicles are banned due to the age factor, the total public transport system would collapse. Commercial vehicles can only be banned if they are not maintaining the standard pollution norms, according to the Environment Protection Act,” he said.

The Calcutta High Court banned commercial vehicles registered on or before January 1, 1993 from Kolkata and its outskirts. All auto rickshaws would also have to convert either to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) mode. All autos with two-stroke engines have to be phased out by the year-end.
The HC judgement came following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a green crusader Subhash Dutta in March 2007.

“We have called representatives from all commercial vehicle organisations and will hold a meeting next week to take the final decision. We are hopeful of getting justice from the Supreme Court,” said Swarnakamal Saha, Kolkata Metropolitan Bus and Minibus Association member.

He said: “About 15 lakh (1.5 million) vehicles, of which over 80 percent are commercial, ply across 1,450 km of total roads in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA).”

But green activist Dutta is gung-ho over the judgement.

“It’s a very good judgement to reduce the city’s pollution level but we, the green activists, now will have to ensure that the order is carried out properly. The judgement covered most of the major points of the litigation such as ban on old commercial vehicles and using adulterated fuel,” Dutta told IANS.

He said that the average speed of cars in Kolkata is only 5 km per hour.

“A two-member committee will be formed soon to monitor the situation and find out if the order is being carried out properly,” he said.

# # #

World Streets has serious reservations concerning this kind of shotgun approach. The intentions are excellent, the ardor is real, but is piecemeal action really the best way to deal with this issues. We ask and invite you to respond. (Thanks to Richard Risemberg for the heads-up.)

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pedal Power (to the People)

Pedal Power, a new Canadian film about the phenomenal growth of city cycling produced by a Cogent/Benger Productions team under the direction of Christopher Sumpton and will be viewed for the first time today, September 24th, on national television in Canada (http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/ , 8pm). Repeating:Friday September 25, 2009 at 10 pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld.


For the moment, the full film is available only in Canada on TV and internet streaming via the CBC. But hang in there: we will let you know when it becomes available worldwide. In the meantime, some excerpts can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqUoJFLsZKI(8 minutes) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oX3p7EtEEds (30 second clip on sharing]. There is also a set of 6 short clips available at /u> http://www.cogentbenger.com/docs/pedalpower/video.php



Co-director’s notes by Christopher Sumpton

The excerpts show a little of Paris’ Velib’, featuring none other than World Streets Managing Editor, Eric Britton, as well as the origins of the White Bike with Luud Schimmelpennink in Amsterdam; a little of the bike lane scene in New York, and the new public bike system in Montreal (Bixi).

We did a quick tour of six cities, a miniscule slice of the global cycling picture, and along the way, two things were apparent: one, that cycling is bubbling up to the surface in conversations everywhere, and two, that car culture is very resilient and tremendous creativity will be needed for change to happen. My hope is that the film adds to public discussion and awareness of the issues.

The following are some thoughts from the filmmaking process.

Doing a film on cycling didn’t appear to be an “edgy” prospect. More like putting on a pair of comfortable slippers. After all, bicycles are the friendliest form of transport, besides being non-polluting and way up on the environmentally correct scale. For most people they also represent pleasant memories of childhood. They’re a rite of passage, a much-photographed milestone in growing up that’s shared between parent and child.

But it turns out that bicycles are the focus of heated debate and civic action. In the film we call the bicycle “revolution” a civil rights movement. The rights of cyclists might be compared to the rights of non-smokers, in the way that a tipping point is being reached and long-standing cultural assumptions (in this case that the roads belong to motorists) are suddenly overturned.

I think the car vs. bike battle is just getting under way. What’s dawning on many people, including civic planners and politicians, is that bicycles are important to the future of the city. Sustainability, livability, accessibility are the words being bandied about at conferences and symposia. It’s about how to ensure cities don’t strangle themselves on traffic and spawn a citizenry alienated from each other by the isolation of automobile-dictated sprawl.

It’s not really about bikes, it’s about the quality of life in the city. As cities become ever bigger and denser, it’s about how to make them suitable for people to interact with each other in public spaces, in other words roadways, sidewalks, squares, plazas, parks. It’s just that bicycling fits in with all that rather well.

The charm of the bicycle also comes from a retro thrill. Bicycles are a rare example of technological progress moving backward. The bicycle as we know it has been around since the advent of the “safety bicycle” in the early 1890’s: a low-mount structure on wheels of equal size, a chain-driven rear wheel and inflatable rubber tires. A huge wave of people took up mechanized travel at the time, several decades before the automobile age began.

This is the second wave. In this time where the technology we use (who knows how to fix a broken computer?) is increasingly beyond our understanding, the workings of the bicycle are visible and accessible. Simple and cheap, what a durable concept. The bike is the right thing at the right time. Compared to driving a car, its endlessly flexible: now I’m a fast-moving vehicle among other vehicles on the road, now I’m a pedestrian walking my bike down the sidewalk, now I’m riding through a park, now I’m tying up right outside a building where there’s no car parking for miles.

Why do cyclists take it all so personally? Because the bicycle is like a prosthetic device, an extension of our limbs. The power comes from the rider, not the thing ridden. As a method of transport, that’s unique. Not horsepower, not steam, not the electric tram, not the auto engine, but muscle melded to mechanics. And it’s inherently precarious: the whole enterprise takes alertness and attention (consciously or not) to keep from falling off. Plus you’re exposed to the world, putting your flesh and blood on the line.

So the doing the film was a bit like turning over a hornets’ nest. Passions are up, and everyone has an opinion about whether cycling is a good thing or a plague on the roads.

# # #

Christopher Sumpton is a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker who for the past ten years has produced films ranging from biography (Paul Anka, Jim Carrey) to wildlife (wolverines, sea otters) to social issues (violent video games, pornography). An abiding interest in sustainability led to his most recent film PEDAL POWER, about the growing “bicycle revolution”.

Christopher Sumpton, cas@cogentbenger.com
- www.cogentbenger.com
Toronto, Canada




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Honk! Concepts Run Wild at Dutch-American Bike Slam

Remember our New York and Dutch friends and their New Amsterdam Bike Slam and invitational event announcement and article of 19 August (newamsterdambikeslam.org)? Well they did it and the following article from today’s New York Times tells the story.

By Sean Patrick Farrell
Source: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/22/concepts-run-wild-at-dutch-american-bike-slam/

It was Saturday night in the meatpacking district. The velvet ropes were out; a rumbling bass pulsed out of every club.

Well, nearly every club. At Cielo, which says on its Web site that it is “purpose-built for dancing with a centrally located sunken dance floor,” no one was shaking it. Instead, a rapt crowd, many of them sitting on the purpose-built dance floor, watched two teams of Dutch and American designers make pleas for their plans to improve bicycle riding in New York City. A slow-turning disco ball cast speckled light across the audience, but all eyes were on a pair of monitors on a stage and Team Amsterdam’s presenter.


“You think that’s enough greenways?” Michael Mandiberg, a Brooklyn-based artist and designer, asked the crowd as he pulled up a map of Manhattan, its West Side and East Side bike paths highlighted.

Mr. Mandiberg and 11 other designers, architects, planners and bike thinkers from the United States and the Netherlands were in the final competition stage of the New Amsterdam Bike Slam.

BrightNYC conceptBrightNYC An artist’s rendering of an idea for a bicycle freeway that might run underneath existing elevated highways. Riders would not have to stop for lights, cross-traffic or rain.

As a part of New York’s all things Dutch celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival, the Bike Slam, a four-day conference that was part infrastructure symposium and part reality television show competition, was held Sept. 9-12. New York City’s Transportation Alternatives, the pedestrian and cyclist advocacy group, and Amsterdam’s Velo Mondial were the hosts.

After days of touring the city on bikes and brainstorming to create a vision to spur a million more cyclists onto New York’s streets, the two teams were coming into the final stretch and pitching their plans. Anything — cost, infrastructure and political battles be damned — seemed fair game.



Mr. Mandiberg hit another button on his laptop, and a new greenway lit up in the center of the island. “How about one up the middle?” The crowd responded with hoots and cheers. “Broadway is the obvious choice,” he said. Turn Broadway into a bike-only thoroughfare? Sure, why not?

Mr. Mandiberg ran through another series of possible improvement for the city’s cyclists; a glass cube with interior space for bike parking at 1 Centre Street. He called for lockers and showers at the Municipal Building for commuting city workers.

The D.J. spun Queen’s “Bicycle Race” during an interlude. Then it was back to business.

Team New York took the stage (each team had three Dutch and three American members.)

Ineke Spapé, a Dutch traffic and urban designer, made a similar plea for a Broadway reduced to bikes and buses only.

Her call to turn Governors Island into a bike training center where everyone, police officers and cabbies included, would have to take a cycling test, was met with big applause.

Then it was on to the young. Early indoctrination is key to the Dutch cycling ethos. Children get bike education in schools, according to Team Amsterdam’s Wendy Schipper, a sustainability project manager for the Department of Infrastructure, Traffic and Transportation for the city of Amsterdam. “They get a diploma when they graduate,” she explained.

Ms. Schipper’s team wondered whether New Yorkers might someday allow their children to be led to school as a big “bike posse.” Envision an adult cyclist “bus driver” leading a group of schoolchildren on bikes to and from class.

Both teams were appalled by the lack of safety at the off ramp from the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. Team New York called for a Budnick Bikeway style lane, raised and separated from traffic, that might connect all the way to Lafayette Street.

But Team Amsterdam had more tricks up its sleeves. How about bicycle freeways? asked Carmen Trudell, a New York architect and City University professor. Imagine a bicycle speedway running under the shadow of Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, a rain-free place for athletic cyclists out on training rides or those who just are not going to go at a “Dutch pace.”

The idea helped cinch the victory for Team Amsterdam in impressing the judges, who included a professor of Sustainable Processes at Portland State and Renaud Dutreil, the chairman of the North American unit of the luxury and fashion conglomerate LVMH and a noted Dutch bike enthusiast.

Florent Morellet, a guest judge who is a former restaurateur and a member of the transportation committee of New York City Community Board 2, applauded the idea of a bike freeway. “It’s not that far-fetched,” he said, “for people like me who go live downtown and need to go uptown fast. If a bicycle stops at every light, it becomes so slow it isn’t worth it.”

Shin-pei Tsay, the deputy director of Transportation Alternatives and a Bike Slam organizer, praised the ideas generated by the participants. She was struck by a Dutch idea for bicycle ferries, which could help inspire new cyclists by overcoming the daunting length and hills of the city’s bridges.

Ms. Tsay said Transportation Alternatives staff members would be traveling to Amsterdam this fall to continue to learn from the city and might stage a repeat of the Bike Slam there.

The members of the winning team from Saturday’s event was awarded bragging rights and their very own Dutch bikes. No word on whether they would be allowed on the bike freeway.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bogotá's Ghost Bike

Nicole Cañón, a 10-year old student on her bike ride to school, was run over by a bus and, when thrown to the street, was killed by a taxi. As if this were not enough, both drivers of bus and taxi escaped, leaving the child on her deathbed with no one to take responsibility.

Ghost bike ceremonies as memorials and calls for action

By Carlos Felipe Pardo, ITDP country director, Colombia

As of last Friday, Bogotá now has its own 9-11 to remember. Though it is of much smaller scale, it is equally tragic. Nicole Cañón, a 10-year old student on her bike ride to school, was run over by a public transport bus and, when thrown to the street, was killed by a taxi. As if this were not enough, both drivers of the bus and the taxi escaped, leaving Nicole on her deathbed with no one to take responsibility.

Later that day, the taxi driver was found, but due to legal technicalities, he was let go, provided that he would not leave the city. The police did not even revoke his driver’s license.

In response, we at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) took action. As has been done since 2003 in St Louis, we bought a used bicycle that resembled what a little girl would use, painted it all in white, and held a “ghost bike” ceremony at the crossing where Nicole had lost her life. More than 100 people came with flowers to commemorate her death, and a local advocacy group (Ciclopaseos de los Miércoles) kindly redirected their Sunday bike ride to arrive at the location of the accident as well. Local media were present to record the event.



Our message at the ceremony was not only specifically related to Nicole’s death, but also in general to confront the lack of effort by the city to continue promoting sustainable, and cycle and pedestrian friendly transport.

Contrary to what had been done by Bogotá’s former mayor Enrique Peñalosa during his 1998-2000 administration, Bogotá is currently giving in to motorized traffic, and policies are slowly regressing to the previous paradigm where the car is king and pedestrians second-class citizens.

We want to stop this trend and revive the policies of the Peñalosa administration. This is what we transmitted on that day: a city must have sufficient infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians, no matter what the consequence to motorized traffic.

The big problem with implementing sustainable transport policies in many of the cities in the developing world is not that these policies are hard to implement, but that it is hard to show to traditional politicians how these policies are not only better for the city, but better for them and the entire world. Many of them remain in their cocoons, riding in their bulletproof cars and thinking that decisions in transportion should be made from the back seat blind to the realities out the window.

Neighbors of Nicole had asked for a proper pedestrian crossing for more than 10 years, and nobody had paid attention to them. We still have a long way to go, but at least we have inspiration from many places. Bogotá was one of them, and it must continue to be.



# # #

Carlos Felipe Pardo is a psychologist interested in transport. Mainly, any strategy that reduces the dependence to car use and improves access of all population to affordable transport modes. He is director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in Colombia


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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"A gasoline tax is win, win, win, win, win — with no uncertainty at all."

These are the words of Thomas Friedman, and while we do not need to follow him exactly down his favorite (inevitable) "high tech will save us all" energy trail, they are sufficiently pithy, timely and to the point that they are worth a scan in our context here. (Appears here especially for our non-US readers to give them a taste of the present level of the debate in the US, which as the illustration shows is something really worth weeping about.)

Real Men Tax Gas
By Thomas L. Friedman
Source: International Herald Tribune, Monday Sept. 21st, 2009

Do we owe the French and other Europeans a second look when it comes to their willingness to exercise power in today’s world? Was it really fair for some to call the French and other Europeans “cheese-eating surrender monkeys?” Is it time to restore the French in “French fries” at the Congressional dining room, and stop calling them “Freedom Fries?” Why do I ask these profound questions?

Because we are once again having one of those big troop debates: Do we send more forces to Afghanistan, and are we ready to do what it takes to “win” there? This argument will be framed in many ways, but you can set your watch on these chest-thumpers: “toughness,” “grit,” “fortitude,” “willingness to do whatever it takes to realize big stakes” — all the qualities we tend to see in ourselves, with some justification, but not in Europeans.

But are we really that tough? If the metric is a willingness to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and consider the use of force against Iran, the answer is yes. And we should be eternally grateful to the Americans willing to go off and fight those fights. But in another way — when it comes to doing things that would actually weaken the people we are sending our boys and girls to fight — we are total wimps. We are, in fact, the wimps of the world. We are, in fact, so wimpy our politicians are afraid to even talk about how wimpy we are.

How so? France today generates nearly 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, and it has managed to deal with all the radioactive waste issues without any problems or panics.

And us? We get about 20 percent and have not been able or willing to build one new nuclear plant since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, even though that accident led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or neighbors. We’re too afraid to store nuclear waste deep in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain — totally safe — at a time when French mayors clamor to have reactors in their towns to create jobs. In short, the French stayed the course on clean nuclear power, despite Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and we ran for cover.

How about Denmark? Little Denmark, sweet, never-hurt-a-fly Denmark, was hit hard by the 1973 Arab oil embargo. In 1973, Denmark got all its oil from the Middle East. Today? Zero. Why? Because Denmark got tough. It imposed on itself a carbon tax, a roughly $5-a-gallon gasoline tax, made massive investments in energy efficiency and in systems to generate energy from waste, along with a discovery of North Sea oil (about 40 percent of its needs).

And us? When it comes to raising gasoline taxes or carbon taxes — at a perfect time like this when prices are already low — our politicians tell us it is simply “off the table.” So I repeat, who is the real tough guy here?

“The first rule of warfare is: ‘Take the high ground.’ Even the simplest Taliban fighter knows that,” said David Rothkopf, energy consultant and author of “Superclass.” “The strategic high ground in the world — whether it is in the Middle East or vis-à-vis difficult countries like Russia and Venezuela — is to be less dependent on oil. And yet, we simply refuse to seize it.”

According to the energy economist Phil Verleger, a $1 tax on gasoline and diesel fuel would raise about $140 billion a year. If I had that money, I’d devote 45 cents of each dollar to pay down the deficit and satisfy the debt hawks, 45 cents to pay for new health care and 10 cents to cushion the burden of such a tax on the poor and on those who need to drive long distances.

Such a tax would make our economy healthier by reducing the deficit, by stimulating the renewable energy industry, by strengthening the dollar through shrinking oil imports and by helping to shift the burden of health care away from business to government so our companies can compete better globally. Such a tax would make our population healthier by expanding health care and reducing emissions. Such a tax would make our national-security healthier by shrinking our dependence on oil from countries that have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs and by increasing our leverage over petro-dictators, like those in Iran, Russia and Venezuela, through shrinking their oil incomes.

In sum, we would be physically healthier, economically healthier and strategically healthier. And yet, amazingly, even talking about such a tax is “off the table” in Washington. You can’t mention it. But sending your neighbor’s son or daughter to risk their lives in Afghanistan? No problem. Talk away. Pound your chest.

I am not sure what the right troop number is for Afghanistan; I need to hear more. But I sure know this: There is something wrong when our country is willing to consider spending more lives and treasure in Afghanistan, where winning is highly uncertain, but can’t even talk about a gasoline tax, which is win, win, win, win, win — with no uncertainty at all.

So, I ask yet again: Who are the real cheese-eating surrender monkeys in this picture?

# # #
Source: International Herald Tribune, Monday Sept. 21st, - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/opinion/20friedman.html?_r=1&em=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1253535041-GVxAVm6lZeMeSwbQxtojmw

* Image thanks to: You of course recognized the slightly modified painting of great sorrow of the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, coming in this version from http://www.freakingnews.com/Gas-Pump-Pictures-37336.asp. Remarkably farsighted those French.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Sustainable transportation? Needs you pushing (Chapter 1)









Photos by courtesy of François Kenesi - http://blog.kenesi.fr/

* Streets wants to see how you are pushing for sustainable transportation. Send those images to the editor at editor@worldstreets.org

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Navigating Chengdu’s traffic: Part I

A 2008 China Today article notes that Chengdu ranks fourth among China’s cities in terms of car ownership, surpassing that of larger cities—and, if hearsay proves to be true, by now Chengdu is third. It has certainly become noticeably more stressful and time-consuming to travel from point A to point B in the four years I’ve been here.


- By Jane Voodikon, Chengdu

The capital of China’s southwestern Sichuan province, Chengdu is a “second-tier,” “medium-sized” city but also a development pace-setter. And not only is the development rapid, it’s broad, too, applying to economy as well as infrastructure: construction of or upgrades to roads, railways, bus lines, and the soon-to-open subway.

Currently, Chengdu has four ring roads to Beijing’s six, although one, the largest, is not called the “Fourth Ring Road” but the “High-Speed Ring Road.” Plans were announced this month for the construction of “2.5” and “3.5” Ring Roads meant to ease congestion.

And in the still-barren but construction-crazy Hi-Tech Zone, a one-way underground ring road, adjacent to a massive shopping zone, will mean that buses will be the only motor vehicles traveling at ground level. New fiber-optic lighting technologies will direct sunlight to the tunnel, providing natural light for 10 hours per day.

Despite all the attention to the apparent development of a car-friendly city, in contrast to being a bus commuter in Los Angeles, as I was for the four years prior to my move to China, here, not owning a car is still the norm—which doesn’t necessarily make it easier to get around, but it does mean at least there are millions of others in the same boat (or on the same bus) with you, instead of zipping around you in their private automobiles.

In terms of logistics, this means that buses run frequently, and lines are designed to transport passengers from one place to another without a few-mile walk in between. Major roads have bicycle lanes that are separated from the car lanes, and bike riders travel in packs, alongside electric scooters—although, increasingly and annoyingly, cars drive down them or park in them. And Chengdunese drivers—for all that has been said about their reckless driving—at least know to watch out for bikers and pedestrians.

In terms of culture, too, there’s a noticeable contrast between the two locations: Bus-related stories of interest appear in the local news regularly. In the past week, there’s been the story of the “young and beautiful bus ticket seller” in retaliation to Shanghai’s (http://www.sc.xinhuanet.com/content/2009-09/16/content_17710866.htm) and the driver who’s getting his passengers into a patriotic mood for the upcoming National Day celebrations by decorating his bus with small Chinese flags (http://www.sc.xinhuanet.com/content/2009-09/15/content_17699682.htm).

But for all that, Chinese buses have gotten a bad rap as of late. Sloppy driving (http://www.gochengdoo.com/en/blog/item/1116/easychair_driver_enrages_passenger), bus fires (http://www.gochengdoo.com/en/blog/item/1068/bus_combusts_saturday_one_injured), and bus collisions (http://www.gochengdoo.com/en/blog/item/1089/week_in_review_killer_bus_pirates_flights_to_kl_lotus_market_floods) have all been recent complaints of Chengdu residents.

And that’s just the start of the commuter complaints. For those who take taxis, if you’re lucky enough to nab one within 30 minutes, unless it’s the middle of the night, you’re likely to be sitting in gridlock for ... well, longer than it would take to walk the distance, sometimes. City officials say one of the city’s main thoroughfares, People’s Road South, which has faced constant re-routings, closures, potholes, lane removal, etc. due to the subway construction over the past several years, will return to “normal”(http://www.gochengdoo.com/en/blog/item/1107/week_in_review_lightning_hostage_renmin_nan_lu_to_return_to_normal) by the end of next month, but nobody seems to be holding their breath.

Some companies are setting their sights on how to profit from this situation. The Palmcity (http://www.palmcity.cn/traffic.jsp) website already provides real-time traffic information for several cities in China, including Chengdu, and will launch a program to show available parking spaces within the city, a spokesperson for the company told the China Daily (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2009-09/07/content_8662187.htm). Signboards hung around the city years ago already provide this information to drivers on the road.

Bus fire leads to system upgrades

On a sizzling hot June morning this year, a bus sitting in traffic suddenly went up in flames. The panicked passengers, not thinking to or unable to break the windows, stampeded each other on the way out of the bus’s two doors. A total of 27 died on the spot, and of the XX who were sent to the hospital, two more died later. Although the fire was found to have been started by an elderly suicidal man who had earlier threatened to his daughter that he would perish in a spectacular way, the incident—and others following shortly thereafter, including spontaneous engine combustions in Shenzhen and Chengdu—raised concerns over the safety of the country’s buses.

Why was a passenger allowed to bring a can of gasoline on board the bus? Why were there so many people on the bus that they were unable to exit in time to save their lives? Why were the safety hammers not used to break the windows?

In fact, it is quite common for passengers to bring all sorts of items onto city buses. Many commute into the city every day from the countryside to conduct business, bringing large, unidentified parcels with them. Live animals—both pets and poultry—are brought on board. And buses are routinely crowded (http://www.wccdaily.com.cn/epaper/hxdsb/res/1/1/2009-07/30/003/res10_attpic_brief.jpg) to the point that passengers are literally pressed against the sides, front, and door of the bus. Prior to coming to China the only time I had been on a bus so crowded was during the MTA strike of 2003, when selected routes ran only a handful of times each day.

The disaster prompted a widespread campaign for upgrading bus safety across the nation. And with the official launch of the Chengdu Bus Dispatch and Surveillance Center two weeks ago, the 5,000 buses in operation in Chengdu are now under constant real-time electronic surveillance, Sichuan Online (http://www.scol.com.cn/nsichuan/cddt/20090904/20099465617.htm) reports.

In addition to this safety measure, Chengdu’s Public Transportation Group has made several other enhancements to the bus system, including a text-messaging route-check system and electronic signboards at 500 stops.

The new surveillance system utilizes “smart” GPS technology to monitor the buses’ speed, spacing, and passengers’ alighting and disembarking. If any irregularities are detected, the bus driver will be notified. The system covers the entire area within the Second Ring Road.

Currently, only a handful of stops are equipped with signboards that notify passengers of the current time and date as well as the forecasted time of the next bus’s arrival. These will be upgraded to also include route-change information, and by year’s end, 500 of the city’s stops will feature such signboards. In the future, all stops will be outfitted with a hidden camera feeding to the dispatch center.

Additionally, a new service has been launched to allow passengers to check bus routes via SMS. When a passenger sends the letters “GJ” to 10628106, the system will automatically reply with a menu that enables users to check all the stops on a particular bus line, possible routes between two stops, and the location of bus-pass recharging stations. The service is currently only in Chinese and costs 3 jiao per use or 1.2 yuan per month with unlimited usage, although it’s not nearly as user-friendly as the online mapping services that also find bus routes and that have been in existence for years.

About the author:

Jane lives in the southwestern China capital of Chengdu, where she rides her Phoenix bicycle to work as a magazine (http://www.chengdoo-magazine.com) and website editor (http://www.gochengdoo.com) and blogger (http://www.cnreviews.com). Born and raised in the commuter's nightmare that is Los Angeles, she spent a regretful two years in the driver's seat before she realized there were better ways, even in L.A.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

World Streets One-Click Key Sources Search - Worldwide

Have a question about sustainable transport projects, techniques, applications, institutions, anywhere in the world? Say about BRT in Delhi, public bikes in Mexico, carsharing in Austria, or anything else that falls under the sustainable transport/new mobility agenda? Planning a trip to a city and want to check up on what is going on there so that you get off with a running start? So now what?

Turn to Google most likely. Not bad -- but let us see if we can offer you a more efficient way to carry out your search.

* First try our Collaborative Search Engine links.worldstreets.org/

Over the course of the past year the members of our worldwide network have helped us to piece together an inventory of and working links to an impressive number of groups, programs and sources leading the way in this area, and as of today if you look on the left menu of the section (a bit down) entitled Key Sources, Links and Blog, you will see are 156 are already listed. (For the visual effect we list them below, but to be useful of course you really have to click down to that section of the site.)

This is a wonderful collection of sources on our subject, and if you first click to http://links.worldstreets.org/ and from there start asking your questions, you will see what these specialist groups and sources have to offer on your topic. It will be a fraction of what you get with a full Google search, but much more closely honed given that these are the leading edge groups working in these area.

Have and candidates who are port of this leading edge and who should be included in our combined search engine. Please let us know and we can add them.


156 Key Sources, Links and Blogs you may wish to check out for your project

Active Transportation Alliance * African Community Access Programme (AFCAP) * Alliance for Biking & Walking * Association for European Transport * Bakfiets Cycle News * Better Transport (UK) * Bicycle Design * Bicycle Fixation * Bicycle Partnership Program * Bike-sharing Blog * Brazilian Pedestrian Association * Brookings Institute * C40 - Large Cities Climate Leadership * California Center for Innovative Transportation * Campaign for Better Transport * Carsharing US * Center for Neighborhood Technology * Centre for Science and Environment * China Dialogue * Cities for Mobility * CitiesACT (Asia) * Citistates Group * City CarShare * City Fix * City Mayors * CityRyde * CityRyde (USA) * Ciudad Viva * CIVITAS * Clean Air Initiative (CAI) * Climate Alliance of European Cities * Climate ark * Clinton Climate Initiative * Community Transportation Association of America * CROW - Technology Platform for Transport & Public spac * ELTIS * ELTIS case studies * Embarq - Center for Sustainable Transport * Embarq - WRI * Energy Foundation China.org * EPOMM - European Platform on Mobility Management * EUROCITIES mobility * European Federation for Transport & Environmen * Feet First. * Flexibility.co.uk * Forum for the future * Friends of the Earth (Transport) * Frixo traffic reporting * Gehl architects. * Global Alliance for EcoMobility * Global Environment & Technology Foundation * global Transport Knowledge Partnership * Go For Green * Google maps bike there * Gotham Gazette * Green 2009 * Green car congress. * Greenstreet Sweden * Grist * GTZ * Guardian Transport * I Bike T.O. * I Walk to School * IBSR - L'Institut Belge pour la Sécurité Routière * IEEE * IFRTD * INRETS (France) * International Downtown Association * International Federation of Pedestrians (IFP) * International Transport Forum * International Walk to School * ITDP - China (photo library) * ITDP - Institute for Transportation & Development Policy - * Japan for Sustainability (JFS) * Key NewMob definitions * Knoogle combined search of all following blogs and sources * KonSULT * Land Transport Authority - Singapore * Livable City * Livable Streets Network * MindsinMotion.net * Mobility Magazine (South Africa) * Network Musings * Next American City * One Street * Oxford Transport Network * Pan Africa Bicycle Information Network * Parisar (India) * Partners for Public Spaces (PPS) i * Perils for Pedestrians * Planetizen * Polis * Practical cyclist Blog * Prevention Institute * Reconnecting America * Regional Community Development News * Reinventing Transport * Safe Kids * Safe Routes to School * Shared Space.Institute * Shrinking Cities * Sightline Institute * Smart growth america * Smart Growth Online * Social Data * Spokes.org.uk * STPP * Street-Films * Streets Alive * Streetsblog (NYC) * Sustainable Cities Net * Sustainable Connections * Sustainable Development Gateway * Sustainable Energy Africa * Sustainable Urban Transport Project * Sustran - Global South Forum * The Commons * The Idea Factory * The Nation - Transportation * The PEP - Transport * Health & Environmen * the transport politic * Tne Infrastructurist * Transaid * Transition Towns * Transport Research Knowledge Centre * Transportation Alternatives * Transumo * Treehugger-transportation * UITP * Urbamet * Urban Buzz * Urban Design * Urban Design and Planning * Urban Land Institute * Urban places and spaces * Urban Transport Issues Asia * Urban Trransportation Monitor * Value Capture News * Velo Mondial * Victoria Transport Policy Institute * Virginia Tech Transportation Institute * Walk & Bike for Life * Walk to School (UK) * Walking School Bus * Wash Cycle * Where * WHO - Transport and Health * Wiki on Sustainable Transportation * Wikipedia entry (for comment) * WiserEarth (WE) * World Business Council for Sustainable Development * World Changing * World Resources Forum * World Resources Institute * Worldwatch Institute * Wuppertal Institute


* Again that's links.worldstreets.org/. You may wish to bookmark it.


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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Take a ride where the drivers aren’t rude to you… "
BRT comes to Joburg (And then what?)

‘Have you heard of this BRT in Joburg? Are we going to get this thing in Cape Town?’ Xoliswa Mtshali is dusting my office bookshelves, moving copies of MOBILITY magazine around and looking at the photographs of TransMillenio in the latest issue. She’s spent the last week or so – like most other people in South Africa – watching news footage of the country’s first-ever BRT, Rea Vaya, which launched on 1 September. And friends of hers who live in Soweto have told her that the bus service is like nothing they’ve ever encountered before.

‘It’s cheap – not expensive like taxis. The music is not loud, they say. You can know when the bus will arrive… The bus doesn’t have to wait to be full before it goes…’

But the best, according to Xoliswa: ‘The drivers, they are not rude to you!’

As we’re talking, another ‘BRT update from Rea Vaya’ lands in my in-box. Today, talk is around emissions standards, and how the bus service will continue despite security threats. And the ruling-party ANC has criticized Soweto Taxi Services for allegedly intimidating taxi owners who support the Bus Rapid Transit system. Last week two passengers were injured by taxi gunmen, and a high-profile taxi leader was murdered.

Rather prosaically, Rea Vaya – which means ‘we are going’ in Sotho – is introduced on its website thus:

“In order to deal with the increasing transport problems faced in Joburg today, the City is pleased to introduce the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System.

“The Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) is designed to provide a high quality and affordable transport system, which is fast and safe.”

And that’s exactly what it’s doing – but the impact of this is difficult to translate to anyone who’s used to quality public transport. Transport writers, engineers and officials are flying from all over the country to take a ride on the longest-awaited bus in South Africa’s history – returning with DVD upon DVD of photographs of every tiny detail, including the pedestrian paving and signage. There’s a festive, and slightly disbelieving air to it all, astonishing to anyone for whom timetables are old hat.

Adventurous travellers to the African continent boast of taking the ‘local transport’, but to everyday commuters with a deadline, this is nothing worth writing home about: waiting three-quarters of an hour for a minibus-taxi to fill up, never knowing when a minibus will arrive, dodging gun-toting drivers who’ve been known to kill in order to maintain their routes…

Rea Vaya’s website – which offers a fraction of the information something like Transport for London’s does – is a 21st century dream for South Africans with access to the net: route planners, timetables, maps, updates, photographs of work in progress.

Phase 1A is a 25km route from Soweto into central Joburg, with 20 stations en route. The full phase 1 will include seven routes of 122 km, 150 stations, and trunk, complementary and feeder services.

Sadly, when Cape Town does finally does get its first phase of the BRT (which as yet does not have a name), the route will go nowhere near the township where Xoliswa lives. The first route will travel between Cape Town airport and the central city. There is talk that perhaps in 20 years or so, in phase who-knows-what, Cape Town’s south peninsula might find itself on the BRT route – taxi-industry-negotiations permitting.

But to Xoliswa and other hopefuls: ‘The passengers will want it. We are the ones who must decide.’



For more information, visit www.reavaya.org.za

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By Gail Jennings, Mobility Magazine, Cape Town, South Africa.
Gail writes about issues such as social and environmental justice, energy and climate change, community-based projects, non-motorised transport, and edit Mobility Magazine (a quarterly transport publication for the southern African public sector).

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Transaid: Emergency Transport in Northern Nigeria

Transaid is an international development organisation that seeks to reduce poverty and improve lives in Africa through creating better transport. Here is a partnership transport project they are working on in Northern Nigeria.
-- Sustainable development and social justice? Think Africa! --

Transaid has been working as part of the PRRINN project in Northern Nigeria to help improve immunisation coverage for women and children in the states of Yobe, Jigawa, Katsina and Zamfara.

Transaid’s role has been to advise on appropriate management of the Ministry of Health’s transport to ensure adequate healthcare reaches those most in need. This project has now been expanded in three of the four states to cover all primary healthcare for mother’s, newborn babies and children (MNCH) extending the reach and impact of Transaid’s vital work.

The Problem
In this part of Northern Nigeria, less than 6% of children are fully immunised against life-threatening diseases and rates of newborn, maternal and child mortality are some of the highest in the world. Over 500,000 women die in pregnancy every year. A woman in sub-saharan Africa has a 1 in 13 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a 1 in 4,000 risk in the industrialised world*.

The millennium development goals which have been put in place to reduce extreme poverty aim to reduce child mortality by two thirds, maternal mortality by three quarters and to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015. Efficient and effective transport has a key role to play in the delivery of health services and is a vital link to enabling these goals to be realised.
*Statistic taken from 'Maternal Mortality: Africa's Burden. A Toolkit on Gender, Transport and Maternal Mortality', vs4-04-2005

The Process
Transaid is providing technical assistance in relation to the transport elements of the project. Through the initial PRRINN project we have already begun to implement a transport management system to help improve health service delivery. We are also working with project partners and the government at state level to establish solutions to the problem of accessing health facilities in emergency pregnancy cases.

Plans are being developed for an emergency transport system to be put in place using members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers NURTW) to take patients for a small fee. This has already proven to be successful following a pilot in Jigawa state. We are also looking at the viability of other low-cost modes of transport such as the motorcycle and bicycle ambulance to improve access to emergency healthcare in hard to reach areas.

Partners
The PRRINN-MNCH consortium led by Health Partners International, Save the Children and Grid Consulting, the State Ministry of Health in Katsina, Yobe and Zamfara. (Jigawa state is not included in the MNCH project)

The Results
The overall aims of the whole project are to improve antenatal care for women and the number of births attended by skilled medical personnel. The project also aims to increase immunisation levels so that 60% of children under one year old are fully immunised by 2012, decreasing the number of cases of life-threatening illnesses such as measles. It is hoped that health centres will serve 50% more women and children through better functioning and rehabilitated systems (including transport). The increase in trained staff at health centres and hospitals will also ensure greater accountability and responsiveness to patients and a more joined up approach to management at all levels.

Impact
The new PRRINN-MNCH project will improve the quality and availability of all maternal and child health services including antenatal and postnatal care, safer deliveries, care for newborn and young children, better nutrition and increased routine immunisation. Using Transaid’s transport management system vehicles will also be better managed and scheduled, increasing vehicle availability for emergency pregnancy transfers.




More:

(If you want to know more about Transaid’s work in Nigeria please follow this link: http://www.transaid.org/projects/nigeria,-increasing-access-to-healthcare-for-mothers-and-children,-prrinn---mnch-update-%E2%80%93-april-2009

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