Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Take It Down Department.
(A suggestion from one of our diligent readers)

Robert Moskowitz, who follows matters of transportation and public policy with interest from Los Angeles, and who periodically shares with World Streets information, clues and comments on matters of old and new mobility, poses the following for our consideration this morning:

"I've noticed there's a whole infrastructure in our cities in charge of putting up stop signs, traffic lights, and the like, but no infrastructure in charge of taking them down when they've outlived their usefulness. If I were a traffic scientist, I would have studied and published on these topics. But I had no standing and no time to have more than opinions."
Reflecting on Robert's suggestion, it seems obvious that there is no possibility that any city or nation, or person for that matter, can have even a chance of moving seriously toward sustainability, without specifically reversing a lot of past decisions, investments, and physical bits, pieces and relics of everyday life.

So if that is true -- it is, isn't it? - it is something that presidents, governors, mayors and anyone else in the political establishment should be aware of and ready to engage. Anywhere on this planet. But they need to be able to point to successful examples.

That said, this is considerably more tricky than it may look at first glance. We will be giving this more attention in future articles, but the rub comes up when we contrast the manner in which many of the initial decisions and actions were taken, i.e., point decisions (example: we better put a stop sign or light there because somebody has been injured or killed), while the approach needed to rationalize the system is precisely that, systemic. This means that the "taking down" has to be worked out from an overall systemic perspective. This is possible, but unfamiliar to many transportation departments. On the other hand hugely interesting for traffic managers and transportation planners who want to put to work their full bundle of skills and tools. More to follow.

Nest step:
World Streets would very much like to invite one or more articles on anything that resembles a Take It Down Department that you might be able to point us to. It would be a great contribution.

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About the writer:

Robert Moskowitz is a business consultant, author, and time management "guru" who has helped develop several Internet startups, and won an Emmy for his work on a Public TV series about personal finances. He writes: "I am here cause I feel in my bones we're living profligately on the planet and we need to find a formula for establishing quality of life without destroying the environment. Obviously, sustainable development and new modes of transport are key ingredients in such a formula."

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