Monday, March 22, 2010

World Streets worldwide visiting speaker series:
Fred Salvucci on a sustainable transportation policy

World Streets is, as you may have noticed, not only a daily newspaper sticking to its carefully selected topic, but also as a worldwide classroom, discussion space and shared library. And since we have our topic and our classroom, it makes sense to open it up to visiting speakers from different parts of the world for outstanding presentations that can help us better understand our tough topic. So today in our first visiting lecturuer series we are pleased to welcome Fred Salvucci, former Secretary of Transportation for the state of Massachusetts and currently of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, who shares with us his reflections on some basic truths behind sustainable transportation policy and practice.

Transportation Policy:
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally and Walking the Talk


Fred Salvucci observes that true sustainable transport requires making more than short-term fixes. A sustainable transportation program is built upon the pyramid of three “E”s: equity, environmental benefit, and economics. Maximizing on just one of these objectives imbalances the others, and leads to unintended and undesirable results.



Lecture synopsis (from MIT site)

Why do so many sustainable transportation programs turn out, like the Alice in the Wonderland parable to lead us down unexpected paths? Fred Salvucci observes that true sustainable transport requires making more than short-term fixes. A sustainable transportation program is built upon the pyramid of three “E”s: equity, environmental benefit, and economics. Maximizing on just one of these objectives imbalances the others, and leads to unintended and undesirable results.

As a case in point, Salvucci notes that improvements in sustainable transportation can be made by either “fixing the automobile”, or by “fixing the system.” The “fixes” have included the mandate for improvement in CAFÉ standards, nationwide interest in adopting a California car standard, and the Cash for Clunkers program. These are all short-term responses as car ownership, and vehicle miles traveled continue to grow.

Salvucci views public transport as a longer-term solution, and says that the government, universities, and other large employers have an important role in terms of turning the coin and incentivizing preferred modes of transport. He suggests that government policy and tax policies need to be aligned. He notes that transit resources need to be spread out widely and not benefit just a single region or provider. The early building of the National Highway System, a federal program that touched every state, received widespread support.

Building a consensus for public transit and sustainable transportation policy is possible, just as it is “possible to sail against the wind”. The state of Massachusetts and Boston, in particular, have shown this political leadership as Boston has managed to grow economically despite forgoing new above-ground freeways. A new initiative now exists in Boston, over the next five to 10 years, as all of the major bridges across the Charles River- with the exception of one- must undergo safety repairs. There will be an estimated 20% reduction in vehicle capacity, and together these bridges carry more traffic than the Central Artery. Salvucci urged planners at MIT to think of the Charles River Crossing project as a “pattern break”- an opportunity to demonstrate more sustainable transport modes in the face of the vehicle reduction.

Boston and the MIT community have a new opportunity to undo the deeply embedded use of automobiles, provided we really believe, and wish to follow, the objectives of sustainable transportation.
(From MIT World)

# # #
About the author:

Frederick Salvucci is a Senior Lecturer at MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics. He served as transportation advisor to Boston Mayor Kevin White between 1970 and 1974, and then as Secretary of Transportation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under Governor Michael Dukakis between 1975 and 1978, and again from 1983 to 1990. In those roles he shaped much of the transportation planning and policy in urban Boston and Massachusetts over the past 20 years.


Editor's note:

As indicated, this is the first in what we intend to be a continuing series of outstanding video presentations which we are pleased to share with our readers and viewers in all parts of the world. We have several other presentations lined up that we shall be sharing with you in due course, but certainly no more than one a week since it does take more time than reading most of the articles. With this in mind, this is to invite you to share with us in turn your ideas about future speakers and topics. Thanks in advance for your recommendations, and of course your thoughts and comments on this and any of the future presentations. This matter of creative interactivity and peer exchanges is critical if we are to move together toward our shared goal.

Eric Britton

Print this article