Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's give cars more competition! New options for urban mobility

- by Paul Barter, National University of Singapore

What competition do cars have in your city? I don't mean competition between Toyota, Ford or Hyundai. I don't even mean competition between cars and public transport for this morning's work trips. I am talking about competition between a car-owning lifestyle and a set of alternatives that add up to a whole lifestyle, creating a complete 'mobility package' attractive enough to make car ownership feel optional.

In places like Manhattan or Hong Kong or the inner cities of Zurich, Paris, Tokyo or London a lifestyle without your own car is already an attractive option even for wealthy people. But could we extend the range of places where not having a car is an excellent lifestyle choice? Can we make car use more provisional and less locked-in to our liefstyles and our urban systems? How?

Here is a presentation I gave last year which tackles some of these issues in a non-technical way.

* Click following link for slide presentation:

Under-appreciated and neglected urban transport policy opportunities (and reframing competition in urban transport)

In this presentation I claim that the following issues in urban transport are under-appreciated and neglected.

  • Public transport integration and comprehensiveness;

  • Short trips between 1 and 4 km;

  • Taxis and car-sharing;

  • Car ownership cost structures;

  • Parking policy.

They have in common that they seem much more important when we focus our minds on competing with the car-owning lifestyle and not just to get people out of their cars for specific trips.

My central messages were:
  • Urban transport policy for liveable cities can and should dare to compete successfully with car ownership.

  • Seeing the car-owning lifestyle as our primary competition expands and enriches our policy horizons.

  • Imagining excellent mobility without owning a car prompts a more critical look at car ownership arrangements.

I think this line of thinking offers hope for gradually offering a real alternative to the car-owning lifestyle. It brings together themes I have written about before, here, here and here.

People who have been thinking along similar lines include Robin Chase, Chris Bradshaw, Eric Britton, the late Bill Mitchell, and Susan Zielinski.

For more detail on this approach to competing with cars see my working paper on the issue.

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About 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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