Thursday, June 11, 2009

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.

Print this article


  1. Well I agree with Eric completely except for point 5. Reducing emissions within
    the next few years is important, but it shouldn't be seen as all important. I'd
    rather prioritise a longer term goal (say 10-20 years) of 80-90% reductions, to
    be achieved by a mixture of modal shift (for both passengers and freight), trip
    and journey length reduction, more people per vehicle and more efficient
    vehicles (especially the public transport vehicles that I hope would be
    providing the majority of people's movements).

    Simon Norton

  2. There are two problems with climate modification being the most urgent public policy issue:

    First, there is still scepticism out there - and in any case the impacts are a long way off (so people argue)
    Second, there is no short-term imperative to do something - the likely fate of the Australian emissions trading proposal is a case in point.

    Peak Oil, on the other hand, is immediate and has a direct impact on individuals, business and the community. Whilst there also sceptics about peak oil - mainly people who maintain that technology will come to the rescue, these solutions are medium to long term and there will be short-term pain.

    So, I'd suggest that there be a two-pronged approach - the same solutions address both issues - climate change and transport energy cost/supply.


    Ian Ker
    Councillor, South Ward
    Town of Vincent

  3. Michael's post reminded me of the problems London has had with diplomats who not
    only insist on using their cars but refuse to pay the congestion charge. If they
    believe that their regimes are so unpopular that they risk assassination if they
    mingle with the general public, I won't say well and good, but they should at
    least be made to pay just like anyone else.

    Simon Norton

  4. Michael YeatesFriday, 12 June, 2009

    Eric ...

    This appears to be the classic problem of asking the wrong question ... or perhaps a question with too many weasel words?

    Clearly "carbon consumption" can best be easily and very significantly reduced by converting Washington to a highly pedestrianised and cycling friendly exemplar city rather like those in Europe where it is so inconvenient to drive a car and so much easier and more enjoyable to walk and/or cycle and/or use public transport (esp if it isn't coal or oil fueled) .... so that is what most people choose to do.

    A bit like the day President-elect Obama became President Obama?

    How easy ... the infrastructure is still there ... much as originally provided ... long before cars existed ...!

    Infrastructure called legs ... available for more use for most of us ... especially developed over millennia for walking ... useful for cycling?

    Then there is the classic use of that wonderful weasel word "reduce" ... incrementally? minutely? significantly? almost totally? ... reduce?

    "Regulate" is a bit like "reduce" and "manage" ... more weasels ...! A bit like the team of people in our transport agency working on increasing public and active transport ... who reportedly wanted some additional car parking at their workplace for the cars they "need" ...!

    Like parking provision or reduction ... so easy to regulate and/or reduce ... but always best to be the regulator ...!

    What is really needed is real top-down leadership by example ... recall the stories of the former Secretary-General of the UN who reportedly traveled around Zurich (?) by tram with a couple of "minders" ... or the London Borough Mayor who cycled in his full regalia including chains of office ... instead of using the official car ... but it has to be more than for political exposure, it must be closely, consistently and competently linked to committed policy AND implementation ... and promoted as such.

    Otherwise it becomes a media opportunity or a media stunt ... as here when we can tell an election is coming ... when the Lord Mayor or the Premier start appearing on trains or buses or ferries, or on bikes ... or walking ... to work ... often with their chauffeur still driving the official car with all the necessary (?) paperwork, "real" clothes etc ...

    Too cynical ... too critical?

    Perhaps ... but then why can't anyone and everyone decide if using the car suits them best ? Of course, we and they, do just that.

    So if the senior executives in government and bureaucracy and business (eg Wall Street) .. and the political leaders etc "need" to drive or be driven, then clearly they know the alternatives are inadequate ... which makes an interesting link to the discussions elsewhere about the planes v trains ... when the politicians need their cars to get the planes ... and everywhere else ...!

    Perhaps we should ask them why they have that "need" ? Indeed perhaps that is one important missing suggestion Eric?

    Ask what the EPA and the DoT are going to do "to reduce carbon consumption" within their departments ... and at whole of government level?

    There is highly relevant President Kennedy mis/quotation in there somewhere ... or nearby ...!

    "Ask not ............................." ?

    Of course there are others which are totally aligned ... one quite often attributed to Chairman Mao is about "a journey commencing with a single step" or from the landing on the moon, "one small step ............" .

    One other I like is the "I can do that" test ... because if "they" can't or won't, why should "they" expect others ie "us" to do it ..?

    Leadership ...? mmmmmmmm ...

    By ongoing committed example ... not by (or perhaps always by example prior to) relying on rhetoric and/or coercion ...!

    Michael Yeates
    Brisbane Australia ................

  5. "Soft" words, like "reduction" and "management" (of congestion, emissions, etc.) are (maybe) good for marketing. They would not scare the so called "General Public". But -- maybe it's a time to say "boo"?

    We are using nice and soft words, but -- remember -- car and oil industry has no doubts and in name of earning bigger bucks does not hesitates to call all pro-sustainability activists "green maniacs", "fanatics" and so on.

    It is a big time to realize, that it's a war in progress. War against greedy corporations, working in hand with some politicians. It's a great thing that Mr Obama's administration quit with habit of bowing on front of GM and other monstrosities, those have grown on dung of greed, mega-profit, misinformation and creating of false, artifical needs.

    It's a war. And it's high time to remind of words of General Norman Schwarzkopf, who was asked by journalists (after operation Desert Storm) about non-humanitarian practice of US tanks levelling with their tracks trenches full of Iraqui troops. His answer was: "Ths is is a war and there is no nice way to kill someone"...
    Let's put the aspen peg in the chest of the vampyres of the Old Time and let's start new, sustainable future!

    Well, maybe I'm joking. But only a little bit.

    Marek Utkin

  6. The issue with technological advancement in transport is of course the rebound effect. Cars are now more fuel efficient but heavier, faster and stuffed with fuel draining technologies such as air conditioning which with increasing distances negate the benefits. In Europe the growth and comsumption is still outweighing all the stringent emission regulations.

    Much reliance has been placed on clean technologies by governments as a cure for consumption and endless growth. While technological advance is a wonderful human ability, in the field of mobility it is used conveniently to brush off the true social and physical costs of the invasive presence and sedantry travel culture propagated by 'default' car travel. A queue of electric cars is still a queue, the metal boxes will still require space to manoeuvre and park and the production of cars, especially the new breed require limited resources like precious metals and polluting/environmentally ravaging manufacturing like never before.

    Of course, the climatic effects of cleaning transport cannot be underestimated as the most pressing problems facing our species (not the Earth) is the damage we are doing and the need to change to a life without fossil fuels, plastics, petrochemicals etc. However electric vehicles (or any other sort of technological advance to auto drivetrains) can't be considered part of a new mobility agenda. It is perhaps car sharing where technology can address mobility and car dependency - public car prototypes have been proposed in the past but are yet to see the light of day in the way that mass public bike schemes with similar technologies have. Certainly there is enough evidence from Germany and Switzerland that long term car sharing strategies can change the mobility of communities by reducing average car ownership and necessarily increasing trip planning. Where is the point at which pressure can be applied to develop the technologies to m ake car sharing a simple reliable and easy option?

    Adrian Bell MSc BEng
    Burnaby British Columbia

  7. Adrian Bell asked,

    Where is the point at which pressure can be applied to develop the technologies to make car sharing a simple reliable and easy option? Good question, but if we wait for the following events to unfold we will only need to do very little.

    What I said in my reply to Todd Edelman below, is the event that will help. Cost of travel is what I see is the most pressing issue to change driving behaviour.
    I said:
    I think that the eventual price spiral upwards of fosil fuel will achieve this, aside from all our efforts to have Governing Authorities plan for better public transport, with limited success in our experience.

    There is a direct link between the price of fuel to the public acceptance of adopting alternative methods of getting mobile.

    In N.Z. when the price of Petrol exceeded $2.20 a litre for the first time ever, car loving Kiwis abandoned their cars in droves and flocked to public transport, or started car share, so our job trying to get people and Government here to change direction, of reliance on cars to a much more intergrated public transport policy, user friendly, something like the transferable ticket system on Toronto Transit, to attract people onto public transport was not then as urgent, as people demonstrated when the cost of fuel goes to a certain level, they will support public transport and car share.

    However we should not abandon options for pushing electric clean efficient vehicles, just because they take room on roads, if so why not ban trucks as we are advocating, and get freight back on fuel efficient rail, which is 8 to 15 times less polluting than trucks and up to 8 times more fuel efficient.

    In N.Z. right now we have the Government spending billions on new roads as being of significant importance to the economy, we see this as unwise as it only encourage use of more vehicles, what advise shall we give to a Government that proposes to get you into a car after building a new road, to get behind walking and cycling?
    So the question again:
    Where is the point at which pressure can be applied to develop the technologies to make car sharing a simple reliable and easy option? Answer wait till the cost of travel exceeds public expectation, then a switch to car share will eventuate, but if that occurs we will have far less congestion on the roads, and less reason to build new roads. A message for Government maybe?

    Ken Crispin. Project Manager.
    Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre, In'c. N.Z.

  8. Promoting “New Mobility” as a better system than old mobility, describing its features, advantages and benefits is my preference. Many people are aware of climate change and peak oil, yet are unwilling to take any action. Others simply do not care. Continuing with the old system is easier and more convenient for them, as they have no experience of, and often no knowledge of, New Mobility. The New Mobility system needs to be more attractive than the existing Old Mobility system, regardless of the climate change and peak-oil issues.

    New mobility can increase local employment and health and be a benefit to local and national economies. Roads schemes allow large corporations to transport goods great distances and outcompete small local producers, yet politicians believe to this day that roads create jobs. Why do we transport fluffy loafs of bread, consisting mostly of air, great distances, when we can ship the ingredients and produce locally?

    Employment Tax, known as Income Tax is a barrier to New Mobility as employing as few people and as many machines as possible is essential to profits. Carrots in the Netherlands are often individually wrapped (by machines) to minimise the time taken at the checkout and now we have Self Checkouts. Everywhere, successful businesses like Tesco and Wal-Mart, minimise their staffing levels and employ machines because Income Tax makes people too expensive – and land is cheap enough for them to provide inefficient car parking.

    Promote the features, advantages and benefits of the New Mobility system and hope that we can overcome the barrier of Income Tax.

  9. David LevingerMonday, 15 June, 2009

    Will high fuel prices lead to greater collective capacity? I do not think this is evident. Unless our political leaders work to foster a spirit of collaboration and community, I think that such conditions will likely exacerbate economic and social stratification. Globally, small pockets of new mobility may emerge, but we are presently very ill-prepared for responsive social change.

    In the field of Science & Technology Studies the debate here is a classic example of the tensions between the "tech fix" vs. "social fix". Tech fix folks (new drive train proponents) very much want to keep the social assumptions fixed, because they need to build millions of cars to drive prices down into the range where the current market will justify private investment in their business models.

    Unfortunately, in the U.S. political realm (the one I'm most familiar with), politicians are rarely willing to back "social fix" approaches. When one listens to Bill Clinton and Al Gore, for example, they only hint at the need for social change and they emphasize the technological fantasy. I assume this is because they believe that initiatives need to generate enthusiasm and corporate profit to keep people who control investment participating in the discussion.

    New Mobility, in contrast, is an attempt to be proactive and just. The danger is that this may not attract the interest of investors and it may keep our solutions at the margins. New Mobility proposes that a suite of policy tools, social innovation, and technological adaptation can be simultaneously applied to improve social integration and equity -- before reaching a crisis point.

    I fear that a crisis point elevates irrationality. Thus, waiting for crisis points to motivate us toward change will impair our ability to undertake the needed changes.

    Every leader interested in this issue might ask themselves, "How am I working to increase the flexible thinking of the citizens and the leaders?" Mobility Education is an example of a policy change that would prepare people in this fashion, without mandating change now.

    Maybe New Zealand is a place where this could be implemented nationwide, as an example to the rest of the world?

    David Levinger, PhD, PE | The Mobility Education Foundation | Seattle | (206) 390-8118 |

  10. his reminds me of the Stephen Cotgrove "question" ..."Catastrophe or cornucopia" ???

    It really is worth having a look on GOOGLE to see (and perhaps if you can find the books, read) some of the writings of this period ....
    try < Stephen Cotgrove > and then try < Stephen Cotgrove cornucopia > ... the titles alone are an important reminder ...!

    It is troubling that this was the 1970s ... and some 30 years later the same or very similar questions are being asked.

    So not to disagree with the following from David, but my view is increasingly hardened to the point where I now regard passive and/or future language as a major part of the problem (along with weasel words) thus instead of ...

    Every leader interested in this issue might ask themselves, "How am I working to increase the flexible thinking of the citizens and the leaders?"
    Mobility Education is an example of a policy change that would prepare people in this fashion, without mandating change now.

    I would suggest ...

    Every leader interested in this issue MUST might ask themselves, "How SUCCESSFUL HAVE I BEEN am I working to increase the flexible thinking of the citizens and the leaders?"
    Mobility Education is an example of a policy change that would prepare people in this fashion, without mandating change now.

    Or perhaps if not too 1984 and big brother-ish ... "How SUCCESSFUL HAVE I BEEN IN INCREASING am I working to increase the flexible thinking of the citizens and the leaders?" given it seems one aspect of education has been to encourage "flexible" if not critical thinking skills of the citizens if not the leaders.

    Perhaps WE might ask them ie the leaders, that question ... as I suggested in a previous posting .. it is too easy to transfer the problem/issue from those who are responsible to others or to allow internal or self appraisal without external evaluation or review subject to public access and critique.

    One might then reasonably ask for (if not require) evidence including evidence (proof?) in the form of those almost forgotten parts of the traditional policy cycle ... monitoring and evaluation ... and if we do move to science, also known as evidence.

    It seems it is this almost complete lack of acceptable evidence (ie eg the good v bad science debates) that is inevitable if monitoring and evaluation are not required and/or are not subject to public critique that allows for questioning the ongoing reliance on the social reproduction of the values/problems we appear to have now ... where challenge to those values/problems is regarded as almost the equivalent of treason (or it is ignored or marginalised) ... or where resort to incrementalism seems the only path except for reliance on some kind of crisis or catastrophe which sadly seem to be more effective than rather less threatening forms of change.

    Can you imagine say as little as five years ago seriously suggesting let alone expecting the US President should effectively tell GM what vehicles it is allowed to make? Surely that would have been considered un-American? Even enough to draw attention from the FBI or whatever?

    So do catastrophes and crises help with change? Should we need to rely on them is the question, and if so, why?

    Michael Yeates
    Brisbane Australia .................

  11. David Levinger wrote,

    "here is a classic example of the tensions between the "tech fix" and the social fix",

    Thanks David for clearing up this debate, we clearly entered this debate as "tech fix" advocates,
    as our role is to offer solutions to help reduce both our over dependance on oil, to mobilise our society and the health and safety issues of high pollution, and noise levels to the public, form todays reliance on fosil fueled vehicles, and the climate change issues that are coupled with this issue.

    Although as a community based environmental organisation, we lie somewhere between both camps here.

    We are not however as focused on the "social fix", due to our involvement and monitoring of public health issues, so the "tech issues" to us will help mitigate those public health effects from fosil based transportation, and this debate appears not to be the right place for this debate at all.

    We are heavily focused on the public health and safety issues, here in N.Z. and carry out laboratory analysis of environmental noise and pollution sources, mainly in respect to tranportation, hence our arguement does not belong in this debate at all.

    Our points raised were, about changing to more clean efficient forms of transport, as the electric vehicle, and rail modal shift, to lower our dependance on oil, to help combat the public health and safety issues from urban traffic pollution and noise.

    We will await any debate you may facilitate on these issues, and debate them further.

    We will not debate this issue any further.

    Ken Crispin. Project Manager.
    Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre In'c. N.Z.

    Thanks for the clarity, on this issue.

  12. João Guilherme LacerdaTuesday, 16 June, 2009

    Dear Eric,

    I read this draft over and over (even in print), and couldn't come up with much else. "Braking the spiral downwards" is crucial point, which is more or less what I wanted to say on my history about what is being done and planned here is São Paulo. Carrying on, we should prioritize on what we have that used to work and isn't quite good anymore, a point quite obvious indeed.

    Saying it in another way, it means to take a look at the past, remember how some parts of the city used to be more pleasant with more good quality public space, now lost.

    Something we have a lot here in São Paulo, a beat up downtown with ample acess to the rest of the city, but too expensive for the poor and too beat up for the rich. Left to it's own devices while the city expands to areas unserved by public transport, pushing the poor to live even further and forcing the city to build up on infrastructure.

    The drama here in São Paulo is quite the same as in many other poor countries. The city expanded a lot putting the poor on the outskirts and concentranting the jobs on new areas unserved by transport and closer to where the rich neighborhoods are expanding to.

    I will wait anxiously for the final draft.

    All the best,

    João Guilherme Lacerda
    Sao Paulo, Brazil

  13. When it comes to how we manage mobility-- or many other problems of our time-- which are problems that have no quick fix answer and will yet require local based solutions that are customized to one's living environment, geography and culture, one needs to consider the quote from General George S. Patton who said: "Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to get done and let yourself be surprised by the results."

    We should consider setting mandates that could be seriously met and then let local authorities carry the torch and make sure they cross the finish line-- with no cutting corners. Let governments mandate CO2 reductions in transport or better still, let local government come up with mobility management plans that will tackle private vehicle use or vehicle miles traveled (VMT's). Perhaps less severe would be demanding that local governments increasing shares of public transport or biking and walking or even implement workplace commuting programs.

    Lets then consider a mix of mandates but with local and national funding pools mixed with tax break incentives for successful programs and let local governments have the obligation of fulfilling national and even global agreed upon guidelines.

    David Stein
    Institute of Transport Planning & Traffic Engineering
    Vienna Austria

  14. Jamey CoughlinFriday, 19 June, 2009

    Comments on the 4 points

    1. "climate modification" , maybe something is lost in translation, but to me 'modification' implies geo engineering, I think Climate stabilization is more the goal

    6. Might want to mention missed opportunities for action

    7. I would explain "scaling" i.e. plain language, you aren't talking about smaller cars. less trips, more people in cars, less distance, +efficiency, reducing impact, As the audience for the memo is general policy makers, I would spell out VMT/VKT and avoid jargon and acronyms

    8. 20-50% is a pretty big range,. If you believe in what you say and believe in the urgency of the matter. Pick a number, if 50% is too ambitious, go with 35%. Don't do 20%. ALl the half measures pick 20. What does the IPCC recommend? As opposed to giving the impression that you have picked a number out of the air. Go with the IPCC or Stern.

    If the purpose of the memo is to assist policy makers to question the wisdom of various transportation funding programs (i.e. roads). You should also work understand that these programs have nothing really to do with transportation but are "stimulus", are job "creation" or are political pork. So if those are actually the policy maker's intent, how can the NMA surf that wave?

    Look forward to reviewing the rest of the document.

    Jamey Coughlin

  15. Dear Eric,

    Here are some thoughts to add to the mix.

    1. Continue media campaigns building on the publics' intent to use positive alternatives available. Enlist the artists to educate and help the public visualize change.

    2. Promote a conversion from car garages to a "green garage network"
    for bikes, supplying a reliable alternative to on-street bike parking and increasing dependability for bicycle owners.

    3. Hold politicians / planners accountable with fixed targets for both annual measurable reductions of VMT / emissions and measurable increases
    of alternatives to a personal car.

    4. Explore public / private partnerships. Currently schools are burdened by transportation costs while seniors, no longer able to drive, are looking for alternatives.

    Thank you,

    Ann Hackett

  16. Dear Eric
    One of the factors to be considered is how to motivate people to use less oil and oil-based products.

    As Ken Crispin said, "In N.Z. when the price of Petrol exceeded $2.20 a litre for the first time ever, car loving Kiwis abandoned their cars in droves and flocked to public transport or started car share...."

    When gasoline prices doubled in America last year, consumption also fell.

    Rather than waiting for OPEC to bump up prices and keep the extra for themselves, would it not be more advantageous to levy on oil an ever rising tax that would, eventually, tax it out of existence? This would encourage alternative energy producers to pursue their alternatives sooner than otherwise. It would also encourage more competitors to jump on the bandwagon. So there would be no need for government to use taxpayers' money to selectively subsidise some, not others.

    But taxes on oil or emissions or other 'bads', prompt those who need funding to imagine all they could do with such extra revenue, whilst doing too little to shelter the consumer from increased prices.

    My suggestion is that instead of a routine tax-and-spend process, there should be a tax-and-divvy process. This means that part, or preferably all, of the extra revenue should be divided equally amongst All and divvied out to them as a monthly dividend to do with what they will. If the message is broadcast properly, everyone will know that the oil tax and hence oil prices will continue to rise, and that it is in their own best interests to spend their "oil dividend" on making their homes and transport as oil-independent as possible.

    There are various ramifications to the notion of tax-and-divvy. For those interested, please visit this link:

    Tony Payne, Founder, Happiocracy


Thank you for your comment. You may wish to check back to the original entry from time to time to see if there are reactions to this. If you have questions, send an email to: