Friday, June 25, 2010

Watery Future for the City of Light

One of the amazing/complicating things about the world of mobility in cities is that it is one of those slices of daily life where everything touches something else and then something else again. Nothing ever obliges us by standing stand still so what we can solve it once and for all. It's all about process.

So here is a report from today's New York Times on a pretty exciting waterfront  project here in Paris for which World Streets' editor was interviewed this week  and about which, when you get right down to it, is pure New Mobility Agenda. As you can see he managed to patch in some of our common concerns here (see closing section below), along with some words on the importance of value capture and tax reform, followed up by a good closer from Todd Litman in Vancouver. You will recognize and I hope appreciate it.

Sustainable mobility: Step by step. Step by consistent persistent step.

Watery Future for the City of Light

- By Louise Loftus.

The New York Times. Special Report: Business of Green. June 24, 2010

PARIS — Murky with pollution after decades of industrial and agricultural dumping, the River Seine, flowing through Paris, was nearly dead in the 1970s.

Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris, started a cleanup campaign in the early 1990s, and by last year Atlantic salmon were reported to have returned to the river — though just this month eating fish from the river was banned because of dangerously high residual levels of polychlorinated biphenyl, a toxic chemical outlawed from industrial use in Europe more than 20 years ago.

The French environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, has set in motion a project to eradicate PCBs from Paris’s waters. Meanwhile, a plan to extend the cleanup from the river to its banks is being pushed by City Hall — part of an ambitious project to lure Parisians back to the river.

Every Sunday for the past few years, the expressways that border the Seine in central Paris have been closed to cars and opened, instead, to strollers, roller skaters and cyclists.

In April, the Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, announced plans to go a step further by permanently closing a 2-kilometer, or 1.2-mile, stretch of the Left Bank and slowing traffic on the Right Bank. The whole area would be transformed into a “pretty urban boulevard,” Mr. Delanoë said, with cars and pedestrians coexisting among cafes, flowers and floating islands.

City Hall planners estimate construction costs at €40 million, or $48.8 million, and maintenance costs at €2 million a year, and say the project could be completed in two years.

That, however, may depend on the readiness of the center-right French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his government to support the plan, since the riverside roads belong to the autonomous Paris Ports Authority, not to City Hall, and traffic management on them is the responsibility of the prefect of Paris, an official appointed by Mr. Sarkozy.

Mr. Sarkozy himself has other visions for Paris, expressed by the creation in March 2008 of a new government post, secretary of state for the development of the Capital Region, and the announcement last year of a €35 billion metropolitan redevelopment plan covering Paris and the Seine Valley.

With presidential elections due in 2012 — in which Mr. Delanoë may be a Socialist contender — the Seine is on the front line both in the political war and in Mr. Delanoë’s battle against what he calls the “unacceptable hegemony” of cars in the capital. Since 2001 he has introduced new trams, bike and bus lanes and the popular Vélib’ bicycle rental scheme. He is also responsible for the Paris-Plage program, which transforms a section of the riverbank into an urban beach every summer.

But some Parisians are not convinced. The Seine expressways were built in the 1970s as the linchpin of a program by President Georges Pompidou to turn Paris into “a city for the automobile.” On the Right Bank, the expressway carries 40,000 vehicles per day and 4,000 an hour at peak times, according to City Hall figures. On the Left Bank, the traffic is lighter but still reaches 2,000 vehicles per hour at rush hour.

According to Mr. Delanoë’s office, rerouting traffic away from the riverbanks would increase commute times across the city by only six minutes. But some commuters and taxi drivers warn that congestion in the city, already scarcely tolerable, would be made far worse.

“This will degrade the quality of life of French workers,” said one message on the mayor’s public consultation Web site. “The lives of people who work during the week will be even more complicated and stressful, and you degrade the working conditions of the inhabitants of Île de France in favor of the ‘idle’ and tourists.”

Supporters of Mr. Delanoë turn that argument on its head. “This is an initiative for all Parisians, and it’s part of a pattern of a larger translation. We are in the midst of a shifting paradigm,” said Eric Britton, an American economist in Paris and founder of New Mobility, a sustainable transport advocacy organization.

Amenities like rivers and green space must be allowed to once again become the “lungs of the city,” Mr. Britton said. “Cities must plan this way to be global competitors now,” he said. “The time of the car is over, and symbols, like the river, are the new metrics of civilization.”

The benefits can be not just environmental, but economic too, he said.

A 2009 study by Walkscore, a Web site that rates neighborhoods in terms of pedestrian access, evaluated the effect of “walkability” on U.S. housing prices, using 95,000 real estate transactions. The study found that making it easier for people to get around on foot raised housing values in 13 out of 15 markets. In some areas, increasing walkability by 25 percent raised house values by as much as $34,000 — with potential spinoff benefits to the public through higher property tax revenues.

“What we have to make sure of,” Mr. Britton said, “is that there is a proper system of land value capture in place.”

Todd Litman, a transportation economist and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, an independent research organization based in Canada, puts the lesson this way: “Some of the money cities currently spend to increase travel speeds could be spent more efficiently improving the comfort, convenience and security of walking, cycling and public transport.”

# # #

More responsible environmental reporting from The New York Times..

Source: Photo credit: Ed Alcott for The New York Times

About the author:
Louise Luftos (bio note and photo to follow)

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Should public transport be free? Ver. 1.0

World Streets is pleased to announce publication in the weeks ahead of  a series of articles and other media to investigate this idea in-depth in these pages.  We would ask our readers to bear in mind that there is a great deal more to this idea, approach than may at first meet the eye. So let's see what we get when we stretch our minds together on this perhaps surprisingly important and practical concept.

If you have any thoughts on this we invite you to get in touch via email -, Skype: newmobility, Tel. +331 7550 3788.  For some background on how we organise articles for publication, we invite you to have a look at

We look forward to the discussions and your contributions with genuine interest.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why Africa Streets is necessary (via Africa Streets)

Why Africa Streets is necessary Here is a map showing the locations of the last eighty readers who checked into World Streets this morning. It is typical of what we see day after day in this collaborative international forum. Hmm. Where is Africa on this map? It would not be a big deal if either (a) the matters covered by W/S were only of interest and use to the countries that consult the site as you can see here, or if (b) the African continent were well covered by other and … Read More

via Africa Streets

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Honk! The greenest thing about the budget was knotted around the Chancellor's neck

Strong environment reporting from the UK.(From the editor)
To move to sustainable transport, we need to create a strong citizen consensus for change, a new mindset, which turns out to be a tough call since the issues and necessary remedial approaches tend to be quite complex and unfamiliar to many of us who are so accustomed to what we see out on the street every day that it effectively tends to freeze our minds. While there have for years been examples of outstanding environmental reporting, the mainstream media by and large have not yet been brought around to our side. However this is changing, and while certainly more slowly then one would wish we are increasingly hearing from a growing culture of investigative journalists and commentators who are showing that they are ready to dig in and deal with these complexities.

This good piece from yesterday's Daily Telegraph strikes this reader as a
clear and useful contribution. But to appreciate what at uphill battle this
is, in Britain at least, have a look at the reader comments at
. And
not only in Britain.

- - -

The greenest thing about the budget was knotted around the Chancellor's neck

- By Geoffrey Lean , The Telegraph, UK. June 22nd, 2010.

Well, at least his tie was green. But George Osborne’s neckwear was much the
most verdant part of the first budget from Britain’s ‘greenest ever
Government’, as the Prime Minister calls it, delivered by a man who, only a
few months ago, was promising to make the Treasury ‘a green ally, not a

There was no sign of the ‘major shift’ towards green taxation both men
were promising as they made their party electable again by embracing the
environment. Indeed greenery took up all of 52 words in the Chancellor’s 57
page budget speech.

Sure, there were a few, largely unnoticed, crumbs. The standard rate of the
landfill tax – one of Britain’s few green ones – is to increase by £8 a
tonne annually for at least three years, while the aggregate levy is to go
up by a full 10p a tonne this year. But as far as immediate measures go,
that’s about it.

And some of the cuts could do great harm. Research for the
Campaign for Sustainable Transport, for example, found that the 25 per cent
cuts expected from transport could cause the decimation of bus services, the
withdrawal of many local train services outside London and 33 per cent fare
rises for those that remain.

And yet the Budget Red Book itself, in a short green section says that
‘climate change is one of the most serious threats the world faces’ and
asserts ‘the Government is committed to playing its part in moving to a low
carbon economy.’ There’s a few weasel words in that commitment, to be sure,
but even ignoring them begs the question: ‘Where’s the beef?’

Mr Osborne effectively replies: ‘Wait and see’. His promised green measures
are postponed or to be ‘assessed’ or put out to ‘consultation’ – among them
the pledged Green Investment Bank, ‘green financial products’, reform of
the Climate Change Levy to produce a floor price for carbon, and unspecified
energy market reforms.

This is enough for the green investment manager,
Climate Change Capital, which calls them ‘an ambitious set of proposals for
stimulating investment in the low carbon economy’. But others are much less

Green MP Caroline Lucas, says, predictably enough: ‘I just think this
Budget nails the lie to any idea that if you vote blue you get green. There
was hardly a green shred anywhere.’ The Environment Industries Commission,
which had been ‘optimistic that the Government would today lay the
foundation for low carbon and sustainable economic growth’ was left ‘ruing a
missed opportunity.’

Will Osborne’s future Budgets be more environmentally friendly? Let’s hope
so. But first the Chancellor will have to move the greenery from around his
neck into that red Budget Box.

# # #

- Source:
About the author:

Geoffrey Lean is Britain's longest-serving environmental correspondent,
having pioneered reporting on the subject almost 40 years ago.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Velo-City Global 2010 Conference opens in Copenhagen

From Morten Lange, Reykjavík on his way to VeloCity 2010.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 22 June, the 2010 Velo-City Global Conference opens in Copenhagen, and will last for 4 days. I can warmly recommend taking a look at the program and abstracts available at the web-site, I trust that also for people not attending the conference, the programme and abstracts can supply useful pointers to people working in interesting fields, regarding cycling and the South.

There are several workshops focusing on the Global South's experience in cycle-promotion, as this is supposed to be the first Global Velo-City conference. ( But there have been some "predecessors", arranged by "another tribe" : )

Vandana Shiva, from India will deliver a plenary talk. Shiva holds a PhD in Physics, is an activist and receiver of the Right Livelihood Award ( the "Alternative Nobel price" ) for work for Indian farmers and biodiversity, amongst other things. In the programme presentation we are told : "Dr Shiva sees the bicycle as an instrument of democracy and as an essential element of green mobility."

Other plenary speakers include former mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa, that helped transform transportation in that city.

In a workshop titled "Developing countries collaborating for the future", there will be presentations from ITDP Mexico and UNDP Kenya.

The conference has 940 registered participants, in spite of the fact that only one year has passed since the Velo-City 2009 conference in Brussels. The participant come from about 50 countries, the largest numbers coming from northern Europe and then the rest of the OECD, but also including from South-East Asia, India, China, Africa and Latin America.

The strongest presence of the international press at the conference is French. Journalists from Le Monde and Radio France International are on the list of participants.

Regards / Kvedja
Morten Lange, Reykjavík

P.S. One serious threat to effective and really successful bicycle promotion and uptake in the South is scaremongering, victim blaming, and false helmet promotion ( the dangerisation of cycling ).

And of course when you get helmet compulsion the situation gets even more difficult. All this on the background that no helmet compulsion or promotion regime to date can show any benefit for cyclists, even where helmet usage rose sharply and detailed data are available. ( See e.g. articles by Dorothy L. Robinson and links from the helmet policy area of the ECF web, linked below )

The ECF helmet group will distribute flyers and buttons at Velo-City Global 2010 titled "Ask me why I cycle without a helmet?". See :

# # #

About the author:
Morten Lange describes himself as "as advocate for cycling and other health transport (in my spare time and then some)". He lives, works and pedals in Reykjavik Iceland

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Transportation modeling: Is it art or science?

Transportation modeling provides us with a means for examining different futures. But is it . . . science or art? Robert Bain asked this question to a British transport list (UTSG) last week and got some interesting responses which he has written up with a very nice analysis and commentary. He added to his invitation: [...]

* Read more of this post

* Add a comment to this post

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

(NEW!) Get your copy of "World Streets This Week"
(and/or the daily or monthly edition)

Three-step Executive Summary:
1. Log into new World Streets/Open Edition via
2. On top right, you will see a To Subscribe box, where you plug in your email.
3. Minutes later you will receive a welcoming email, offering you the following one-click choices
• Email format – Select to receive in HTML or plain text.
• Delivery window – Select daily or weekly delivery.
From there on you will find clear step by step instructions to note your preferences. But now if your time permits here is a bit of background with more subscription details if you wish:

When we were first organizing World Streets in the closing months of 2008 we wrote a note to a good selection of our colleagues in the dozen or so New Mobility Agenda focus groups asking them if their personal preference was for a daily, weekly or monthly journal. The replies were mixed, with a slight preference overall for a weekly.

However we – our editor that is – were firmly committed to the idea of creating an independent DAILY newspaper offering world coverage of our selected topic, on the grounds that this seemed to be the best way of getting the fast developing flow of news and views out into the mainstream of media and public attention. On the other hand, we also made provision for a monthly version, which has been systematically made available to all who contribute and otherwise help support these efforts. The weekly edition turned out to be too complicated and expensive in our original software platform.

But this has changed and we are now able to offer you the choice of one or all three: daily, weekly, monthly subscription. Here are some additional details on how this works.

To sign in:
Subscribers need not be registered with Any subscription made using an email address not associated with a account will be sent details of how to confirm and manage their subscriptions without needing to register at

Visitors who are logged in to do not need to confirm a subscription, all other visitors will be sent a confirmation email with full instructions on how to activate their subscription.

To manage your subscription:
Your welcoming letter will show a Manage Subscriptions link, which you can use at any point either to change your delivery preferences, or if you wish to Unsubscribe with a single click. No problem.

To make comments:

This forum is (lightly) moderated .

Comment author are invited to fill out name and e-mail
These fields are only shown to someone who is not logged in to If you are already registered the routine will be self-explanatory.

When you leave a comment check the Notify me of follow-up comments via email checkbox before submitting. to receive an email notification every time someone else leaves a comment on that post.


If you wish to contribute articles or invite discussions, please get in touch so we can register you as a contributor. We will be pleased to work with you to prepare the final posting(though once we have agreed and it has been published it may no longer be edited by the contributor. However if there is a problem or need for revision, this we can handle together.

We hope you will enjoy the new World Streets/Open Edition and work with us to make it yours.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Africa Streets Mission

The mission of Africa Streets is to create an open public platform in support of sustainable transport and sustainable and fair communities across this great and needy continent. Unconstrained by bureaucracy, economic interests or schedules, Africa Streets is being launched as a wide open international platform for critical discussion and diverse forms of cross-border collaboration on the challenging, necessarily conflicted topic of "sustainable transportation and social justice".

Africa Streets is free for all and does not accept advertising. Its continuing publication will depend on the support of individuals, foundations and public agencies who believe that we are doing a necessary job.

If you wish to support Africa Streets, including working as a volunteer collaborator, get in touch here.

# # #

The following statement appeared in January as part of our 2010 work plan for World Streets. It is to be edited and presented here as useful:

In a fair world it should be impossible to ignore close to one billion of the poorest people on the earth living in its second-largest and second most-populous continent. With already one-third living in cities, most of whom in slums, with the flow of people from the country side continuing at record rates.

The transportation arrangements in most people's daily life in Africa come in several flavors: ranging from world-class traffic jams making it close to impossible to negotiate the streets of the larger cities for hour each day, to at the other extreme no provision for vital survival transport (water, wood for fires, food) for the remainder of the continent.

Now the fact is that most of transport policy and investments on the continent are aimed at the creation and extension of motorized transport infrastructure. And it is precisely this strategy that had led to the present imbalance.

The key to unlocking the African Streets challenge can be summed up in a single phrase: Fair transport for women and children. What works well about this, is that when women and children are fairly served everybody ends up being better off. This can and should be our central theme

So, in 2010 World Streets hopes to do what we can to give far more attention to the challenges and accomplishments of fair transport in Africa.

Share Transport in Africa: Another international project for 2010 that is already getting interest in a number of African counties (Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa among them) – is the World Share/Transport Forum. Shared transport is a long and honorable African tradition and for many often the only way of getting around longer distances. That said, it has not been favored or understood really by policy makers in the field. Our collaborative international program is intended to address this gap. Reference:

Here is our Africa challenge in a visual nutshell. This map records the geographic distribution of people who checked into World Streets this morning:

At this point we are not sure of how to best make our contribution. Certainly it will be important (a) to have more feature articles on "African Streets", in the hope of creating higher quality information and a stronger network of people and groups who can help African cities and rural areas move toward world-level sustainable transport policies and practices. And no less important (b) to see if we can find ways to get copies of Streets and its messages onto the desks of planners, decision-makers, operators, citizens and national and local government officials.

As we look at the overall situation of transport in Africa, we can see at least one "huge shortcoming" in terms of 20th century "modern" transport that, with a bit of strategy, one might well turn into an asset. And this is the enormous variations in terms of ownership, which vary from OECD range levels (anywhere from 300 – 500 per 1000 capita) in the more prosperous cities all the way down to barely one or two in the bottom range running from Rwanda to Malawi.

And since the motor vehicle has turned out to be both a solution for some and a problem for all, this gives the policy makers an interesting window to come up with something better than the old private car solution. An important part of that is of course going to involve sharing.

As a first step in this direction we have started to organize in an informal task force of people working in place on these issues who have a wider outlook on what is going on and what could be done better. We presently have participants from South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya. Uganda. Namibia, Nigeria, and Egypt, and are in contact with the GATNET network for transport and gender which has a strong African orientation, as well as several UN programs. It's a start.

Would you like to join this task force. If so, all you care to do is click here and let us know who you are. The rest can follow.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Africa Streets - Knoogle Key Sources, Links and Blogs

This is one of the first postings to our collaborative Africa Streets project which is just getting underway, in part as a celebration of the first ever World Cup being held in Africa. A great deal of work remains to be done before it can claim to be a useful tool. You are invited to join in with comments and suggestions. It is a great and needy continent. We all are directly concerned.

KNOOGLE (Combined search engine):
Use it like Google, but . . . the great advantage over the usual Google search is that (a) it is much more compact and focused in its offerings, because (b) it scans and reports on the work and findings from the carefully selected key sources that are leading the way to sustainable transport in Africa (specifically the programs and sites identified here in the Blogroll to your right).

- - - > Click here to search all Key Sources, Links and Blogs from Africa Streets

As one example: If you want to see what these sources have to offer you on the topic of females and cycling in Uganda, we would suggest that you place the following in the search box: Uganda (women OR girl) (bike OR bicycle OR cycle). When we did that search earlier today, we came up with 36 articles, most of which were right on topic.

- - - > You can call up the result of that combined search >here.

* Go to Africa Streets

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Friday, June 11, 2010

World Streets is closing down the editorial department . . .
. . . for the next week as we reach out for funding support.

As founder and editor of World Streets, I have three jobs. The first is to organize the production side of the journal and to find and work with collaborators around the world to produce challenging thinkpieces and articles which hew to the rigorous strategic lines we have set out to guide all our work (See Strategy ). The second is to contribute as editorialist and author. And the third -- this is the one I really do not like and am demonstrably not very good at-- is that of securing the funding needed to keep this boat afloat. So for reasons of force majeur, I have decided to close down the editorial side of this enterprise for the coming week-plus, and concentrate on fund-raising. And here is maybe where you can help.

Let's start here: Why this is a worthwhile goal

Here is the evidence:

After the last two years or base-laying and daily publication 5/7, during which time we have developed no less than four publication platforms for the journal (World Streets, Nuova Mobilità, World Streets/Facebook, World Streets/Open Edition) on which have been posted more than one thousand carefully crafted articles and contributions, twice that number of images, and which have been visited (and hopefully read and pondered) more than two hundred thousand times by people signing in from more than seventy countries on all continents, we are ready to be judged not by promises or plans, but by performance and results.

The best proof of this is what you can find on the four platform sites, but as quick reminders (a) here is this morning's reader map and (b) you may also wish to have a look at the reader reaction which you can find here at World Streets contributions: 2009/2010: We asked 100 experts for their views - - and 101 responded .

What we need from you? Five things.

We are looking for volunteers among our readers who think that World Streets is making an important contribution and who are ready to take the time to discuss with us how it might be better supported and funded. There are a number of possibilities we would like you to reflect on:

1. Your help in contacting foundations, groups and individuals of means who may be interested to discuss supporting World Streets. (We are very weak on this side and need help to initiate these contacts. Your counsel and perhaps also your moral and other support might help in this.)

2. National sponsors/subscribers:
These are basically joint projects in which a national or international agency joins with us to create an easy to maintain mechanism for putting all or selections of the journal into the hands of people working within their own organization, and often more broadly. The following diagram is intended to provide some first clues as to how these projects are intended to work (this diagram being for discussions and negotiations for a collaborative project with the US Department of Transportation).

3. New language editions:
It is well known at the level of those working in the field that the only way to get through on a daily basis to the hundreds, often more people and groups working in any given country or language area is by addressing them in their own language. We have demonstrated clearly how this approach can be very powerful with out collaboration in the creation of Nuova Mobilità in Italy -- reference -- and are prepared to work with local partners in a time- and cost-efficient manner to build on this experience, including the tools and routines that are needed to make it work.

4. Independent program review: Our long experience in this many-sided field, including not only that of the editor but also the large number of collaborators working in various parts of the world on these important matters, constitute a valuable reservoir of experience which can be tapped by those who are organizing new projects or programs, or assessing the performance or eventual needs of existing projects, can be put to work for cost- and time-effective reviews.

5. New Mobility event organization:
We work with local partners and sponsors to organize a variety of events which support the New Mobility Agenda and their own related programs. Get in touch and we can provide you with examples and references.

In conclusion:
So for the coming week or so until we have made our breakthrough, the only articles that will appear here or in our other World Streets platforms which be notices and information which support the funding search. This is not to say that we are not continuing to receive and work on reports and articles from our collaborators that will in time appear in these pages. But today there is a real shortage of time and means which we now need to deal with as our first priority. You understand of course.

Do you think that you may be ready to help?

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The First Step in the New Mobility Agenda is. . .
not to take that step at all.

Editorial: Transportation vs. Access vs. (New) Mobility:
This troubling triad has been around for a long time and continues to haunt many of us to this day. Even here at World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda, our puzzling over the rightful combination and interpretation of these three in many ways related concepts is a matter of several decades. Let's see if we can open up this important topic for creative discussion.

For the full text of this article and the comments, please click to the new W/S platform at

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Parking slots are like . . . toilets?

This is supposed to be the ten day stretch during which your valiant editor is supposed to be out there pounding the pavement to find sources of finance so that we can keep World Streets going. But every day interesting ideas and proposals for projects keep slipping in over the transome, some of which are just too hard to resist. Here is today's slip in my firm resolution. Simply irrespstable.

Parking slots are like toilets (according to conventional parking planning)

- Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Planning systems treat parking and toilets in very similar ways and for similar reasons (such as to deter people from 'doing it in the streets'). Is this just a funny observation? I guess it is quite funny but I also have a serious point.

Planning toilets like we plan for fire-escapes, elevators and plumbing does work quite well (mostly). However, planning for parking like we plan for toilets is problematic. Below, I list ways that conventional planning does in fact treat parking and toilets the same. Then I highlight key differences which make planning parking like toilets seem like a very bad idea.

First, a list of how parking and toilets are (conventionally) planned in very similar ways:

1. Both are treated as an essential ancillary service that every building will need.

2. It is usually assumed that no fee (or a token fee at most perhaps) will be charged. Remember, we are talking about the conventional approach to parking policy here. Some jurisdictions even ban fees for such facilities.

3. There is thus little direct return on the investments. So the private sector would under-provide them unless forced to. To the rescue come regulations in the form of parking or toilet requirements in planning or building codes.

4. As mentioned above, one rationale for requiring them with buildings is so people won't have to use the streets (or not too much anyway).

5. Another reason they are required with buildings is so people don't freeload on the facilities of neighbouring buildings. In parking this is called "spillover". This might be apt for toilets too, come to think of it.

6. Demand for these facilities is usually assumed in the regulations to be associated with specific premises rather than a whole neighbourhood.

7. When the buildings can't provide enough (as in old neighbourhoods for example), local governments may step in and provide some. Otherwise people (or at least high-end customers) may avoid the area.

8. There are provisions in the codes to ensure access for people with disabilities.

9. Sometimes facilities for females are specified for both. OK, this one is rare for parking but I couldn't resist putting it in.

10. The planning system assumes it can predict demand and therefore set reasonable and accurate requirements. In both cases, getting it wrong can cause problems.

11. The standards can end up being very complicated.
Singapore's parking standards (pdf) list about 50 different building uses, each with its own parking standard. The American Restroom Association (ARA) website reveals several competing models for 'restroom codes' (including: the 2003 Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and the 2000 International Plumbing Code (IPC) published by the International Code Council (ICC). Their provisions look remarkably similar to parking standards. For example, the International Plumbing Code includes: "403.1 Minimum number of fixtures. Plumbing fixtures shall be provided for the type of occupancy and in the minimum number shown in Table 403.1. Types of occupancies not shown in Table 403.1 shall be considered individually by the code official."

12. In both cases, old buildings built before modern standards were enacted are treated differently ('grandfathered', so that they must only comply with the rules at the time they were built). However, the new codes may kick in if the owner wants to do anything that requires planning permission (such as a change of use).

13. A distinction is made in both between private facilities and those that are available to the public. These may be treated differently in the standards. There is often conflict over whether the facilities in any particular premises should be open to the public.

BUT the analogy breaks down. Parking differs from toilets in crucial ways (besides the obvious!).

1. It is much more difficult to predict parking demand than to predict toilet demand (which itself is not easy). The human need to expel waste changes little (except when beer is consumed in large quantities perhaps). The demand for parking can change enormously over time as car ownership changes and as mode choices shift.

2. Everyone needs toilets. Only car users need parking. (But conventional parking policy assumes that 'car users' = 'everyone')

3. Parking takes a lot more space than toilets. Forgive me for stating the obvious here. It is common for American suburban office parks to be required to have as much parking space as they have floor space for other uses. Buildings in Kuala Lumpur (see the picture) or Bangkok often have a third or more of their floors devoted to parking. Parking standards often dramatically limit the density that is feasible on a site.

4. Required parking is extremely costly. Even the most lavish provision of toilet space does not threaten the feasibility of building projects.

5. Even the most generous provision of toilets would not dramatically influence people's behaviour or discourage us from using less harmful alternatives. There is no toilet analogy for walking, cycling and public transport. No toilet alternatives get starved of users, of investment or are rendered unpleasant and unsafe as a result of excessive toilet provision.

6. It may be reasonable to prohibit charging for toilet use (as some American jurisdications do). Failing to charge efficient prices is much more problematic for parking (as Donald Shoup spent 700 pages or so explaining).

7. Parking in the streets can be regulated and managed to render it less problematic, whereas public urination or defacation are never acceptable public policy outcomes.

8. Toilet requirements are rarely (if ever?) so onerous that they freeze redevelopment or reuse of old buildings in inner city areas. Parking standards often do so (and in the process they can worsen inner urban blight).

These differences highlight problems with conventional parking policy. It is probably NOT such a great idea to plan parking like we plan toilets.

Does this analogy work for you? Does it help you think about parking policy? Can you help me to improve these lists? Are some of the points weaker than others? Have I missed any?

* Some background: I have been developing this analogy in recent months and included it in several talks about my parking research (first in Ahmedabad, then in Singapore and recently in Manila). A few audience members in Manila said, "I want to use that!". That response has prompted me to get down to posting it here.

# # #

I have been blunt in this post and mostly said 'toilets' rather than use euphemisms like restrooms, bathrooms, WCs, etc.

About the author:
Paul Barter is an Assistant Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, FNational 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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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Want to save the planet, the oceans, your city and your children's future? Here's our best advice on the subject:

Sell your car today, send the money to World Streets, and write an article telling the world your story. Seem like an impossible thing to do, for who you are and where you work, live, etc., and the world around you? Well, think again.

Yes you can.

And if you can think your way through it you should at least try. At the very least for think about getting rid of that second, third or fourth car that is out there huddling in your garage (and costing you a bundle).

But even if you are not yet ready for such a dramatic move, you can still support World Streets and get more actively involved in your local and national environmental movements. And think about it.

Here is how to transfer funds to get behind our continuing work:

1. To make direct bank wire transfers:

Account Holder: Association EcoPlan International
Account no. 00010465401
Crédit Industriel et Commercial de Paris
Succursale BR (Montparnasse)
202 Blvd. Raspail / 75014 Paris, France
IBAN : FR76 3006 6106 2100 0104 6540 105

2. If you prefer to send a check:

Association EcoPlan International
8/10, rue Joseph Bara
F75006 Paris, France

Kindly make your check payable to "Association EcoPlan International".

3. Make immediate payment via Paypal or credit card:

(1) Click
(2) Enter your account (or set one up quickly (and safely) as indicated).
(3) Click "send money".
(4) Address:
(5) Amount.
(6) Click "Personal".
(7) Click "Gift".

Thank you for helping World Streets to continue in 2010.

Now for that article, contact the editor at | +331 7550 3788 | +1 (213) 984 1277
8, rue Joseph Bara. 75006 Paris France | Skype: newmobility

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Cars and the no-choice syndrome

World Streets gives considerable time, space and thought to the whole complex tissue of the relationships that exist between people and cars. Auto-dependence and freedome of choice. People and the ways in which they access and use cars. Their reasons for owning a car. And when it comes up, people vs. cars. Robin Chase, one of the founders of Zipcar has given a lot of thought to this too, and today shares with us some ideas about the inevitability of choosing cars.

The inevitability of choosing cars

- Robin Chase, Meadow Network, Boston, MA.

Infrastructure is destiny. And our insurance, safety, and legal systems, as well as our land and road use requirements are the infrastructure that that pushes us inevitably towards cars.

When we need to travel, most people in most countries have three transportation choices before them:

1. Walk or bike in unsafe conditions

2. Take mass transit that is infrequent, low quality, unreliable, and not point to point

3. Own their own car that delivers on demand, safe, and point to point travel
•These cars must be owned and driven by one person or household; sharing cars or rides for money is not legally allowed nor supported by the insurance industry.

•Commercial and residential real estate developments require accommodation for cars but not for other forms of transportation, and these car accommodations are almost always mandatory, not optional.

Is it any wonder that as soon as people can afford one or are old enough to drive one, the car is the mode selected? This is as true in Delhi as it is in Detroit. Some countries are better than others – the Dutch and Danish for example.

What can be done?

1. Make sure that there are safe walking and biking possibilities. I would further encourage the development of roads that are restricted to low speed and low weight vehicles. We accommodate not only feet and bicycles, but any vehicle that is relatively clean, slow, and light weight – with minimal safety requirements or licensing necessary. It doesn’t make sense that New York City will allow bicycles and pedicabs to use certain streets, but not lightweight and non-polluting CNG auto rickshaws that travel at similar speeds. We would see a boom of innovation and creative vehicles that can deliver more safe, convenient, point to point and personal travel options for this category of roads.

2. Redefine mass transit. In rich countries today, we have drawn very hard lines between personal and commercial vehicles, with the result that willing people with their own cars cannot fill mass transport gaps in exchange for money. Typically this is illegal and our insurance systems won’t support it. I can’t formally pay you $5 to pick up my mom and take her somewhere – even if you are going there yourself. I can’t let you drive my car in exchange for money.

Once money is involved – and why shouldn’t it be? – current laws define this endeavor as a commercial one and apply significant safety and legal structures that just don’t make sense. If we want to see more innovation in the transportation sector; if we want to enable more people to satisfy their needs without owning a car, we must let small
scale efforts flourish. Once a “small” business becomes a large one, we can apply safety and licensing laws that make sense for large volumes where risk is magnified. At small volumes, these rules are overkill.

3. Change the rules (insurance, licensing, parking) that assume one owner/one adult/one building unit/one car. We need to make sure that people can buy, or rent, or consume fractions of cars and parking spaces. If we don’t change these rules, we are forced to buy, consume, and park whole cars, whether or not that is what we want.

# # #

About the author:

Robin Chase leads Meadow Networks, a consulting firm that advises city, state, and federal government agencies about wireless applications in the transportation sector. She is also founder and former CEO of GoLoco, an online ridesharing community, and Zipcar, the largest carsharing company in the world. Her blog Network Musings is available here -

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Friday, June 4, 2010

The New Mobility Strategy

Step 1: Say good-bye to Old Mobility:
"Plan Zero" - also known as "old mobility" - with its stress on supply, more vehicles and more infrastructure as the knee-jerk answer to our mobility problems, has been the favored path for decision-making and investment in the sector over the last 70 years. It is well-known and easy to see where it is leading. Aggressing the planet, costing us a bundle, draining the world's petroleum reserves, and delivering poor service for the majority . . . Plan Zero is a clear failure. It's time for Plan A : The fifteen steady steps to sustainable transport, sustainable cities . . . and sustainable lives.

- - - > What was wrong with Old Mobility?

Plan A Summary: The Fifteen Step Conversion Strategy

Each of these necessary strategic steps is developed in further detail below, but let us open this section by simply listing them for you here by way of introduction.
1. Environment/Climate emergency leading the way (Read on.):
2. Tighten timetable for action:
3. Reduce traffic radically:
4. Radically increase new mobility services:
5. Design for women:
6. Work with what you have:
7. Frugal economics:
8. Packages of measures:
9. Integrate the car into the new mobility pattern:
10. Full speed ahead with new technology:
11. Technology agnostics:
12. The "infrastructure joker":
13. Outreach and Partnerships:
14. Lead by Example:
15. But above all . . . pick winners!

And again as you will see, it is not a matter of selecting one or several of them, but the successful strategy is going to have to include every one of them. No exceptions. (Hmm. Sounds like hard work.)
Note: The following involved complex, fundamental issues each of which need considerably more than a short paragraph or two of Summary introductory statement of the sort that follows directly here. The immediate objective is to put before you, if only briefly at this point, a first-round the basic information concerning what makes World Streets the New Mobility Agenda tick. But have patience, each of these will be the subject of numerous articles, presentations, comments, and arguments as this collaborative project moves ahead. Naturally, we invite your comments and suggestions from the outset, which you can do either here at the end of this article or by writing the editor at

The role of the car in the city (not about to go away)

Fact: Our cities today have plenty of cars and very very large numbers of people and institutions who depend on them. They are not going to disappear from the street overnight, and we must never lose sight of their high importance to both the individuals concerned and the economic, and yes, the transport viability of our cities.

Precondition: Thus the challenge before policy makers and transportation professionals now at a time when change is so badly needed is that of redefining the role of the car so that it has a more appropriate fit with the overall texture and priorities of our 21st century cities. The indisputable fact is that if our cities are to be sustainable, one of the necessary conditions of their sustainability will be that they are home to many fewer cars. How to manage the transition when our dependence on private cars is still so very strong? We can be sure that it will not be the result of brutal confrontation. That would be a battle lost, at least in the short-term which is the field on which these issues now need to be engaged.

Bottom line: Yes, we need to reduce significantly the number of cars in and moving around in and through our cities. Yes, in order to achieve this we are going to have to provide a broad range of attractive mobility alternatives which are seen by those who use them as better than the old arrangements. And finally yes, we are going to have to provide a “soft path” for car owner/drivers to move over to these alternative transportation arrangements. The soft path in a pluralistic democracy requires that the decisions are made by individuals in what they consider to be their own interest. As part of this we also have to build into our strategy in understanding that a certain amount of time is required for us human beings, change-averse as we are, to alter our daily mobility choices. (But this time, depending on the individual case, is a matter in most cases of months or at most a couple of years, not decades as often is said to be the case.)

That is the underlying strategy of the New Mobility Agenda, now let us go on to look at the broader strategic frame.

The New Mobility Agenda in brief

World Streets is not exactly what one would call a neutral source. We have a very definite position on transport policy, planning and investment, the result of long experience of working with and observing the sector in its daily operation in cities around the world. It would not be true to claim that these views are unique to us; indeed they have been distilled over the years as result of contacts and work in collaboration with farsighted colleagues and policymakers in many places. They are shared, at least in good part, by many of our most distinguished colleagues.

The main reference point for all that you will read in these pages is the long-term program behind World Streets, namely the New Mobility Agenda, an international collaborative effort focusing entirely on transportation in and around cities. It has been in operation since 1988 with continuous interactive presence on the internet as one of the pillars of the collaborative knowledge-building process that is behind it. And this is what we have concluded:

Ready for change: Virtually all of the necessary preconditions are now in place for achieving far-reaching, rapid, low-cost improvements in the ways that people get around in our cities. The needs are there, they are increasingly understood -- and we now know what to do and how to get the job done. The challenge is to find the vision, political will, and leadership to get the job done, step by deliberate step.

But to get there we have to have an explicit, coherent, ethical, checkable, overarching strategy. Without it we are destined to continue play at the edges of the problems, and while we may be able to announce a success or improvement here or there, the overall impact that our cities need to break the old patterns will not be there. We really must have that clear, consistent, cross-cutting, systemic strategy.

The Agenda provides a free public platform for new thinking and open collaborative group problem solving, bringing together more than a thousand leading thinkers and actors in the field from more than seventy counties worldwide, sharing information and considering together the full range of problems and eventual solution paths that constitute the global challenge of sustainable transport in cities.

Managing the transition: The fifteen basic principles and strategies that make up the New Mobility Agenda

And it must be understood that the shift from old to new mobility is not one that turns its back on the importance of high quality mobility for the economy and for quality of life. It's just that given the technologies that we now have at our fingertips, and in the labs, it is possible for us to redraw our transportation systems so that there is less inefficient movement (the idea of one person sitting in traffic in a big car with the engine idling is one example, an empty bus another) and more high-efficiency, high-quality, low-carbon transportation that offers many more mobility choices than in the past, including the one that environmentalists and many others find most appealing: namely, getting what you want without having to venture out into traffic at all. Now that's an interesting new mobility strategy, too.

Here you have in twelve summaries the high points of the basic strategic policy frame as we see it: principles that we and our colleagues around the world have diligently pieced together over the years of work, observation and close contact with projects and programs in leading cities on all continents under the New Mobility Agenda. (If you click here you can see in a short video (four-minute draft) a synopsis of the basic five-point core strategy that the city of Paris has announced and adhered to over the last seven years. With significant results.)

Strategy 1. Environment/Climate emergency leading the way:
No reason to be impressed or scared off by the post-COP15 sally of the climate-skeptics, the environment/climate nexus is still the most important single challenge (and opportunity) before us. The on-going emergency sets the base timetable for action in our sector. Getting the carbon, and with it fossil fuels, out of the sector is an important goal in any event. But there is far more to it than that.

At the same time GHG reduction works as a strong surrogate for just about everything else to which we need to be giving priority attention in our cities, chief among them the need to cut traffic. Fewer vehicles on the road means reduced energy consumption, less pollution in all forms, fewer accidents, reduced bills for infrastructure construction and maintenance, quieter and safer cities, and the long list goes on.

What is so particularly interesting about the mobility sector is that there is really a great deal we can do in a relatively little time. And at relatively low cost. Beyond this, there is an important joker which also needs to be brought into the picture from the very beginning, and that is that these reductions can be achieved not only without harming the economy or quality of life for the vast majority of all people. To the contrary sustainable transport reform can be part of a 21st century economic revival which places increased emphasis on services and not products.


Strategy 2. Tighten time frame for action:
Select and gear all actions to achieve visible results within a two to four-year time frame. Spend at least 50%, preferably more, of all your transportation budget on measures and projects that are going to yield visible results within this time frame. Set firm targets for all to see and judge the results. No-excuse results-oriented transport policy.


Strategy 3. Reduce traffic radically.
The critical, incontrovertible policy core of the Agenda - is BIG percentage cuts in vehicle miles traveled. If we don't achieve this, we will have a situation in which all the key indicators will continue to move in the wrong direction. But we can cut traffic and at the same time improve mobility. And the economy. That's our new mobility strategy.


Strategy 4. Extend the range, quality and degree of integration of new mobility services available to all:
A whole range of exciting and practical new service modes is needed if we are to keep our cities viable. And they need to COMBINE to offer better, faster and cheaper mobility than the old car-intensive arrangements or deficit-financed, heavy, old-technology, traditional public transit. We need to open up our minds on this last score and understand that rather than being stuck in the past with a 19th century version of how "common people" best get about, it is important to move over to a new paradigm of a great variety of ways of providing shared transport mediated in good part by 21st-century information communications technologies.


Strategy 5. Design for women:
Our old mobility system was designed by, and ultimately for, a certain type of person (think about it!). And so too should the new mobility system: but this time around it should be designed to accommodate specifically women, of all ages and conditions. Do that and we will serve everybody far better. And for that to happen we need to have a major leadership shift toward women and, as part of that, to move toward full gender parity in all bodies involved in the decision process. It's that simple.


Strategy 6. Work with what you have:
For many transportation planners and experts schooled in the college, this will be one of the least evident of the strategic building blocks behind the New Mobility Agenda. In the first place, because many of these systems or services turn out to be almost invisible to policymakers working in the transport sector. These can range from various kinds of taxis and community or specialized transport services, all the way to the kind of chaotic, streets-clogging or almost invisible modes, often dangerous (dangerous, because that is the way we treat them) services such as small private buses, shared taxis, pedicabs, informal carsharing, informal ride sharing, and a range of illegal or arrangements which I can or not they to work for lots of people in many places, but which in most cases and despite their present drawbacks probably need not to be suppressed but rather to be better understood, negotiated, improved in consort with the suppliers, and integrated into the multilevel range of transportation options that are really what is best suited for cities in all parts of the world.


Strategy 7. Frugal economics:
We are not going to need another round of high cost, low impact investments to make it work. We simply take over 50% of the transport related budgets and use it to address projects and reforms that are going to make those big differences in the next several years.


Strategy 8. Design and deploy packages of measures:
As distinguished from the old ways of planning and making investments what is required in most places today are carefully interlinked "packages" of numerous small as well as larger projects and initiatives. Involving many more actors and participants. One of the challenges of an effective new mobility policy will be to find ways to see these various measures as interactive synergistic and mutually supporting projects within a unified greater whole. A significant challenge to our planners at all levels


Strategy 9. Integrate the car into the new mobility pattern:
State-of-the-art technology can be put to work hand in hand with the changing role of the private car in the city in order to create situations in which even car use can be integrated with a far softer edge into the overall mobility strategy . These advantages need to be widely broadcast so as to increase acceptance of the new pattern of urban mobility. The new mobility environment must also be able to accommodate people in cars, since that is an incontrovertible reality which will not go away simply because it would seem like an ideal solution. We are going to have plenty of small and medium-sized four-wheel, rubber-tired, driver-operated vehicles running around on the streets of our cities and the surrounding regions, so the challenge of planners and policymakers is to ensure that this occurs in a way which is increasingly harmonious to the broader social, economic and environmental objectives set out here.


Strategy 10. Full speed ahead with new technology:
New mobility is at its core heavily driven by the aggressive application of state of the art logistics, communications and information technology across the full spectrum of service types. The transport system of the future is above all an interactive information system, with the wheels and the feet at the end of this chain. These are the seven-league boots of new mobility


Strategy 11. Technology agnostics/Performance advocates:
Please note: We do not care, nor should we care, what is the technology to be used or favored at any point in the system. It is not the role of inevitably under-informed, naive, and ever-hopeful policymakers to make determinations about which technology is going to be the best to build into the system. This is way past their level of competence, and is not in any event even necessary in order to create the preconditions of a better transportation system. But what our policymakers can do, and what they should do, is to specify not technology but performance. There many ways in which this can be done, two of which include two performance standards and emissions standards. But there are more.


Strategy 12. Play the "infrastructure joker":
The transport infrastructures of our cities have been vastly overbuilt. And they are unable to deliver the goods. That's just great, since it means that we can now take over substantial portions of the street network for far more efficient modes.


Strategy 13. Outreach and Partnerships:
This approach, because it is new and unfamiliar to most people, is unlike to be understood the first few times around. Hence a major education, consultation and outreach effort is needed in each place to make it work. Old mobility was the terrain in which decisions were made by transport experts working within their assigned zones of competence. New mobility is based on wide-based collaborative problem solving, outreach and harnessing the great strengths of the informed and educated populations of our cities. Public/private/citizen partnerships.


Strategy 14. Lead by Example:
If you are mayor or other elected official. If you are engaged as a professional in public policy areas that relate to the sustainability agenda . . . you don't have a choice really, you must lead by personal example. This means getting to work by bike, walking, public transport or some form of carsharing/ridesharing at least two days a week. Every week. By doing this, you will have hands-on knowledge of what works and what does not in your city. You become Eyes on the Street. You will be authentic and credible. You will be the kind of leader we need to identify and guide the reforms, policies and projects that must now be put in place. And if you do not do this, if you stay in the back seat of your limo, you won't get my vote.


Strategy 15. But above all . . . pick winners!
There is no reason for policymakers to take chances. New approaches demand success. When it comes to transport innovation in the second decade of the 21st century there is no margin of error. Moreover, the track record of the kinds of approaches that are needed to create a new system is rich and well documented. Meaning that we can choose policies and services with track records of success and build on all this accumulated experience. (And there are plenty of them out there if you are prepared to look and learn.)

# # #

Not for negotiation:

The above fifteen principles are not negotiable. They are not details from which we can pick and choose. They are fundamental, they are integral. Every intended or hoped-for policy, project, investment, program, should be made to jump through these fifteen sustainability-defining hoops before being selected by public policy makers for investment and implementation. There is not one that can be set aside or ignored. Ever. It is that simple

Where to from here

To move ahead in time to save the planet and improve life quality of the majority of the people who live in our cities -- no, they are not all happy car owner/drivers; get out there and count them; you'll see -- we need to have a fair, unified, coherent, and memorable strategy.

There may be other ways, better ways one would hope, of facing this emergency. If so we are ready to learn, let us hear from you. This is the challenge to which World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda are addressed.

Eric Britton, Editor, World Streets

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

What was wrong with "Old Mobility"?

In order what needs to be done to create a healthier and better performing set of transportation arrangements, World Streets make a consistent distinction between what we call "old mobility" and "new mobility." The difference between the two is quite simple. And substantial.

Old mobility was the form of transportation policy, practice and thinking that took its full shape and momentum starting in the mid twentieth century, at a time when we all lived in a universe that was, or at least seemed to be, free of constraints. It served us well in many ways at the time, albeit with exceptions, though we were blind to most of them most of the time. It was a very different world back them. But that world is over. And it will never come back.

and momentum starting in the mid twentieth century, at a time when we all lived in a universe that was, or at least seemed to be, free of constraints. It served us well in many ways at the time, albeit with exceptions, though we were blind to most of them most of the time. It was a very different world back them. But that world is over. And it will never come back.

The planet was enormous, the spaces great and open, energy abundant and cheap, resources endless. The "environment" was not a consideration, "climate" was the weather, technology was able to come up with a constant stream of solutions, builders were able to solve the problems that arose from bottlenecks by endlessly expanding capacity at the trouble points, and fast growth and the thrill of continuing innovations masked much of what was not all that good.

37 things that were wrong with Old Mobility

Perhaps few recognized it at the time, but we can now see that its weaknesses resulted from the facts that it was

1. Based on an essentially closed system (looking at "transport" in isolation from the rest)
2. Hierarchical
3. Top-down
4. Centralized
5. Statistics based (historical)
6. Bounded
7. Reductive
8. End-state solution oriented
9. Authoritarian
10. Supply oriented
11. Oriented to maximizing vehicle throughput and speeds
12. Expert based
13. Engineering-based (i.e., working "within the box", but with high technical competence)
14. Binary: i.e., either "private" (i.e., car-based) or "public" transport (and nothing of importance in between)
15. De facto car-based
16. Costly to the community (unnecessarily)
17. Costly to individuals (unnecessarily)
18. Resource intensive (unnecessarily)
19. Total dependence on costly imported fossil fuels (unnecessarily)
20. Highly polluting
21. Massive public health menace
22. Destroys urban fabric
23. Hardware and build solutions, technology oriented
24. Treats ex-car solutions as (very!) poor cousins
25. Offers poor service/economic package to elderly, handicapped, poor and young
26. Sharp divide between planning, policy and operations
27. Obscure (to the public) decision making processes
28. Focuses on bottlenecks impeding traffic flows (i.e., builds for > traffic)
29. Attempts to anticipate them and build to forestall
30. Searches for large projects to "solve" the problems
31. These large projects and the substantial amounts involved often lead to corruption and waste of public moneys
32. Still too much separation from underlying land use realities.
33. Inadequate attention to transportation substitutes or complements
34. Increasingly technical and tool oriented (this to the good)
35. Anachronistic,
36. Not doing the job that we need in 2005 and beyond!, and finally and worst of all. . .
37. Creates a climate of passive citizenry and thus undermines participatory democracy and collective involvement and problem solving

But this does not reflect the priorities and the reality of transport, our needs, and our potential in the 21st century, and above all in our cities which are increasingly poorly served by not only our present mobility arrangements; but also the thinking and values that underlie them. Our rural areas are likewise suffering and without a coherent game plan. We now live in an entirely different kind of universe, and the constraints which were never felt before, or ignored, are now emerging as the fundamental building blocks for transportation policy and practice in this new century.

It's time for a change. And the change has to start with us. You see, we are the problem. But we can also be part of the solution. So off we go!

Some World Streets references to help dig in on this:
Sustainable transportation's Dirty Secret

We badly need a new American transportation model (because the one you sent us is broke)

Why transport planners need to think small to tackle climate change

The Old Mobility impasse (PDF)

Honey, you got to slow down

What/who keeps holding back New Mobility reform?

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oil Spills, Environmentalism and Lessons to be learned
A Louisiana perspective

Outraged at BP are we? Disappointed that the United States government, the most powerful in the world, seems to be unable to handle the problems that are being created when one of some four thousand oil rigs currently operating in the Gulf of Mexico springs a leak? You're an environmentalist, and it is only natural that you get mad. But before you start to chew the carpet in the full bloom of righteousness, what about a quick look in the mirror?

Keep Drilling, Stop Driving, Use Oil Wisely

- by Jason Henderson, San Francisco State University

For almost a century my native Louisiana has been expendable when it comes to America’s voracious appetite for oil. Over 8,000 miles of canals have been spliced through marshes to access oil. Those canals exposed the marsh to seawater and marshland withered away. When Hurricane Katrina hit my hometown of New Orleans in 2005 there was little marsh left to buffer the storm’s surge and the city’s defenses were overwhelmed. An American city was rendered dysfunctional and laid to waste. The slow death of the marsh culminated in an urban apocalypse. New Orleans has still not recovered, nor will it ever.

Now after over 40 days of failed attempts at “topkills,” “tophats,” “junkshots,” and “cofferdams” it is evident that the BP Horizon Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has spun into apocalyptic proportions. It looks like a slow death for the Gulf’s ecosystem including the most sustainable resource in the region - its fisheries . The plumes of oil beneath the surface are larger than BP admitted, and toxic dispersants are adding another sordid layer of death in the water column.

No one can say when the gushing river of oil will stop. But as we watch and ponder this sorry state of affairs, environmentalists have demand loudly that Obama retract his earlier proposal to loosen offshore drilling policy. Governors and Senators in other coastal states have proclaimed open opposition to drilling. A moratorium on further deepwater drilling is in place, and new polls show more of the public questions offshore drilling.

Perhaps environmentalists are right, but like other Americans, most of those same people will likely keep on driving and drilling will occur in expendable places like Louisiana. So I take this moment to urge environmentalists to reflect upon their relationship between oil and driving. I especially urge people in places like California, Virginia, and North Carolina, where drilling has been proposed but resisted, to think this through. We need oil and are lucky as a civilization to be endowed with oil, but most people are squandering this precious resource by driving. We need to use oil more wisely.

I see incredible value in oil. It is one of the most utilitarian natural resources known to humans. Oil stores tremendous amounts of energy, it is very easy to transport long distances by pipeline, rail, ship, and by truck, and it can sit for a long time without degrading. It can be refined and distilled easily and its petroleum by-products are used in plastics and pharmaceuticals, and are part of the food system.

Wind turbines and solar panels are made from polymers that come from oil. The new alternative energy future promoted by environmentalists will be made from oil. Growing plants to drive cars also requires oil. Oil will be needed to build new high speed rail lines, bicycle networks, light rail systems, electric buses, and new ways of organizing work and shopping through compact urban development. In sum, we’ll need to keep drilling for oil so that we can shift to a more sustainable energy path that significantly reduces our overall dependence on oil.

As many environmentalists point out, we do not need to keep drilling everywhere. We do not need to keep searching further offshore, or push into remote, wild areas, or burn toxic tar sands. We need to conserve. We need to reduce per capita consumption. But most importantly, we need to stop driving everywhere for everything so that oil can be used more intelligently and judiciously.

Roughly 67% of the oil America consumes is for transport, and much of this is for using cars to travel relatively short distances on a routine, daily basis. This adds up to over 27 miles driven per day, per person, in the top 10 most sprawling US Metros, and over 21 miles per day in most other metropolitan areas. The average household drives over 21,000 miles per year. 92% of American households own one car, and 62% own two cars. Currently there are 254 million automobiles in the US, amounting to 33% of the global fleet of cars, and 325 million vehicles are forecast for 2050 (at a slow, 1% growth rate).

There is no source of energy that will replicate this level of hyper-automobility. Electric or hydrogen cars will need the oil-equivalent of hundreds of coal or nuclear powerplants which will also take lots of oil to build. Where are we going to build all of those powerplants? What other places are expendable? How much greenhouse gases would come from building all of those powerplants and is it worth it simply to keep up routine driving? Retrofitting entire cities with new plug-in outlets will require enormous resources at a time when we can’t even “afford” to provide basic upkeep to bridges and highways much less sustain a working public transit system.

The emphasis by many environmentalists on “green cars” has been an awful distraction. Replacing 250 million vehicles with hybrid or electric cars will not cut it. These are oil consuming machines made from polymers derived from oil and designed to travel 30 miles a day in an urban configuration. That oil needs to be conserved and used to make the “big switch” that we need to survive as a civilization. Any able-bodied environmentalist that regularly exclaims “but I need to drive!” should really reflect on what they’re saying.

Consider the modest lifestyle changes that can be made towards routine daily walking, bicycling, and transit. 60% of all daily trips are less than five miles, within a comfortable spatial range of bicycling. Grocery shopping does not require a car. One can simply walk, bike, or take transit, and either come up with creative ways to carry it, or have a jitney service take care of the delivery. People are innovative enough to figure out how to comfortably grocery shop without a car. And consider the co-benefits of physical activity, health, reduced greenhouse gases, less noise, less sprawl. In anticipation of rural environmentalists’ need to continue using cars, consider that 80% of Americans live in metropolitan areas, and that many small towns are highly bikeable and walkable. Most people can do the switch if they think it through. Car sharing can provide the mobility needed in the rare instance when a car is truly required.

Those environmentalists who are still unwilling to give up driving should at least give up obstructing change. In supposedly progressive cities like San Francisco, many self-identified environmentalists balk at removing parking to create bicycle lanes. Still other self-proclaimed environmentalists oppose removing car lanes in order to create bus lanes that improve transit service. In suburban areas many environmentalists spearhead opposition to compact, modestly dense housing because they view it as a threat to their convenient driving.

Environmentalists and political progressives who insist on driving need to accept that we need to make it more difficult to drive everywhere, for everything, all of the time. We charge the poor to ride transit, and keep allowing fares to rise while gutting service, but many environmentalists have come to expect cheap and easy driving. The sense of entitlement to drive across the city at high speed and easily park needs to be rethought. And environmentalist/ motorists need to slow down on our streets so those of us willing to make the change can do so safely.

Instead of the same-old, tired approach to stop drilling, environmentalists need to lead by example, and stop driving so that we can keep drilling in a thoughtful and reasonable way, in a cautious way that minimizes expansion but enables the shifts needed. Otherwise environmental outcries about the spill in the Gulf are difficult to take seriously. There is a car-free and car-lite movement in America seeking to create spaces to live and work without automobile dependency. Please join in helping to create those spaces. And remember that it will still need oil to get us there, so we need to use it wisely.

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About the author:

Jason Henderson is a Geography Professor at San Francisco State University, and is writing a book on the politics of mobility in cities. He is a specialist in transit, as well as how mobility occurs in cities, and how cities may be better designed for movement. He grew up in New Orleans where he spent much time in the coastal wetlands of Louisiana while also observing the activity of the oil & gas industry. He has never owned a car.

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