Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Mobility Strategies from the ground up - Supporting local commerce and enterprise

It is well established by now, in leading circles of knowledge, policy and practice at least, that mixed use is the fourth dimension of the tetraptych of the four interlocking axes of Transport/Mobility/Access/Presence. And in this case namely presence.

To my thinking, the concept of mixed use in a society that puts a premium on job creation and local entrepreneurship as well as sheer mobility per se, has not until now gotten a fair run, either in the literature or in practice. And yet it is vital to the future well-being of our cities and all those who live and work there.

So we need to be giving far more attention to strategies and practices for supporting local business development at the neighborhood or village level -- and integrating this into the city and transport planning process.  Now this is quite a challenge if we consider that one of the main unhappy surprises of the Old Mobility paradigm that has ruled the roost over the last decades, has been in fact a continuing bottoming out of local businesses, as they were one by one replaced by large scale chains situated only a "short and cheap car ride" away from home or office.

This has been a most unfair and most unfortuitous series of structural changes. And if nothing is done about it, the odds are that it will continue to lock in, with the result that many of those small scale independent businesses that thus far are still able to hold on will, one day or another disappear, under the steam roller of much more efficient, better financed, more cost effective and more politically savvy large scale competitors. And we will all be poorer for it.

Now if this is true -- and my own studies and observations have pointed this up in place after place -- the next step is to consider(a) if we should be trying to do something about it. Now it is the argument of the strategy set out in these pages and publications that (b) this is indeed an important issue, (c) it is an integral part of the transportation process,  and (d) there is something that we can, indeed many things we can do about it.

If you think about it for a few minutes you will already begin to see areas of weakness on the part of the traditional local business that will need to be breached in some way, most probably ways. And one of these that in my way of thinking are most important will be to make sure that this is carried out with attention to supporting local ownership. It is all well and good to have a job, but it is more important yet if you own that job.

To continue.

PS. Is this really part of "transportation" policy in your city? And if not, why not?

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  1. Tourists in Seattle like to visit the little coffee shop near Pike Place Market that was discovered by entrepreneur Howard Schultz and scaled up since the early 1980s to an empire of 17,000 coffee shops in 55 countries.
    Similar story for Ray Kroc in the 50s ... saw a busy hamburger joint in California, replicated, industrialized, franchised, expanded.
    This is how developmental economics goes in many parts of the world. A scale-up, specialization, and replication process that makes for jobs, jobs, jobs. And a crash when the concept goes out of favor, bested by something else.
    National differences matter though. MacDonalds and Starbucks haven't been successful in particular countries with different tastes, traditions, laws.

    I'm inclined to think that local govt transportation policy needs to react to developmental dynamics, more than trying to shape them.
    Starbucks and MacDonalds are quite able to serve walk-up markets as well as drive-up markets, and do serve both.
    But citizens and governments in some communities have successfully blocked the arrival of a chain-store location. I guess that's transportation policy of a sort.

  2. I am working exactly with this issue in my neighbourhood in Helsinki as a citizen. WOnderful that you brought this issue up. I myself have also talked a lot about this lately.

  3. See for an excellent commentary from a North American perspective.


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