“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.

In the beginning was “transportation”

Our collaborative program in the transport/environment sector was born back in 1988, first presented as the “Sustainable Transportation Forum”. But then for reasons most of our readers will immediately fathom, we moved over from “transportation” to the broader concept of “access”. That seemed reasonable and thus for the better part of a year we shifted the name of the whole program to ACCESS (all caps, italicized).

But by the mid nineties we decided to focus our attention instead on the concept of what we then called “new mobility” — and, to give it a broader collaborative structure, relabeled our program as the “New Mobility Agenda”. But what exactly do we mean by this phrase — the devil as always being in the details?

There is one wrinkle in this concept that may not be immediately apparent and which needs to be spelled out from the beginning. Concerning the concept of “new mobility” (new because we needed to distinguish it from the beginning from the idea of sheer mobility/movement as a good thing in itself), the key lies in the early decision which stressed loud and clear that the first step in the New Mobility Agenda is not to take that step at all.

The goal here is, we think obviously to most who come to World Streets, to bring in the concepts of “movement elimination” and” travel substitution” right to the top of the basic strategy (and just behind them the broader concept of demand management as a key policy tool). Thus any tool, measure or policy which replaces, reduces or cuts back specifically on “unnecessary” motorized transport becomes a priority policy candidate – with the proviso that this should not happen at the expense of the economy or quality of life or freedom of choice for all. The overarching goal of new mobility is thus to offer a broader range of better mobility choices for the great majority of all women, children and men in our cities and communities around the world.

Thus improved land use and with it the better clustering of activities, origins and destinations to reduce longer and more frequent motorized trips becomes a priority. As are the decisions that help people do a better job of consolidating their personal travel needs through improved individual or group travel planning (for example encouraging me not to hop into my trusty Hummer for one trip to Wal-Mart to buy my cigarettes and then an hour later a second trip to buy my matches. Etc.). And of course this “first step” approach brings in the full range of electronic access options, which span from teleconferencing, telework and new group work tools.

Now with this in hand, we would like to draw your attention to a series of exchanges on this subject which are currently taking place in one of the international fora with which we have played an active role since it outset in 1998, the Sustran Global South Forum at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sustran-discuss/ under the heading of “Cities need mobility, not cars” – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sustran-discuss/message/5999. For now we kick off this open dialogue with the initial posting by a colleague writing from India, and in addition will reach back into this week’s exchanges and place selected follow-up postings just belong as Comments.

It is our hope that this exchange will continue in both fora, for there is a great deal more to be said on this topic.

- World Streets is the voice of the New Mobility Agenda and the collaborative networks behind it.

# # #

Cities need mobility, not cars
- Anumita Roychowdhury, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

Message reference: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sustran-discuss/message/5999

Our cities are in a mess and the clutter will grow. Recent number crunching
by global consulting firm McKinsey and Co. Llc predicts an urban population
in India of 590 million by 2030—nearly twice the size of the current US
population and 40% of the total projected Indian population. Cities, which
account for 70% of India’s GDP (gross domestic product), will drive the
economy. But these same cities are on a toxic spiral, urged on by growing
wastefulness, energy use and car mania. The current obsession with car-based
infrastructure and urban sprawl will only increase car dependency, travel
distances, energy and the pollution intensity of travel.

The choking haze of pollution and growing illnesses are the scary evidence
of urban growth. The International Energy Agency warns that cars will also
drive energy demand. Currently, one-third of our urban population in three
mega-cities accounts for nearly half of the carbon emissions from transport.
Parking needs are devouring urban commons—10% of urbanized Delhi is wasted
as parking spaces.

Can we make our cities livable? Make public health, urban design quality and
community well-being the basis of this growth?

Our future depends on the choices we make today. And the choices are clear
in our densely built cities, where the bulk of all travel trips have short
distances—5-10km. In fact, walking and bicycling make up more than a quarter
of all trips in major cities and greater than half in small towns. Public
transport and para-transit modes meet more than three quarters of the
passenger demand for motorized transport. Protect and scale up this
strength, and ensure equity in allocation of road space to all users.

Make the change real. Leverage the emerging policy
opportunities—reform-based agenda of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban
Renewal Mission and the clean air action plans. Cities must deliver on
public transport reforms, control pollution sources and pursue innovative
measures to restrain the car bulge. There is no other way.

Look at Delhi. With less than a quarter of households owning cars, and
despite the largest road network, life’s ebbed out of its streets. Road
widening and flyovers have not helped.

The signpost is clear: Cities need mobility, not cars. Scale up alternative
mobility choices, set the post-2010 road map to leapfrog vehicle technology,
and redesign cities to promote safe mobility. Cities must interlink a full
range of actions that form the big solution.

# # #

*Anumita Roychowdhury is associate director at Centre for Science and
Environment headquartered in New Delhi. She coordinates Policy Research and Advocacy on vehicular pollution in India for the “Centre for Science and Environment” (CSE), New Delhi, India. She has helped build policy campaigns which include phasing in of CNG program in Delhi; advancing implementation of improved fuel quality norms and emissions standards in Delhi; and promoting fiscal policies to improve technology, and awareness campaign on fuel adulteration in Delhi. She co-authored the book “Slow Murder: The Deadly Story of Vehicular Pollution in India” and has contributed to the series on Citizens Report on the State of India’s Environment. www.cseindia.org

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4 thoughts on ““The First Step in the New Mobility Agenda is . . . not to take that step at all”

  1. Dear Vinay,

    Good article !

    One comment that pops to mind is that some people talk of access, rather than
    mobility.

    For instance that would include improved access to services / shops by
    decentralising them. This can be done e.g. by urban planning including financial
    incentives that will influence where services are located. This as an addition
    to improving access for more effective and equitable modes. So access is
    improved not only by improving how many people get move about per /hour / per
    square-kilometer / per million dollar or Lakh /per unit of health or pollution.

    The “Access-paradigm” also inherently takes into account the needs of different
    segments of the populations. That is, the access-paradigm as I have perceived
    it.

    I might be out on a limb here, but take my chances, in order to get the
    opportunity to learn and discuss.


    Regards / Kvedja
    Morten Lange, Reykjavík

    Reply
  2. More on the ³access paradigm² that Morten Lange brings up….

    TheCityFix recently wrote two posts about “sustainable accessibility” that
    this group might find interesting:

    “Avoiding Environmental Disaster through Sustainable Accessibility”

    http://thecityfix.com/avoiding-environmental-disaster-through-sustainable-ac

    cessibility/

    This lecture by Dr. John Sterman , part
    of MIT¹s series of seminars about transportation

    To design a sustainable and successful accessibility system, Sterman says, we
    need research across areas, including technical innovation; policy and
    business practices (i.e. new business models, policies, economic issues, price
    externalities that are currently not priced at all); and human behavior (i.e.
    taking full account of idiosyncrasies and irrational aspects of human
    behavior). All of this must be integrated.
    >
    ³Manifesto for Urban Accessibility in India²

    http://thecityfix.com/manifesto-for-urban-accessibility-in-india/

    Sudhir Chella Rajan , a professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of
    Technology-Madras and Coordinator of their Indo-German Centre for
    Sustainability, recently published a fantastic overview
    <http://casi.ssc.upenn.edu/comment/reply/721#comment-formof sustainable
    accessibility in the Indian context but with global implications. He talks
    about how a focus on accessibility improves life not only for the poor but
    also for all urbanites, and his article highlights issues in India that got me
    interested in this side of sustainable mobility.

    Reply
  3. This particular idea has come up numerous times amongst various people
    involved with Carbusters and World Carfree Network, and Eric Britton has
    made it clear that he thinks – paraphrasing here – that density,
    decentralisation and related is a necessary pre-condition for “New
    Mobility”.

    Also – getting into one important part of it – I have tried to re-define
    a “car” as an inappropriately-utilized automobile and an “automobile”
    has a rubber-tyred, unguided road vehicle with capacity of 12 persons or
    less. (This does not generally mean that “carshare” vehicles are cars,
    of course — especially if enabled by my attempt at a refined definition
    within the urban milieu, you consider “cars” as heroin and “carshare” as
    methadone). I have created this definition because it seems simpler than
    “appropriately-utilized car” or similar or much more wordy and the
    reverse of it. “Car” is in this case not a technical term, but
    “automobile” is. “Car” is marketing, emotion, it is informal.
    “Automobile” – and its supporting infrastructure – is a possible
    solution. You /grok/*?

    So… back to what Morten’s suggestion: He is exactly right. And seated
    at the base of the tree to which he refers, rather than precariously
    situated elsewhere. (Perhaps a more Icelandic metaphor would substitute
    “ashcloud” and “earth’s burning liquid core”).

    Mobility is a sub-category of Access.

    Reply
  4. Hi,
    Access rather than mobility is often thought of in terms of urban planning although as Eric states; “movement elimination” and ”travel substitution” need to be brought to the very top of the strategy, and this is an area where technology can play a leading role. As India is a major player in information technology it could be an area where there is an opportunity to make progress.

    For those engaged in desk jobs, working from home is usually an option already, at least in the UK, but are there more areas where travel can be substituted by the internet conference calls / net-meetings?

    One example where the movement of knowledge, not people, is of the essence is in health. A large percentage of doctor patient meetings could be made unnecessary if we were able to consult a doctor by net meetings.

    Rory

    Reply

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