The World – the Climate – the Strategy. Come argue with me.

Let me sketch out an easy to understand (or reject) climate/transport foundation strategy that presents some stark contrasts with the ideas and approaches that are getting the bulk of attention when it comes to targeting, policy and investment in the sector — and which in a first instance is quite likely to earn me more enemies than friends (that goes with the territory). At least until such time that these basic underlying ideas are expressed in a manner which is sufficiently clear and convincing that we can with confidence put them to work to turn the tide. So here you have my first brief statement of the issues, the basic strategic frame and the key pressure points to which I invite your critical reactions and comments. In a second piece in this series, to follow shortly, I intend to have a look at the package(s) of measures, policies, tools, modes, etc. which can be sorted out, combined and refined to do something about it. Or maybe not.

- Eric Britton, Editor

Ten steps to get the job done

1. Climate Destabilization: The world is failing utterly in terms of combating climate destabilization. By all honest performance indicators (global emissions, fossil fuel consumption, etc.) we are going backward in almost all cases.  (Yes or no?)

2. Locked in: And what is worse yet is that the evidence shows clearly that we are locked into concepts and processes that most visibly do not and will not ever get the job done. (Yes or no?)

3. We are each day that passes wasting valuable time: While we sit around and talk, confer, argue, negotiate, or for various reasons wait/hope for solutions to appear on their own, hypothesize about 2020, 2030 or 2050, things are degrading severely every single day. So time is a critical vector. (Yes or no?)

4. Transport is, as we know, roughly 20% of the problem. Enough for us to give it all our attention. (Yes of course.)

5. Moreover, transport is, of all the areas of human activity involved, the EASIEST to get control of. (Despite what most people, including experts, will tell you. Keep reading.)

6. The key to taming the transport component of the global warming equation is very simple – (a) large scale VMT/VKT reduction. And (b) those VKT reductions in a very short period: 1 to 5 years max.

7. And if you do not give importance to climate issues? Fair question and no problem! Whatever we do to cut down on GHG emissions is going to serve as a close to 100% proxy for everything else we should be trying to achieve in the transport sector anyway. Corresponding fossil fuel reductions, economic savings, local environmental improvements, thinning out traffic, safer streets, public health improvements, stronger communities, etc. (You know the long list so no reason to go into it here.)

8. Strategy: The only way to get these GHG reductions in time to make the difference — and this is a critical caveat — (a) without sacrificing the economy or (b) quality of life, is to find ways to get more people and goods efficiently into fewer vehicles. (Let’s call it “sharing” without for now getting into the important detail of the mechanisms needed to make this work. that being the next step in this series and process.)

9. More and better sharing in transport opens up a dynamic positive agenda. It opens up opportunities for more and better mobility services for all, new sources of energy and entrepreneurship in society, and requires the integration of a very wide range of planning, economic measures, on-road innovations, new service development, and state-of-the-art logistics and ICT technology capabilities to make it work. (Share/Transport, as I call it, is 21st century transportation delivered efficiently and economically when and where it is needed.)

10. Leadership: This is challenging but doable. But to make it happen we need strong leadership. Where can we find it? (Stay tuned!)

# # #

PS. This of course is a very challenging statement, and I shall be pleased to give it all my attention with further supporting details shortly here.

I understand that this is going to ruffle quite a few edges, but rather than try to smooth them, let’s have a look at some of the concepts that are being pushed and discussed in many places that are not adequate to do this partial job (see 1-3 above)

  • Electromobility has some interesting ideas and there will be projects there in the future – but let’s not kid ourselves. No matter how valid they may be for local reasons (for example a massive shift to e-taxis in Shanghai), they are not going to get the needed results overall.
  • Likewise, the construction of new metros and heavy urban rail lie beyond the fringe of the priorities that are set out here – and which should be the driving forces in the next several years.
  • Any attempt to increase road capacity through new construction or major widening, bridges, tunnels, etc. projects need to be set aside, as we instead take advantage of the powerful tools we have to better manage the existing transport capacity.
  • Parking. No increase in capacity anywhere, but working carefully with those directly concerned to help them solve their legitimate mobility and access challenges. (With of course a strategic shift to full cost pricing.)
  • New technology vehicles? No time.
  • Green or bio-fuels cannot be a global strategy. Put them on the back back burner.

The list of what not to do is considerably longer than that, but the above should suffice to set the stage for what will follow here.

In the meantime, I hope we shall be receiving from you feedback, challenges and suggestions on “other better ways”, which will find their place in the next report in this series. That said, you can also do it yourself. If you accept the first three criteria as valid (?!?), all you have to do is test your proposition against them to see if it passes or fails. Your call!

To summarize: Transportation policy in the 21st century needs to be based on taking a good look at the “more of the same” or “keep digging” solutions that have egregiously failed to work in the last years.  We are losing this war — and it’s because we are not using our brains.  Hmm.

Out of gas.

# # #

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21 thoughts on “The World – the Climate – the Strategy. Come argue with me.

  1. I believe that the New Mobility forms of transport can be simply better and more convenient for most people than the existing systems people are using. Rather than focusing on Climate Change (negative), that most people do not and cannot see for themselves, we need to focus on marketing the better solutions to our needs.

    We need to think like Apple Inc., Tesco, Kellogg’s, Starbucks, etc. What would they do if New Mobility was their product/service?

    Reply
    • They would help develop new technology like RUF (http://www.ruf.dk)

      It is a dualmode electric guideway system for public transport and for electric cars in a later phase. It combines train efficiency with car flexibility.
      With RUF technology vehicles can drive very efficient due to reduction of rolling resistance and air resistance. A RUF EV can drive 3 times longer per kWh than a comparable EV.

      The users will get a lot of advantages. Congestion can be minimized, recharging of small batteries can take place “on-line”, you have a “rolling office” at your disposal while driving in a very safe mode on-line, so you don’t waste your time while commuting.

      Public transport with RUF can offer door-to-door transport and faster than by car today.

      RUF has been developed in Denmark with support from EU, Danish Government, private sponsors and an American foundation.

      Reply
      • Thank you Palle.

        Our position on new technology projects like this, is that these are the affairs of the private sector and private investors. It is not appropriate to put a single penny of taxpayer money into any technology project. The job of government and good governance in this respect if to create performance standards which meet our overall environmental and related objectives, and then leave it to the private sector to compete and come up with the best technology. Good luck with RUF.

        Reply
        • My opinion is the opposite of yours. I don’t think it is appropriate to put a single penny of public money into trains. Trains are a mature technology, and in the places where passenger trains are actually efficient (which is to say, in very large, very dense cities), they can be run by the private sector at a profit. Elsewhere, trains are inefficient, and are a waste of money.

          More generally, the government should not be putting money into enterprises that are based on mature technology. Useful development is gained by using taxpayers’ money to encourage R&D with a long-term perspective in mind, but using it to operate loss-making businesses that are based on established technology is inefficient, and consistently leads to the waste of vast sums of money, with very little, if any, benefit. It actually hinders useful development, by discouraging investment in innovative alternatives.

  2. Ian,

    Thank you for your above comments. Your points are good and I would like to respond. Briefly:

    1. We are talking here about the new politics of sustainable transportation. The global architecture within which all the specific actions, measures, etc. that you speak of then have to be figured and then configured. As you will hopefully see here in the next weeks, this new architecture is at once both exigent and generous (though within very definite constraints as will be made clear),

    2. What we are looking for here is a consistent powerful policy frame that cuts across all the important “minute (and less minute) particulars” of the transport/mobility sector at all levels of policy and practice.

    3. For this — and I am sorry if the point is not clear enough (see article 7 above) — neither we nor you have to either buy or sell the climate issue. To give us our new global consistent policy frame, we first turn our full attention to the climate issues because they are absolutely critical (and I do not think for a moment you are saying the contrary), we then use the basics to give us the determining foundations of our overall consistent strategic frame. (Today altogether lacking in the debate and the action)

    4. Let me try to make this point in other words. While we start with the climate issues and urgencies to give us our overall frame, once we have factored that into our global frame we really never have to bring it up again. We can then get on with the issues and priorities of the sort you bring up in a consistent manner – and do not need to become “prisoners of climate” as you warn.

    5. It is within this new policy frame that we then need to figure out our specific policy, investment and action priorities – including the full range: safer and more agreeable walking, ditto biking, far better public transport, a much greater range of sustainable transport choices, performance standards, equity issues, cleaner air at either the specific local or global level, full cost pricing, taxes and tolls, etc., etc.

    6. May I say that once this policy frame of near term VKT/VMT reduction is agreed, then the real work begins.

    7. But what we need is to grow up and stop flapping our wings for this or that “great idea”. For this we need a consistent powerful policy frame, which we use to test and judge every idea and r as it appears on the scene. (And you will be surprised at how fast the weak ideas will disappear when this is applied with the appropriate rigor.)

    But please stay tuned because there is a lot more to follow here.

    Eric Britton

    Reply
  3. Agree that S/T is a key component. But would like to suggest a couple more:

    a) Shared spaces – whether it be Central Park or a crowded Indian bazaar or a pedestrianized heritage area.

    b) A non-shared activity – walking.

    Reply
  4. Thanks Ashok. Your points are excellent and cannot be brought up too often.

    The sharing agenda is a rich one, and to get a feel for what we are working on under this heading, may I invite you and others to check out the site of September’s first World Share/Transport Forum which was held in Kaohsiung – http://Www.kaohsiung.sharetransport.org.

    In our extensive collaborative team work oh what I a bit awkwardly call “share/transport” over the last eighteen months, we started in a first instance in concentrating attention on the following share/transport modes:

    • Rideshare
    • Carshare
    • Bikeshare
    • Taxi-, small vehicle-share
    • Public transport (another form of sharing of course)
    • Truck or van-share

    But that’s not the end of it. The overall agenda also includes a range of concepts and approaches that stretch beyond the shared modes, including:

    • Street-sharing (including both with other transport modes – full-feature BRT comes to mind – and other users
    • Space-sharing (includes parking as well as other public spaces)
    • Time-sharing (use of public spaces, modes in different ways at different times)

    And it is these last that we give great attention both to walking (after all street and public space sharing par excellence) and to those other important share space uses that you so rightly bring to our attention.

    Best regards/Eric

    Reply
  5. Eric,

    You say : “So time is a critical vector”. You call for VKT reductions in a very short period: 2 to 5 years max. Your main solution appears to be ICT enabled sharing of vehciles.

    I am suspicious of any approach which is focused around one solution. My view is that we do need a lot of different solutions which will include metro’s BRTs, improved efficiency, biofuels (with life cycle analysis).

    Cornie

    Reply
  6. Cornie. Thanks so much for responding. Let me comment on your two points in your order:

    1. Yes, the time vector is critical. If that is we are to take the climate challenge seriously. By which I mean – and this is just me and may not be you or others – that immediate remedial action is called for. Anything that chews up precious time and resources and puts off the solution period to 2020 or beyond, is, to me, a rather curious even irresponsible response.

    And no, I am not talking about ICT as the magic bullet. True enough the use of 21st century logistics and communications tools is going to be critical, but that is only part of the full solution set – to which I intend to get to in some detail in the coming weeks under this heading.

    At this point, all I am trying to get is a consensus on the three really quite simple points set out at the top of my article: (a) the reality of climate deterioration; (b) the utter lack of adequate measures to counter; (c) and the importance of not waiting around for the promised long term solutions (on the grounds as Lord Keyes reminded us years ago, that in the long run we are all dead. To which we may well end up with the additional caveat: us and the planet too.)

    2. And your suspicion “of any approach which is focused around one solution”, is in fact what this entire approach is all about. At this point I am simply trying to nail down the broad strategic frame. And what is so great about this path, is that it is wide open to a huge range of policies, measures, tools, and modes. But – and here is your catch – the various measures etc. will have to show that they can pass the two basic tests (VKT reduction, and in the near-term).

    Now this gives us an overall planning frame which is both potentially very rich (huge number of options which pass these tests) and very disciplined (and perhaps even more that do not). Thus on your quick list, our proposed policy will welcome BRTs, but not metros. Improved efficiency all along the chain, but only where it passes the time test. And as to bio-fuels, with our without life cycle analysis I personally find them weak candidates. But as you say, the full analysis will tell us what makes it and what does not.

    Finally, there is of course – there has to be – a fair amount of flexibility when City A or Country X decides that it wants to jump on a measure or policy which directly addresses some urgent or high profile local issue. So if Shanghai is really committed to converting their taxi fleet to electric technology, well that makes sense for them and what is great is that the world can look on and learn some valuable lessons from their initiatives. (And I am sure we will.)

    So, this strategic frame is not intended to snuff out every original idea or project. But we do want to make sure that most of the money and most of the effort is going to be aimed at reducing VKT and achieving that without delay.

    Our generation – you and me Cornie and anyone else who might be part of the solution — will be judged by our children and grandchildren by the manner in which we address these challenges. Or not!

    It’s a harsh world out there.

    Eric

    Reply
  7. Eric, seeing what San Francisco does I believe we need to shift greater focus to what cites and states do, rather than nations.

    Example: San Francisco’s fleet of 1,500 vehicles runs 100% on biodiesel. While most of it needs to be shipped in from as far as the Midwest, a local plant will soon produce it from fat and cooking oil collected from local restaurants. The City’s Department of the Environment, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s baby, intends to be a role model.

    Let’s hear it for other communities around the world!

    Reply
  8. This is both an excellent example and a good call for local initiatives. Thanks for putting it before us Hartmut.

    What the policy perspective being set out and argued here suggest is that we look at Gavin’s 1500 biofuel fleet project from two perspectives. The one local and political. The other global and strategic.

    Local and political: If your good mayor can make this work in his city, it will be a very interesting laboratory project that we can all observe and learn from. After al he’s the mayor and he wants to do it and has the political and financial means to do it. If it works as expected it will (though one really has to see the cradle to grave analysis of both the overall environmental impacts and costs) reduce local emissions and that is a fine thing indeed.

    Global and strategic: From a global strategic perspective though it looks quite different. The downside is that this is not an approach which can be replicated in one hundred thousand cities across the planet, for all kinds of reasons we can come to if you wish. And certainly not with the Procrustean time frame which is in operation here.

    Bottom line: So and for sure, let’s not slow down good local initiatives, by any means. But let’s also make sure that we take the time to understand them fully before turning them into a role model for all we need to do now.

    PS. Thanks again Hartmut for your fine and disturbing piece on “Thanksgiving 2010 and Morning in America” which for anyone who may have missed it, the address is http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/thanksgiving-2010-and-morning-in-america/. Recommended reading.

    Reply
  9. Fortunately, in spite of your claim that there is no other strategy than reducing VMT, there is another, and in fact it probably involves increasing VMT, believe it or not. And that’s good because just telling people, even ordering people to reduce VMT is not likely to stand a chance of success. Not just in car-obsessed America, but in the rest of the world where, as they get richer, they keep mode-switching to cars and increasing VMT.

    That solution won’t come instantly though. It would take a big political effort (and a decent, but quite doable technical effort given the money) to make it happen really quickly. Much less of an effort than getting people to drop their VMT, but still a big effort.

    That solution is robocars, and why that’s the solution takes a bit of detail to explain. This can be found at my site about them, http://robocars.com and the associated blog. But the really short summary is cars that can deliver, park and recharge/refuel themselves makes it practical and marketable for people to make most urban trips in small, light, 1 and 2 person electric cars which use as little as 1/10th of the energy per passenger mile of today’s average transit systems and today’s average car. We know how to make small, light, efficient vehicles but we don’t know how to convince people to own and use them. Robots can make that happen.

    Telling people what they should do, trying to plan cities against the will and economic force of the people — these are very hard paths, and history shows they most often fail. You must give people a solution which is better, cheaper and greener and they don’t care about the last one.

    Reply
  10. Brad,

    I asked for people to argue and so you have. Thanks. Let me see if I can take your several points I more or less your order:

    1. “Ordering people to reduce VMT”.

    Not at all. That is not the approach. What we are trying to do here is to set the broad parameters that will drive a more enlightened, a more efficient, a more just sustainable transportation (and lives) policy. The means for achieving this are many, yet to be discussed, and no more intrusive than any good governance initiative might be. I hope you will hang in here over the next weeks as I and others work to make this clear.

    2. “As they get richer, they keep mode-switching to cars and increasing VMT”
    Yes. That is what we call the long familiar “Old Mobility” pattern (check out http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/about/mission/whats-wrong-with-old-mobility/ for more on this.). But the New Mobility Agenda opens up a whole new range of options, including a number that are more efficient, faster, cheaper and more healthy in certain contexts, as opposed to hauling yourself there at whim in your own car despite the overall cost to the community. The objective of this new policy path is in fact not to cut back but to increase, and increase radically, the mobility options of the entire population, car drivers (a minority) and non-drivers as well. But patience, we will get to that.

    3. “That solution is robocars.”
    Might be. Let’s see it in action first. And without public subsidy of course, since we have to stick to our last here.

    4. “Telling people what they should do, . . . “
    Governance is always to an extent a matter of defining community standards. In Paris, Perth and Pune we organize ourselves so that free citizens do not come into the restaurant or public space packing iron. There is an inevitable tension between liberty to do as one pleases, and the ways in which we must modulate our choices for the well being of all. It’s a fine line, but that is what democracy is all about.

    5. “You must give people a solution which is better, cheaper and greener”
    Now you are talking.

    I much appreciate your frank comments. Good luck with robocars.

    Eric Britton

    Reply
    • True, you don’t propose “ordering” people onto trains, but you do propose tactics calculated to force people onto trains. The tactics you propose, though, will fail.

      Trying to force people onto trains by restricting road building and parking availability does not work. It certainly won’t work on the timescale you set out. Britain has been doing it since Barbara Castle was Transport Minister in the 1960s, and car use has steadily increased during that time. The long-term effect has been to increase congestion, which increases the amount of emissions per distance traveled.

      There’s a good reason: commuting by rail is a grim and stressful way to spend your time. Most people who do it (if not everyone) hates it violently, and many people move house or change job so they can avoid having to do it (or, if trapped by their salary, they dream of doing so).

      You say you don’t want to reduce people’s quality of life, but forcing today’s car users to use trains would have precisely that effect.

      Far more car journeys are made than train journeys, and this is true even in Japan. Also, cars are much less efficient in terms of emissions per distance than they technically could be. This means that, realistically, in the time span you’re talking about, you would gain far more reduction in GHGs by increasing the efficiency of cars by some percentage than you would by shifting that percentage of people onto trains. And that’s even if you didn’t have to build new train lines (which would have a high cost in GHG). Indeed, you would get diminishing, and potentially negative, returns if you built out the railway networks. Passenger trains get less and less efficient as the population density of the areas they serve diminishes. When you build out train lines to suburbs and small towns, you will soon find that your trains are less efficient than cars in terms of emissions produced and energy consumed per passenger per unit of distance.

      In sum, I don’t think your plan will work. Instead, the following changes would make the difference: increasing the efficiency of car travel (and this could include robocars), reducing actual travel by increasing virtual travel (video conferencing, etc.), increasing the walkability and cyclability of cities.

      Reply
  11. Dear Britton. I suspect that the sheer simplicity of your approach may put off some of your readers. What I am reading here is that you are saying that the only way to reduce emissions in the immediate run is to reduce traffic. That strikes me as undeniable. I really don’t see why any clear minded person would have a problem with that

    Here is an analogy. If you are grossly overweight, the main thing you need to do is to start to eat less. Of course it helps if you also exercise, balance your diet and let the doctor look at you every once in a while. But above all you have to cut those calories. And so it is with emissions and traffic. We need to go on a diet.

    Of course if someone coming to this has a lot of intellectual luggage about other things they believe to be important and/or true, it can be a challenge for them to blank out all the old background noise and to hear what you are saying. But in a world that is changing as fast as this one, we need to be careful to make sure that we are seeing things as they are, as opposed to how we may want them to look.

    That by the way of one of the strong points of women. Men seem to have more difficulty with it.

    France B

    Reply
  12. In response to the above editorial on the central importance of finding ways to achieve near term reductions of motor vehicle traffic (VKT/VMT) as the primary policy tool for taking pressure from the transport sector off the planet in the next two to five years, we are receiving a number of postings about new technology car proposals, all of them interesting in themselves.. However given our tight time horizon for massive results they are not within the scope of this discussion. So if you wish to follow them may I suggest that you get in touch directly with the authors as follows:

    • Palle Palle R Jensen ruf@ruf.dk

    • Jerry Roane jerry.roane@gmail.com http://TriTrack.net

    • Brad Templeton – robocars.com

    More generally what strikes me is the extent to which some of these comments jump way beyond the single strategic tenet of my article, namely that we need to find ways to reduce the quantum of motorized traffic – and always with the caveat of (a) not undermining the economy and (b) life quality for all. I particularly like the common-sensical way that France B sums up the strategic basics in her commentary of yesterday.

    I have not yet made any statements about the means in which these reductions can be achieved. There is not only no mention of trains, and certainly not “tactics calculated to force people onto trains”.

    So if we can stick to the point in these comments here, and in a few days give me a shot at the “how tos” at which point you can arm your bows and let go.

    Eric Britton

    PS. Let me pick out however the closing words of Bruce just above when he says: “increasing the efficiency of car travel (and this could include robocars), reducing actual travel by increasing virtual travel (video conferencing, etc.), increasing the walkability and cyclability of cities.” While our time frame does not allow for the robocars bit, all the rest is pure gold. Thank you Bruce.

    Reply
  13. An idea I recently put forward an idea to a railway “expert”, was dismissed as being “operationally difficult”. When I asked him to turn his thinking upside down and think of himself as a customer, wanting to get to the railway station he was not so dismissive…

    We need to make New Mobility systems meet actual needs better than the existing systems and ave open minds and ambition. It’s too easy to say that people are fat because they eat too much food, when the reality is that they are in fact eating too much processed food, containing one of many forms of sugar. This is why we have obese 6-month old babies who neither eat more than they should or exercise less than they should.

    People are travelling as they are to day because they need to travel, rather than want to spend their lives in isolation in their cars – it used to be that people were kept in solitary confinement as a punishment! We need policies that meet peoples needs without the need for so much mobility.

    In a town close to me, the council has spent a small fortune increasing the number of car parking spaces, and implementing a one-way system, yet there is nowhere to park a bicycle… So how will people travel there?

    It’s true that as people get richer, they buy more cars, but then they also shop more online and increasingly live in gated communities – and spend their time socialising online. Would people rather be sat alone using FaceBook, or in a social space with friends?

    As for policies… Has the pubic sector ever led the private sector? Is it not the private sector that leads, and the public sector is then levered (by private interests) to further facilitate expansion/change?

    Ian

    Reply
  14. Greetings Eric, I like all the comments and insights that have been posted. One thing I feel we need to consider moving forward to a less-carbon intensive future involving transportation, or any other GHG-reducing strategy for that matter, are the processes involved creating solutions.

    Other than walking, with regard to Eco-efficient transport, all solutions need to be considered from the viewpoint of cradle-to-grave. In other words, is manufacturing EV’s =< carbon intensive than driving an EV? I believe making one car is equal to ~20,000 tons of CO2. If driving an EV only remove 5,000 tons/yr from the atmosphere, we have a 15,000 ton surplus from manufacturing them.

    Reply
  15. Dear all,

    I think solutions depend on the type of trip. And the type of trip (mostly defined by distance and available travel alternatives) depends on urban design and territory. So, in urban dense areas, the main solution for short trips is active mobility: bicycle and on foot. This means these urban areas must be not only permeable to these transport modes but also inviting. Our challenge is to approach to this situation as quick as possible (traffic calming, sharing spaces – avoiding conflicts…-).

    Metropolitan areas are the next level. When the urban density and distance allows it, we can keep practicing active mobility, especially by bicycle. This requieres new infraestructures, because sharing in this situation is not possible because of the speed of motor vehicles. To allow this, we also need intermobility, but never taking space to the people, here is where sharing can make a point (bicycle, car,…).

    Of course, we will still need motor vehicle for some king of trips and some kind of transportation, but this vehicles must as inocuous as possible to our environment and health.

    Talking about health, this plan of active mobility and sharing brings a lot of physical and mental health. I would really like to see the results of this kind of implementation in these two aspects in our societies.

    It is not so difficult, it’s about decisions. Who takes these decisions? We, as individuals can choose our mode of transport and place to live at a certain level. From that level we must ask for our right to do so to policians. The two focuses are: information to individuals, so that they are able to take their decisions in an intelligent way (this is my idea of sustainability, choosing an option using our intelligence – being intelligence the capacity of using information). And information to decision makers (politicians).

    A lot of work to do.

    I’ve put it very simply and I’m sure all of this is not new for you, but it’s just to explain what I think are my priorities, taking into account my environment.

    Happy Friday,

    Esther

    Reply
  16. As mentioned by France, the need for reduction in VMT is obvious. Also is obvious the fact that ‘leadership’ is needed to achieve it – agreed; but at what level – individual, group or nation? Some nations are better poised than others to lead the world and I agree with you that China can do it! The question now seems to be facing us is, what will it take it or others ‘to do it’? That is of course where your next article will help with more focus on specific strategies.

    We talk about VMT reductions, but currently it is accelerating (and more so in China) – which makes the job tougher. Reduction would first entail reducing the rate of acceleration, then deceleration, only then the actual reduction. But till the time we continue to accelerate or even decelerate, we are adding VMTs, thus reduction seems to me as a longer goal than 2-5 years (not that I won’t want to see it happen immediately).

    I also wished to argue on another point – the emphasis on sharing transport (or should I read it as motorized transport), which is where some of the comments such as those on Metro on BRTS come in from.

    I do not know if it comes as a surprise to you, that in my assessment more than 3/4th of people/trips in India are non motorized. I will give you the basis of my very crude assumption. India is less than 50% urbanized. 40% (in Delhi) to 90% (in Raipur) of trips in urban centers are non-motorized – they are not even any form of motorized public transport or share transport. Assuming trips in all of the rural population to be more than 90% non-motorized, I can safely argue with more than 75% non motorized trips in India. I would imagine the China story to be similar. Now what is an accelerating VMT promoted by the government as a form of consumption strategy to drive the auto industry (and thus fuel their lopsided development plans) doing? It is targeting to motorize these 75% of trips at an accelerating pace – this is a very lucrative market consisting of billions of people! This is what China is doing with its auto industry. So both these countries are rapidly increasing urbanization and adding road km’s to existing cities. Thus their current policy is clear – INCREASE VMT. What will make them see a sense in changing that?

    What I find more and more convincing is, that leadership at every level in India (and leadership is important for our goal) seems to link incentivizing motor vehicle use with increased auto sale with sustained increase in growth rate. I am not too sure if Auto industry is pushing them on this, as its representative’s seem to claim that they see little connection between ownership and use.

    I do not know if I am being clear but it seems to me that any strategy that focuses on leadership, should not just be about sharing (of course that is presented as the viable alternate to the current policies) but more about looking away from subsidizing and incentivizing motorized transport (I mean personalized modes). Since the west has already managed to almost match people with the no. of vehicles, this leadership can only come from nations which are striving to do so ‘now’ and that too in mega numbers – which is India and more so China. So for these nations, the key may be a revised emphasis on urban infrastructure which is based on renewed city planning model, which shows how you be in a city, own your car (or cars) but yet not drive them around!

    Reply

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