World Share/Transport Forum II. Changzhi, China

Changzhi, China. 24 October: The Second World Share/Transport Forum opens in Changzhi today, with the mission of looking into the concept of Share/Transport for selective adaptation, application and extension in Chinese cities. The Forum is supported by a collaborative effort led by the China Urban Transport Development Strategy and Partnership Demonstration Project (CUTPP): National Development and Reform Commission, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It builds on and extends the pioneering work on share/transport initiated by the international team who laid the base for the first World Forum that was convened in Kaohsiung Taiwan in September 2010.

Today’s  announcement will be followed up in these pages in the days ahead by a selection of conference presentations, materials and findings. In the meantime you can find the full Changzhi conference program here. And for comprehensive background on the first forum in Kaohsiung in 2010 click here.

SharE/TransporT: Vision, Challenges, Opportunities

- The following extract is taken from the opening keynote address by Eric Britton, for which the full document and videos are available here. The address was delivered by videoconference, as were the discussions that followed.

Good morning from Paris. What we are seeing here today is not just one more ambitious expert workshop on sustainable transportation. There will be plenty of those this year and the years to come. But today’s meeting is different.  We are gathering here to focus our attention specifically on the largely uncharted concept of sharing in transport, in cities and in our daily lives more generally.

If you are not familiar with the concept this may strike you as vague and probably a bit minor in the larger scheme of things . But let us surprise you on this score: it is far more than a detail, and it is in this context that I am pleased to join you in Changzhi today by a video hook-up, with a single idea in mind. . .

Specifically to see if, along with my esteemed colleagues who will also be sharing their experience with you, we can convince at least a certain number of you in this room of the importance the relevance and indeed the absolute necessity of introducing the concept of share/transport in the future , not only into your own city and cities across China more generally, but in cities around the world. We are going to be doing a lot more sharing in the future in our sector, and believe me this will by no means involve a step backward. To the contrary! But we will get into that shortly.

I do not need you all to agree with all the ideas that are set out here. Indeed I do not expect you to. It is my experience that when it comes to exploring new approaches that break with past practices, that it is more likely to be the young people and younger minds (not always the same thing) that are more open to new ideas. If that’s you, you are the person whom I now want to address.

When someone talks about sharing in the transport sector in China these days, because of all of the activity and publicity that has gone with that over the last two years or so, the first thing that comes to mind is shared bicycle projects. And then when we think about it a bit more and perhaps we get to projects like BRT’s, this leads us to think about sharing the street with other users, including cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. And of course cars. But there is more to it than that.

The concept of shared transport is at once old and new, formal and informal, but above all it is an element of the transport sector that is growing very fast. Something important is clearly going on, and the Changzhi event will look at this carefully, in the hope of providing a broader strategic understanding for advancing not just the individual shared modes (e.g., car/share, ride/share, bike/share, street/share, taxi/share, etc.), but of combining them to advance the sustainable transport agenda of our cities more broadly.

Are we at a turning point? Is sharing already starting to be a more broadly used and relevant social/economic pattern? Is there an over-arching concept which we can identify and put to work for people and the planet? And what do you need to look at and do to make your specific sharing project work? These are some of the issues that we shall be examining with prominent invited guests from the fields of economics, politics, psychology, who will join transportation experts to discuss these trends.

Thus my main interest here in this opening stage is not in the specific kinds of sharing — that’s important of course but it came come later. Rather what we need to sort out together and get right here at the start is our shared understanding of the overall strategy and justification for and behind the concept of sharing, both in general and in the transport sector . At this early point it is not the specifics of any one kind of sharing approach, but rather the broader human issues which it necessarily touches. Let’s have a look.

At a glance: Sharing in the 21st century – Will it shape our cities?

After many decades of a single dominant city-shaping transportation pattern – namely and for those who could afford it: owning and driving our own cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles, getting into taxis by ourselves, riding in streets that are designed for cars and not much else — there is considerable evidence accumulating that we have already entered into a world of new mobility practices that are changing the transportation landscape in many ways. It has to do with sharing, as opposed to outright ownership. But strange to say, this trend seems to have escaped the attention of the policymakers in many of the places and institutions directly concerned.

However transport sharing is an important trend, one that is already starting to reshape at least parts of some of our cities. It is a movement at the leading edge of our most successful (and wealthiest and livable) cities — not just a watered down or second-rate transport option for the poor. With this in view, we are setting out to examine not just the qualities (and limitations) of individual shared mobility modes, but also to put this in the broader context of why people share. And why they do not. And in the process to stretch our minds to consider what is needed to move toward a new environment in which people can from time to time and for their own good reasons share, rather than necessarily only doing everything on their own when it comes to moving around in our cities worldwide.

Share/transport is the largely uncharted, rich middle ground of high-impact, low-carbon, available-now mobility options between the long dominant poles of “private transport” (albeit on public roads) and conventional mass transport (scheduled, fixed-route services) at the two extremes.

Let’s have a look at this concept diagram to get a feel for what we are going to deal with here.

The Third Way of getting around in our cities

Our goal here is specifically to present, discuss and examine the first steps of a new policy path that shows promise for at least in part dealing with many of the most pressing problems of transport in cities in all of China – all while noting that if Chinese cities can demonstrate how this new and in general poorly understood approach can work, it will be a contribution that will be valuable for cities around the world. The world badly needs more good examples and solid ideas, so why not you?.

The underlying challenge is to find the package of measures needed to deal with the present situation in which there are, to summarize: (a) too many cars in our cities, and (b) that as a result of car-crowding ever worse conditions for mobility, including even for those who can afford and drive their own cars. The answer is not to ban all cars, nor to force people either to stay at home of take public transport which may not offer the quality of service they expect and need. We are looking at a Third Way.

The Third Way solution that we shall be examining here involves the careful strategic application both what we call “carrots” and “sticks”. The sticks have to do with strategic ways of limiting the space and conditions of access available to cars, both when moving and parked — while the carrots have to do with offering new and more efficient mobility solutions for people at all levels of income and in all cities.

This challenge of the “too many cars/too little mobility” problem are already important enough if we think of them in terms of the ever greater amounts of time that Chinese citizens are losing when they are stuck in traffic, the high costs of car ownership and use which strain the budgets of many families that are buying them, and the losses in terms of air quality, accidents, public health, quality of life, and of course the huge impacts on the climate and climate modification.

But in addition to this we now have to add a further 2011 realty, the continuing rises in the price of fossil fuels, which is only going to get worse. And along with this, the new and suddenly very pressing questions that are now going to be asked about and for sure modify the intended rapid expansion of nuclear energy as an option to goal and other fossils fuels.

The bottom line: we need to start preparing our cities for this interlocking challenge, which in transport terms means that we need to have more efficient movement options, and that the present situation of unchecked growth of inefficient automobile traffic needs to be reversed. One important component of this strategy has to do with increasing system efficiency, through different kinds of sharing.

What is Share/Transport?

 “On the whole, you find wealth more in use than in ownership.”
- Aristotle. ca. 350 BC

Share/transport is a proven, integrated, strategic approach to providing more and better mobility options in our cities. It is no longer an option; As we look to the immediate future, we can see that it is a critical tool for transport policy and practice  for our cities.

While not familiar to many people and cities, including many planners and policy makers, this concept of sharing  is an indispensable 21st century toolset and strategy for our cities, in a world of seven billion people and in an era of exploding urbanization, increasing income levels and consumer expenditures, and a growing international appetite of people for cars.

We need to be pragmatic about this. Of course, there is nothing wrong with people having cars, per se. That’s not the point.

However it is where and how they use them that matter. And in this respect the clearest contradiction and biggest policy challenge results from the public space conflicts that we are seeing in our cities.  (We call this challenge of too many cars in too small a space, the “Elephant in the Bedroom” syndrome. Despite its playful name, it presents a major challenge for policy makers worldwide).

We have learned this over the past decade. After years of neglect, we now know that in the face of these crippling problems and trends  we need to develop strategies whereby (a) people to have more and better mobility — but also in parallel with this (b) many fewer cars in our cities.  And while this was already becoming clear in the last century, given the speed of developments in recent years it has become a major 21st century priority issue for public policy worldwide, China included.

Share/Transport is one proven way to deal with this interlocking challenge of too many cars and too poor mobility.  However despite its clear advantages and many successes, for various reasons until now  it is not sufficiently well known or appreciated by transport planners and policy makers in all parts of the world.  And remedying this is one of the main objectives of this conference.

The three principal components of share/transport

Share/Transport has three main working components; transport modes, transport space, and transport information:

  1. Shared modes – Making transport more efficient.: through taxi sharing, small bus sharing,  bicycle sharing , car sharing, ride sharing, and new ways of sharing  integrated into and increasing the flexibility and service levels of existing public transport systems.
  2. Shared space – Better sharing and use of the scarce public space in a city . Encompassing: land-use policy, access control and restraints, modal segregation (BRT, cycle lanes), parking, time zoning of activities, shared surfaces and limiting traffic speeds in specific areas.
  3. Shared information – ITS, maps, schedules, interactive media, behaviour change.

And in all this one of the essential components and criteria for success of share/transport projects keys on  better information and communications technologies (ICT).

This technology component can not only be integrated to offer far higher levels of service and to more people than at any time in the past, but it also opens up significant opportunities for industry and new product development. A good part of the future of share/transport will be as a result of the roles played by that mobile telephone in your pocket. It is going to emerge as people’s key to the public transportation of the new future.

The conference is looking into trends and accomplishments of specific shared transport modes and their potential for application in Chinese city context; but it will not stop there  We will also be taking a hard look at their short-comings and making recommendations as to how they can be mitigated.

Share/transport 2011: A modal overview

Here is a “short list” of at least twenty different forms of transport sharing that we and others  have looked at and worked with in a variety of international settings.. Once we have developed a strategic understanding of the socio-economic-behavioral aspects of the phenomenon of sharing in twenty first century society, we can then start to look at each of these areas of innovation and practice with more interesting tools in hand.

  1. Public transport (of course, vintage transport sharing. Not to be forgotten in the rush to new concepts)
  2. Bike/sharing (Check out the informal 30 second video on this at http://www.vimeo.com/6856553 )
  3. Car/sharing (includes both formal and informal arrangements, including P2P carsharing)
  4. Fleetsharing
  5. Ride/sharing (carpools, van pools, hitchhiking – organized and informal).
  6. Taxi/sharing
  7. Demand responsive transport systems
  8. Paratransit and social service transport
  9. Shared parking
  10. Truck/van sharing (combined delivery, other)
  11. Street/sharing 1 (example: BRT streets shared between buses, cyclists, taxis, emergency vehicles)
  12. Street/sharing 2 (streets used by others for other (non-transport) reasons as well.)
  13. Public space sharing
  14. Work place sharing (neighborhood telework centers; virtual offices; co-workplace; hoteling)
  15. Sharing SVS (small vehicle systems: DRT, shuttles, community buses, etc.)
  16. Cost sharing
  17. Time sharing
  18. Successful integration of public transport within a shared transport city? Including bus and rail
  19. Team sharing
  20. Knowledge-sharing (including this conference)

And while we can look at and talk about each of these things as what might seem to be self-contained subsets, the fact is that they all have this common core of sharing, as opposed to private use and ownership, and it is important for us to understand the broader phenomenon and attitudes behind the actual practice  of sharing.

 * * * For the remainder of this presentation, click here.

- Eric Britton. World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda, Paris, France

# # #

Changzhi Sharing Transportation Forum Agenda

October 24 to October 25

Changzhi, China

Organizer: CUTPP National Project Office

October 23

Time

Activity

Speaker

Morning

09:00-09:15

Moderator introduces forum content and the participating leaders, experts

Xiaobei Guo,

Institute of Comprehensive Transportation,

National Development and Reform Commission

09:15-09:30

The mayor of Changzhi gives a welcome speech

09:30-09:45

Leader of Institute of Basic Industry,

National Development and Reform Commission gives a welcome speech

09:45-10:00

World Bank officials give a welcome speech

Coffee Break10:00~10:30

10:30-12:00

Discussion Topic: Sharing Transportation

-Vision and Challenges

Speakers: Eric Britton (France/USA) (in video, TBC)

Rory McMullan(UK);

Moderators: Xiaobei Guo,

Xuekong Zhang

Lunch12:00~14:00

Afternoon

14:00-15:30

Discussion Topic: Car Sharing

Speakers: Lewis Chen (Singapore) and Yo Koga (USA/Japan)

Moderators: Eric Britton Xuekong Zhang

Coffee Break15:30-15:45

15:45-17:30

Discussion Topic: Bicycle Sharing

Speakers: Jack Becker (USA), Ethan Lu (Taiwan),

Liya Liu(GEF PMO),

Meng Li(Tsinghua University);

Moderators: Rory McMullan, Huapu Lu(Tsinghua University)

Dinner: 18:00-20:00

October 24

Time

Activity

Speaker

Morning

09:00-09:45

Discussion Topic: Sharing Transportation

and integration

Speakers: Xuekong Zhang

Moderators: Dongyuan Yang(Tongji University),

Liya Liu

09:45-10:30

Discussion Topic: Introduction of Project Experience in Changzhi

Speakers: Staff of Changzhi Project Office

Coffee Break10:30~11:00

11:00-12:30

Group Discussion and Closing Ceremony

Moderators: All Speakers

Lunch12:30~13:30

14:00-17:00

Technical Tours

# # #

Seven questions for discussion

Here are a few questions that we have proposed for discussion during the meeting:

  1. Is owning and driving your own car in traffic generally considered to be the fastest, safest and most comfortable — and the most desirable — way to get around in most cities in China today?
  2. But does the Chinese public have a realistic idea of the full costs of car ownership, direct and indirect? Should they be informed of this systematically (consumer protection).
  3. Should the focus of government in a situation of far too many cars, take the path of (a) different ways of outlawing and penalizing car ownership/use? Or (b) providing better-than-car mobility alternatives that are better suited to crowded 21st century cities?
  4. Would you say that people would consider the concept of sharing (cars, taxis, rides, bikes, etc) instead of using your own car all the time in the city as a step backward in terms of life quality?
  5. Do you think that a majority of Chinese car owners will be ready to limit their car for personal uses in the evening and weekends, but otherwise make use of improved transport options in and around the city in periods of high activity?
  6. In your view is there in the collective consciousness a feeling that in the past when the streets were quieter and safer, these are values which should also be part of the nation’s and cities’ future?
  7. Is there a significant difference between older and younger generations in this respect? Do young people in China care more about technology (communications, IT) and life style than spending something like ten percent– plus of their annual income, to own and operate a car?

# # #

Supporting videos for Britton presentation: (a) 30 seconds on sharing . (b) Full working draft of keynote address here. (20 minutes. This draft is being edited and dubbed with Chinese language subtitles for the formal presentation.)

Again World Streets will be reporting on outstanding contributions and findings from the Second World Forum in the weeks ahead.

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