Aw-shucks. GM Blunders onto Campus

Not everything the auto lobby does today is greenwash. There is plenty of that about of course, but in addition the honeyed words that are constantly articulated to calm our raging democratic spirits and to bring us to believe that we are all in the same side in this one big happy sustainable family, there are occasions in which the industry and its more hapless proponents fall back into a blatant posture of pure meanness of spirit. As an example let us take a look at a recent vicious campaign of General Motors to sell their cars to young people, at any cost to their future well-being. Continue reading

Mr. Meter on America’s “Cash for Clunkers”

(While Lee Schipper is recovering, here is another example of his always-on prescience in the poorly lit streets of this gasping planet.) If matters of climate, sustainable transportation and careful use of scarce resources are close to your heart, and you happen to be European, you may have some reserves about your country’s ecologically billed, and energetically buttressed “Cash for Clunkers” (in more polite Euro language of course) program. Let a couple of Americans energy policy experts help you feel a bit less embarrassed. You are not alone. Continue reading

PRT proposal for Delhi convinces the Chief Minister (But does it convince you? See poll results)

It all started innocently enough with this newspaper article that appeared in the Press Trust of India on April 26. But when posted to the Sustran Global South peer forum for comment, the floodgates opened. For full background on this vigorously discussed, even polemic proposal, we invite you to check out the discussions at

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City as a time capsule: Urban highway construction mania still booming in 2011

Transport planning and policy in Lahore Pakistan today, as reported by public policy consultant Hassaan Ghazali, looks like something that was dragged out of a moss-covered time capsule on a hot day: a tawdry reminder of the kind of old mobility thinking, interest-wrangling and mindless investments of hard-earned taxpayer money that challenged and in many cases helped destroy the urban fabric of cities across North America and in many other parts of the world half a century ago. Continue reading

“They will solve Delhi’s problem of congestion for good.”

Bravo!  Bravissimo!!! I love this sentence (says he gritting his teeth). Solutions, solutions. It’s a wonderful world.

If you recall you heard from us last week concerning the wondrous “Straddling bus” project that so surprisingly popped in from an ambitious (?!?) entrepreneur in China — but not about to be undone by the competition to the north, here you have some comments coming from India about two miraculous “zip over” projects in one Indian city, Mumbai, which offer some new wrinkles on our “let’s build our way out of it” approach to sustainable transportation. That said, I might add that we thought this particular horse was actually already dead — but apparently there is still some twitching there. We should really be finding the way to put it out of its (our actually) misery. Continue reading

Honk! “Straddling” Bus? (Have a stupid weekend)

The happy life is one where every day something happens that makes us smile. Today we were blessed with this article that appeared in China Hush under the title  “Straddling” bus–a cheaper, greener and faster alternative to commute. Your editor was fascinated and hopes that you will be too.  Thank you Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co., Ltd. Continue reading

Honk! City of the Future? (Have a stupid weekend)

We here at World Streets always have problems with “cities of the future” visions, not so much because they are almost always consistently wacky in some totally weird unreal-world way, but because they tend to project things so far into the distant, almost always thoroughly magical future, that they get us off the hook for doing anything about it TODAY. So sit back and relax, dear citizens and voters, and let the benevolent forces of the economy and technology solve the problem for you. Hmm.

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"Drive for sustainable mobility" (You’re kidding me, right?)

What a great idea! Fresh from the ever-busy “You’re kidding me, right?” Department” of World Streets, this title headlined an article appearing today in the “environment” section of a UK journal. No kidding!

For the full text of this thoughtful piece, you may click to

The Take It Down Department. (A suggestion from one of our diligent readers)

Robert Moskowitz, who follows matters of transportation and public policy with interest from Los Angeles, and who periodically shares with World Streets information, clues and comments on matters of old and new mobility, poses the following for our consideration this morning:

“I’ve noticed there’s a whole infrastructure in our cities in charge of putting up stop signs, traffic lights, and the like, but no infrastructure in charge of taking them down when they’ve outlived their usefulness. If I were a traffic scientist, I would have studied and published on these topics. But I had no standing and no time to have more than opinions.”

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Do monorail projects deserve fair treatment? Part II Dragging them into the cold light of day.

It is our position here at World Streets that the challenges of sustainable transportation are so many and so important that we need to ensure we maintain focus on concepts and policies that are going to be up to the task and the priorities at stake. The following just in from Brazil summarizes the author’s views on this particular mode. We have left it in his colorful language, making this a lively as well as informative read. Again, our objective here is to make sure that no one, particularly no one in the developing world, wastes any more time with approaches that are very clearly inappropriate. We need to keep focus.

Dragging monorail projects and propositions into the cold light of day

Dear World Streets reader,

Let me share my point of view coming from a developing city (Sao Paulo/Brazil) which saw some projects like the Mumbai Monorail trying to break ground here, and now is much happier to see that they won’t happen that easily…

For the carbon footprint discussion: if we add the total construction cost, which, by the way, should be at least 3 times what the Malaysian company Scomi is saying it would cost, plus operational subsidies, life cost analyze of the concrete, trains and energy consumption, which in India should be pretty bad (energy comes majority from coal, isn’t it?), after all of that, their CO2 reductions would probably not look that good at all. Even if they could construct it very cheap (which they can’t), private car use will only increase! We are in the developing world with huge population increase, economic growth and incomes going up (for some). Come on?

But the most important thing in my opinion is that the Mumbai project will most likely never happen at all! If you have patience to read on, I’ll try to show you how their numbers for the Mumbai monorail are unreal, and, as I explain briefly Scomi background (as well as JICA s monorail proposal) in Brazil, I’ll try to show my point of view that this monorail will never be completed, as soon as the costs become clear and couple of kilometers and win whatever election India might have this year, but after that, no way they will finish it Why?

Well. First of all, Scomi and JICA both use pretty rough numbers to make politicians believe that their monorail are good for them. But when the final costs turn out to be more than double, triple, and, even worst, when the City finally realizes the amount of operational subsidies it would have to pay, they will just give up on the project. (And I can only hope for us taxpayers that this will happen sooner and not later.)

It happened in almost all their projects here in Brazil. Scomi made many presentations in different cities in Brazil to foster monorails for the World Cup, using the magical number (17 or 37 mi/km which was the cost of the Kuala Lumpur monorail in 1997) sometimes in REAIS, sometimes in US Dollars. But the reality is that after one year of studies, most of their projects were abandoned as the prices have just skyrocketed.

Lula (Brazilian President) has just announced that BRTs are going to be built in 9 of the 12 World Cup cities, so most of Scomi’s investment to send people to Japan, Malaysia and India, to pay for campaigns and projects, will be lost The only two projects still alive at this point are: one in Manaus/Amazon Jungle (by Scomi) which should be soon abandoned, believe me. And one extra monorail for Sao Paulo (by Jica), which I’ll talk about later, as I’m positive that it won’t happen either, although there are many other issues involved, which are not technical at all.

Monorails to connect airport or leisure parks are different in my opinion. For these you don’t need high capacity and you can charge them 5, 10 dollars per way… But for urban transportation… come on?

Background Information: These Malaysian companies have a very controversial background in fostering and working with monorails around the World, if we look at real numbers and deliverables.

Well, let’s start with the Kuala Lumpur project, after JICA decide they wouldn’t finance the monorail project with Hitachi, so some Malaysian companies were born there to do that project. Kuala Lumpur (one of only three monorails that actually got built in the last decades) went bankrupt and the State had to pay for their debt. If you want to learn more on that, please take a look

After that, they got some contracts with cities for the World Cup in South Africa, but these projects never went through, after the real costs and operational difficulties became clearer. Instead South Africa opted for BRTs and Rea Vaya is there to prove how BRT can deliver a much better economical solution for our developing world cities.

Now we come Brazil, oh yeah my beautiful and lovely Brazil We had JICA here! The Japanese cooperation agency came to Sao Paulo to help Hitachi exports some monorails. Sao Paulo is the paradise for large construction projects: we have BRTs, highways, bridges, subways, everything under construction. It’s an election year in Brazil, therefore, many projects are only launched and paid for the engineering stage, although we all known they won’t ever get built (because there is no budget available for the construction). Anyway, because SP has been achieving 15% increase in its budget per year these last years, they thought money wouldn’t be a problem.

Therefore, the Japanese found a good opportunity to foster their beautiful monorail here. Nobody wanted it here, they were all talking about BRTs and light rail to replace the subway projects, as their construction costs went really high this last decade for underground subways, but the Japanese gave us monorail project for “free”, sent everybody travelling to Japan, Scomi came in too, help them consider the monorail again… you known well, therefore, the Japanese guys start studying it and it would cost “only” US$ 37mi/km.

But then it became US$ 70mi/km, and now they are saying US$ 100 mi/km or US$ 120 mi/km, which would be very close to our subway cost, which vary around US$ 170 US$ 250mi/km. But besides the billions for the construction costs, they still need more 3 billion of private money to pay for the monorail! Come on… Just impossible They estimate 100% transfer mode from the buses to the monorail, and, in 2012, it would increase 50% the ridership!!! Come on?

AFD (France Cooperation Agency) also gave a free project to foster Light rail in Brasilia, but as the Mayor was caught in corruption receiving money (he was filmed and it was all over television) the project is now tied up in the courts and it will likely not happen. It’s illegal to have the same company doing (fostering) the basic project, and also doing the construction — so Alston (French) couldn’t have won the tender as they did. Now the federal justice has stopped their project and the same thing will happened in SP. There was no basic project to do a monorail in the extension of a BRT under construction.

I don’t think they are ever going to construct it in Sao Paulo anyway, believe me It was going to cost 1.5 billion for everything, now, it would cost 2 billion for the construction plus 3 billion in private financing to buy the monorail and how would the Japanese banks find someone to take that loan? There are no crazy guys enough to invest in this monorail… Oh no!! The only large scale PPP ever done in Brazil was less than 500 million… Now 3 billion? Impossible…

The reality is that they will only open the tender, pay 50 million for the company to do the basic engineering studies at an elections year, then after the costs have been elevated they would just forget about it You known, campaign, projects financing campaign, forget the projects! Normal politics for Brazil, and after that, they will continue to construct BRT, as they have normally done. SP has already 130 kms of open BRTs , with a lot of challenges to be done, but, since the basic network creation and integration done in 2004, it went from 5 million trips (2004) to 10 million trips/per day (2009) and many more BRTs still on planning… It s just a political/ election games… It looks good for the mayor to say they will do monorails all over the City… (Ah, and the Mayo’ s brother is the Director of the Metro, so the metro would construct the monorail and help the City finance it )

What about the other monorails touted or done around the World? Did they work?

The most recent elevated monorail done was the JICA/Hitachi proposal in Dubai. As Dubai didn’t have any financial problems, JICA was doing well to deliver., said the elevated metro would cost US$ 3.38 billion (AED 13 bi) and then it became US$ 7.6 billion (AED 28 bi). The monorail inside the Palm Jumeirah, 5.4 kms, was tender by US$ 381 million, became US$ 550 mi, but really cost US$ 1,1 billion.

Source (1): – Our city, our Metro – 19 September 2009
Source (2): – Quiet please for region s first monorail – 07 April 2007
Source (3): Klalleej Times online – Nice and Easy, but Fares Not So Fair – 7 May 2009.

Now, Dubai is having a hard time to pay the operational subsides and pay back the loan to the Japanese banks, therefore it won t be easy to find financing for a large scale monorail for Mumbai Google: Mitsubishi Construction, Mitzuo Bank, Hitachi and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Dubai World, monorail and you will see what I m talking about A good part of the Dubai default is related to the monorail/ elevated metro projects…

Seattle had the same monorail proposal. Their Green Line monorail went from 1.3 billion to 2 billion, plus more 7 billion in financing, therefore, US$ 9 billion of total cost, therefore, of course, it was cancelled by a public referendum with 65%…

I visited Seattle in January to see their small monorail done in 1962 for the World fair earlier in January 2010 because Scomi and Jica said it was a very successful example, so I went there and it was broken due to mechanical repairs, looking like a poor joke, but, it’s not funny.

Seattle has a tunnel downtown used exclusively to public transportation Their most important road downtown, the 3rd, is closed for cars on peak hours, and ALL buses are free downtown in the peak hours This was the result of the monorail project there

Bus improvements!!! Awesome! And BRTS are all over the West coast Las Vegas monorail was the same (more than US$ 100 mi/km then they abandoned the rest of the project). None of the other projects which JICA, HITACHI or SCOMI tried around ever really happened. Not even in Tokyo and Osaka they did finish the first projects as they had planned. So, if in Japan with the technology, capital and elevated roads everywhere, they didn’t do I . . . why would the Mumbai project ever actually happen?

It’s very easy to open a tender, sign a contract, ask the private initiative to come and deliver a huge mobility project, turnkey, but it normally doesn’t happen that easily someone has to pay, there is no free lunch! And in India, if I recall well, the bus fares are so low…. How would they pay for those huge subsidies?

My friends, I really want to continue these discussions, but you are all already tired (and bored) with such a long posting. But I would like to finish my thoughts on that topic and discuss it even further one day If you are interested in this issue, please take a look at a small report I did for the Secretary of Transport and the Mayor of Sao Paulo about the reality of the monorail. Now, I m sending it to the mayor (and the press) in Manaus. Let s see how far the project will go there…

If you can t read Portuguese or Spanish, just take a look at the pictures and data, and you will get the message. I also did some estimates of the amount of subsidies that Manaus and Sao Paulo would have to pay if the monorail was done, and the results are incredible!!! I did a small comparison with what they could do with the R$ 4.5 billion for the monorail in Sao Paulo, if it was a combination of BRT, sidewalks, cycle paths, and the numbers are good.

Could Mumbai pay for the real price of construction and operation? Brazilian cities couldn’t…

Adalberto, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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About the author: (to follow)

3-6 line bio note + pic to follow

Editor’s note: Equal time
For readers looking for a more upbeat vision of monorails, we can suggest the site of The Monorail Society at And Innovative Transportation Technologies at

We welcome comments, above all from those who do not agree with the points of view set out in this series and who are convinced that monorails really do have a legitimate place in our cities, and especially thus in the developing world.

And you if have not yet had the pleasure, let us point you to the short monorail clip which you will find at Tells the story quite nicely.

Do monorail projects deserve fair treatment? Part I Editorial: Building knowledge and consensus via the internet

Let me be very clear as to my motives here just so there is no ambiguity on my position. I would like no less than to drive a sharp stake through the dark heart of this egregiously unsustainable transport concept once and for all, so that we can concentrate our limited resources on approaches that are capable of doing the job and meeting the sustainability challenge head on. Which is exactly not the case with monorails. Let’s have a look. - Eric Britton, Editor Continue reading

World Streets goes to the movies. What’s playing in February 2010?

A new series inaugurated on 1 February, presenting a selection of outstanding videos, to be renewed over the year on a monthly basis. The idea is to invite our readers to check in from time to time to view some very different kinds of presentations and topics, with the objective of stimulating even greater variety in their thinking and problem-solving approaches. And to propose clips and ideas of their own.

You can find the small gadget that makes this work a bit down on the left column to the site. We have tried hard to make it transparent and easy to use. Each month you will find there a set of five selected short videos or extracts from films of TV programs, each running from less than a minute to a bit more than five for the longest. You can use view them either in the small box which appears on the home page, or alternatively click the rightmost control on the bottom control panel which will bring up the video full screen.

The selection for February includes:

1. “Homage to Hans Monderman”, a video lasting barely 80 seconds, made by our old friend and colleague Robert Stussi on the occasion of a visit to the city of Groningen in the Netherlands during the course of a two-day workshop organized by and in honor of our late and much admired colleague Hans Monderman. The person whom you see surging into the foreground was someone who simply showed up to say his piece when he saw the film being made. It turned out that he is an architect and local resident, as you can tell from his remarks, a fervent admirer of what the city is doing.

2. “Contested Streets” is a documentary produced by the New York City advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, exploring the rich diversity of New York City street life before the introduction of automobiles and shows how New York can follow the example of other modern cities that have reclaimed their streets as vibrant public spaces. Central to the story is a comparison of New York to what is experienced in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Interviews and footage shot in these cities showcase how limiting automobile use in recent years has improved air quality, minimized noise pollution and enriched commercial, recreational and community interaction. London’s congestion pricing scheme, Paris’ BRT (bus rapid transit) and Copenhagen’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are all examined in depth. The 57 minute film was premiered in New York City on 27 June 2006 and is presently available for purchase at cost from Transportation Alternatives.

3. Happy Birthday Vélib. A film by the excellent NYC Streetfilms program, this recent classic provides a good background statement showing how the world biggest public bicycle project works. It just may make you want to come to Paris to try it out for yourself. Streetfilms produces videos that show how cities around the world are reclaiming their streets for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders.

4. “Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified six-car Monorail!” A number of us are thinking deeply about the place of monorails in the sustainable transport mix, as you can see in the pages of World Streets and several of our related discussion groups. Here you have in less than two minute a sales pitch that is worth bearing in mind. Reality is not so far behind.

5. “Thirty seconds on sharing” has the advantage of being the shortest clip at 30 seconds, with a few brief worlds the editor of World Streets as he tried to avoid falling off his bike while still telling you a bit about why sharing is a concept that is going to do more for sustainable transport in the years immediately ahead than any other (For more on that check out the new project at

Coming attractions:
Check in to see and hear some of the most effective people and projects that are leading the sustainability movement.

In the meantime you can find more media on the work of the New Mobility Agenda cooperative media program at as well as a potpourri of related films and clips at (This presently ragtag collection to be spruced up and expanded in the month ahead.)

Honk! Quite incredible they would fall for this. (More on anti-social advertising in old mobility)

It is a rare day when anyone gets the matters which concern us all here quite as wrong as our friends from Bosch have it here. (One of a series of particularly egregious advertising abuses on the part of certain old mobility purveyors who just do not seem to be able to resist the temptation.)
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Honk! Will technology save us from ourselves?

When is “an important safety advance” perhaps not that safe after all? Is the answer to accidents between large, powerful and fast-moving motor vehicles and anyone else, pedestrians, cyclists and straying children and small animals included, to load on the technology to save us from ourselves? Or might it be something else, perhaps like slowing the cars on all our streets, is a better way to tackle this particular problem?

We of course vote for the latter, because we know from long experience that there are always drivers who are going to go as fast as the conditions permit. That’s a fact and since this is the case, we have to slow them down through appropriate street architecture. Now let’s read what our World Streets Sentinel, April Streeter, has recently written on this subject.

* Thanks to Ms. Streeter for her permission to reproduce. For the original piece, click to

Volvo Makes A Car That Stops For Pedestrians (and Next, For Bikes)

by April Streeter, Gothenburg, Sweden on 10.26.09

We talk a lot about cycling at TreeHugger, and cyclist safety. But the truth of the matter is we’re all vulnerable pedestrians at one point or another, and speed still kills. But as Copenhagenize reports, Volvo, those Swedish safety experts, have been working on a system that recognizes pedestrians as they walk in front of a car’s front end, and if the car’s speed is under 25 kilometers per hour, automatically puts on full brakes.

Volvo may not be the best at snappy marketing monikers – the safety system is called Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection, and will be included in the next S60 sedan as an optional add-on in the $3,500 “premium package.” The system is far from perfect — it doesn’t work at night, and it doesn’t recognize bicycles — but Volvo says it will continue to improve upon the design.

* Click here to view the Volvo video –

The system is a radar hidden behind the car grill and a video camera mounted by the rear-view mirror. While the radar spots objects at a distance, the camera hones in to identify where the object is say, a lamppost or a little kid. If the system identifies a person and a potential danger, an audible warning is accompanied by a flashing red light, similar to a brake light, designed to prompt a driver to brake. If the driver doesn’t brake, the car brakes automatically.

Because pedestrians are definitely the most vulnerable members of the traffic fabric, Volvo engineers have focused on creating a system (10 years in the making) that could reduce accident rates — 16% of all traffic-related deaths in Sweden are pedestrians, according to the Copenhagenize post, and 11% of all serious injuries in accidents are pedestrians. In fact, those safety-focused Swedes have a national goal that “nobody should be killed or seriously injured on the road transport system.”

“Our aim is that this new technology should help the driver avoid collisions with pedestrians at speeds below 25 km/h. If the car is travelling faster, the aim is to reduce the impact speed as much as possible. In most cases, we can reduce the collision force by about 75 percent. Considering the large number of pedestrian fatalities that occur, if we manage to lower the fatality risk by 20 percent this new function will make a big difference.” Volvo’s Thomas Broberg said at

An even more interesting statistic is this — Swedish research into collisions finds that 93% of accidents that occur happen because the “driver was occupied with something else other than driving.”

Of course, there is the argument that smarter cars will equal dumber drivers. We vote for simply slowing down city traffic – when you are driving more slowly you have time to react to the unexpected, such as the child darting out in front of you. But would slower cars and trucks equal more road rage and more hatred for the human elements on our “complete” streets?

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In this slot at the end of contributed articles, we generally try to place a few sober words that will permit our readers to know a bit about the author. But this time the temptation is too great, so now you have a short bio note in April’s own words.

“April is a former bilingual cocktail waitress who left the warm beaches of Hawaii to pursue an upstanding career as reporter on the new and exciting digital world for MacWEEK magazine in San Francisco. When she finally couldn’t stand the thought of writing about one more wireless local area network router, she recast herself as an environmental and sustainability journalist for Tomorrow magazine in Stockholm, Sweden. A few years later, she escaped the Scandinavian chill to become editor of Sustainable Industries magazine in Portland, Oregon. But eventually, the lure of endless months of darkness and sleety rain beckoned her back to Gothenburg, Sweden where she today is a freelance writer and Hatha yoga teacher forever on the lookout for a good/local/organic/sustainable/fair trade Swedish burrito.”

Honk! Can Segway do the trick?

We wish engineers, inventors and anyone else who chooses to get involved, all the good luck in the world when it comes to trying to bring on line new and more emissions/energy effective vehicles and power sources.

Indeed, we are convinced that the shift from old to new mobility will in large part be mediated by technology. However we have to be a bit careful with this because at the same time it is important to bear in mind the time window which we believe is the proper focus of policy and practice, and of course of technology – i.e., the two to four years directly ahead.

This is significant and in many discussions of various ways of achieving more sustainable transportation arrangements, we often hear much about the advantages of new vehicle, motive, and fuel technologies, as if they were going to be able to do the job that needs to be done. This of course is impossible, unfortunately, when we bear in mind the realities of the penetration path of these technologies, which are measured in many years and indeed decades by a time they begin to have a significant global impact on greenhouse gas reductions, energy savings, etc..

It is tempting of course for us to look at proposals for this particular class of technologies, all the more so since they often are well supported by institutions and interests behind them. You do not have to look very far to find many such proposals, often wrapped up in very appealing packages and arguments. But we really need to think hard and keep them in perspective.

Here is one example that has been brought to our attention today by our “eyes on the street” colleague in Ottawa, Chris Bradshaw, in which he makes the point: ”It seems Segway’s announcement today,, is right up your alley.”

Well, if we check out that reference here is what the Segway people have to say about their product:

“Think of it as a digital solution to an analog problem. Segway’s P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) prototype represents the shift that’s needed for the future of transportation. It values less over more; taking up less space, using less energy, produced more efficiently with fewer parts, creating fewer emissions during production and operation, all while offering more enjoyment, productivity, and connectivity”

Hmm. I invite you to have a look at the Segway product and proposal as outlined here, and to share with us your reflections and reactions to it, perhaps both in general but more specifically within the time and strategic framework that World Streets is working with. Personally I do not see it.

True enough, if Segway and other innovators with similar softer technology packages are able to bring to market vehicles which people will buy and use instead of less efficient and more wasteful technologies, this would be useful at that specific micro level. But from the global and time perspective that we are destined to work with, it just doesn’t add up. Sorry.

To end a more positive note, I would with your permission like to cite the statement made under the heading “Full speed ahead with new technology” in the welcoming note posted here.

“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 leagues boots of new mobility.”

Thus it is our view that technology is no less than enormously important in the party moved to sustainability, but the way in which is going to make its difference will be when it is brought in to provide the information and communications infrastructure needed to render our new mobility systems effective and competitive. We will never get there without them

Your comments are as always very welcome on this.

Eric Britton

Editor, World Streets