Category Archives: investments

Budget of 2011 in India: What could they be thinking?

While one face of the government sulks and spoils, the other dares to act. The budget making exercise this year in India is an evidence of this. There is progressive grassroots decision to discourage polluting diesel cars and encourage public transport and bicycles in India’s capital city of Delhi, which is in sharp contrast to the reactionary non-visionary action at the national level. Anumita Roychowdhury reports from Delhi. Continue reading

Autolib’ – Paris bets big on new carshare technology

A sustainable transport system is a system of choices – quite the opposite in many ways of the old all-car no-choice model that all too often spends most of its time in taking up scarce space but not moving. With this very much in view, the City of Paris has just stepped up to the plate and is now in the process of bringing into service what they propose will be a new link in the chain of sustainable transport options: a carsharing system not quite like any other. No less than three thousand cars to come on line in shared service in just nine months – and electric cars at that – working out of 1000 to 1200 stations spotted over not only the central city but a number of surrounding communities as well. The biggest and most daring carshare bet of all time. Continue reading

Honk! One really does try to be balanced . . .

. . . and not allow oneself to get caught in every political elephant trap and querulous carping of those not in office. But there are times when it is necessary to shine the spotlight on a really mean-spirited, disingenuous idea or statement about the important matters which bring us all here. This is one of those cases. We introduce you to a very short video in which Britain’s new transport secretary talks very clearly about his investment priorities and intended policies. Very disturbing to World Streets.

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Transport, Mobility and/or Access – Technologies, Management and/or Behavior?

Part I: Getting it wrong from the start.
One of the great, long-proven truths of policy and practice in the transport field is the we all to often start out by jumping right into the middle of the problem set – instead of taking the time to sit back and figure out what really is going on. This genuinely disturbing tendency to premature postulation more often than not leads us to weak answers to important problems. Worse yet, this brain-light process all too often brings us to do just about the opposite of what the full problem set actually calls for. Continue reading

Car Crazy: The Perils of Asia’s Hyper-Motorization

We need to be quite frank about this. World Streets is not, even if it may at times appear to be the case, an anti-car journal. To the contrary! There are many reasons for this, one of them being the sheer good sense of  understanding that it’s going to be kind of hard to get rid of something like one billion of them with a simple swing of righteous rhetoric. And not to forget that cars really do play a powerful and useful role under many circumstances in the daily lives of many honest hard-working people.   But the other side of this good sense coin is awareness that our very high and even cascading level of car dependence and profligate use are major challenges to quality of life, health and sound economics that need to be faced squarely and soon. Let’s see what our long time colleague “Mr. Meter”, Lee Schipper of the Global Metropolitan Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, has to say on the subject of car-madness in Asia.
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Bottom line: Roads are for vehicles. Streets are for people. (No matter where you are in the world.)

Your editor was on automatic pilot this early morning, reading with half an eye the International Herald Tribune/New York Times as is his habit, and behold there in the Letters to the Editor column were a series of words which at first glance he thought he had written himself. (More coffee clearly needed.) Wrong, it was Lee Schipper commenting on an earlier Times piece on “Building Cambodia’s roads”. I quote:

Building Cambodia’s roads

Regarding the article “Cambodia’s routes to riches” (Jan. 19): While rural roads connecting major population centers are important for development, Cambodians rely mostly on bicycles, small motorbikes and their feet for transportation. This majority of travelers is usually the first sacrificed for cars and trucks. New roads tend to cut through smaller villages and lead to the deaths of pedestrians and cyclists, who are rarely considered by the road-building authorities.

Striking a balance between development, auto-mobility for the minority of Cambodians with cars, and the livelihoods of the majority, ought to be more important than opening tourist centers. Is this the only way for Cambodia to develop?

Lee Schipper, Ph.D. – schipper@wri.org
Project Scientist, Global Metropolitan Studies, UC Berkeley
Senior Research Engineer, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, Stanford Univ.

# # #

Most of us who have managed to make our way to the right side of these issues have for some time made the vital distinction between roads and streets, for which the Executive Summary is: (a) roads are for vehicles and (b) streets are for people. And once you have figured that out, all kinds of good things can follow. (And you can find quite a bit more on this here by clicking http://tinyurl.com/ws-street

Thanks Lee for reminding us once again — and as we gear up to make our collective voice heard in Haiti this is one of the key points we need to make, make early, and make in a way that our voices get heard.

Eric Britton
Editor

It’s time you too rolled up your sleeves and got involved.

World Streets, it says right at the top of the page, is a collaborative, sharing effort. After a first year of proving its worth edition after edition, five days a week, bringing hundreds of carefully selected news items, expert views, questions, comments, inspirations, and leads to the desks of more than one hundred thousand visitors from more than seventy countries on all continents (that was our “business plan”) , World Streets is now reaching out to get active sponsorship and support for 2010. We need your help to continue. So it’s time for you to dig in and lend a hand. (And this is not only about money – keep reading.)
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We can rebuild our roads, but we need to broaden our focus, and (re)build a better transportation system

A recent issue of Parade Magazine, a Sunday newspaper magazine supplement widely distributed in the United States, has a cover story, “How We Can Save Our Roads: America’s highway infrastructure needs money, manpower — and a new vision,” on the highway system.

My first reaction was, “it’s not the roads we need to focus on, but the entire mobility system.” However, there is an interesting point in the article that needs to be extended.

From the article:

Money isn’t all that’s needed, experts say. A solution also will require new ideas about how we design, build, finance, and maintain our transportation backbone.

Build Good—Not Perfect—Roads

Just six years ago, only 44% of Missouri’s highways were rated in good condition. Money was too tight to do much about it. The state’s transportation boss, Pete K. Rahn, decided something had to change.

The problem, he believed, was that highway engineers invariably tried to build the best roads possible. But what if Missourians didn’t always need the best roads possible? What if they were willing to settle for good enough? His answer was a new road-building doctrine he called “Practical Design.”

Today, when Missouri engineers design highways, they aim “not to build perfect projects, but to build good projects that give you a good system,” says Rahn. Practical Design says to “start at the bottom of the standards and go up to meet the need. When you meet the need, you stop.”

On some projects, the new approach achieves identical standards with the old. On others, the differences often are invisible to motorists. A highway through mountains, for example, might have a thinner bed of concrete where it rests on bedrock.

The idea of “practical design” has the ability to be “reverse engineered” and applied more broadly than it is currently being applied in Missouri and the other states that have adopted the appraoch.

For example, “practical design” of neighborhood roads in a cemter city (urban) residential area should mean that the roads don’t get built to the level that accommodates speeds of 50 to 75 mph. After all, the posted speed limits in most situations on city residential streets are 25 mph, plus these are mixed use areas with plenty of walkers, bicyclists, and non-through road traffic (buses, delivery vehicles, etc.).
People walk in the rain in central London's financial center.
People walk in the rain in an area paved with Belgian Block, in central London’s financial center. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) (September 30, 2008)

For example, the over engineered alley between 7th and 8th Streets SE, next to the Hine Junior High School playground (now occupied by the temporary market building for the Eastern Market public food market) in Washington, DC appears to be designed to freeway standards.
C Street Alley SE adjacent to Eastern Market east hall
Similarly, highways in cities perhaps should be engineered as parkways and boulevards, rather than the traditional high-speed routes that typify the U.S. Interstate Highway system.

This is the flip side of a point that many people make about using Belgian Block and other similar types of what you might call “slowth” materials for roads, rather than making all roads capable of enabling the highest possible speeds for cars, and cars are already engineered to go very fast anyway.
The Boulevard Book
The Boulevard Book offers ideas for rethinking higher-capacity streets in the urban setting.

Plus, the Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration is serious about high-speed rail. Sure we’re late to the party (Spain, France, China, Japan have showed how it is done or can be done for a long time). But now something is happening. See “High-Speed Rail Signals a Shift.”