SUPPORTING SOCIAL MEDIA
2013 Program Themes- - - - - > START HERE < - - - - - 1. World Streets in 2013 2. The Beautiful City 3. The Equity Agenda 4. Women, gender parity and why 5. The Art/Science of Slowth 6. Open Systems/Zetabytes 7. The Sharing Agenda 8. Free Public Transport 9. Signals, Perception, Behaviour 10. Economic Instruments 11. Future of the car in the city 12. Good morning, Madame Mayor 13. New Mobility Media 14. 2013 NO (MORE) EXCUSES
And just behind these
FACEBOOK GROUPS- - - > HOW THEY WORK - - - > WorldStreetsOnline - - - > New Mobility Consult - - - > Equity/Transport program - - - > World Transport Journal - - - > World Transport Archives - - - > World Carshare/ xCars - - - > World City Bike Forum - - - > Car Free Cafe - - - > Safe Streets Challenge - - - > Gender/Equity/Transport - - - > Value Capture/LVT - - - > New Mobility Kids Network - - - > Accès Universel - - - > Nuova Moblita (Italy) - - - > Streets of India - - - > Nova Mobilidade - - - > Streets of Iran - - - > Calles de Guadalajara - - - > Thinking about Africa - - - > Thinking about China - - - > Thinking about Russia - - - > What is Europe - - - > Worst Practices Department
New Mobility programs
New Mobility Fora
Let’s go to the movies
World Streets Sentinels
- Why the Dutch cycle (It’s not an accident) 10/12/2013
- Bicycling to Solve Traffic Congestion in Penang 07/12/2013
- Penang report excerpts: Pedestrian Overpasses 28/11/2013
- Rethinking Transport and Public Space in Penang 27/11/2013
- Dead End in Brazil: Interview with Bolivar Torres, O Globo Brazil. 26/11/2013
- Carsharing in Hungary – Starting from scratch 25/11/2013
- Sustainable Penang: Final Phase 1 Report 21/11/2013
- Come out and claim the road – by Sunita Narain 20/11/2013
- The Sustainable Transport Conundrum (3) 12/11/2013
- The Sustainable Transport Conundrum (2) 11/11/2013
- An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
Category Archives: local government
- Ian Perry, Independent consultant and consultant. Cardiff, Wales
The importance of citizen participation in decision-making was highlighted yesterday evening at a public meeting in Penarth, South Wales, attended by 147 frustrated citizens who showed their willingness to participate in their communities decision-making. An attempt to force the Vale of Glamorgan (county) council (Vale council) to hold a referendum on proposals for the National Cycle Network (NCN) failed by just 17 votes. 133 votes against 5 were for a referendum on the matter, with 150 votes needed under current legislation.
This collaborative project takes the form of an “open conversation” looking into the pros and cons, the possibilities, barriers and perhaps eventual impossibilities, of creating an equity-based transportation system at the level of a city and its surrounding region. This first pioneering project, in what we hope will become a series of leading world city projects building on this first example, is being carried out under the leadership of the Helsinki Department of City Planning and Transportation, and is taking place over the period mid-February through mid-April 2912. (You will find further working papers and supporting media sources in the second half of this introduction.)
It appears that the folks at the Lucknow Municipal Corporation have a curious notion of the meaning and purpose of public participation. When their funding proposals under the centrally sponsored scheme for urban development (JNNURM) were rejected due to the lack of public participation, they came up with the brilliant idea of a “city volunteer technical corps” that would participate in the planning process. Members will be chosen by the city corporation based on “expertise” in planning and related areas. The newspaper also reports that a prior attempt to constitute such a consultative body was aborted when “undesirable” persons who were not “experts” entered the consultative group. The corporation promises only to include “desirable” persons this time round. Read More
The pie chart you will find just below graphically illustrates the state of street space allocation today in New York City, after four years of hard work on a committed local effort by city government and many associations to free street space for pedestrians, bikes and buses. All that for less than one half of one percent of the public space given over to cars. So here is our question this morning: Do things look any better in your city in 2011? We invite your reports and comments. Continue reading
What’s happening on the new mobility scene in France in 2011? Here you have, in French but with good subtitles, an interview by one of the outstanding political innovators in the field of sustainable transport policy and practice in France. Roland Ries is serving his second term as mayor of Strasburg, and at the same time heads up the national transport political group GART. He also, by the way, as a member of the French Senate drafted the law defining carsharing in France, thus opening up a part of the way to more and better carsharing nation-wide. Spend three minutes with this short video to get a feel for what the leading edge in France is thinking and doing about transport in cities. You will quickly see that this is a world-level message. Play it for your mayor and talk to her about it.
A consistent central theme of World Streets is that without the full-throated participation of an active citizenry, sustainable transport and sustainable cities will remain a distant and unattainable dream. In this article David Engwicht gives us his view on why the usual bottled consultation techniques that often do little to achieve better and safer streets do not make the grade. Then he goes on to share his thoughts as to how we can do better. Continue reading
Each year our friends over at Streetsblog in New York City publish a heart-rending testimonial to the mayhem that automobiles have wrought over the year on their city’s streets and the cost in terms of lives lost by innocent pedestrians and cyclists. Putting names, faces and human tragedy to what otherwise takes the form of dry numbers, faceless hence quickly forgettable statistics is an important task. We can only encourage responsible citizens and activists in every city on the planet to do the same thing, holding those public officials (and let’s not forget, we call them “public servants” and for excellent reason) responsible for what goes on under their direct control. Continue reading
About two weeks ago I sent out a red flag to a short list of my most respected British transport/environment colleagues with a cry for help in preparation for a keynote speech I had been asked to deliver to a conference scheduled to take place this Thursday, 2 December, in Liverpool, and where the speaker just before me is a respected ministerial representative of the latest British government. I confessed to my distinguished British friends that I was at best half-educated in terms of the current policy and practice debate in Britain and needed a fast tutorial before exposing myself to a critical audience. They responded fast, generously and most usefully as you will soon see here in a follow-up piece to the conference; but one of the responses opened up his perceptive comments with an amusing analogy which I thought you might enjoy this morning. Continue reading
If you get it, New Mobility is a no-brainer. However, while newmob is a great starting place, it is not going to get the job somehow miraculously done just because it is the only game in town when it comes to sustainable transport. We have a few potential sticking points here that need to be overcome first. Let’s have a quick look.
After some years of talking with cities, and working and observing in many different circumstances, here are some of the barriers are most frequently encountered in trying to get innovative transportation reform programs off the ground, including even in cities that really do need a major mobility overhaul. Continue reading
One of the amazing/complicating things about the world of mobility in cities is that it is one of those slices of daily life where everything touches something else and then something else again. Which means that nothing ever obliges us by standing still long enough so that we can fix it fast, once and for ever. It’s all about process.
So here is a report from today’s New York Times on a pretty exciting waterfront project here in Paris for which World Streets’ editor was interviewed this week and about which, when you get right down to it, is pure New Mobility Agenda. As you can see he managed to patch in some of our common concerns here (see closing section below), along with some words on the importance of value capture and tax reform, followed up by a good closer from Todd Litman in Vancouver. You will recognize and I hope appreciate it.
Sustainable mobility: Step by step. Step by consistent persistent step.
Whatever it might be there seems to a lot of it apparently going on in various places around Europe — or at least that is what this map seems to suggest. But what exactly is it? Where do you go to find more? Stay tuned. We will be looking at this in the days ahead together with the team that is drawing this map.
Well here it is a bit larger so that at least you can start to read the legends. (And if you click the map you get an even larger, clearer image.)
What if we take a look at the above and contrast it with the map we get showing the locations of the last 80 origins of people who visited World Streets this afternoon. Do we see a pattern, no matter how rough? Hmm.
Let’s leave it at that for today since the team behind the project is not quite ready to maek their formal anouncement with the full story and the ready to use toolset. But soon. We’ll stay right on it.
In the meantime conjectures, and even information, are welcome.
We started World Series last year not because we felt that we were going to tell you everything you need to know about sustainable transportation, but rather to offer you a lively independent platform with worldwide coverage in which all of those of us were concerned with these issues can exchange ideas and commentaries freely. Here is a good example of a shared learning process that does not have to stop with the two cities directly involved in this report. Continue reading
New York City is changing, and safe and abundant cycling is part of the new face of the city. It’s one thing to hear about it from those in the middle of the often painful process, but it can be bracing to ask an expert from outside to have a look and report what they see.
Gordon Price, keen observer of cities, politician, cyclist and World Streets Sentinel travels to NYC for us and reports what he sees. Signs of hope. Lessons for your city? In his words, this latest report of the Price Tags series on transforming world cities (www.pricetags.wordpress.com):
This is a celebration of active transportation in NYC – how New York is leading the way to the post-Motordom city. With an interesting comparison to Portland and Vancouver.
Visit New York City with Gordon and his camera, and check out the state of play as things stand as of summer 2009. Cycling NYC 2 presents 34 pages of photographs and commentary on what works, and what is causing friction as the cycling agenda gets pushed ahead by a strong team with high, consistent commitment from the highest levels of local government, with vigorous support from transport and environment groups, the non-profit sector, academics and specialized consultants, citizens and increasingly the media. (This last being a huge change in the local landscape and certainly one that you should be working on in your city. It pays off!).
If they can do it there, we can do it anywhere, might be a line to remember.
More on Gordon Price and his work:
Gordon is Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. A former six-time City Councilor in Vancouver, he has written extensively on Vancouver and transportation issues (The Deceptive City, Local Politician’s Guide to Urban Transportation. He also publishes an electronic magazine on urban issues, called “Price Tags” (www.pricetags.ca). In 2009, he was appointed by the Mayor of Vancouver as a member of the “Greenest City Action Team.”
Too often when it comes to new transport initiatives, the practice is to concentrate on laying the base for the project in close working relationships with people and groups who a priori are favorably disposed to your idea, basically your choir. Leaving the potential “trouble makers” aside for another day. Experience shows that’s a big mistake.
A Big House/Open Door Approach
Concerned local/regional government agencies, transporters, business groups, local employers and others should be brought early on into discussions, planning, implementation, and follow-up. It is vital to bring to the table as wide a range of groups and interests as possible, from the city and in the surrounding region in each case, including those whose views may be negative about any of the kinds of major shift in today’s transportation arrangements. Nobody likes change out of the blue, especially those “imposed” on us by people who are indifferent to our problems and priorities It is natural to block these unwelcome proposals.
The key to success is to take a big house/open doors approach. Make sure that you bring in all those groups, interests, people who are going to be impacted, positively or possibly negatively. Better to have them inside the tent and from the beginning.
One of the richest and most exciting phases of the preparatory projects from the outset is that of taking contact with all these groups in order to discover what they are already doing to advance the sustainability agenda in your city. And what they are ready and able to do if they get the right kind of support.
Below you have our generic checklist of possible local collaborators, partners, and interested parties. As you look through it from the perspectives of your own community, you will see that there are gaps here. But this at least can get you started.
Local/regional government agencies
1. City hall(s)
2. Communications, public information specialists
3. Community development programs
4. Energy, conservation
5. Environmental services (including monitoring stations and services)
6. Fire department
7. Fiscal and economic policies
8. Mayors (personal commitment)
10. Other towns and municipalities in region
11. Parking policy and administrating
12. Police and traffic authorities (local and regional)
13. Public health
14. Public space management
15. Related incentive programs
16. School system
17. Social services
18. Special event management
19. Street vendors, kiosks, etc.
20. Taxes and charges
21. Transport and traffic planners
22. Urban development/master planners
23. Other concerned agencies, services?
Mobility purveyors, representatives
1. Ambulance and hospital transport
2. Carshare operators
3. Carpool/ride-share operations
4. Church, etc. buses, ridesharing
5. Cycling groups
6. Emergency transporters and services
7. Fleet managers
8. “Ghost” or black/illegal taxis and carriers
9. Goods/Freight delivery
11. Message/courier services
12. Package delivery
13. Paratransit providers
14. Parking providers (public and private)
15. Pedestrian associations and action groups
16. Postal buses (mainly in rural areas)
17. Public transit operators (rail and road)
18. Rental cars, vehicles
19. Rideshare and hitch-hiking services
20. School and other special buses
21. Taxis, limo and chauffeur services
22. Transport services for elderly, handicapped
23. Transport shelters
24. Walk/Bike to School groups
Movement substitutes, Demand Management
1. Activity clustering
2. Carfree housing
3. E-meeting technologies (videoconferencing, voice conferencing, other)
4. Land use planning
5. Teleshopping (and delivery)
6. Telework, telecommuting programs
7. Travel diaries, logs
8. Trip chaining
9. xWork (new ways of organizing distance work)
Other key and potential actors, Supporters, Opponents
1. Board of Trade and other industry groups (including infrastructure)
2. Automobile associations and related industry groups (get them on board early)
3. Chambers of commerce, Business groupings, Downtown associations
4. City boosters
5. Colleges and universities
6. Clubs, churches, synagogues, mosques
7. Consultants, university/research groups working in these areas
8. Developers, real estate agencies,
10. Financial community, banks, insurance companies
11. Foundations, individuals and others able to provide financial support or backing
13. Green Maps (Toronto has a fine one)
14. Groups or people interested or involved in earlier Car Free Days or similar car free projects or demos in region
15. Hospitals and health agencies (including public health)
16. Including eventual sponsors and sources of active participation and support
17. International, national, regional environment, mobility, etc. agencies and associations
18. Local and regional media (old and new)
19. Local merchants, chambers of commerce, downtown associations
20. Media: traditional and new
21. NGOs, Public interest groups, associations
- Environmental, ecological, public health, clean air groups
- Non-motorized transport: Pedestrian, cycling, skating, running groups
- Associations concerned with elderly, handicapped and poor
22. Out of town commercial centers
23. Polling organizations
24. Red Cross, emergency services and public information programs
25. Schools and educational institutions
26. Specialized consultancies, working in these areas
27. Street performers, musicians
28. Transport user groups
29. Urban development, public spaces,
30. Women’s groups
31. Youth, sports and recreation groups
# # #
Comments and suggestions for improvement of this rough listing are more than welcome.
If you think that transport policy and investment decisions are best taken in smoke-filled rooms peopled exclusively by your transportation experts, perhaps accompanied by some of your principal suppliers, then the New Mobility Agenda approach to outreach and broad public consultation and direct involvement is probably not for you.
Mayors, city councils and local government have a lot more their plate than the transportation-related issues of their community. And there are just 24 hours a day. However to the extent in which local leaders are ready to reach out into the community deeply and often, they are going to find that there are resources and skills out there which need to be drawn on. 21st-century governance is based on the continuous reaching out for the skills and inputs of active citizens. Getting this right requires both considerable thought and careful use of state-of-the-art communication systems.
We have long maintained that mayors and local politicians who get this right will probably be able to stay in office as long as they choose to.
Three quarters of the way through World Carshare month, a quick resume of action and accomplishments thus far, along with a small shopping list for our active collaborators of work to be completed in the weeks ahead, hopefully.
Quite a reasonable flow of materials and comments have come in as a result of this first attempt on our part to see what happens if we provide a specific topic focus for one month of attention and collaborative inputs under World Streets. If you click here or under the corresponding item on the toolbar just to the left, you will be able to call up all of the articles and commentaries received under this topic heading to date.
Interesting reading if you wish to know more about this great way to get around, and as you certainly know there is always ample space for your comments and questions. This being one of the potential advantages of this kind of wide open collaborative knowledge-building operation.
We would draw your attention to the following map which records the location of visitors coming into the world carshare program site over the last 24 hours, and which gives a very good idea of the physical geography of carsharing. The overall pattern you can see here is pretty much consistent with what normally comes in through our World Carshare site. The continuing heavy concentration in Europe and North America, with the ANZ countries jogging just behind. The developing East Asian axis, the occasional ding from Saudi and the Emirates, but for the most part the Middle East, Africa and even Latin America dead as doornails. We present this latest map here as food for thought.
We are staying right at the heels of the 462 registered members of World Carshare, and intend to encourage and push as best we can in order to bring over to our World Streets readers more information, in the form of:
* Country profiles
* World Carshare supplier inventory update
* Commentaries on critical issues for Carsharing
Two points to close out this brief note:
First, as with bike sharing projects as well, it is our long held and continuously reinforced position as students of carsharing operations around the world that the key inhibiting factor to more and better services continues to be in the insufficient understanding of city administrations and local government concerning the benefits of these two great ways of reducing traffic and its associated environmental and other damages. There is very definitely a real international brief to do something about this.
Second, we can be absolutely sure that the carsharing postings and inputs here will continue well past the end of this month,; however once we have a more complete view of this month’s accomplishments, we will be reporting on that as well.
Carsharing: A new mobility transport mode that every city and community on the planet should be looking at for near term implementation. Carsharing is ready to go. What about your city? What about you?
Who are going to be the main actors leading the transition to sustainable transportation in and around our cities?
This is not entirely self-evident since there are a fair range of what would seem to be possible candidates. However in order to sort this out, it will be important that we first have a realistic understanding of what has been going on up to now. And to say the least, the news is not good.
When it comes to “sustainable transportation” there is out there a rich world of rhetoric, claims, advertisements, notices, media pieces, announcements of projects and events, that taken together can give one the impression that something important, something even transformative is going on. But when you get down to the harsh reality of what is going on at the level of the street, a very different picture emerges.
The sad fact is that after twenty years of talk, and, it has to be said, a rising crescendo of messages and even actions, the sad news is that every day in just about every city on this planet, traffic is getting worse, the amount of scarce resources consumed continues to escalate, the injustices extended, the basic economics ever less viable, and the environmental cost steadily mounting and edging toward climate meltdown. We are failing to meet the challenge. It would be exceptionally weak-headed of us to be optimistic under these circumstances.
We all know that something must be done and that it should be done without further delay. However it is far less clear who is going to do what under these circumstances. The fact is that despite all of the conferences, reports, talk about treaties, and even pioneering projects and accomplishments here and there, there is a continuing leadership vacuum. Who is going to fill it?
The goal of this week’s open dialogue is to ask you for your views on this. Later we can build on your feedback and ideas in older to develop a broader analysis, but what better way to start than to ask the hundreds of knowledgeable people who check into World Streets every day for their own views.
To get us started on this, you will find your left a small reader poll asking for your views on this. In addition, you will find is always that there is space for comments right below here, and we invite your contributions with real interest.
Here are our candidates. If we missed anyone important, please let us know.
* International organizations
* Scientific/academic community
* National governments
* Industry and private sector
* Cities and local government
* Local associations/transport, environment, etc activists/groups
* The media
* Children, schools
* World Streets
* You – as a citizen, parent
The word is now to you.
“Two cheers for the market. Not three.”*
Günter Blobel is one Nobel Prize winner who is not resting on his laurels. Friday’s New York Times published an Op-Ed piece which goes right to the heart of the concerns and priorities of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda – the politics of sustainable transportation and the need for wise governance to provide the dynamic frame that is needed for the energies of democracy to work. We thank Dr. Blobel for agreeing to share his thoughts with World Streets.
Eyes on the street in Dresden:
Save the Dresden Elbe Valley
- By Günter Blobel
Published: June 4, 2009, International Herald Tribune
Published: June 4, 2009, International Herald Tribune
The Dresden Elbe Valley is likely to be deleted from the list of World Cultural Heritage sites at the annual meeting of the World Cultural Heritage Committee of Unesco on June 23.
This is due to the construction of a huge four-lane highway bridge that bisects the Elbe Valley site at its most sensitive position, thereby destroying one of Europe’s last river landscapes.
Ultimately responsible for this impending calamity is Chancellor Angela Merkel herself. As chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union she failed to correct the misguided politics of her party colleagues in Dresden, the capital of the federal state of Saxony. She did not publicly oppose their numerous provocations of Unesco. And with her assertion that this is a “regional” problem, she has ignored Germany’s contractual obligations to Unesco.
-> The full text of this article is available from the NYT on-line by clicking here.
- Günter Blobel, professor at Rockefeller University in New York City, was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He is founder of the nonprofit Friends of Dresden, to whom he presented the lion’s share of his million dollar 1999 Nobel award.
Here is some first background on this important project and clash from Unesco World Heritage Website at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1156
Dresden Elbe Valley
The 18th- and 19th-century cultural landscape of Dresden Elbe Valley extends some 18 km along the river from Übigau Palace and Ostragehege fields in the north-west to the Pillnitz Palace and the Elbe River Island in the south-east. It features low meadows, and is crowned by the Pillnitz Palace and the centre of Dresden with its numerous monuments and parks from the 16th to 20th centuries. The landscape also features 19th- and 20th-century suburban villas and gardens and valuable natural features. Some terraced slopes along the river are still used for viticulture and some old villages have retained their historic structure and elements from the industrial revolution, notably the 147-m Blue Wonder steel bridge (1891–93), the single-rail suspension cable railway (1898–1901), and the funicular (1894–95). The passenger steamships (the oldest from 1879) and shipyard (c. 1900) are still in use.
* For full text of article click here.
And from a Unesco report of 04.07.2008.
Dresden’s status was called into question in 2006 because the Waldschloesschen bridge now under construction was viewed as a threat to the valuable cultural landscape. UNESCO has recommended the bridge be replaced with a tunnel.
Voters approved the bridge construction in 2005, however UNESCO offered a grace period last year so alternatives could be evaluated.
* For full text of article click here.
Editor’s comment: From a New Mobility perspective.
Here we have a perfect microcosm of the kinds of conflicts we face every day and in every corner of this beleaguered planet in the struggle for sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. On the one side, unexamined inertial attitudes reinforced by a broadly shared failure to recognize the imperatives of this very different new century. And on the other hand, a failure of the proponents for preservation to reach deeply enough into the issues and choices to convince.
I would like to think that it is not too late to band together to encourage an immediate halt to construction subsequent to an independent review of the bridge options, of which there are surely a number which can be packaged in such a way as to deal with the concerns of those who need to get from A to B in their city. There are organizations and groups in Germany, and internationally, who can work with the city and key actors on all sides to help sort this out in a way that deal with the concerns of the public while at the same time preserving their magnificent heritage.
It would seem to me that the strong push to the Green parties across Europe in the just-concluded European elections, and in Germany, signal that the time is right for this kind of review and rethink. It is not just a matter of one bridge and one city, but of the future of the planet. No less!
We intend to keep on with this governance dialogue, which to our minds is not getting nearly enough attention. It is of course deeply political, and that is the one area in which progress is most needed. How to get a strong majority of citizens behind the sustainability agenda? Stay tuned.
Here is one more of myriad Bad News examples of public officials getting it very very wrong. In this case Montgomery County council staff has recommended cutting the county’s CarShare program in half. (Montgomery County is in state of Maryland, situated just north of Washington, D.C.)
Will they ever learn? No, not unless we all help them. Which of course is why we are here. (Comments as always warmly welcome.)
Montgomery weighs cuts for climate change programs
By: Washington DC Examiner Staff Writer, 04/30/09 *
Montgomery County officials want to scale back some of the county’s ambitious efforts to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to help bridge a budget gap of more than $550 million.
The county set a goal last year of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and has instituted a number of programs to help meet that goal. But with the county deep in the red, officials now propose to switch from biodiesel fuel to low-sulfur diesel, reduce the number of cars available for a county carpool pilot program and cut funds to buy equipment for telecommuting workers.
Council staff recommended cutting almost $100,000 that County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed to spend on laptops, BlackBerry devices and network hardware so that 25 county employees can telecommute as part of a program designed to cut commutes and the greenhouse gases that come with them.
Senior legislative analyst Keith Levchenko wrote in a memo to the council that he was “skeptical” of the value of spending so much money on the program, because most employees already have a computer and phone at home and might only telecommute a few times a week.
“It is not clear that this is the best investment of dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Levchenko wrote.
County council staff has also recommended cutting the county’s “CarShare” program in half. The pilot program started in January, with the county making 28 cars available for county employees to share at a cost to the county of $1,100 per car a month.
Through April 14 the program was only used seven times, for a total of 27.25 hours, according to county council staff. Reducing the number of cars available for the program from 28 to 14 would save the county $184,000 a year, staff said.
The county’s motor pool said it has stopped using biodiesel fuel in some of its vechicles to save money, and because there have been quality issues with the fuel, which is a mix of diesel and discarded vegetable oil. County officials said the low-sulfur fuel they now use instead is on average 8 cents a gallon cheaper, and the switch will save the county $250,000 next fiscal year.
* * * *
It’s not easy being green
Environmental programs being recommended for cuts:
• Biodiesel fuel: County vehicles would return to low-sulfur diesel.
• Telecommuting: Council staff recommends cutting $100,000 for equipment that would allow 25 employees to telecommute.
• CarShare program: Staff recommends cutting this new program in half.
- – -
* Click here for World Streets Fair Use policy
“Manual for Streets, published March 2007 by the UK Department for Transport, gives new advice for the design of residential streets in England and Wales. It represents a strong Government and Welsh Assembly commitment to the creation of sustainable and inclusive public spaces.”
“The Department’s policy-making process received an award recently, with Traffic Management Division winning a Royal Town Planning Institute prize for its Manual for Streets. The award recognizes that it is radically changing designers’ and local authorities’ approach to residential street design for the better. It emphasizes that streets should be places in which people want to live and spend time in, and are not just transport corridors. In particular, it aims to reduce the impact of vehicles on residential streets by asking practitioners to plan street design intelligently and proactively, and gives a high priority to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport.” – From the Dft project website (below).
The report is available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/manforstreets/
Yes but when you get to the street in Wales here is what you see (Ian Perry reporting from Cardiff). . .
All Local Authorities in Wales have failed to respond to the offer of training or more information on the Manual for Streets according to one of its authors. The document is based on solid research and has won much praise and many awards and yet Local Authorities continue to design streets as they always have…
Only one person out of the 20 people in attendance at a presentation on the Manual for Streets organized by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, held in the council offices of Cardiff Council, worked for a Local Authority (and not Cardiff), with the remainder working in the private sector as engineers or consultants – who reported that private developers were interested in applying the findings of the research into Manual for Streets, but wary of Local Authorities refusing to adopt streets.
It would seem that the public sector in Wales is not interested in embracing different practices.
Thanks to the watchful Eyes on the Street and World Streets Correspondent, Ian Perry, Cardiff, Wales, UK
Editor’s note: We strongly invite commentary and if available further information on lessons to be learned from this experience.
This quite long article is we believe worth a close read, because it provides us with one more example of the professional and leadership skills that are needed to lead the transition from old, in the case of New York from the very old to the New Mobility Agenda and the sustainable cities and sustainable lives that go with it. If there is one key phrase that caught this ear, it is her statement: “I’m radically pro-choice”. The Editor
On Sept. 17, Colin Beavan was riding his folding bicycle down Broadway in Lower Manhattan, near City Hall. Beavan, a writer known as “No Impact Man” for his attempt to reduce his carbon footprint to zero, did not use toilet paper for a year. But let’s not get distracted. On that day, Beavan was simply on his bike, making a routine attempt to steer clear of moving traffic and avoid car doors flying open in his path. That was when, by Beavan’s account, a black Mercedes veered precariously close to him, prompting Beavan to alert its driver to his presence by knocking on the car’s window.
The Mercedes stopped and the driver rolled down the window. “Get your hands off my car, you fucking asshole,” shouted Jeff Klein, a New York state senator who represents the Bronx. The story gets better. Klein just happened to have been, last spring, one of the most vocal opponents of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing plan for New York City. That plan, which died in the state Assembly, would have charged drivers $8 to bring their cars into Manhattan below 60th Street and was enthusiastically supported by environmentalists and public-space advocates nationwide, including Beavan and the nonprofit on whose board he sits, Transportation Alternatives.
No-Impact Man, a first-rate self-promoter, milked the confrontation for all it was worth. He publicized a letter he wrote to Klein, eventually securing a meeting with the state senator. There, Klein apologized to Beavan for his bad language and pledged to revisit the issue of congestion pricing and consider other proposals to make New York streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
A happy ending, to be sure. Yet the bitterness of Beavan and Klein’s initial encounter is typical of debates between transportation reformers, caricatured as car-hating, overeducated hippies, and their opponents, who portray themselves (sometimes in spite of luxury automobiles) as representatives of the common man. It is ironic, then, that the new national face of the movement to reduce driving and reclaim streets for pedestrians and cyclists is Michael Bloomberg, the finance titan and one-time Republican who spent $75.5 million to become New York City’s mayor.
In his first five years in office, Bloomberg was hardly seen as anti-car. But in 2007, his administration rolled out an ambitious plan to reduce New York City’s carbon emissions. The city reclaimed auto lanes, turning them over to pedestrians and cyclists, and swore to put every resident in walking distance of green space by 2030. On the transit front, New York is expanding express bus service, creating dedicated bus lanes, and opening several new ferry routes on the East River. Even longtime New York lefties, the sort of people who have decried Bloomberg’s fortune-fueled reign for seven years, are impressed.
On the national level, Mike Bloomberg is now recognized as a progressive reformer, and his history as a Democrat turned Republican turned Independent, all for political gain, is largely overlooked. But New Yorkers, whose memories are longer, could hardly have predicted that the most recent iteration of their mayor’s chameleon career would be the promotion of a bikeable, walkable city.
What even most local observers don’t realize is that the Bloomberg administration’s unexpected commitment to these issues is due less to ideological conviction than to the influence of one woman: Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation.
Sadik-Khan’s policies have attracted national attention from transportation reformers, and she has been discussed as a possible transportation secretary in Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Last April, state legislators in Albany dealt a body blow to the Bloomberg agenda by scrapping congestion pricing. But Sadik-Khan has pressed on with a slate of piecemeal reforms that are transforming, however slowly, the landscape of New York.
As Ron Schiffman, a former commissioner of New York’s De-partment of City Planning, puts it, “She’s a guerilla bureaucrat.”
On a glaringly sunny Tuesday in late September, Sadik-Khan held a press conference in the Village. It was Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, so much of official New York was on hiatus. Early that morning, Bloomberg, Sadik-Khan’s boss, had set off a media maelstrom by leaking that he planned to seek a third term in office, in defiance of the city’s charter. The press and public awaited the mayor’s official announcement scheduled for later that week.
But Sadik-Khan hadn’t cleared her schedule for any of those events. Instead, she was unveiling the finalists in a competition to design a new official bike rack for the city of New York. Over 200 artists had entered the contest, from as nearby as Brooklyn and as far afield as Peru and Italy. The 10 finalist models had been affixed there in Astor Place, and Sadik-Khan playfully showed journalists her favorites. “This one doubles as a bench!” she exclaimed, hoisting herself upon a flat, S-curved rack and swinging her legs girlishly beneath her. Later, chatting with some women from the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, the co-sponsor of the competition, Sadik-Khan flipped up her charcoal gray dress to reveal spandex bike shorts underneath. “Fashion forward!” she declared, laughing. A young-looking 48-year-old who sports a chic bob with bangs, Sadik-Khan is a bike commuter herself, traveling from her West Village home to her financial district office several days a week on a Specialized Globe.
Amid an economic crisis that threatens the state and city of New York with the loss of 120,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in tax revenues, an event to promote cycling could seem a small-bore distraction. But Sadik-Khan’s initiatives are central to the larger Bloomberg agenda. She was appointed commissioner in April 2007, concurrent with the mayor’s roll-out of PlaNYC 2030, a proposal to reduce New York’s carbon footprint by 30 percent over two decades and make the city an international leader in sustainable urban growth.
The centerpiece of that effort, the congestion-pricing plan, dominated Sadik-Khan’s first year in office. The city council approved the plan in a 30-20 vote in March, but Bloomberg and Sadik-Kahn were rebuffed at the state level, accused of attempting to strong-arm the legislature into supporting a policy that benefited Manhattan at the expense of the suburbs and outer boroughs. It certainly didn’t help that Sadik-Khan’s driver was pulled over and ticketed for illegally running the car’s sirens and lights as he sped the commissioner to Albany to lobby for the congestion-pricing bill. (Yes, you can travel by train between New York City and Albany. It takes two-and-a-half hours each way and costs between $72 and $138 round-trip.)
For advocates, the failure of congestion pricing was heartbreaking. In round after round of negotiations, the plan had been tweaked and made less objectionable to the outer-borough and suburban legislators who viewed it skeptically. Suburban commuters would be able to deduct the tax from their daily toll charge, and taxis would have to pay only a $1 fee to enter the cordoned zone. Disabled drivers would be exempted. The major East and West Side highways would be free, as would be bridges and their approaches, even those in Midtown. After all the changes, it seemed that delivery trucks and drivers-by-choice would bear the brunt of the fee, along with the mostly affluent residents living within the pricing zone. After all, commuters had the option of driving to a subway or bus stop outside of the zone and hopping on.
The federal government promised New York City a sorely needed $354 million to support mass transit if the program were approved in Albany. Gov. David Paterson supported the plan, as did state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican. Surprisingly, much of the opposition was Democratic. Some legislators claimed they couldn’t support congestion pricing if it didn’t include a sliding scale for income. Transit advocates suspected an attachment to car culture was the real stumbling block. Regardless, on April 7, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat who represents Manhattan’s Lower East Side, announced that support for the bill was so scarce he wasn’t even putting it to a vote.
What happened? In part, Albany politics are just formulated differently than New York City’s, where the council is relatively powerless and in thrall to the mayor. Jeff Klein, for example, the Bronx state senator who fought congestion pricing, represents a borough in which every single City Council member supported the plan. But Albany Democrats simply didn’t trust Bloomberg and weren’t in a mood to support his signature legislative priority. It was difficult for Dems to forget that the mayor was once a Republican when, earlier this year, he donated $500,000 to help state Senate Republicans retain their majority.
Politically, Bloomberg may have also made a mistake in selling congestion pricing primarily as a fix for the budget shortfall facing the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, when it was really an environmental and public-health initiative. Had congestion pricing passed, the combination of the fees collected and the matching grants from the federal government would have covered only a fraction of the MTA’s operating and capital needs, leaving the agency $9 billion in debt. “Congestion pricing was never a choice between a funded system and an unfunded system,” says New York state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who represents parts of southern Westchester County and was a leading opponent of the proposal.
Whatever the motivations of congestion-pricing opponents, their success in blocking Bloomberg’s plan put his national reputation as a can-do reformer in doubt.
PlaNYC is premised on the idea that with New York City’s population expected to grow by 1 million over the next two decades, aggressive steps must be taken to increase access to green space and affordable housing, improve public health, preserve and retrofit historic buildings, and fight global warming. Bloomberg introduced the agenda, which contains 127 sustainability initiatives, on April 22, 2007. In the words of City Councilman John Liu, chair of the council’s transportation committee, “The mayor became an environmentalist rather suddenly on Earth Day 2007, at a time when there was fevered speculation that he was going to launch a presidential bid.”
Indeed, PlaNYC represented an about-face. When Bloomberg was elected mayor in 2001, transportation reformers had high hopes that he would replace Rudy Giuliani’s transportation commissioner, veteran New York City bureaucrat Iris Weinshall, with Sadik-Khan — or someone a lot like her. But Bloomberg, then a Republican, chose to keep Weinshall in place. The decision was widely viewed as an attempt to reach out across party lines to Weinshall’s husband, Sen. Chuck Schumer. Though advocates say Weinshall was a competent manager, they accuse her of being uninterested in transportation policy and of deferring major decisions to reactionary community boards and traffic specialists, whose primary goals were to move more cars through the streets faster.
Bloomberg’s own record on public spaces was far from stellar. An expert hired to direct the Transportation Department’s cycling program, Andrew Vesselinovitch, quit in 2006, claiming that Weinshall and Bloomberg rejected most of his ideas and were insufficiently committed to reforming the streetscape. Under the influence of former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff, another Wall Street veteran, the Bloomberg administration had been pushing unpopular proposals to construct massive sports stadiums and apartment towers, replete with thousands of parking spaces, on the far West Side of Manhattan and in downtown Brooklyn. “Here we have the most transit-oriented city in America, and many of Bloomberg’s most treasured development plans, at that point, were tied to 750-spot parking lagoons, as if this were the suburbs,” says Aaron Naparstek, editor of Streetsblog, which lobbies for “livable streets.”
When Weinshall announced her departure from the agency in January 2007, Transportation Alternatives urged Bloomberg to look for a new commissioner in London, which had instituted congestion pricing in 2003. That plan is seen as a qualified success. City carbon emissions were cut by 16 percent. Cycling within the zone increased by a third, bus ridership increased by 14 percent, and for the first time in decades, ridership on the Underground, London’s subway system, increased rather than decreased. Though revenues from congestion pricing were less than expected, the tax raised about £100 million annually for London’s transit system.
The New York press reported, however, that Bloomberg was not looking overseas. He was choosing between Sadik-Khan and Michael Horodniceanu, both American engineering-firm executives who had served in government. While Sadik-Khan was known as a reformer with a focus on mass transit, Horodniceanu was a former city traffic commissioner who boasted of having managed the largest parking system in the United States. Bloomberg’s decision would signal exactly how serious he was about embracing the environmentalist mantle. He ended up appointing Sadik-Khan, of course, and transportation reformers rejoiced.
Sadik-Khan grew up in the New York metropolitan area, the daughter of divorced parents. Her father was a managing director at the brokerage Paine-Webber, and her mother was a writer who covered City Hall for the New York Post. She describes herself as having always been fascinated by the life of cities. After college at Occidental in Los Angeles (where she temporarily took up vegetarianism), law school at Columbia (where she met her husband Mark Geistfeld, now a New York University law professor), and a stint as a corporate attorney, Sadik-Khan decided to go into public service. “I wanted to do something that really touched people’s lives every day,” she explains. “I was joking with my mom, and she was like, ‘Well, there are two choices then. There’s transportation or sanitation.’ So you know, I decided to focus on transportation.”
Sadik-Khan climbed the ranks of the Dinkins administration in the early 1990s, serving as the mayor’s principal adviser on mass transit. After a failed attempt to institute light-rail service across 42nd Street, she learned that the Metropolitan Transit Authority and community groups would fight the construction of a surface-level train. (Now she sees dedicated bus lanes as a sort of back-door step toward light rail, mentioning that cities like Bogotá, Colombia, and Curitiba, Brazil, are working toward light rail by reclaiming auto space in this way.)
After Dinkins lost his re-election bid to Rudy Giuliani in 1993, Sadik-Khan hightailed it to Washington, D.C., where she worked for Bill Clinton’s Department of Transportation, reforming the bus-manufacturing industry and creating a popular art-in-transit program. She became the Federal Transit Authority’s chief financial officer, responsible for a $4 billion capital construction budget. At the close of the Clinton years, Sadik-Khan re-entered the private sector as a senior vice president at the international engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, where she worked until she was tapped by Bloomberg.
As New York City transportation commissioner, Sadik-Khan presides over 6,000 miles of road, 12,000 miles of sidewalk, and the Staten Island ferry, which transports 65,000 people each day. (The MTA manages New York’s subways, trains, and buses, and often works in partnership with the Department of Transportation.) She administers a budget of more than half a billion dollars a year. It isn’t difficult to imagine Sadik-Khan returning to D.C. — she’s wonky. If you ask her a question about transportation, she is likely to answer it in the form of a 10-minute policy brief and cap it all off with a press release. (“We’re improving the quality of life, improving the business quality here, and also doing a lot for the environment!”) Naparstek of Streetsblog calls Sadik-Khan “a total geek about transportation.”
Unsurprisingly, the other geeks adore her. Naparstek, who wrote Honku, a book of haikus decrying car traffic, says, “I know a lot of people who are like, God, that would be a mistake if Janette went back to Washington. We need her to keep doing these things in New York. She could have more of an impact here.” Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, cycled to the bike-rack unveiling wearing a tie adorned with a silk-screened bike logo. He told the press that since Sadik-Khan’s appointment, “there really isn’t much left for [us] advocates to say.” Later he says, “A lot of problems we thought were intractable. She has proven otherwise.”
Stuck in a holding pattern on big-picture transportation reform, Sadik-Khan’s Department of Transportation has shifted gears. The Bloomberg administration plans to revisit congestion pricing, but in the meantime, the mayor has given his transportation commissioner wide latitude in enacting a host of incremental street reforms. Sadik-Khan’s department has reclaimed two car lanes on Broadway, one of Manhattan’s most clogged thoroughfares, and turned them into “Broadway Boulevard,” an artery of public plazas where pedestrians can lunch or just relax right in the middle of the street — if they find it relaxing to be surrounded by frantic traffic. On Ninth Avenue along Manhattan’s West Side, the Transportation Department has instituted New York’s first experiment in “complete streets,” an idea Sadik-Khan imported from Copenhagen; a new bike lane there is protected from parked cars and traffic by plastic bollards and a buffer zone.
These reappropriations of auto lanes have been called radical and elitist, proving that even in America’s largest and densest city, car culture holds powerful sway. In September, the New York Post dubbed Bloomberg “Mike the road hog” and predicted the Broadway Boulevard plazas would go unused during the winter months. In Chelsea and the meatpacking district, where metered parking spaces and an auto lane were lost to the Ninth Avenue bike-lane project, local community boards complained that they were informed of the changes just a week before construction began. Liu, the city councilman, tells me that Sadik-Khan and Bloomberg adhere to a “new, anti-car religion” that will alienate outer-borough residents unless mass transit service is significantly improved and expanded before restrictions are placed on car use.
In actuality, that’s exactly what the Department of Transportation is doing. New York City is unlike any other place in America, Sadik-Khan points out; more than half of its residents do not own a car. Of the 28 percent of trips in the city that are made by automobile, most are less than three miles in length. Transportation reformers contend that politicians who oppose congestion pricing, like Jeff Klein, are unduly influenced by their own experience as affluent drivers. The Kleins of the world claim to speak on behalf of the working class, but in truth, advocates say, the neediest New Yorkers don’t own cars. They rely almost exclusively on mass transit and live in neighborhoods where auto congestion seriously impacts public health. It is the children of the car-less poor who are diagnosed with asthma at epidemic rates.
“I’m radically pro-choice,” Sadik-Khan told me during an interview in her expansive 10th-floor office on Worth Street, where a clock counts down the days left in Bloomberg’s second term. “I’m pro-all modes of transportation, not one mode elevated above all others, which I think has been the case in the past. We’re really just trying to rebalance our system, bring some acupuncture to what has been a sick body.”
Sadik-Khan sees the initial rejection of congestion pricing as an opportunity. “You know, no big idea happens in New York the first time around,” she says. “It is almost a benefit that congestion pricing didn’t pass, because now we are able to get all these pieces in place prior to the start of pricing.”
In an effort to improve transit access and convince legislators that their constituents won’t be underserved if they are pushed out of their cars by congestion pricing, Sadik-Khan’s department is developing East River ferry service between Manhattan and the exploding North Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The department is also placing a new focus on improving bus service, creating a dedicated bus lane on 34th Street in Manhattan and instituting select bus service cutting east-west through the Bronx. That route, the first of its kind in New York, features bus lanes, curbside fare collection, and more buses making fewer stops. Currently, New York City has the largest public bus fleet in North America but some of the slowest bus routes. During rush hour in Midtown Manhattan, one can walk from the Hudson River to the East River and beat the cross-town bus. “I can’t wish people onto a bus that’s moving at two miles per hour,” Sadik-Khan admits. “I have to give them service that encourages them to do it.”
Transportation reformers believe, perhaps naively, that drivers will change their habits en masse if given the proper service improvements and disincentives (like the congestion tax). One of their goals is to demonstrate just how enjoyable, cheap, and easy life without cars can be. They point to the popularity of Summer Streets, another one of Sadik-Khan’s innovations, in which seven miles of East Side roads were closed to cars on three consecutive Saturdays in August. Sure enough, the streets were overtaken by elated pedestrians and cyclists. Smaller-scale road closings took place over the summer in Brooklyn and Queens as well, and Sadik-Khan believes these will become regular features of New York City life, regardless of who succeeds her and Bloomberg.
“I think along with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the marathon, Summer Streets is going to be one of those iconic events going forward,” she says. Of course, those events, too, involve clearing the streets of cars and reclaiming them for pedestrians.
But environmental priorities haven’t completely overtaken Bloomberg’s penchant for big-box development. Just a few weeks after Sadik-Khan’s appointment and the PlaNYC rollout, the mayor was in court defending the city’s right to construct 20,000 new parking spaces in Hell’s Kitchen. Sadik-Khan, for her part, avoids speaking about the elements of the Bloomberg agenda that clearly contradict her own stated goals. “I feel very strongly that he put his money where his mouth is,” she says of Bloomberg’s transportation record.
Much of the Bloomberg administration’s energy these days is focused on winning the mayor a third term. If congestion pricing is revisited, it will likely be after the mayoral election of November 2009. And for that effort to be successful, Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan will have to overcome the cultural antagonism between the outer-boroughs and Manhattan, and between the city and its suburbs. They will also have to do a better job of wooing Democratic state legislators.
Sadik-Khan is optimistic, pointing to opinion polls that found 60 percent of New Yorkers support congestion pricing, provided that the funds are used to improve mass transit. “The other piece of messaging that we found works is that people are concerned about obesity, they’re concerned about asthma, and they’re concerned about their ability to get around,” Sadik-Khan says. “And not owning a car will save you $6,000 a year. That’s a lot of money!”
Sadik-Khan believes the public, especially since this year’s rise in gas prices, is far ahead of its elected representatives on understanding the need to reduce dependency on cars. “I do think congestion pricing is a matter of when, not if,” she says. The fact remains that Sadik-Khan’s public plazas, bike lanes, and road closing are hardly making a dent in the city’s car use; they are more of an inconvenience for drivers than a routine-altering incentive. But there has been some good news; a recent Transportation Department report found that commuter cycling in the city rose 35 percent between 2007 and 2008.
There’s little doubt that despite her stated commitment to stay on in a third Bloomberg term, Sadik-Khan is intrigued by the notion of getting back into the transit game at the federal level. She says she likes Obama’s transportation agenda (he supports congestion pricing, for example) and will do whatever she can to help his administration. She is already drafting a new national transportation policy as president of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), a coalition of transportation czars representing 13 of the nation’s largest cities. A key priority is enabling the federal government to directly fund transportation projects in large cities, instead of requiring the money to pass through state capitals like Albany, which often don’t prioritize urban interests. Currently, highways are eligible for a greater percentage of federal funding than is mass transit; NACTO would like to change that, as well.
The story of congestion pricing and piecemeal reforms in New York, at least thus far, doesn’t provide much in the way of a model for creating a transformative national transportation policy. Still, under Sadik-Khan, New York City transit geeks are feeling better about their movement than they have since Jane Jacobs was organizing the West Village. “So congestion pricing didn’t pass, that’s true,” Sadik-Khan says. “But one of the things it allowed us to do was underscore to the public the importance of looking at our streets differently. There have been lots of things that have changed in New York City in the last 20 to 30 years. Our streets are not one of them. Our streets have really been designed as more utilitarian corridors to get cars as quickly as possible from point A to point B. Now there’s a recognition that we can’t keep doing that.”
And for now, that’s progress.
Source and fair use:
This article originally appeared in the American Prospect of 24 November 2008, by their reporter and an associate editor Dana Goldstein. You can view the original here.
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