Old Mobility: Going, Going, Gone!

scratching-headIn order to understand what needs to be done to create healthier lives and a better performing set of transportation arrangements, World Streets has from the very beginning made a consistent distinction between what we call “Old Mobility” vs.”New Mobility.”  The difference between the two is simple, straight-forward . . . and substantial.

Old mobility was the dominant form of transportation policy, practice and thinking that took its full shape and momentum starting in the mid twentieth century, at a time when we all lived in a universe that was, or at least seemed to be, boundless and  free of constraints. It served many of us well in many ways at the time, albeit with numerous and notable exceptions, though we were blind to most of them most of the time. It was a very different world back them. But that world is gone.  Gone and it will never come back.

Continue reading

A Mayor’s-Eye View of Sustainable Transportation: Politics as the art of the possible

The letter that follows is, as you will quickly surmise, not an actual communication from one elected official in one case, but rather a composite, a distillation of experience that I have had over these last years of trying to push the sustainable transportation agenda in many parts of the world, almost always in conjunction and in dialogue with mayors and other city leaders. As you will see, it is not that they are uniformly adverse to or not interested in the concepts behind sustainable transportation and sustainable cities. It is just that they have a great many other things on their mind, including staying on top day after day of the considerable challenges of managing their city — and, in not very long, running once again for reelection. This is the political reality of which those of us who would be agents of change must be aware, that politics is the art of the possible. Now let’s turn the stage over to our mayor: Continue reading

Late Night Thoughts on Equity from Helsinki

Equity? Hmm. This, it turns out on inspection,  is not quite so easy a concept to get across. In English, and after two days of discussions with a wide variety of groups and people here in Helsinki, it’s already tough enough.  And I have learned, it’s  even more challenging in Finnish. Here are some late night thoughts on this word that I share with you here in the hope that it may inspire comments and clarification. So here you have my notes, more or less in the order that they came to mind late in the night.  Continue reading

Op-Ed: What/who keeps holding back New Mobility reform?

If you get it, New Mobility is a no-brainer. However, while the New Mobility Agenda 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. There is plenty of competition for all that space on the street and  between the ears. We have a few potential sticking points here that need to be overcome first. Let’s have a quick look to get this exchange off the ground. After some years of talking with cities, and working and observing in many different circumstances, here is my personal shortlist 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

Krugman on Keynes: No time to duck

A collaborative network activity such as World Streets needs to find its own best combination of Sir Isaiah Berlin’s variant on the Greek parable of the Hedgehog and the Fox (“the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”). Given the huge information overload with which we live in this highly strung twenty-first century, it is absolutely critical that we play the hedgehog and stick rigorously to our topic. But… at the same time the many sided reality is that our topic by its very nature requires us also to be a fox. Thus are the contradictions and challenges of maturity. Continue reading

Climate of Denial: Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?

From the New York Times, 22 June 2011: “Former Vice President Al Gore sharply criticized President Obama as lacking leadership on climate changein a magazine essay published online Wednesday, saying his policies had been little more effective than those of President George W. Bush. In the 7,000-word article in Rolling Stone, Mr. Gore said . . . ” Continue reading