Letter from Stockholm: Public Transport is a Common Good

World Streets welcomes discussion of fare free sweden planka nu fair jumpingpublic transport because we believe that it is important to listen to alternative views from different organizations and countries in order to arrive at wise public policy. This contribution comes from one of the most active international groups pushing zero fair public transport, Planka.nu in Sweden.

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Why buses represent democracy in action

Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, was  responsible for introducing a number of in terms of transportation and public space innovations. In this short video he  talks here about buses versus cars (really people v. cars) and the experience of Bogotá in giving clear preference to buses with their now world-famous Transmilenio  (BRT) mass transit system. As mayor  he also introduced a number of innovations including land-use, parks and public space projects as well as Bogotá’s Bike Paths Network. If you listen to his talk you will see the very large number of issues and themes which relates to the situation in Penang today. Let’s see what we can learn from Bogotá.

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A New Moblity Agenda for the Vision Impaired in Penang

In the context of the Sustainable Penang/New Mobility 2014 program, the key to the success of the project lies in the identification and eventual Penang St Nicholas Home logopreparation and implementation of specific, practical, relatively low cost concepts and measures which give more importance to non-motorized transport and public transportation than to the traditional uses of the private car. One of the ideas that came up early in the Focus Group  brainstorming sessions was that of providing voice announcements for the blind and others with visual impairments on the new Rapid Penang bus services being developed across the state. In the following excellent article prepared by the local NGO Saint Nicolas Home we see how thoroughly they are looking at the problems of mobility and access for the visually impaired. Thus it is not surprising that Saint Nicolas Home is emerging as one of the most engaged champions of this collaborative project for 2014.  (We shall be seeing more about that project shortly here.)

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Congestion Offsets vs Road Pricing: The quest for efficiency and equity

Matthew Bradley and Jeff Kenworthy help us to set out on our search for USA tollbooth attendenteconomic instruments that can be effective in reducing traffic congestion while leveling the playing field between cars and other transport in ways that are both efficient and equitable.  They tell us that: “A major part of the urban transport problem today is a failure from the very beginning to acknowledge that congestion is fundamentally inequitable and unfair, impractical to construct away, and therefore must be properly charged for and controlled to eliminate the transport system dysfunction which is systemic in cities today.” Recommended reading for anyone with  a serious interest in how to get the most out of economic instruments in our troubled, seriously underperforming sector.

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Public transport riders wide open to infection by parasites and viruses

Just when we thought we were finally starting to figure out how to make a major shift to  public transport, this troubling article shows up in the main paper in Tallinn Estonia, at the time of their introduction of a new program to create FFPT  Fare Free Public Transport.  Now someone has to figure out how to offer Germ Free Public Transport. GFPT. Quite seriously. Where do we start to work out way through this one?  Have a look and tell us what you think about it.

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Learning from Lyon: Free Public Transport that really works

Here is a “free transport project” that is working remarkably well: In the Spring of 2005 the community of Greater Lyon in cooperation with their supplier JCDecaux launched the world’s first mega Public Bike System, Vélo’v. The project put some 3000 bikes into service, available in about 300 stations spread for the most part over the City of Lyon. All this is successful, amply detailed in many places and continues to this day to yield yeoman service for some 60,000 registered users (including the author). To gain access to the system, in addition to one day or one week tickets, the user pays an annual fee of € 25, and when using a bike a caution is debited from the users credit card until it is returned to a parking slot. From a user perspective it is a very successful system and use experience.

* But where is the “free public transport” element?

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Bogota 21: Toward a world-class transit-oriented Metropolis (with commentary)

This report sponsored by Siemens under a program initi­ated by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and De­velopment (BMZ) recommends “that about 4.2% of the national Gross Do­mestic Product (GDP), needs to be spent annually to develop Bogotá into a world-class transit-oriented metropolis”. The report has been  implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für In­ternationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, active in Colombia for almost 50 years, and Siemens, a German global corporation present in Co­lombia for nearly 60 years.  And to see it for yourself,  click here for the full report that has just been released. http://despacio.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Bogota-21-english.pdf Continue reading

Rethinking Car Free Days in Taipei City: Part I

Your editor was kindly invited by Mayor Hau Lung-pin to come to Taipei City this year to discuss preparations for the celebration of the city’s tenth successive Car Free Day — and as part of this collaborative brainstorming process to draw on my experience of some seventeen years working with this, one hopes, transformative transportation approach in different cities around the world.  The presentation is in three parts:

* Rethinking Car Free Days in Taipei City: Part I – This introduction

Part II – Keynote Address

Part III: Letter and comments from Jason Lin,  Commissioner of Transportation, City of Taipei

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What about using our heads (for a change)?

At the end of the day our transport sector, no matter where it is, is shaped by the perceptions of the main players, the opportunists, planners, decision makers and the public of what is there and what is it that people want and need. And if it is a mess in your country or city,well that’s because these perceptions are simply not clear enough. Read what Nate Sliver of the New York Times has to say when there is a collision between the experts and common sense on one much discussed transportation topic. Interesting things happen when smart people from the outside poke their noses into the transportation box. As we say: “you never know where the next good idea is going to come from”. Continue reading

Op-Ed. On relative costs of PRT, auto and public transit

There are a number of important factors to consider when comparing PRT, public transit and automobile costs, and therefore when comparing the cost-efficiency of roadway versus transit investments.  (Commentary by Todd Litman of Victoria Transport Policy  Institute on some of the figures raised in the discussions of PRT vs. cars and public transport.) Continue reading

Italians are moving less. But using public transport more

The economic crisis combined with the rising cost of fuel has caused significant changes in travel behavior of Italians — is what emerges from the year-end economic report Audimob of 2010 of the Observatory on Mobility Behavior of the Italian National Institute for Training and Research for Transport (ISFORT)

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2011 World Streets Bright Awards: City of Basel Mobility Ticket

We have often said that new mobility is a strategy which is ultimately made up of a very large number of often very small things that together make a difference. And so it is just in this spirit that we have decided to launch a new series in which you are invited to participate. It is the 2011 World Streets Bright Awards, celebrating “great small convivial ideas that are easy on the pocket and can be multiplied by thousands and make a difference”.  It’s simple and works like this.
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Ridesharing Institute II. If you will, but Public Transport on the first line please

In yesterday’s feature which was intended to inform the exchanges at this week’s TRB session concerning the eventual creation of a continuing program to support and expand ridesharing as a central sustainable transport policy, the point is made that the project should concentrate whatever resources it can stump up on ridesharing, as opposed to traditional public transport which has its own institutional and support system (for better or worse) while ridesharing from a policy and institutional perspective is still an orphan. But Simon Norton begs to differ: Continue reading

Locked in Suburbia: Is there life after Autopia?

Something like ten percent of our lonely planet’s population are today thoroughly locked in — or at least think they are — to an “automotive life style”.   While in barely two generations  the earth’s population has  tripled, the automotive age has, step by silent surreptitious step, changed the way we live — and in the process made us prisoners of just that technology that was supposed to make us free forever. That’s a bad joke and bad news. But there is worse yet, and it comes in two ugly bites. For starters, in addition to the ten percent of us already hapless prisoners of our cars, another twenty percent of our soon seven billion brothers and sisters are standing in line eagerly in the hope of getting  locked in as quickly as possible. And as if that were not bad enough, the consensus among most of the experts and policy makers is that our goose is forever cooked, and there is little anybody  can do about it. Well, maybe not. Spend some time this Monday morning with Paul Mees, as he attacks this received belief and suggests . . . Well, why don’t I just get out of the way and let Paul speak for himself. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Hassaan Ghazali on Public Transport in the Punjab

This is the first shared posting from India Streets, a sister program to W/S that is to open for publication on 1 November. At this point the site is still in Beta. Your visits and comments for improvement are most welcome.

Op-Ed: Hassaan Ghazali on Public Transport in the Punjab “If you think the NATO oil tankers have a rough time in Pakistan, spare a thought for the masses which use the local transport system. The manner in which buses, rickshaws and strange articulated three-wheelers ply on our roads makes it obvious that there is nothing really ‘public’ about public transport anymore. We have instead condemned the majority of the population, many of whom are poor, women and elderly, to a veritable shakedown staged by … Read More

via India Streets (Beta)

Antidote: Why one American liberal suggests that there are viable options to your car

In the wake of the sheer madness, no that’s too kind, outright stupidity, flagrant self-satisfaction and puerile cuteness of yesterday’s “Why Leftists want to pull you all on mass transit” piece, we offer you some brief words of respite taken directly from Paul Krugman’s 7 October piece in his “The Conscience of a Liberal” blog from the New York Times. Our bottom line: Don’t give up on America yet. We may be in the slow lane, but with a lot more hard work and hard thinking we just may get there yet. Continue reading

Sweet victory

New World Bank Report. Challenges to Inclusive Bus Rapid Transit

The World Bank recently published a report, “Technical and Operational Challenges to Inclusive Bus Rapid Transit,” compiled by Tom Rickert, a consultant with extensive experience on accessible transportation. While the technical report is intended primarily for an audience of BRT system and service planners, its release marks a recognition of the practical challenges in making public transport in the developing world fully accessible.

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Kaohsiung 2010 Papers: Thoughts on Share/Transport from Chengdu, China

This essay has been contributed by one of the 2010 Jason Chang International Fellows, Jane Voodikon, who introduces herself as follows: “Since my interest in transportation and planning is purely personal – I have no professional background in any transportation-related field – I hope to walk away from Kaohsiung 2010 with a more informed picture of transportation possibilities and the goals and objectives related sectors should be working toward.” – Jane Voodikon, Concerned person and editor. Los Angeles and Chengdu, China. 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

At Any Cost? The hidden costs of charging for public transport

Today’s piece by Alex Berthelsen of Planka.nu, Sweden’s largest public transport NGO, is part of World Streets wide-open international brainstorming series on “free public transport”. The most recent article in this series appeared here last week under the title “Why Free Public Transport is a bad idea“, inviting our readers to share their critical thoughts on this important, contentious but ultimately quite subtile subject. The flood gates immediately opened and within days we heard a variety of responses, negative and positive, from thirty readers logging in from more than a dozen different countries. You can access their comments and all the articles in this series via http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/category/free-public-transport/.  And as always your critical comments and suggestions are welcome here. Continue reading

Why Free Public Transport is perhaps a bad idea

There are a good number of proponents around the world supporting the idea that public transport should be free. And if we here at World Streets have  our own thoughts on the subject (stay tuned),  it is always good practice to check out both sides of the issues. Just below, you will find four short statements taken from the Wikipedia entry, setting out arguments against FPT. More to follow on this but in the meantime we are interested in hearing from our readers and colleagues around the world both with (a) their comments on these criticisms and (b) yet other critical views. (This is sure to be a bit exciting.)

* Note: See numerous, extensive, excellent comments below.

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W/S Open Dialogue: Should public transport be free? (v. 1.0)

World Streets is pleased to announce publication in the months and maybe more ahead of  a series of articles and other media to introduce and investigate this idea in-depth in these pages.  We would ask our readers to bear in mind that there is a great deal more to this approach than may at first meet the eye. So let’s see what we get when we stretch our minds together on this perhaps surprisingly important and, we believe, ultimately practical sustainable city concept.

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Americans want alternatives.

Fair enough. We all want choices. That is no more than human nature, But when it comes to transport policy and practice in the United States at the highest level, the idea of real choices is no less than a revolutionary statement. Right from the mouth of President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, who continues to surprise and delight. (But now, vigilant citizens, let’s see where the $$$ go. There is no such thing as passive democracy.)

US Transportation Secretary on Biking, Walking and ‘What Americans Want’

By Leora Broydo Vestel, as printed in the Green Inc. — blog of the New York Times.
We propose that you check into their site from time to time. The Times has become a leading international voice for sustainable transportation. (We need more of them.)

The United States transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, recently caused a stir when he proclaimed that bicycling and walking should be given the same consideration as motorized transport in state and local transit projects.

“It’s what Americans want to do,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, of his emphasis on the role of bicycles and walking in good transportation policy.

Supporters, who continue to post notes of adulation and thanks on Mr. LaHood’s Facebook page, say the acknowledgment of biking and walking as legitimate modes of transportation is long overdue.

Critics, conversely, believe the secretary is taking the country in the wrong direction.

Mr. LaHood, formerly a Republican congressman from Illinois, spoke with Green Inc. about his reasons for introducing the new policy, the impact it will have on transportation financing, and why bike paths are a good bang for the buck.

Q. Bicycling and walking advocates had a very positive reaction to the policy change. But here at Green Inc., we heard mostly from critics who said it showed you were “delusional” or reflective of some sort of “Maoist” bent. What’s your response to the response?

A. My response is that this is what Americans want. Americans want alternatives. People are always going to drive cars. We’re always going to have highways. We’ve made a huge investment in our interstate highway system. We’ll always continue to make sure that those investments in the highways are maintained.

But, what Americans want is to get out of their cars, and get out of congestion, and have opportunities for more transit, more light rail, more buses, and some communities are going to street cars. But many communities want the opportunity on the weekends and during the week to have the chance to bike to work, to bike to the store, to spend time with their family on a bike.

So, this is not just Ray LaHood’s agenda, this is the American agenda that the American people want for alternatives to the automobile.

What’s happened around America is people are buying bikes and they’re using them for recreational purposes on the weekend and there’s no better family way for people to spend a weekend than riding their bikes on these biking trails.

This is what Americans want and we’re accommodating their needs to really find places to recreate. And what could be healthier than taking a 30-minute walk, which is recommended by every doctor in America, or hopping on your bike and riding four, five or six miles and enjoying the great outdoors?

Look, this is a win-win. This is a way for people to get out of their cars, a way for people to recreate, a way for people to get good exercise, and it’s what Americans want to do.


Q.In announcing the new policy, you used pretty forceful language, saying it was a “sea change” and “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized.” The actual policy, however, is more benign in tone, saying, “well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of federal-aid project developments.”

Do you stand by your initial characterization of the policy?

A. I think that livable and sustainable communities is a game changer. It’s a game changer because it’s what Americans want. It’s a game changer because people do want to get out of congestion, they want to get out of their cars, they want to be able to enjoy the outdoors, they want to be able to recreate with their families.

And so it’s a game changer from the point of view that it’s a major component of livable and sustainable communities that provide alternatives to automobiles. And some of it is transit, some of it is light rail, some of it is street cars, some of it is good buses. But certainly a big part of it is the opportunity to bike or walk to the grocery store, to work, to the drug store or just spending time with the family and getting some good exercise.

Q. In terms of the way federal transportation dollars will be spent on the ground, is this a zero sum game? Does more money for biking and walking mean less money for motorways?

A. We’re always going to take care of our highways. As I said, we have a state-of-the-art interstate system that’s been developed over three or four decades. We’re not going to give up on our roads. We know people are always going to drive cars. They’re going to use their cars for long distances.

But as we develop our livable and sustainable communities program, biking and walking paths will be a major component of it. And they will get some significant dollars.

Q. In response to the policy change, a member of Congress said he didn’t understand how you get a bang for the buck out of a bicycle project. Why do you think they’re a good investment?

A. You don’t have to get a bang for the buck in every form of transportation. Certainly, transit, it provides a good bus or light rail or other kinds of transportation services. But, they don’t make money doing it.

This is a good bang for the buck because it provides alternatives to people, and good exercise, and for people who are very health conscious and for people who want to spend time with their families.

This is a win, win, win. It incorporates a lot of different opportunities for people and it’s a good bang for good health, and a good bang for a different form of transportation, and it’s what the American people want.

Q. Was there any particular reason you wanted to introduce the new policy now?

A. It has more to do with the fact that we’re rolling out our livable and sustainable communities as we travel around the country and I also was at a huge bikers’ conference in Washington, D.C., and we wanted to give them the chance to really understand that all of their hard work over a long period of time has finally paid off. There’s an administration in place now that has taken to heart their request for more walking and biking paths.

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Editor’s note:

Let us see if we can put this into perspective. Now, while it is very good to hear America’s Transportation Secretary taking an active, even enthusiastic stance in favor of bicycling and walking, and while it is great if not entirely unexpected news that the cyclists and pedestrians groups are strongly and vocally supporting this policy change (because it is indeed an important policy change), we also need to bear in mind that this is a small step.

What we need is for the Secretary to embrace the full range of the options which are opened up by the New Mobility Agenda, all of which need to be understood individually and, now comes the hard part, orchestrated in each place into a fully tailored unique mobility package so as to provide fair transportation for all the people who live and work in that place.

I ask myself this: what is it that we can do, you and I and others who care, in order to broaden the palate of transportation options which are needed in order to provide full and fair service for the entire population, bearing in mind that in most places more than 50% of the people who live there cannot or should not be driving their own car. I guess we just have to keep working on it. (We will !)

Eric Britton
Editor