Helsinki: Toward a “Better than car” transportation system

World Streets readers will certainly want to stay on top of this project of the city of Helsinki to come up with what we call a “better than car transportation system”. The excerpts just below taken  from an article published in the Guardian yesterday will lead you to the full piece. There is a mild irony to the extent to which the “technological core” of the project has to do with the mobility arrangements which have been receiving steady, and happily increasing, attention since the mid-1960s, namely DRT or Dial-a-Ride. The massive change elements which fundamentally transform and scale up the basic DRT of long past operational system is a combination of close to universal mobile phones, abounding apps, and Big Data. That plus a good dose of public entrepreneurship and outreach changes everything. We invite you to have a look and to share your thoughts with us about this intriguing real world adventure.

Helsinki, Finland.

Urban mobility, rethought … Helsinki, Finland. Photograph: Hemis/Alamy

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. Continue reading

Op-ed: Geo-Engineering Can Help Save the Planet?

This piece from the New York Times, June 10, 2011, takes quite another approach than the one which is the main subject of our program here, where we  for the most part concentrate on the near-term demand management, strategic supply expansion,  and mitigation side of all this. It would be a grand thing if we could just wait for the technologists to solve the problems of our planet, without actually having to change ourselves (the hard bit). So let’s invoke equal time and have a look at what Dr. Lovejoy has to offer.  You never know.   Maybe we can just relax and keep on going as in the past. Continue reading

UK High Speed Rail: Going very fast in the wrong direction

In the field of transport, no matter how straight-forward the issues may seem to be to the busy citizen, merchant, reporter or policy maker, when it comes to making wise policy it really does take a certain level of time and attention to detail to come to grips with the underlying issues and priorities that shape the outcomes. The awful conundrum encumbering the mobility issues of our new century from a policy perspective is that just about everything turns out upon study to be unobligingly complex, interdependent, complicated and time lagged – no matter how simple it may appear to be on the surface. In the article that follows, the authors  have a go at a lot of the too-easy thinking that is the main currency of the High Speed Rail discussions in places like Britain and the US, where the only experience with these technologies and operations has been that of a far-away time-lagged dream machine. Let’s embrace a bit of complexity here. Continue reading

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

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

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World Streets 100% Answer to Oil Spills, Geopolitical Dysfunctionality, and the Running out of Oil Syndrome

Courage. Not all that terribly hard actually, and certainly not impossible. The leading international edge of policy and practice in our field have over the last two decades developed the tools, experience and technical competence needed to cut fossil fuel dependence by 50% in one year. And if we can do that – if we can come even within shouting distance of this great and obtainable goal – that is going to change everything. But to get the job done we are going to have to challenge our brainpower and collective ability to influence leadership, policy decisions and investments in our chosen field. Lazy folks, bought souls and fatalists kindly abstain.
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How much is that car really costing? You? The rest of us?

Editor’s introductory note: I have long maintained that the cost of driving one more car in a city is far greater than normally understood, with the result that the benefits to the city of getting one car off the street are very very considerable. My own working rule of thumb, admittedly crude and entirely unscientific, is that every time a mayor or her team figure out how to remove one car from the traffic stream — without decreasing the quality of the overall mobility system – brings about a benefit for all equal to at least one dollar a car/km. But let’s hear what Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has to say about it.

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

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

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

Musing: How far is World Streets willing to go to get sponsorship support for 2010?

How would you feel about World Streets if we organize a special edition on electric cars with the sponsorship of General Motors or any other a major automotive manufacturer or upstream supplier? I hope you would feel at least a bit puzzled or impatient. And hopefully actually disappointed that we tumbled into that  facile trap. Sure, electric vehicles are to be part of our future. No problem there. But they are not going to be the path for moving towards sustainable transportation, sustainable cities, or sustainable lives. Bottom line: in terms of sustainability electric cars are a sideshow. Don’t you forget it!

Against this background, here is an article that appears in today’s New York Times (hey New York Times are getting better all the time) in which GM pulls out all the stops to flaunt their sustainability credentials. And they get some highly distinguished help in this. Which I find very worrying. Do you?

A High-Minded Look at Electric Cars

- Jim Motavalli, New York Times. April 23, 2010.
Click here for original article -

The setting was the sun-dappled campus of Columbia University, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that today’s forum on “New York and the Electric Car,” sponsored by the university and General Motors, took on a somewhat elevated tone.

Instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts of how the city’s many apartment-dwelling electric vehicle owners will plug in, the forum celebrated the prospective role of electric cars in changing the world. Several speakers compared the present period to the revolution from horses to horseless carriages more than a century ago.

John Gilbert, executive vice president of the real estate firm Rudin Management, invoked the transforming technology displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He challenged the audience to think of the modern building as a smart phone that will blossom when applications are created to aid car charging and efficiently manage the flow of electrons.

A highlight of the morning talk was the appearance of Lawrence Burns, the former longtime General Motors vice president, who functioned as the company’s hydrogen fuel-cell champion and big-picture guru of sustainability. Far from retiring, Mr. Burns is a corporate adviser and has academic appointments at both Columbia’s Earth Institute (as director of sustainable mobility) and the University of Michigan.

Mr. Burns said that 29 or 30 green cars of various types, including his former company’s Chevrolet Volt, would be on the market in the next few years. “The new DNA of the automobile is electrically driven,” he said.

He agreed with Mr. Gilbert that information technology would shape the car of the future, and invoked the “mobility Internet” to imagine a time when cars drive themselves and “don’t crash.”

“Texting won’t be an issue, and driving will be the distraction,” said Mr. Burns. “And because cars won’t crash we’ll be able to reduce their mass significantly.”

Among Mr. Burns’ last endeavors at G.M. was Project P.U.M.A., a collaboration with Segway that posits small pod-like 750-pound city cars that can drive autonomously. A second generation of G.M.’s city vehicles, called EN-V, are being put on display at Expo Shanghai in China.

Jeffrey Sachs, who heads Columbia’s Earth Institute, added a note of impatience to the proceedings. He invoked the specter of global warming and the auto tailpipe’s role in hastening it, and said the electrification of the automobile “will have to happen a lot faster than such a complex process would normally require.” Effective public policy, he said, can help accelerate E.V. adoption.

“We are on the cusp of an historic worldwide transformation in transportation that starts in the world’s biggest cities,” Mr. Sachs said in an interview. “It’s important from a resource point of view and an environmental point of view.”

A pre-production Chevy Volt was parked on College Walk for the event. Tony Posawatz, the Volt’s line director, said the company was “on a very good glide path to deliver the car.” The first retail cars will be delivered in November, he said. The Volt plugs in and will be home charged; Mr. Posawatz said he was looking forward to “having a gas station in my garage.”

So is New York ready to charge E.V.’s? Arthur Kressner, director of power supply research and development at Con Edison, cited the electric delivery trucks that plied the city’s streets 110 years ago and answered in the affirmative. Except for relatively rare peak demand times, he said, “the grid is more than capable of meeting the demands of electric vehicles.”

In an interview after the forum, Mr. Kressner said Con Ed has recently met with several charging companies, including the global player Better Place, and with the owners of city parking garages who are likely to add E.V. charging.

# # #

Editor’s note:
Since the issue of sustainability credentials of electric vehicles is one that comes up time and again, often with high profile and great help from the communications resources and excellent PR skills of the groups behind them, it is important that this journal provides a clear and consistent statement of our views on these issues. More on this in our recent article, “Honk? Green power for electric cars: Let’s think about it before hitting the road this time” at

There is an interesting upside to EV story of which we are not hearing very much and which apparently was not a topic for discussion at the joint Columbia/GM high-profile event. And that is the concept of electric cars which behave as they should in a city, meaning that they should be slow enough to be safe on city streets and much smaller so as to take less precious urban real estate. And while this is by no means in itself a magic wand for sustainability, it can serve to offer certain number of improvements which are not to be sneezed at altogether. It is not a big deal really, and that perhaps is part of the problem.

The difficulty is that the automobile industry and there accolates are putting close to zero priority on these kinds of vehicles. Look at the one just your right here: that little lead acid powered electric car provided me with 10 years of reliable, affordable slow speed mobility for my day-to-day transport purposes in Paris which, while once again not the key to sustainable transport, nonetheless represents a kind of pattern break that might in turn create a new set of attitudes about what is really needed. (And the fact that these kinds of vehicles could also be put into a carshare operation (which in fact is she object of discussion and some modest demonstrations), is something which is also worth a thought. Sadly however the bulk of the money spent in this broad area aims to create something rather closer to an electrical Porsche. Pity!)

To conclude on this for now: Let’s not fool ourselves. We have to be very careful day after day to avoid being diverted from the fundamental and huge sustainability challenges that are before us. We need to remain rigorously focused, scrupulously ethical, and relentlessly consistent. Without these qualities, we will never get there. So please, let us not permit ourselves to get distracted. Next?

Eric Britton

Honk? Green power for electric cars Let’s think about it before hitting the road this time.

Here we go again. Green power? A nice little electric car is a great way to get around in a city. I should know since I drove one in Paris for the better part of a decade (eyes right). Whether or not it is a good idea to multiply the kinds of cars that the main players have in mind (definitely not the one you see here) by say one billion or even some notable fraction of that is another matter. Have a look at this good attempt from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment to make some sense out of this one, where often enthusiasm and self-interest way outpace solid information. And then let’s talk about it.

Green power for electric cars
Harvesting the climate potential of electric vehicles

- A study by CE Delft
– Commissioned by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment


Transport is the sector with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Since 1990 its emissions have increased by 38%. (Including emissions from international shipping and aviation. Source: Statistical Pocketbook Energy and Transport 2009.)

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso recognised this problem in September 2009 in his ‘political guidelines for the next Commission’. He said: “the next Commission needs to maintain the momentum towards decarbonising the transport sector as well as the development of clean and electric cars.”

A number of European countries have launched national programmes and promotion strategies for electric cars ranging from support for research and development to purchase incentives. But current EU policies offer no guarantee that more electric vehicles on Europe’s roads will lead to savings in carbon emissions over coming years.

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment have commissioned a study that:

• Analyses the impact of electric vehicles on the European power sector and on CO2 emissions.

• Assesses how policies should be changed in order to maximise greenhouse gas emission savings from the introduction of electric vehicles.

The report is released as the EU begins to develop its electric vehicle initiative and action plan (announced for May 2010).

The study finds that electric vehicles can in principle substantially contribute to decarbonising road passenger transport. They compare favourably to (even advanced) internal combustion engine cars in that:

- They are substantially more efficient than conventional vehicles.

– They can be fuelled with electricity generated from a large range of energy sources, including renewable sources with virtually zero CO2 emissions.

- They have no direct emissions.

- They can charge up with energy generated by renewables when there is a surplus of supply.

However, increasing the number of electric vehicles without a change in current legislation could result in:

- An increase in oil consumption and CO2 emissions in the EU car sector, compared to a situation without electric vehicles.- An increase in coal- and nuclear-based electricity production, instead of an increase in energy production from renewable sources.

Below are the main findings of the report and its recommendations to ensure that electric vehicles become an effective tool to reduce CO2 emissions.

1. Ensuring that electric vehicles reduce CO2 emissions from the car sector

Existing EU legislation on car emissions allows manufacturers to use sales of electric vehicles to offset the continued production of gas-guzzling cars. So-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles allow carmakers to sell 3.5 high-emitting cars for every electric car they sell, without affecting the overall CO2 target for their fleet. The report shows that this has the effect of actually increasing oil consumption and associated CO2 emissions, compared to a situation without electric vehicles. It finds that increasing sales of electric cars to 10% of total car sales could lead to a 20% increase in both the oil consumption and CO2 emissions of the overall fleet (conventional and electric vehicles).

The so-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles also reduce the contribution of electric vehicles to reaching the transport target of the EU’s renewable energy directive. The directive requires that 10% of the energy supply for the transport sector in 2020 come from renewable sources (biofuels and renewable electricity). Biofuels and renewable electricity for vehicles are in direct competition to achieve this target. As long as biofuels remain largely unsustainable, renewable electricity is the greenest option.

Policy recommendations:
a) Abolish so-called super credits for electric vehicles granted under EU legislation on CO2 emissions from cars and under forthcoming legislation on CO2 emissions from vans.

b) Ensure binding and ambitious 2020 targets for CO2 emissions from cars and vans that will increase overall efficiency for both combustion and electric vehicles.

2. Ensuring that the additional electricity demand resulting from the uptake in electric vehicles is met by additional renewable electricity

Carbon emissions from electric vehicles depend on the type of electricity they consume. When charged on renewable electricity, electric vehicles have a greenhouse gas impact of nearly zero. Charging them on electricity produced with coal results in equal or higher emissions than for comparable conventional vehicles.

The additional power demand for electric vehicles is expected to be relatively low. Assuming an uptake of up to 30 million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on EU roads, the increase would be less than 3% compared to current EU demand. But without demand management, any increase in energy consumption could simply increase fossil fuel and nuclear energy production. (Increasing electricity demand from transport is therefore likely to have an upward effect on the CO2 price in the EU’s emissions trading scheme. This effect has not been fully studied in this report, but is expected to remain small in the coming decade, as the additional electricity demand will be limited.)

In order to avoid these market distortions, EU member states should boost the supply of renewable electricity. They should also monitor and report estimates of the share of renewable electricity used in cars for the purpose of reaching their 10% renewable energy transport target. This would stimulate the deployment of smart charging technologies that favour renewables and create an attractive market for electric vehicles.

Policy recommendations:
c) Encourage member states to raise their renewable electricity targets in line with the additional demand for electric vehicles.

d) Encourage member states to report the estimated share of renewable electricity actually used in electric cars, and not simply the share of renewables in national electricity production.

3. Enabling the use of renewable electricity in electric vehicles
To enable a greater share of renewable electricity in the power mix and in electric vehicles, the electricity system should be made more flexible to allow for the integration of energy from variable renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy. Electric vehicles can play an important role in this development, as they combine long periods of connection to the grid with large storage capacity in their batteries. But they will only do so if they are equipped with on¬board metering systems. These would help them manage electricity input and primarily be charged when surplus electricity – mostly from renewables like wind and solar – is available on the power grid. Unless charging is properly managed, electric vehicles will not play a role in enabling the future renewable energy system.

To guarantee that car manufacturers apply the necessary technology for smart metering, the technology needs to be standardised and enforced through EU legislation. The standardisation and compatibility of such hardware and the ability of cars and electricity grids to exchange information would guarantee that drivers of electric vehicles could charge up anywhere.

Policy recommendations:
e) Develop smart cars and smart grids that are able to exchange data and that favour the use of renewable electricity.

f) Standardise charging technology to ensure that every driver can charge up anywhere in Europe.

# # #

Press release: Report:

Greenpeace – Franziska Achterberg: Greenpeace EU transport policy advisor, +32 (0)498 362403 (mobile),

Transport & Environment – Jos Dings: Director, Transport & Environment, +32 (0)498 51 53 19 (mobile),

CE Delft – Bettina Kampman: Senior researcher/consultant,
+31 (0)15-2150171, +31 (0)6 21520939 (mobile),

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

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

Dragging monorail projects and propositions into the cold light of day

Dear World Streets reader,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adalberto, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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About the author: (to follow)

3-6 line bio note + pic to follow

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

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

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

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

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

You, me, technology, pattern breaks and unleashing the power of the market: Think Copenhagen Wheel

World Streets rarely gives in to “technical fix” solutions to our dual challenges of wrecking the planet and our cities staying stuck in hopelessly outmoded 20th century patterns and actions – because we know for sure that the answer lies not in the deus ex machine of technology but above all within ourselves. But hold on for a minute – let’s have a look and give some thought to . . . the Copenhagen Wheel (nice name!).

Anything that works.

As we look around the mournful Nordic battlefield this morning, at the strewn bodies, broken hopes, and hastily retreating figures and CO2 streams that will soon have been all that remain of COP15, we have every reason to be ready to look hard at any and all ideas that may hold out promise for the future, for the near future, no matter how few, no matter how strange at first glance.

So today let’s relax a bit and ponder something developed by a group of technology heads at MIT, which, surprise!, brings us right up before the necessary path to behavioral change — a most obdurate challenge as we have been seeing in Copenhagen these weeks. Still there are times when technology can help us, not only do things differently but also to do them better. To help us make, one by one, more sustainable choices. That after all is what sustainability is all about.

So let’s have a gander at the Copenhagen Wheel, an interesting playful, and idea-ful, example of how this can work. And oh yes!, let’s not stop there.

MIT’s big wheel in Copenhagen

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —Dec. 15, at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, MIT researchers debut the Copenhagen Wheel — a revolutionary new bicycle wheel that not only boosts power, but can keep track of friends, fitness, smog and traffic. Though it looks like an ordinary bicycle wheel with an oversized center, the Wheel’s bright red hub is a veritable Swiss army knife’s worth of electronic gadgets and novel functions.

“Over the past few years we have seen a kind of biking renaissance, which started in Copenhagen and has spread from Paris to Barcelona to Montreal,” says Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT SENSEable City Laboratory and the Copenhagen Wheel project. “It’s sort of like ‘Biking 2.0′ — whereby cheap electronics allow us to augment bikes and convert them into a more flexible, on-demand system.”

The first goal of the Copenhagen Wheel project is to promote cycling by extending the range of distance people can cover and by making the whole riding experience smoother so that even steep inclines are no longer a barrier to comfortable cycling.

Toward this end, the Wheel can store energy every time the rider puts on the brakes, and then give that power back to provide a boost when riding uphill or to add a burst of speed in traffic.

“The Wheel uses a technology similar to the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), which has radically changed Formula One racing over the past couple of years,” says Ratti. “When you brake, your kinetic energy is recuperated by an electric motor and then stored by batteries within the wheel, so that you can have it back to you when you need it. The bike wheel contains all you need so that no sensors or additional electronics need to be added to the frame and an existing bike can be retrofitted with the blink of an eye.”

“Our city’s ambition is that 50 percent of the citizens will take their bike to work or school every day,” says Ritt Bjerregaard, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen. “So for us, this project is part of the answer to how can we make using a bike even more attractive.”

But there are also a variety of extra functions hidden within the hub of the Copenhagen Wheel. By using a series of sensors and a Bluetooth connection to the user’s iPhone, which can be mounted on the handlebars, the wheel can monitor the bicycle’s speed, direction and distance traveled, as well as collect data on air pollution and even the proximity of the rider’s friends.

“One of the applications that we have discussed with the City of Copenhagen is that of an incentive scheme whereby citizens collect Green Miles — something similar to frequent flyer miles, but good for the environment,” says Christine Outram, who led the team of MIT researchers.

The project also aims to create a platform for individual behavioral change.

“The Copenhagen Wheel is part of a more general trend: that of inserting intelligence in our everyday objects and of creating a smart support infrastructure around ourselves for everyday life,” says Assaf Biderman, associate director of the project. “For example, the Wheel has a smart lock: if somebody tries to steal it, it goes into a mode where the brake regenerates the maximum amount of power, and sends you a text message. So in the worst case scenario the thief will have charged your batteries before you get back your bike.”

The initial prototypes of the Copenhagen Wheel were developed along with company Ducati Energia and the Italian Ministry of the Environment. It is expected that the wheel will go into production next year, with a tag price competitive with that of a standard electric bike. According to Claus Juhl, CEO of Copenhagen, the city might place the first order and use bicycles retrofitted with the Copenhagen Wheel as a substitution for city employee cars as part of the city’s goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.

* Click here to play video

The Copenhagen Wheel team at MIT is composed of Christine Outram, Project Leader, Rex Britter, Andrea Cassi, Xiaoji Chen, Jennifer Dunnam, Paula Echeverri, Myshkin Ingawale, Ari Kardasis, E Roon Kang, Sey Min, Assaf Biderman and Carlo Ratti. The project was developed for the City of Copenhagen in cooperation with Ducati Energia and with the support of the Italian Ministry for the Environment.

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Now what happens?

What about this? Let’s assume this is something that really can be developed into a serious sustainability tool, so now what?

Let’s assume that the goal – I am correct in this? – is to make the strongest possible contribution to a sustainable planet and more livable cities – what is the best, the fastest, the most powerful way in which this idea can be put to work.

Have no doubt about it, if the product really does fill a market niche, there will be industrial groups that will reverse engineer it in a few days and be able to put their own versions on the market before our MIT colleagues figure out what they are going to do next September. This brave new world, the global economy, and the forces of the market will see to that.

So, now what?

The editor

PS. Is there anyone who is brave enough to explain to our MIT friends about the perils of weird CaptALIZation? We need to save the planet AND preserve our languages. ;-)

Not for COP15: Two we should probably set aside on Day 1 Not 1. Cap-and-Trade. Not 2. Carbon Offsets.

It’s not quite transport per se, but it is climate, and yes, climate is transport. So take eight minutes to view this presentation by one team of why Cap-and-Trade and Carbon Offsets are way off target, and worse if climate protection is the game. That at least is the story of “The Story of Cap & Trade.”

Don’t be fooled by the casual tone. There is real analysis behind this little presentation. (That said, check out Comments below where I am sure we shall be seeing other views on this.)

Here is how they describe their motivations for making this film:
“We made The Story of Cap & Trade to encourage a real discussion about how to solve the enormous climate challenges we face. If there was ever an issue that merited broad, even heated public debate, this is it. I’d far rather people argue about cap and trade and other policy options than ignore them or silently go along with the crowd, even when our guts tell us the solution on the table is inadequate….” (Click here for their full statement.)

Click here to view their eight minute video.

The New York Times of 2 December had this to day about this little film:
“The push by pro-climate bill, anti-cap-and-trade groups is also getting stronger. A film released yesterday by The Story of Stuff, Free Range Studios, Climate Justice Now! and Durban Group for Climate Justice is aimed at the general public and attempts to explain the cap-and-trade concept in a simple way. It tells listeners that “the devils in the details” of cap and trade including free allowances and offsets will only line the pockets of Wall Street…” (You can read the full NYT piece here.)

You may also find that it useful to have a look at the annotated script which provides foot notes on just about all of the points made. Click here for script.

Sometimes it’s simple. Transport and Climate change

I am not sure if irony is the right word in this case, but we can be absolutely sure that both Cap-and-Trade and Carbon Offsets are going to get a huge amount of attention in Copenhagen this week. But we could, if we chose to, do a lot better.

We are, the transport sector that is, as you know something like 20% of the problem. And when it comes to how all six and a half billions of us get around in our day to day lives, there are only two solutions that will do the job: (1) Carbon taxes and (2) New Mobility choices. There is no other way out.

Now all we need is the leadership, the strong consensus to get us there. Stay tuned.

And make youir voice heard.

Eric Britton
Editor, World Streets

The Not-Sustainable Transport Library (A final resting place for those really bad "green" ideas)

We have just today created a new forum under the New Mobility Agenda. It is called The Not Sustainable Transport Library, and the idea is to create a nice warm place in which we can stack articles and sources on what we think are very poor transportation/environment proposals – often technology rich and rarely cheap – that present themselves as “the next great green idea” for our cities and the planet. Watch out for the doctor! Continue reading

Honk! Will technology save us from ourselves?

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

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

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

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

by April Streeter, Gothenburg, Sweden on 10.26.09

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

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

* Click here to view the Volvo video –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Solving humanity’s most pressing problems". Comments?

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge
“Each year a distinguished jury awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems and the 2009 results are in!”

(All text and graphics here taken from prize announcement at )

From Buckminster Fuller Challenge release:
Congratulations to the winning proposal by the Smart Cities Group at the MIT Media lab: Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems.

2009 Grand Prize Winner: Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems

And here it is:

* For full article click to

Your comments are warmly invited here.