World Streets Worst Practices Department: 2014 Nominations

wswpd 2014  Our Dear LeaderFor the last several years the internationally fabled Worst Practices Department has taken its place of honor in World Streets and the world more generally, because when it comes to transportation there has never been a shortage of flakey ideas.

This year we shall for the first time be handing out handsome  Awards in a planet- spanning  ceremony that will be the object of an open virtual conference (details to follow) perhaps on the same day that the Sustainable Transport Awards for 2014 are announced in parallel with the annual TRB conference. The keen-eyed, unafraid WSWPD program Dear Leader will of course figure prominently on the trophies. (Details to follow shortly.)

But what we are looking to draw attention to here are not just the little stuff that may be the joy of an intrepid inventor with blinders on or group of gung-ho supporters fearlessly attached to some favorite notion, but the kinds of wrong-headed mega projects that often keep popping up in many parts of the world, sold hard by their sponsors and (if I may) fellow travelers -;)

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World Streets Worst Practices Department

France-city of the future le corbuIn a world in which considerable attention is given to the concept of “Best Practices” as teaching guides and exemplars  in the field of cities and transportation, World Streets has since our founding in 2009 drawn attention from time to time to poor, desperately poor and even pernicious policies and practices.  Our Worst Practices Department has its rightful place in World Streets because when it comes to transportation there has never been a shortage of flakey, retrograde, often even dangerous ideas.

You are invited to pitch in, drawing to our attention what you believe to bone fide worst practices. What is surprising is just how many of them are, and how hard it is for some of the worst and most costly ideas (they often go together) to be put to death in a peaceful way.

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Corbusier-Free Cities

To be quite frank, to the point and a bit rude, the famed 20th century Swiss architect, designer, artist and general polymath Le Corbusier when he donned his urbanist hat provided us with several striking examples of how to build a city for cars.  We are extremely fortunate that most of them never got off the drawing board. But today, the Danish architect Henrik Valeur tells us about one that did and what perhaps Indian planners and urbanists can now do something to rectify.

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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.

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“Worst Practices”. Los Angeles on the rocks

It’s a fine thing of course to know about “best practices” in our troubled sector, and there are quite a number of programs and sources in various corners of the world that are busy assembling these and making them available in various databases. That is excellent. But we decided that World Streets can make a useful contribution if we take all this from the other end — and launch a series of collaborative “worst practice” (or possibly just “bad practice”) profiles, illustrating different ways to get it very wrong. Continue reading

Honk! Cars, People and the Planet. It’s a Wonderful World (Have a stupid weekend)

Have you ever given any thought to trying to imagine just how dumb some people think we are? My guess is that the good people of Hyundai have laid out serious money for this little film, without giving much thought to IQ’s.  So we can only assume that they have done this for our weekend viewing pleasure. What can we say?  Well, thank you.

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On wrong-minded modernization of transport: Message from Dhaka

World Streets is all about casting a broad net over transportation issues and approaches in cities around the world — reporting on the good, the bad and the ugly — so that we can learn from each other and do, hopefully, just a bit better in our own patch. Today’s communication from Dhaka reports on a familiar Third World policy conflict about a popular and very important transport mode which is unloved by some but which is providing affordable, environmental, and efficient mobility for almost a third of all trips in the nation’s capital. Seven days a week, on demand service when you need it, and with heavy use by women and children. If you have a look at what is going on there in this all-too familiar tussle of ideas and authority, we bet you will learn something for your own city from Dhaka. 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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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

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