Weekend weirdness: Where Can I Buy “Eric Britton”?

eric britton strange non book-smallNormally your editor tries very hard to keep all postings here focused on the important topics which you will find introduced in our original Mission Statement of 2009, but here exceptionally is a more personal short story which raises some puzzling problems. And I may not be the only one in our extended sustainability family who has run up against this particular weirdness. Continue reading

World Streets Reader (First edition)

Here please find a selection of articles taken from the archives of World Streets, each of which reporting briefly on a concept or event that I as editor and author consider to be worthy of the attention of our several thousand international readers. I am reviewing these for ideas, materials and clues in support of a book in progress under the title “The Third Transportation Revolution: Cities, Indolence, Complexity and the Equity Agenda”. More will be posted on this project shortly.

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Thinking about Equity-Based Transport Systems: Get Ready to Embrace Complexity (or Get Off the Bridge)

As is or at least should by now be well known, a transportation “system” is well more than a collection of largely free-standing bits of infrastructure, modes, links, agencies, institutions, operators and more, concerning which decision scan be taken on a piecemeal basis. .  It is in fact a textbook example of a disorganized complex system, or more specifically a vast, chaotic but ultimately manageable ecosystem.  And if it is our ambition — which it should be — to construct, or rather reconstruct, our city transport systems into functional high-performing sustainable ecosystems. it can help to build up our understanding of the process in steps. Continue reading

What do you think the mayor is thinking about when you walk through the door this morning to talk to her about that very important transport issue?

When I or anyone else with a transportation issue burning in the front of our brain, walk into City Hall  to talk to the mayor about the important topic which bring us into her office, here is what we implicitly assume is her dominant preoccupation behind these exchanges:

If only it were so. Continue reading

On Building New Mobility Ecosystems: Madame the mayor has some questions

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I understand Professor that you are preparing a major public address on new transport ideas for our city tomorrow. My staff tells me you are calling it “On Building New Mobility Ecosystems”. Now that sounds quite intriguing, but can you tell me in a few words that you have in mind to talk to us about? 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

Editorial: Why are we losing the sustainability wars? In transport, in cities, in our lives? Because we are . . .

Consider these irrefutable unpleasant truths:

There may be successes and improvements in this project, in this  place, in this way, but when we look at the bottom line — i.e., the aggregate impact of our transport choices and actions on the planet  — it is clear that we (that’s the collective “we” including all of us who have in some way committed to or accepted this great responsiblity, this author certainly included) are failing, big time. And if we are frank with ourselves, we can see that this is quite simply because . . . Continue reading

“They are supposed to scream”

The acrimonious discussions and representations before the highest court of India in which the road lobby is currently doing its best to put an end to the concept of reserved lanes for more space-efficient public transport, with the single stroke of a pen, is something that all of us who are committed to the concept of sustainable and just transport can learn a few lessons. From the other side of the planet this article that appeared last week in Next American City  in its entirety below. It brings to mind the memorable words roared by former mayor Enrique Peñalosa a few years back on the subject of the ever-bitter struggle between the car lobby vs. more effective ways of getting around in his city: “Don’t you understand Eric? they are supposed to scream”. Continue reading

John Whitelegg on “Health in the sustainable city”

Some time back our very long time friend and associate, Professor of Sustainable Transportation and Sustainable Development John Whitelegg, was interviewed in Copenhagen and asked  how changes in transport systems can lead to a vast improvement in quality of life. We need to move from a world filled with metal and concrete to a world of green spaces and clean air, he explained.  Today, two years later, this short video has lost none of its validity or timeliness. Let’s have a look. Continue reading

No Parking, No Business 3: Walking and cycling perspectives

Continuing  our coverage of the open “No parking, No business” conversation, more on walkability impacts/local economic development impacts, this time  from Todd Litman: selected references  from the “Walkability” chapter of the Online TDM Encyclopedia of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.  Continue reading

No parking, no business 2: What happens in the store.

On 23 June we asked the following open question to our readers “Has anyone out there ever run across a solid report or study showing that local businesses suffer financially when a zone is pedestrianized or made bike-accessible? Or that real estate prices take a nose dive when such improvements are made? Most of us here are familiar with the other side of this coin, but it occurred to me that this such critical references might be useful to us all, given that these local conflicts and claims come up time and time again in cities around the world.” Continue reading

Transportation Innovation and Reform: Finding the Way to Social Sustainability

As wise and balanced a summary as you will find of the fine art of dialogue and engagement when it comes to the hard job of developing and integrating new transport arrangements into a space as varied and in many ways contradictory and conflicted as a  21st century city, in any part of the world.  Bravo! With kind thanks to Christopher Zegras of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, one of the conveners of this event, for sharing this with our readers. (You may also wish to check out the short note of conclusion of the editor.)

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No Parking, No Business 1: What if the other guy actually has a point?

Last Saturday morning, the 23rd of June, I thought to ask an open question to several of our New Mobility Agenda fora as follows:

Has anyone out there ever run across a solid report or study showing that local businesses suffer financially when a zone is pedestrianized or made bike accessible? Or that real estate prices take a nose dive when such improvements are made? Most of us here are familiar with the other side of this coin, but it occurred to me that this such critical references might be useful to us all, given that these local conflicts and claims come up time and time again in cities around the world.

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Hacking Sustainability: Part 2

Information + Choice + Feedback:
The basic idea is familiar: i.e., putting that smart phone in our pocket to work to help us calibrate and understand a range of inter-connected variables related to our mobility choices. An app to handle not one but two sets of related challenges: personal and environmental.

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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

Editorial: On the plane to Helsinki

I have always thought of myself not as a consultant – that is, someone with specific expertise to whom you ask directed questions and who gives you what you think/hope are the right answers – but rather as an “advisor”, i.e. someone whose role it is to sit next to you for a certain period of time and draw your attention to a certain number of things to which you might wish to give a closer look. (NB. My experience shows that it is usually a lot more comfortable to work with consultants.) Continue reading

Equity/Transport 2012: Road map for Helsinki Stage 1

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.)

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Helsinki Equity/Transport project kicks-off today

Today is the opening day of the 2012 Helsinki Equity-Based Transportation peer review program, the first in what we hope will become a growing thread of cooperating  city projects querying the impact of first reviewing and eventually restructuring our city and regional transportation systems around the fundamental core principle of equity. You will find details on the EBT site at http://equitytransport.wordpress.com/ starting at noon today. Continue reading

Equity-Based Transportation Planning, Policy and Practice: First Helsinki project announcement

This week we initiate work on the first stages of preparatory organization in support of an “open conversation” looking into the pros and cons, the possibilities and eventual impossibilities,  of creating an equity-based transportation system at the level of a city and the surrounding region.  This first pioneering project, in which 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 running over the period mi-February through mid-April.

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Is World Streets doing its job?

We asked 100 experts for their views – – and 101 responded.

The results are there for all to see and judge. And we now know that we are going to need collaboration and other forms of support if we are to continue this international sustainability adventure. Is what we are doing useful and worthy of support? 101 of our readers picked up their pens and responded to our question.  101 of our readers picked up their pens and responded to our question. Continue reading

Network Media. (Do we know what we are doing?)

If that’s a question, then the answer is a resounding . . . kind of. The truth is that we are not embarrassed to say that when it comes to the new network media we are entirely improvising. On the net today there are no straight lines: everything changes so fast that what may look pretty good at one point may suddenly become absolutely  vital to our operations — or, at the other end of the spectrum,  deceive, or worse yet even offer some dangers. It is, in a phrase, a real existential drama, but since we are trying to communicate on a world wide scale, we really have no  chance but to try to take all these bits and pieces in hand and do with them the best we can.  E pur si muove! Continue reading

Is World Streets doing its job? We asked 100 experts for their views – – and 101 responded.

“World Streets needs to catch on before my feet get wet.” The  Netherlands

The results are there for all to see and judge. And we now know that we are going to need a literal world wide web of inputs, collaboration and other forms of support if we are to continue this independent international sustainability adventure in the year ahead. Is what we are doing useful and worthy of support? 101 of our readers picked up their pens and responded to our question. Continue reading

Getting outside that box (which may require being just a bit unreasonable)

Once we are cozily set up in our box — a box of course that we can neither see nor really appreciate (What box?) — we become accustomed to thinking of things comfortably wedged within our invisible container  as “that’s the way things are”.  And from there it is a very small step to become  a pragmatically “reasonable person”.  To which I can only quote Bernard Shaw when he said so long ago (with social justice and the emancipation of women firmly in the middle of his sites): The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.  Let’s see if Preston Schiller can help us to get outside the box of the automobile. Continue reading