Musing: Robin Chase on Sharing and Innovation

Robin Chase, widely known as one of the innovators behind Zipcar, has spent a number of years looking at different ways of sharing cars and offers this thoughtful article on her personal blog, Network Musings, which we are pleased to share with you this morning.

I believe there is a strong tie between sharing and the ability to innovate. This post will walk you through the logic. Continue reading

Tools: New Mobility Working Groups on line

Just to your left you will see a new section under this title, the goal of which is to permit our readers to follow with a single click progress and postings in the main specialised discussion and reporting fora, for now covering the collaborative working platforms on: the New Mobility Café, World Transport Forum, World Carshare Consortium, World City Bike Forum, Value Capture/Tax Reform, World Car Free Days, and the Sustran Global South Forum.

In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.
– A. de Tocqueville, 1835

World Streets is the voice of a collaborative international venture which builds on several decades of worldwide networking and exchange in the field of sustainable transportation and new mobility. One aspect of this is the organization and maintenance of more than a dozen specialized discussion groups and fora, each of which aims at providing a shared library and discussion space for a specific topic or area of policy concern. You can see their present status by clicking .

Don’t count on "alternative fuels" to save the world? (Dark bet on a pessimistic, high tech future)

Here we have an unusually perceptive piece from a specialist in chaos theory who helps us make sense of the “alternative fuels” proposals and claims. It is good to have his hardheaded expert view on the potential of alternative fuels in our future transportation arrangements. But it is important too that we reflect on his dark bet on a pessimistic, high-technology future: in which he sees us as stumbling from crisis to crisis, in response to which we manage each time to come up with last-minute ad hoc “solutions” which leave us as still basically operational, but not all that much more. That I am afraid is the bleak face of the future, unless we are able to find the vision and leadership to do otherwise.

The Methadone Economy

– Tom Konrad, 27 April 2010.

Peak Oil Investments I’m Putting My Money On:
If the measure of success for alternative fuels is the ability to continue to live in suburbs and commute in multi-ton boxes of metal on congested freeways for hours each day, then alternative fuels will fail. No alternative fuel has the existing infrastructure, supply potential, energy density, and low environmental impact that we would need to replace oil without changing our unsustainable lifestyle.

Peak oil may mean the end of bigger and bigger cars driven farther and farther on more and more congested roads. Peak oil may mean the end of suburban life as we know it. Yet life as we don’t know it does need not be a vision out of Mad Max. Peak oil will mean changes, some for the better, some for the worse.

The surest change peak oil will bring is less driving, in fewer vehicles that are filled closer to capacity. Those vehicles will use less oil (or alternative fuels) per person-mile. We’ll also find ways to satisfy the desires and needs that we currently satisfy with travel without traveling.

Alternative Fuels

The first eight parts of this series looked into alternative fuels. I concluded that no alternative fuel listed could replace oil as we use it today fast enough to replace dwindling oil supplies. Conventional biofuels cannot be produced in enough quantity, and making hydrogen is an inefficient use of electricity or natural gas. Electric vehicles are too expensive or have too little range. There is not enough natural gas and there is too little fueling infrastructure to make natural gas vehicles practical on a large scale. Gas-to-liquids makes sense for stranded natural gas, but there are too many other high value uses for natural gas to make a large dent in declining oil supplies. Coal to liquids does too much environmental harm, and algae needs too much more technological development to achieve its promise in time.

The biggest problem with alternative fueled vehicles, however, is not the alternative fuels, the problem is the vehicles and how we use them.

Oil was a one-time bonanza of a readily available, easily transportable, durable, energy-dense liquid. With oil, humanity won a natural resources lottery ticket. Like a lottery winner who blows cash that could have lasted a lifetime in a few months, we now need to realize that we’ve spent most of our winnings. It’s unreasonable to expect that we’re going to win another such jackpot before we have to start watching our fuel budget again. The main question is how soon and how deliberately we will make the necessary adjustment. Will we act like the lottery winner who uses his last hundred thousand to tide him over while he looks for a job? Will we keep partying to the bitter end, until one day we wake up, hung over in the gutter? Will it be something in between?

The Methadone Economy

Switching to a drug analogy, most alternative fuels are the methadone to treat our petroleum / heroin addiction. Methadone is given to heroin addicts in treatment because it mitigates withdrawal symptoms and can block the euphoric effects of heroin, morphine, and similar drugs, reducing the urge to use.

Alternative fuels can be sufficient to allow our society to function, but we’re not going to feel the highs we felt when the oil was flowing freely. Alternative fuels cannot take us back to a “normal” pre-peak oil state because our use of petroleum over the last few decades as been far from “normal:” it has been one long, fossil-fueled high. We will eventually kick the petroleum habit with the help of alternative fuels not because alternative fuels are better than petroleum and can bring us something that petroleum cannot, but because our supplier will be getting smaller shipments over time, while the number of fellow junkies knocking on his door will keep going up with big increases in petroleum demand from emerging economies.

There are several competing visions of a future powered by alternative fuels, ranging from wildly optimistic to gloom-and-doom, with variations depending on how effectively the prognosticator thinks we can replace fossil fuels with alternatives.

A high-technology optimistic vision includes smoothly running efficient pods in mass transit systems powered by renewable energy. High speed bullet trains network the land, making overland air travel unnecessary. The low-technology optimistic vision involves a peaceful return to local economies where food is grown locally, and increasing local interdependence fosters strong local community ties, and people grow happier as they become more connected to the land and each other. The low-technology pessimistic vision is a free-for-all scramble for dwindling resources like the vision out of Mad Max referenced above.

I’m long on optimism about technology, but short on optimism about our will to make the necessary sacrifices to implement that technology quickly or efficiently. I’m betting on a pessimistic, high-technology future. In this future, we manage to cobble together a hodge-podge of last-minute, jerry-rigged solutions to keep the economy functioning at a basic level, but not at all smoothly or evenly. In it, we lurch from a crisis caused by financial melt-down, to a crisis caused by peak-oil to one caused by climate change. We’ll tackle each crisis with incredible ingenuity, staving off total chaos, but at the cost of mis-allocated resources and a deteriorating standard of living. We hold out in the belief that after just this one more fix, the world will be back to normal and we can stop worrying. But that day will never come.

Forward thinking planners in some municipalities and communities will work on implementing true, long-term solutions. But they will not have enough money or resources to do more than ameliorate the next crisis. The large-scale, system wide solutions of better mass transit, algae biofuels, and continent-wide electricity transmission of the high-technology optimistic vision will be implemented too slowly, on too small a scale to achieve the economic stability the techno-optimists hope for. But these half-built systems will still bring considerable benefit, and keep the succession of crises from being the complete disaster that would come with a complete lack of planning.

This is the Methadone Economy. Alternative-fuel oil replacement therapy is necessary because oil supply will not keep pace with demand; we must replace oil or do without. But alternative fuels are not oil, and will require more effort devoted to energy production to produce the same effect. The Methadone economy will function, but it won’t give us the highs we got from the cheap, concentrated, easily accessible energy of oil.

A future characterized by thoughtful, long-range planning seems unlikely to arise from the same political class and voting public that has not meaningfully prepared for anything but good times in decades. The first IPCC report was released in 1990, and it made clear that human activities were substantially increasing levels of greenhouse gasses which would warm the planet. Two decades later, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. We had the first warnings about peak oil in the 1970s oil crises, but only now are we starting to put serious political and economic capital into searching for solutions. When the pre-2008 global debt bubble was on, NINJA (No Income No Job no Assets) loans were welcomed by politicians praising financial innovation and its ability to bring home ownership to people who could not previously afford it.

The Methadone Economy may sound gloomy, but I see it as the most optimistic vision possible given the political reality we see around us. More pessimistic visions abound, but if you expect them, you’re probably better off investing in guns and physical gold than you are investing in the stock market.


I see three major investment themes in the Methadone Economy.

First, there is the knowledge that long-term solutions will be implemented, although not completely and at insufficient scale. Investors in contractors who specialize in mass transit and high-speed rail should do well, as should the longer-term alternative fuel solutions discussed in earlier articles of this series. Vehicle efficiency improvements will find rapidly growing markets as fuel becomes more expensive.

Second, band-aid solutions will thrive. Bike lanes, electric scooters, buses, and any other transportation solution which can be implemented with only small changes to existing infrastructure. Road pricing schemes and the software technology to help people coordinate ride sharing. The clever use of a few resources will always win over grand schemes when there are few resources to spare.

Finally, the Methadone Economy is an economy where we cannot expect long term growth. More likely, we will see periods of anemic (and occasionally robust) growth punctuated by periodic crisis-driven declines. This will be mirrored in the stock market, and so investors in the above two solutions should do well to hedge their overall exposure to the market.

# # #
About the author:
Tom Konrad, PhD., CFA is a regulatory consultant and financial analyst specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In his consulting role, he testifies on behalf of clients before public utilities commissions and state legislatures to promote clean energy. In addition to, he writes about clean energy and economics as a freelancer. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Purdue University, where he wrote his thesis on Complex Dynamics, a branch of chaos theory. His study of chaos theory led to his conviction that knowing the limits of our ability to predict is much more important than predictions themselves.

This article originally appeared on 27 April 2010 and can be seen here. Kind thanks for the author for permission to reprint in these pages.

Prisoner of car? (Working note from Communications 101)

If it is your firm belief that God is on our side (Gott mit uns) and that we are winning the battle of sustainable transport and sustainable lives, you will probably have little use for anything that might show up on a popular environmental site like TreeHugger. But hey! we are losing, so we need to be prepared to use every trick, talent and channel we can lay our hands on. Here is a piece that appeared in TreeHugger last week that will tell you, dear reader, nothing you do not already know — but it is the telling of it that is the point. Let me put that in other words: we have plenty to learn from them when it comes to getting our message across to the general public. And that includes thee . . . and me. Continue reading

Honey, you gotta slow down

It is the consistent position of this journal that much of what is wrong with our current transportation arrangements in cities could be greatly alleviated if we can find ways just to slow down.  A bare five miles per hour over the speed limit on a city street, and . . . Continue reading

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 World Streets too has tumbled into that  facile, but oh so dangerous  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

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

View complete profile


The future for roads in 2050 – Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

Several days ago Peter Newman of Infrastructure Australia and Professor of Sustainability at the Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute was asked by the Sydney Morning Herald what the future for roads was going to look like in Australia in 2050. He gave them this: Continue reading

The End of Climate? Hello Professor Krugman.

Engaging the battle to mitigate climate change is one of the fundamental driving principles behind World Streets, since we have taken it as our main metric for remedial action in the transport sector, which as you all know accounts for something like 20% +/-5% of all GHG emissions. By “metric” we mean that the climate emergency calls for sharp near-term reductions in emissions, and it just so happens that the transport sector is extremely well placed to do its part. But in light of recent attacks on the part of climate deniers, what is the score? Should we now give up on our climate metric? Let us hear what Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, has to say about it. Continue reading

Honk! Complex thinking on reducing traffic signals in cities

What is that old saw that goes something like “the definition of high intelligence is the ability to keep two contradictory ideas in mind at the same time without ones head exploding?” Well, whatever the exact wording there is no doubt that this is an imperative capability for making wise policy in terms of our transportation arrangements. Here is an exchange taken from several leading newmobility discussion fora, which offers some complex views on the advantages of removing at least some, possibly many, traffic lights from our cities. Maybe.

This exchange took place on the several indicated discussion fora.

Mayor identifies 140 traffic signals for removal

Continue reading

Hell is a gyratory system . . . so we want our cities back – Views from Britain on our one-way past

We put in traffic lights and stop signs in order to make our streets safe. We convert from two-way streets to one-way streets in order to permit cars to move more rapidly down them. And in almost all cases these decisions are made not on the basis of a broader systemic understanding of the traffic network as a whole, nor from an explicit philosophy as to what the basic underlying values and priorities should be, but always piecemeal, ad hoc, and one of the time. All of which renders the networks of most of our cities ripe for rethinking and redesign. Here is one view from London.

Hell is a gyratory system,
so let’s celebrate the return of cheerful anarchy to our roads

– Stephen Bayley, from The Times

It is the end of the road for the detested one-way street. Transport for London, perhaps the biggest manager of one-way systems in the world, at last acknowledges a truth painfully proved by harrowed pedestrians, bruised bicyclists and infuriated drivers: one-way systems do not work. Cities have been wastefully sacrificed to the false gods of efficiency and rationality. Now we want our cities back.

After a consultation in 2006 Tottenham Court Road — and soon Piccadilly, Pall Mall, Gower Street and the notorious Wandsworth one-way system (a congealed eternity of hot metal and annoyed people) — will return to two-way traffic. So a ruinous experiment is under final notice after 50 years of fuming. A culture that thought speed a measure of success and volume a measure of prosperity is being driven down the off-ramp.

This is a powerful metaphor for the new, more liberal, reasonable, responsible, lightly governed future that we are told awaits us. Certainly the one-way past created absurdities we could do without.

What is more existentially exasperating than a No Entry sign? This graphic of universal urban frustration was standardised by the League of Nations in 1931 (the year that the same ineffectual busybodies merely tut-tutted about the Japanese invasion of Manchuria).

Roads are not natural; they are inventions. And sealed roads to carry heavy traffic are inventions as typical of the 19th century as the typewriter and the diesel engine. MacAdam created the information superhighway of Victoriana. One-way streets were the final, and now obsolete, refinement of the road as a communications medium. They remain as dread memorials to vanished concerns, alien values and hopeless, irrelevant targets.

The concept began with good intentions. Albemarle Street in Mayfair became uni-directional in 1808 when crowds attending Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lectures at the Royal Institution made traffic-planning necessary. But the modern theology of traffic management dates back only to 1963 when Colin Buchanan, a town planner, published his ruinously influential report Traffic in Towns.

Wheeled traffic has been successfully mingling in towns and cities since the Etruscans, but Professor Buchanan took great exception to the idea and intended, with great athletic earnestness, to separate people and cars, the better for us to prosper by accelerator. The official attitude to cars in 1963 was curiously similar to Victorian ideas about prostitution: a mixture of acceptance and disgust.

With a fixity of purpose perhaps inviting Freudian interpretations, Buchanan wanted flyovers, clearways and pedestrianisation. Out went the clutter of accumulated townscape. Towns were to be cleansed of intimacy, hazard and surprise. In came Mr and Mrs Citizen swooping at high speed along urban motorways in a bizarre dystopia where your Cortina “saloon” would drive you to a Ballardian destiny in a tower block (where unspeakable crimes might be perpetrated).

In towns, the false god of the one-way street was an agent of change that proved catastrophic. This, of course, was the very moment that other visionaries thought it wise to, quite literally, decimate the railway system in the interests of “economy”. The M25 between Junctions 8 and 9 northbound on a Monday morning is their memorial. And the hell of Wandsworth, Vauxhall Cross or Hammersmith is Buchanan’s.

One-way systems are wrong because they are counterintuitive and seek to impose a spurious logic on human behaviour, something always at its most interesting when irrational. There is surely something very nasty in the concept and expression “gyratory”. It suggests circles of Hell and invites the conjoined idea of futility and an endless quest for an impossible goal.

To enter any gyratory system — often survivable in a car, more precarious on a bike, but suicidal on foot — is to go on bargaining terms with urban aggression and the one-dimensional solutions of the traffic engineer. In pursuit of something that looks good on a graphic, but does not work on the ground, sinister gyratory systems generate millions of unnecessary miles and thousands of tons of pollution.

And people hate them. Best to reinstate the Darwinian struggle of the two-way street and re-create cities that respond to the cheerful anarchy of individual purpose, not a chilly master plan. This is a prospect pleasantly hinted at in a new exhibition. The architectural publisher and bike evangelist Peter Murray has created a series of enamel plaques mocking London’s one-way system. Of Fitzrovia he says it “fails in its aspirations to speed the traffic, but succeeds in confusing cyclists and traffic alike”.

One-way was designed to “reduce congestion”. In true conformity with the Orwellian model, it did the opposite. One-way ? “Wrong way, go back” as the signs say on US freeways. I’m glad to say we are.

# # #

About the author:
Let me quote the author directly from his website you can find at “Stephen Bayley was once described as ‘the second most intelligent man in Britain’. This is controversial and very possibly untrue, but what is indisputable is that – as the author of more than ten books, nearly thirty exhibition catalogues, countless articles, broadcasts and newspaper columns – he is one of the world’s best known commentators on modern culture. Tom Wolfe said of him “I don’t know anybody with more interesting observations about style, taste and contemporary design.”


Hundreds of Cars, No Garage: Recipe for a low carbon future – Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

We are trying to get a better look at how sustainable transportation is coming along in Australia, as an example of one of the several handfuls of heavily motorized countries which have for decades concentrated on building (and in the process unknowingly locking themselves into) what is basically an all-car infrastructure. This is the second in what we intend to be a series of articles on this topic. Published with the permission of the author, a professor in the media department of a leading Australian university, it takes an outside-looking-in perspective of our topic. Continue reading

World Streets in North America and the World: Sustainable transport indicators/lessons from?

Our reader maps, which are updated several times a day, reveal patterns that we think are worth at least a bit of inspection and thought from time to time. Here to get us started on this is one which reports the locations of the last 80 readers to check in to World Streets from North America this afternoon. Hmm. Does it tell us anything important? Let’s have a look.

The full picture for North America this afternoon looks like this (click to enlarge map):

Overall we can say that the broad lines are pretty much what we see on most days. And I find them a bit disturbing. It looks just too much like our World Maps with all those important parts of the world that are simply not being brought into the sustainability discussions (see below).

The utter absence of interest from Canada other than from the three hot points there, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, has to indicate something. We need to think about this.

The absence of any readers coming in today from Mexico is not quite the usual pattern, but we have to bear in mind that other than the machine translations World Streets does not as yet have a full Spanish language edition. (Though we have a great model for one with our sister publication Nuova Mobilità in Italy.)

As editor, I can say that I am not at all pleased with our lack of coverage in the heartland of America, and intend that we shall work to do something about it.

Let’s look at the world reader map for today by way of reference (again click to enlarge map)::

Again, all those empty white swaths. Well we have plans for two of them in 2010, since we are working to find partners for editions of Africa Streets and China Streets. Stay tuned.

Finally, while we have the maps out, here is an interesting one. It shows how the readership of the Italian edition of World Streets, Nova Mobilità at looked today. This makes quite a contrast with the way that the World Streets map for Italy looked on the last day of June, the day before Nuova Mobilità went into orbit, which showed a round total of one or two Italian readers on average. And today, readership in Italian has been multiplied by a hundred. Showing the importance not only of having the material in the first languages of the reader, but also why it is necessary that the content be expressly tailored to the Italian reader. And so it is.

By creating a properly adapted edition with qualified national/language partners we have shown that it is possible to reach very deep into these areas with these ideas coming from leading sources around the world. But if it is not in their working language, and not adapted to their needs and priorities, you will see a very blank and bleak picture indeed.

This last map for instance shows today’s World Streets readership in Russia. But if you know the state of transport and environment in Russian cities, can you imagine for a minute that they could not use a bit of help? Shouldn’t someone be jumping into this? If you want to give it a try you know where to find us.

Если вы хотите попробовать вы знаете, где нас найти.

# # #

Our editor pondering all this. Have any thoughts that may ease the pain. If so, here is how to get in touch: Email to

Or click here to Skype direct: newmobility

Why Women Bike . . . and Why They Don’t

To follow up on yesterday’s piece by Janice Turner on “dull cycling” in the UK, the ever-stylish biker April Streeter reports from Portland on a survey of why women in the US cycle, and why they do not. (And if you are a female cyclist and have views on why women cycle, or perhaps do not, in your country, let us hear from you too.) Continue reading

Cycling should be dull

” (Government) policy is not to make cycling safer but to encourage more people to be brave.” The author, Janice Turner writing for the Times, puts her finger on one of the greater truths of public policy and cycling, which every city and every New Mobility activist will do well to bear in mind. In her words: “Cycling. . . should be banal. Because it is safe” Continue reading

Moving People: Solutions for a growing Australia – Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

When it comes to both old and new mobility, Australia offers an interesting case. Along with a group of countries that may seem surprisingly mixed at first glance, and which would include of course the perennial United States with the spacious Canada right in its footsteps, but which also a number of the Nordic countries and in particular Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland who have followed the toxic combination of personal wealth and ubiquitous cars to the extent in which it has in many ways locked them into an all-car no-choice system, the Australian mobility pattern is right up there with the “best” of them. But life moves on and in every one of these countries you will now find a growing number of individuals and groups who are questioning the old ways. Have a look at this sample of leading edge new mobility thinking in Australia. We find it both refreshing and instructive.

Moving People: Solutions for a growing Australia

* Note: the full 81 page report is available at

National land transport policy issues and directions

Australia’s current land transport systems are not sustainable in economic, environmental or social terms. To substantially improve the sustainability of Australia’s land transport systems, national land transport policy for at least the next decade needs to be framed around outcomes:

a. Congestion management: to manage congestion costs, improving economic competitiveness and quality of life in our cities;
b. Environmental improvement: to achieve substantial cuts in transport greenhouse gas emissions;
c. Social inclusion: to ensure adequate accessibility options are available for all Australians (and international visitors);
d. Health & safety: to make the transport system safe and encourage healthier transport choices; and,
e. Energy security: to increase our energy security by reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels.

This report focuses primarily on the people elements of the land transport task.

The key Policy Objectives that are required to improve the sustainability of our transport systems are:

• Changing the modal balance for transport away from such a high dependence on motor vehicles;
• Improving the environmental performance of all transport modes but particularly of cars and trucks; and
• Ensuring that travel opportunities are available to all, irrespective of personal circumstances.

These three policy objectives can be translated into six major Program Directions:

i. Reducing the demand for travel
a. Land use planning (increased density, co-location)
b. Maximising opportunities for walking and cycling
ii. Achieving a shift to lower carbon transport modes
a. Cars to public transport, walking and cycling
b. Trucks to rail
iii. Improving vehicle utilisation
a. Higher car occupancy
b. More efficient freight movements
iv. Reducing vehicle emissions intensity
a. More efficient vehicles
b. Smaller passenger vehicles
c. Alternative fuels
d. Intelligent transport systems
e. Better driving practices
v. Increasing mobility opportunities
a. Provision of reasonable base public transport service levels
b. Using existing public transport opportunities (e.g. school and community buses) more effectively
vi. Creating a more sustainable freight network
a. Focus on freight movement to ports, hubs and to connect key manufacturing/distribution centres

A seven point national plan

These initiatives would be encouraged by the following National Land Transport Seven Point Plan.

1. Increased investment in public transport. (see Sections 2.7 and 4)
2. Freight capacity investment and efficiency improvements (see sections 3.2.3 and 3.2.7)
3. Road pricing reform, and reallocation of road space to prioritise low emission modes (see Section 3.2.3, 3.2.7 and 5.4)
4. Improved accessibility for all with the establishment of Regional Accessibility Planning Councils, behavioural change programs. (see Sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.5)
5. More compact, walking and cycling friendly urban settlements. (see Section 3.3)
6. Improved fuel efficiency. (see Section 3.2.4)
7. Improvements in transport research and information—implementation of a National Transport Research Program (see Section 5.2)

The public transport role

Australian public transport systems and services must play a larger role in future national land transport solutions, as a key means of improving the sustainability of these systems. Service improvements must be delivered in an efficient manner, to assure value for money to governments and the community.

Public transport system and service development should encompass:

• delivering improved customer service;
• investing in network extension and service
• enhancements; making better use of existing infrastructure;
• driving improved land use and transport planning; and,
• maximising value for money for Government.

The report outlines a range of ways in which Australian public transport services can be improved to enable the sector to enhance the sustainability of Australia’s land transport systems. It also identifies ways in which public transport service efficiency can be improved.

Following the lead now being provided by COAG, Federal and State funding support for the implementation of substantially improved public transport systems and services should be dependent upon both the existence of State integrated strategic planning systems, including land use and transport systems, and also upon the existence of programs that help to assure efficient service delivery is achieved. Benchmarking can help to provide this assurance and should be part of the assessment criteria for any funding request to the Federal Government to assist upgrade public transport systems/services.

The case for federal funding

The sustainability issues confronting Australia’s land transport systems are very significant and growing in magnitude. They affect all Australians. While the cities are the areas of greatest concern, regional and rural areas also confront many of the issues (e.g. the road toll, greenhouse gas emissions, social exclusion, economic competitiveness related to infrastructure provision and energy security). Because of the scale and geographical spread of these issues, national policy and program responses are required for effective solutions. This must, involve the Federal Government showing leadership and working in partnership with others. Some issues require a specific Federal policy and program response. The sheer scale of the financial requirement means that state-based budgets wil not be sufficient to equip Australia’s cities with adequate transport services.

The recently announced Federal provision of over $4 billion towards a number of transformational urban public transport initiatives under the Building Australia Fund, on recommendation from Infrastructure Australia, demonstrates that the Federal Government recognises the importance of transformational change. The December 2009 COAG Communique supports this acceptance.

Programming for outcomes

Federal government involvement in land transport must contribute to the resolution of a number of national issues that are severely impacted by land transport services/ system performance. The following national land transport program structure is proposed.

The chart indicates the alignment between the critical national land transport issues and the proposed outcome-based response programs. A program structured along these lines encourages an integrated, “modally-agnostic” approach to the pursuit of solutions to land transport problems, which is important for achieving transformational change—as distinct from an approach that is simply more of the same. Program elements in each area would need to include a wide range of measures for maximum effectiveness. This would include measures associated with (for example) infrastructure improvement, system regulation, and operations management, etc. A clear set of national key performance indicators should be developed and monitored, to measure progress against these critical policy goals.

Because of the long time period that will be required to implement many of the changes (especially those related to developing more compact urban land use patterns), long term funding commitments will be fundamental to the achievement of effective outcomes. Rolling five year Federal funding commitments, with provisions to guarantee minimum flows, will be vital to driving transformational change. These should support State/ Territory (and local government in some cases) five year plans.

The national interest issues discussed in this report require transformational change, not simply “more of the same”. The focus for Federal funding support should be on capital assistance to projects that lead transformational change and improve the national interest outcomes identified in this report. In some cases this assistance will be the majority of the funding required for a particular initiative. In others it will simply be top-up funding, to support private sector funding. The top-up could be in recognition of identified external benefits from the initiatives in question that the private sector is unable to capture as in some port projects.

The Federal Government should not involve itself in the operation of land transport systems that are currently State/Territory or local government responsibilities but should influence the development direction of those systems in ways that contribute to better outcomes when assessed against the national interest issues raised in this report. In providing funding support along such lines, the Federal Government needs to assure itself that outcomes represent social value for money and that funding recipients do not simply substitute Federal money for State/Territory/local government money. The use of performance benchmarking, a comprehensive planning approach and subsequent performance monitoring can protect against these risks.

An important consideration in structuring Federal financial support for land transport infrastructure is whether to adopt a formula-based approach to distribution of funding allocations (primarily to States and Territories) or to rely on a bid process, where bids are submitted in accordance with pre-specified criteria and allocations are made to those proposals which best meet the criteria, irrespective of geography. The latter approach characterises the Infrastructure Australia approach. The former is closer to the basis for current Federal allocations of land transport financial assistance (basically road funding). An argument for including at least an element of formula funding within a Federal financial assistance program for land transport is that to do otherwise would unfairly penalise a jurisdiction that has put in additional past effort at its own expense and currently has a smaller backlog than others, simply because of greater effort. It is proposed that a part of Federal land transport financial assistance should continue to be formula-based and part be based on transport-plan based project submissions.

Sustainable funding—road pricing reform

A reformed transport pricing regime should become the basis of a sustainable approach to national land transport policy.

A reformed road pricing system should cover all vehicle classes and all costs attributable to road use.

Possible options to structure such a charging system include:

1. a use-based charge to cover carbon costs (the current Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme curiously proposes offsetting the carbon price for cars by excise offsets for three years, a system that is at odds with the purpose of emissions trading);
2. a usage-based charge to cover the costs of road construction and maintenance attributable to lighter vehicles;
3. tonne kilometre charges for the additional road damage attributable to heavy vehicles;
4. a use-based charge to cover the external cost component of accident costs;
5. use-based charges to levy vehicles for air pollution costs; and,
6. a congestion pricing scheme to make users accountable for the congestion costs attributable to their road use, by time and location. Existing fuel excise and registration charges would be abolished and replaced by the above charges. There would need to be an Intergovernmental Agreement to implement such a system, because the incidence and scale of revenue flows would differ substantially from the current arrangements.


The national land transport policy framework outlined above, which focuses mainly on people movement, is based on:

• identification of the critical national land transport
• issues that require a national response for their resolution;
• formulation of a comprehensive, outcome-driven approach to national policy/program structure; implementation of a set of planning processes that feed the policy/program structure in an integrated manner;
• concentration of Federal land transport assistance funding in seven categories to promote outcome achievement.

The proposals should place Australia in a strong position to provide a world class 21st century land transport system.

# # #

This report is a collaborative publication produced by the three leading groups representing the public transport industry in Australia (the Australasian Railway Association, the Bus Industry Confederation and the International Association of Public Transport–UITP).

It has been jointly authored by John Stanley (Adjunct Professor, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, University of Sydney) and Simon Barrett (Managing Director of L.E.K. Consulting, Australia).

The report is targeted at key policy makers in Commonwealth and State Territory Governments, with an interest in, or responsibility for, transport policy and related areas.

* For further information: Prof. John Stanley at

* Again: the full 81 page report is available at

En Vélib’ dans les éco-quartiers By Vélib’ in Paris "eco-neighborhoods"

Okay, dear reader. If you want to get to the bottom of this update on how Paris’s famous Vélib’s are being integrated into the city’s mobility and land use plan at a fair level of detail, you will have to make your way through this largely untouched machine translation of an article just published by the Vélib team here in Paris. Courage!

(If you want to know you will know. If you don’t, you won’t.. .)

Vélib’ in Paris “eco-neighborhoods”


The month of April puts sustainable development in the spotlight for a week. On this occasion, you can learn about eco-neighborhoods with Vélib’. How do they favor motorized traffic? What is the mobility of tomorrow? Eco-neighborhoods are part of the climate plan of the City of Paris, which aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas emissions.

What is an eco-neighborhood?”

While Vélib ‘has participated in the increase in cycling in the city, sustainable neighborhoods begin to bloom in the capital. The users of Vélib ‘could well be among the first to borrow the bike paths of sustainable neighborhoods, which are biased to motorized traffic and public transportation. The construction of an eco-neighborhood based inter alia on the best life and living together. The urban setting has to be warm and alive and for this, sustainable mobility, natural heritage, security is taken into account, as well as biodiversity, water management, noise and air pollution. Building a sustainable community based mainly on the HQE (High Environmental Quality) rewarding the preservation of the planet and a better quality of life (noise, air quality, water …).

A sustainable community is thought of as environmental and energy challenges, but also by economic and social criteria. Eco-building, renewable energy, revegetation techniques are widely used in the context of eco-neighborhoods.

* Click here for more information on eco-neighborhoods

Vélib’, soft modes and sustainable neighborhoods: what is the mobility of tomorrow? Anne

According to Anne Faure planner present at the conference on mobility and eco-neighborhoods, organized last February 16 by the association Zukunftstrasse in partnership with the Club of cities and territories bicycle, motorized traffic is a fundamental criteria in the construction of an eco-neighborhood. For her, Vélib ‘has given visibility to cyclists.

The concept of eco-neighborhood was first developed in the countries of northern Europe. According to Anne Faure, the Grenelle Environment has encouraged its development in France where the projects sustainable neighborhoods are still very recent. “One can cite the examples of the BIA Good Grenoble or Lyon Confluence, these neighborhoods are close to the center and well served by public transport, the soft modes are also very present. Meanwhile, there is a proliferation of small projects in France, “she said.

According to Anne Faure, so that these new neighborhoods are truly eco-neighborhoods, it is necessary that they be served by public transport and car traffic and parking are limited. It is a difficult objective to implement but the view is changing. “Indeed, we must know that 40% of average emissions of greenhouse gases are produced by the building and 40% from transport. Other sectors, which include industry, only 20% “she adds. The BIA of Rungis and the Batignolles district in Paris trying to develop such soft methods. The Confluence area in Saint-Denis and the reconquest of warehouses in the Ile-Saint-Denis also take into account the overall problems of displacement. “But in France the focus is on the building with techniques such as thermal insulation, while in Germany the first experiments in the primary endpoint was a city without a car,” said Anne Faure.

The planner said that the construction of an eco-neighborhood refers to the principles of sustainable development based on economic issues (including development of commercial and non-polluting activities), social (including construction of housing and utilities) and environmental (focus attention on managing energy, water and waste). She said the principle of eco-quartier is a first step towards a new vision of the city: “This is of course to shatter the limits of eco-districts across the territory of the city. For this, we need these neighborhoods is easily accessible to everyone, so they serve as a model.

The eco-city tour of Paris’s Vélib’

Beyond the planned actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, the City of Paris acts on the environment: adaptation of buildings, revegetation of Paris, creating green spaces, roofs, shared gardens … Sustainable Neighbourhoods part of this process. They are emerging especially in the outskirts of the city, on vacant urban land or concerted development zones (CAZ). Gare de Rungis (13th), Boucicault (15th) and Claude Bernard (19th) … Velib ‘invites you to visit the eco-neighborhoods of tomorrow, Cycling. Browse a few of them with iVélib ‘.

* The district Fréquel Hondarribia in the 20th district was awarded in November 2009 by the Department of Ecology to support eco-district, in the Category Sobriety energy. Station Vélib ‘No. 20016

* 1st eco-neighborhood in the capital, the Batignolles in the 17th district will be divided into three sectors: BIA-Cardinet Chalabre BIA Clichy Batignolles area Saussure. Station Vélib ‘No. 17110

* Planned for 2012, the BIA Pajot, located in the heart of the 18th district, will pilot an eco-neighborhood in Paris, where the architectural heritage will retain his place. Station Vélib ‘No. 18010

* Launched December 6, 2009, Macdonald warehouse, located Porte d’Aubervilliers, is the largest geothermal project of its kind in Paris and covers an area of 200 hectares. Station Vélib ‘No. 19032

Examples from abroad

In Europe, there are many sustainable neighborhoods, including the Netherlands,
Ava-Lanxmeer in Culemborg, Sweden, B001 in Malmo Hammarby in Stockholm, and Finland, Helsinki Vikki.

In the UK, BedZED is a neighborhood built in south London, between 2001 and 2002. Covering an area of 1.7 hectares, it accommodates 100 apartments, 2 500 m² of offices and shops, green spaces, an auditorium, a health center, a sports complex and a creche. Since its establishment, and compared to conventional homes, this eco-district has reduced its energy consumption for heating by 88% and electricity by 25%.

In Germany, the Vauban district in Freiburg im Breisgau was rehabilitated in 1996 according to strict standards QEH. Nearly 3 000 homes and 600 jobs have been created. The homes are powered by solar energy and produce more energy than they consume. The area has been developed for an optimal sun exposure, with environmentally friendly materials and roofs are vegetated. Automobile traffic is reduced and the space reserved for outdoor games and soft travel.

Switzerland also has many eco-neighborhoods, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, Bern.

Projects are underway in Austin, Texas, United States, and Wuhan, China.

Green Neighbourhoods (Quartiers verts)

The City of Paris has been engaged for several years a new policy of sharing public space. Green neighborhoods have been created.

The first of them, completed in 2003, Alesia Tombe Issoire, covers an area of 65 hectares and was built to improve safety and comfort of residents. The continuity of bike routes has been optimized, and speed of traffic has been limited. Much has also been devoted to the greening of the area, with the planting of 45 trees and 14 planters.

In the 12th district, the district Aligre favors soft travel with a velocity at 30 km / h, parking reorganized, or the creation of bike paths. Shrubs and planters were installed to revegetate the area.

* For more click

# # #

Chengdu China looking at caps on cars

“You can’t not notice the horrid traffic in Chengdu. But it seemed authorities had turned a blind eye to the situation, hoping that the construction of pedestrian overpasses and the opening of the subway later this year would resolve the problem. In the meantime, traffic is only getting more backed up. Late last month, it was announced that the Chengdu government is drawing up plans to address the situation by placing limits on the number of new license plates it issues.”
– Jane Voodikon reports from Chengdu
. Continue reading

Have you had a look at Urban Planet yet? “South Korea and Japan streets ahead in smart transport”

Urban Planet is a new information service of offering active worldwide coverage of sustainability issues to which you may wish to lend an eye. You can pick it up today at And while it is not exactly our cup of tea here at World Streets — i.e., their coverage is much broader than ours (agriculture, water, energy, construction, etc.) while giving lots of place to buzz, new technology, that telltale word “smart” and (very) long term horizons — it is nonetheless an information source you may wish to keep in view.
Continue reading

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.

# # #

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

Vancouver Olympics – Lessons For Transport Planners

Every once in a while sustainable transport and sustainable city planners get a break. Some of these are immediately recognizable as such, for example when your city has decided to host some important international event such as the Olympic Games, a World Expo, or some kind of international athletic, cultural or political event, all of which occasions which may provide the funding and vision of the city which is simply not there in the ordinary hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.

But these “opportunities” may also take a far less rosy form, such as a crippling transit strike or even a natural disaster which may temporarily or permanently wipe out some part of the city’s normal transportation arrangements. In this article, our friend and colleague Todd Litman reports from Canada on one of the more happy occasions for transition and innovation. But at the end of the day there is always the question: “what is the legacy of all this?”

Way-To-Go Vancouver Olympics – Lessons For Transport Planners

– Todd Litman, Executive director, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Victoria BC

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and Paralympics are over now. City Planner Brent Toderian described in a recent Planetizen blog how the event showcased Vancouver’s Urbanism, including the quality of its neighborhoods, streets and public transit system, and the delight of a shared community experience.

There are other important lessons for planners from this event. Let me share some observations about the Olympic Transportation Plan.

Overall, it was successful. With just a few exceptions, everybody got where they needed to go on time, with reasonable comfort. This success resulted from excellent planning by many people representing various organizations: Olympic committees, cities, regional agencies, provincial and federal governments, and various service providers.

Let me share some thoughts based on my experience having helped in a small way develop the plan. It was a very fun planning exercise. Basically, this was a huge party attracting many honored guests. Our job was to insure it went smoothly and everybody had a great time. This is logistical science at its best. We needed to insure that tens of thousands of people could travel reliably between numerous diverse venues, including about 30,000 people from Vancouver up to Whistler and back every day for more than two weeks. We had tremendous resources available: if it required six hundred extra buses with 1,800 extra drivers, or total control of a highway or traffic lanes, we got them.

Oh, did I mention that this all takes place during the middle of winter, and much of the travel involves mountain roads? Did I mention that schedules were subject to change at any time due to weather or other unexpected events? And did I mention that security trumps everything else, so each component of the plan needed security review?

No problem – we are planners! Making all of this work simply required applying basic transport management:

* Encourage use of efficient modes. Improve and promote walking, cycling, ridesharing and public transit.
* Discourage unnecessary automobile travel. Discourage driving, and limit vehicle traffic and parking in key areas such as downtown.
* Give priority to more valuable trips and the more efficient modes. Expand sidewalks and bike lanes, and bus lanes.
* Provide clear information to users. Use websites, maps, brochures, signs, volunteers and news releases to let visitors and residents know how to travel and what to expect.

To accomplish this we identified and prioritized the various categories of trips: competitors, coaches, officials, media, visitors, various staff, and freight deliveries. We estimated volumes of each group, prioritized them, and determined how best to transport them taking into account each groups requirements: some need to stay together, some required extra equipment (clothing, skis, guns, etc.) and some (particularly paralympic participants) used mobility devices.

Although this may sound like a big event, it is really just a blip in regular travel volumes. The Vancouver region has about two million residents. Adding 100,000 visitors is just a 5% increase. Experience with such events indicates that given suitable services and incentives, residents can reduce their driving so total vehicle travel is below normal levels. The key is to improve efficient alternatives and frighten residents just enough that they minimize driving.

Vancouver’s Olympic transportation plan included the following features:

* Completion of the Canada Line heavy rail transit from the airport to downtown Vancouver.
* Additional bus service, including some dedicated bus lanes.
* Parking restrictions downtown and around many venues.
* Lots of user information concerning how to get around.
* Preparation for large pedestrian crowds.

Projects like this give me great respect for coach buses, the large buses used for long-haul passenger transport. They are key to Special Event and Emergency Response transportation management. To appreciate the efficiency of a fleet of such buses, let’s do a little math. Under favorable conditions, a single highway lane can carry up to 2,200 automobiles, or about 6,600 passengers at three passengers per vehicle. The same lane can carry about 1,000 buses, or about 50,000 passengers per lane-hour at 50 passengers per bus.

Coach buses have other attributes that make them particularly useful for such circumstances:

* They have professional drivers who are (generally) well trained and responsible.
* They have good communications systems that allow operators to communicate with dispatchers, police, and other drivers.
* They can carry lots of baggage.
* They are designed for long-distance highway travel (local transit buses are not and may overheat on long climbs).
* They can contain washrooms and other amenities such as padded and adjustable seats, televisions, wireless Internet access, and even bar services.

These features are very important. The availability of real-time information, comfortable seats, and clean toilets can make a huge difference in the overall enjoyment of a trip. Whenever you need to transport tens-of-thousands of people, call in the coach buses!

However, large buses have constraints that must be considered in planning. They are difficult to maneuver and take time to load, and so require large staging areas to insure that everybody knows exactly where and when to board. Staging areas require good access (parking, public transit access, taxi stands, etc.), guidance (wayfinding signage and people who can answer questions), washrooms, refreshments and (if possible) entertainment.

Despite a few minor problems (a bus broke down and a few drivers got lost) the Vancouver Olympic’s transportation program went very well. Everybody involved in planning and running the event should feel proud. It displayed Vancouver at its best and demonstrated the value of high quality public transportation, effective transport management and an attractive public realm. Many residents who previously relied on automobile travel began using public transportation during the Olympics and now continue.

The limited legacy

My biggest disappointment is the limited legacy. Although Vancouver got a new rail line between downtown and the airport, other public transit services reverted to previous levels. Buses are once again crowded and stuck in traffic. In contrast, South Africa implemented wonderful new Bus Rapid Transit systems for the 2010 World Soccer Cup, which will provide durable benefits to residents and visitors into the future.

# # #

About the author:

Todd Litman is founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, an independent research organization dedicated to developing innovative solutions to transport problems. His work helps to expand the range of impacts and options considered in transportation decision-making, improve evaluation techniques, and make specialized technical concepts accessible to a larger audience. He can be reached at: 1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada. Email: Phone & Fax: +1 250-360-1560

This article originally appeared in Planetizen on Monday, 5 April at And if you have a bit of time when you visit World Streets, you may find it useful to have a look at the latest on Planetizen and a baker’s dozen of other closely related publications and programs which you will find conveniently summarized just to your left here under the rubric: Latest from the world’s streets.