Density without tears: Singapore’s Transportation Secrets

Density. Sprawl. Car-dependence as a result of car use’s gradual reshaping of our cities. The unintended consequences of a no-policy transport and land use policy can be catastrophic for many, in many ways. And once the damage has been done(see the map of last week’s piece contrasting two cities of the same population size: Atlanta and Barcelona)it is not easy task to get the toothpaste back into the tube. But let’s get to that another day. Today let’s listen to Christopher Tan on Singapore’s no tears transport policy.

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World Streets / Coming Events

Until now we have been more than sparing when it comes to informing you about “coming events”, as much as anything else because we are extremely jealous about the limited eyeball space on our pages, and your very limited available time. But we have just worked up what we believe is going to be an efficient way to draw to your attention what we regard as outstanding events, and for that you will see a link just to the left here which bears the title “World Streets / Coming Events” and will take you to our careful selection for your attention.
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A Manifesto for Sustainable Transport

Sustainable Transportation, New Mobility, Access, Green Transport and the long list of good and great names go on, but upon inspection they have three important things in common. They are all extremely well-intentioned; each is trying to get at a largely shared agenda; and, by whatever name, they are thus far losing the battle against the established interests and old and often quite bad ways of doing things in our sector. However that’s not the end of the story. In fact, it’s just the beginning. The proponents of sustainable transport and sustainable cities are making real progress on the ground, and we are starting to network worldwide for success. We are ready to build on what we have thus far learned and achieved. So let’s have a look through the eyes of Sudhir Chella Rajan to get a better idea of our common challenge.
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"In the slums of Nairobi" What do you do when you are losing a war?

If it is your assumption that we are at present losing the war for sustainable transport and sustainable lives — and that is very definitely our position here at World Streets — and if it is your firm intention not to lose it — as it is ours! — then what do you do when the going gets tough? Well you look around and put to work every potentially promising tool you can lay your hands on. Now we make a pretty consistent effort in these pages to bring to your attention creative media that illustrates, renders more understandable and supports our noble cause. But we need more: so what about doing more along these lines taken from today’s edition of the International Herald Tribune?
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Brazilians observe how Germans are creating Low Emission Zones in cities

When it comes to the performance and quality of our streets in cities around the world, the simple truth is that for now at least we are stuck with far more losers than winners. But that is only part of the story; and one of the tasks of World is to keep a weather eye out for projects and programs, tools and policies which open up the possibility of creating better streets and better cities. Here for example you have a conversation between a Brazilian environmentalist and a German scientist running a pioneering program for a low emissions zone which is up and running in Berlin.
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How much is that car really costing? You? The rest of us?

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

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Worldwide Parking Scenarios: In New Delhi, five million vehicles and nowhere to park

Parking facts and policies are a wonderful often mysterious component of both the Old and New Mobility Agendas. Dead (i.e., parked) cars gobble up a huge amount of valuable public space in and around in our cities, on average of three to four times the number of moving cars. And while it is an enormously powerful transport policy tool (potentially), most cities and administrations run scared when it comes to taking a consistent, thought-out, strategic approach. Here are a few crisp words from Neha Lalchandani of The Times of India reporting on the present state of the parking art in that nation’s capital. More Old Mobility as you will see.

Demand For Parking Space In Delhi Exceeds
Capacity Over Three Times

– Neha Lalchandani from The Times Of India Mumbai; Date:2010 May 21;

New Delhi: Fears of our cities turning into concrete jungles can now take a backseat – they are turning into parking lots much sooner. With around 1,100 vehicles being added to Delhi’s streets each day, the city is struggling to find parking space for more than 5.2 million vehicles, in addition to those coming in daily from across the border.

Fears of our cities turning into concrete jungles can now take a backseat – they are turning into parking lots much sooner. With around 1,100 vehicles being added to Delhi’s streets each day, the city is struggling to find parking space for more than 5.2 million vehicles, in addition to those coming in daily from across the border.

Vehicles occupy an estimated 10.8% of the city’s urbanized area, increasingly threatening its green spaces. Their sheer numbers are also threatening to undo any benefits that Delhi might have accrued in switching over to CNG and mass transport systems like the Metro. Experts say unless using vehicles is aggressively discouraged, in the form of prohibitory parking charges, taxes and congestion fees, the air quality is unlikely to improve.

“The demand for parking space has clearly overshot the available capacity by as much as three times. The shortfall of space is in the range of 16-52%. The government needs to formulate a parking policy in which parking rates reflect the cost of real estate. That would make it a deterrent for car users,” says Sunita Narain, director of Centre for Science and Environment.

Going by 2005 records of daily registration of cars, demand for parking space exceeded 2.5 million sqm. “Transport planners consider 23sqm of land as appropriate to park an average car. This means in the prime business district of Connaught Place, the rent of such an area can be as high as Rs 36,000 per month. But users pay a minuscule sum for parking,” said Anumita Roychoudhury, in-charge of the Right To Clean Air Campaign for CSE.

The government has failed to come up with a comprehensive policy for parking. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) started charging land users a one-time fee for constructing parking space but that only serves to increase cost of parking to nearly Rs 4-6 lakh per car space, barely any of which will be recovered from the users. Underground parking lots, mostly beneath parks and green spaces, met with resistance from not just the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority but also resident welfare associations.

The New Delhi Municipal Council has recently introduced a graded parking fee in its areas.

“A shift to public transport can only be achieved if driving is not a convenient mode of travel. Big cities such as Portland, Seattle, Bremen, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo and Bogota among others have hiked parking fees and limited parking space to reduce car usage,” said Roychoudhury.

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About the author:
Neha Lalchandani writes for The Times of India.

Note: A lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand. Thus Rs 4-6 lakh per parking space translates to 400,000 to 600,000 Indian Rupees, equal roughly to USD 8-10,000. Just to give you an idea.

Thanks to Alok Priyanka and Sustran for the heads-up.

Songs without Words. (Or trying very hard to get a commentary on reversing sprawl)

We invite our readers to write the words to the following “song”: 150 words max please, signed with your name, email, affiliation if any, city, country, and URL if you wish. You may either place your contribution just below clicking the COMMENTS link, or by email to editor@newmobility.org. At one point a selection of these comments will be sorted and integrated into a collaborative piece on this theme. Sorry, no other clues.

Population footprints: Barcelona vs. Atlanta

Now what?

Editor’s note: 22 May 2010 I have been scolded by several of our number who make the point that the above “song without words” title/proposal is far from clear. So with apologies, let me try to put it right.

The idea is that the graphic strikingly demonstrates one of the most important, and close to intractable, challenges of the move from Old to New Mobility, the huge dispersion of populations and activity that has been caused by the totally unthought-out shift from city living to a car-based hyper-spread life style. I was hoping to elicit comments on that, which is, it must be admitted, something like the proverbial challenge of getting the toothpaste back into the tube. There are responses, of that I am entirely sure, but it is going to be a tough job. So now, hopefully, your comments and clues?

Kind thanks to Lois Sturm, New York City for the heads-up on the graphics. (And to Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy for the inspiration.)

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Supplemental figure and food for thought:

Urban density vs. transport energy consumption

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

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

For the full text of this thoughtful piece, you may click to http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/the-environment/2010/05/19/we-all-value-our-mobility-the-ability-to-move-around-freely-and-quickly-to-do-the-things-we-want-and-need-to-do-84229-26477125/

Shoup on how parking can make a street great

Donald Shoup has extensively studied parking as a key link between transportation and land use, with important consequences for cities, the economy, and the environment — and that is exactly why World Streets is pleased to welcome this thought-provoking contribution on parking as an instrument for creating great streets and cities that at once offer quality of life and an economy that works.

The Price of Parking on a Great Street:

– By Donald Shoup, Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA

How Can Curb Parking Contribute to Making a Street Great?
A city can (1) charge performance based prices for curb parking and (2) return the revenue to the metered districts to pay for added public services. With these two policies, curb parking will help to create great streets, improve transportation, and increase the economic vitality of cities.

Performance Parking Prices

Performance-based prices can balance the varying demand for parking with the fixed supply of curb spaces. We can call this balance between demand and supply the “Goldilocks principle” of parking prices: the price is too high if many spaces are vacant, and too low if no spaces are vacant. When a few vacant spaces are available everywhere, the prices are just right. After the city adjusts prices to yield one or two vacant spaces in every block (about 85 percent occupancy), everyone will see that curb parking is readily available. In addition, no one can say that performance parking prices will drive customers away if almost all curb spaces are occupied.

Prices that produce an occupancy rate of about 85 percent can be called “performance-based” for three reasons. First, curb parking will perform efficiently. The spaces will be well used but readily available. Second, the transportation system will perform efficiently. Cruising for underpriced curb parking will not congest traffic, waste fuel, and pollute the air.

Third, the economy will perform efficiently. The price of parking will be higher when demand is higher, and this higher price will encourage rapid parking turnover. Drivers will park, buy something, and leave quickly so that other drivers can use the spaces. Cities can achieve all these goals by setting curb parking prices to yield about an 85 percent occupancy rate.

Local Revenue Return

Performance prices for curb parking can yield ample public revenue. If the city returns this revenue to pay for added public spending on the metered streets, citizens are more likely to support the performance prices. The added funds can pay to clean and maintain the sidewalks, plant trees, improve lighting, bury overhead utility wires, remove graffiti, and provide other public improvements.

Put yourself in the shoes of a merchant in an older business district where curb parking is free and customers complain about a parking shortage. Suppose the city installs meters and begins to charge prices that produce a few vacancies. Everyone who wants to shop in the district can park quickly, and the city spends the meter money to clean the sidewalks and provide security. These added public services make the business district a place where people want to be, rather than merely a place where anyone can park free if they can find a space. Returning the meter revenue generated by the district to the district for the district’s own use can help to convince merchants and property owners to support performance prices for curb parking.

Suppose also that curb parking remains free in other business districts. Everyone complains about the shortage of parking, and drivers congest traffic and pollute the air while they search for curb parking. The city has no meter revenue to clean the sidewalks and provide other amenities. In which district would you want to have a business?

Performance prices will improve curb parking by creating a few vacancies, the added meter revenue will pay to improve public services, and these added public services will create political support for performance prices.

Parking Increment Finance

Most cities put their parking meter revenue into the city’s general fund. How can a city return meter revenue to business districts without shortchanging the general fund? The city can return only the subsequent increment in meter revenue–the amount above and beyond the existing meter revenue–that arises after the city begins to charge performance prices. We can call this arrangement parking increment finance.

Parking increment finance closely resembles tax increment finance, a popular way to pay for public investment in districts in need of revitalization. Local redevelopment agencies receive the increment in property tax revenue that results from the increased property values in the redevelopment districts. Similarly, business districts can receive the increment in parking meter revenue that results from performance parking prices.

More meters, higher rates, and longer hours of operation will provide money to pay for added public services. These added public services will promote business activity in the district, and the increased demand for parking will further increase meter revenue.

Performance Parking Prices in Practice

Some cities have begun to charge performance prices for curb parking and return the meter revenue to its source. Redwood City, California, sets meter rates to achieve an 85 percent occupancy rate for curb parking downtown; the rates differ both by location and time of day, depending on demand. The city returns the revenue to the metered district to pay for public parking structures, police protection, and cleaner sidewalks.

Merchants and property owners all supported the new policy when they learned the meter revenue would pay for added public services in the downtown business district, and the city council adopted it unanimously. Performance prices create a few curb vacancies so visitors can easily find a space, the added meter revenue pays to improve public services, and these added public services create political support for the performance prices.

Redwood City’s Parking Ordinance To accomplish the goal of managing the supply of parking and to make it reasonably available when and where needed, a target occupancy rate of eighty-five percent (85%) is hereby established.

The Parking Manager shall survey the average occupancy for each parking area in the Downtown Meter Zone that has parking meters. Based on the survey results, the Parking Manager shall adjust the rates up or down in twenty-five cent ($0.25) intervals to seek to achieve the target occupancy rate.

Revenues generated from on-street and off-street parking within the Downtown Meter Zone boundaries shall be accounted for separately from other City funds and may be used only within or for the benefit of the Downtown Core Meter Zone.

Sections 20.120 and 20.121 of the Redwood City Municipal Code
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Most cities keep their meter rates constant throughout day and let occupancy rates vary in response to demand. cities can vary their meter prices to keep occupancy about 85 percent. The goal is to balance supply everywhere, all the time. Most cities also limit the length at meters so long-term parkers won’t monopolize the curb spaces. But after Redwood City adjusted meter guarantee the availability spaces, it removed limits at meters.

This unlimited-has turned out to with drivers who can for as long as they pay. The demand-meter rates create the most convenient spaces, and long-term tend to choose the cheaper spaces in off-street lots.

Other cities have also begun to adjust their meter ensure the availability of curb parking. The U.S. Department Transportation has awarded grants to Chicago, Los San Francisco to test performance prices for curb Washington, D.C., has already started them. Pasadena Diego return meter revenues to enhance public services metered districts.

We can call the balance between demand and supply the “Goldilocks principle” of parking prices.

Any city can use a pilot program to test Goldilocks prices for curb parking. All the city has to do is allow business district that requests a pilot program to have cost the city anything, because the meters pay for Dirty and unsafe streets will never be great, so the initially use the meter revenue to pay for clean-and-safe.

Many communities may value clean and safe more highly than free but overcrowded curb parking. community is clean and safe, the parking revenue urban amenities such as street trees, underground public transit improvements. Parking on a great street may not be free, but it will be convenient and worth the price.

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About the author:
Professor Shoup is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has been a visiting scholar at Cambridge University and the World Bank, and has served as Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA. His influential book, The High Cost of Free Parking, is leading a growing number of cities to charge fair market prices for curb parking, dedicate the resulting revenue to finance public services in the metered districts, and reduce or remove off-street parking requirements. His research on employer-paid parking led to passage of California’s parking cash-out law, and to changes in the Internal Revenue Code to encourage parking cash out. He can be reached at shoup@ucla.

This article was adapted with permission of the author from a chapter in Planetizen Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning, edited by Abhijeet Chavan, Christian Peralta, and Christopher Steins. Washington, Island Press, 2007, pp. 52–56.

New Politics, New Economics and New Mobility : Frugal Transport comes of age in Britain?

John Whitelegg, Editor of World Transport Policy and Practice, offers up a lead editorial in the latest edition of the Journal which was published today and is freely available here. His proposal makes particular economic sense at a time of great economic uncertainty, and of course not only in the UK. His core recommendation: (a) Cancel systematically all public investments that do not pass the sustainability test. What goes? (b) £10 billion for unnecessary road building. (c) £32 billion for uncalled for high speed rail. And (d) elimination of all but a handful of domestic aviation subsidies and investments. And with those frugal savings, the new government team can really go to work to guarantee the sustainable transport agenda.

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New Mobility Partnerships – What’s going on this summer?

Two or three times a year your editor sits down and does his best to compile a readable synopsis of some of the more important things going on in World Streets, then to be communicated in one magical shot to the close to four thousand friends and colleagues around the world who have been involved in some way in these dialogues and projects over the last several decades. Here you have today’s best seasonal effort, to which as always, comments, criticism and suggestions are warmly welcome.

Judged from a planetary or Kyoto perspective, or from an individual or public health perspective, or an economic perspective, or … or … our present arrangements for transport in cities are seriously damaged. As things stand today in city after city around the world, they threaten health in the city and on the planet. They are dangerous. They are costly. They are disruptive. They are thoroughly dysfunctional. And they are howlingly unfair. It does not have to be like that. We can do something about it, and we should. But we need to join forces to get the job done.

New Mobility Partnerships in Brief

Unconstrained by bureaucracy, economic interests or schedules, New Mobility Partnerships was launched in 1988 as a wide open international platform for critical discussion and diverse forms of cross-border collaboration on the challenging, necessarily conflicted topic of “sustainable transportation and social justice”. There are no easy answers – but there are answers . . . if, that is, you are willing to take off the blinkers and get to work.

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World Streets in Brief
Insights and contributions from leading thinkers & practitioners around the world

World Streets is an independent, internet-based collaborative knowledge system specifically aimed at informing policy and practice in the field of sustainable transport, and, as part of that, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. Edited by Eric Britton, founder and Managing Director of the New Mobility Agenda.

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This Month on World Streets
Most of our busy readers do not have the time to check into World Streets on a daily basis. For that reason we offer our subscribers and sponsors, in addition to the daily edition, monthly summaries which bring together in one place all postings in a manner in which the reader can review each in a few lines and make a decision as to whether or not to call up the full article with a single click. Time-efficient communication in an overload world.

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New project: World Streets on Facebook
We are not Facebook experts, but nonetheless, and with reservations, we have concluded that this is a legitimate communications tool that can be put to work to increase the worldwide reach of the sustainable transport agenda. So with the help of our colleague Anzir Boodoo, we have set up a first stage site/interface which you can now access via www.facebook.WorldStreets.org. We invite you to have a look, use as your interest and skill level permit, and, better yet, lend a hand and help us to do better.

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Latest reader map
And here you can see where our last eighty visitors came from. Generally representative of overall pattern, but from day to day with considerable variations. Our goal for 2010: bring in all those great white swaths.

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Frugal Transport
Our sector has been notably profligate in terms of its use of public money, while at the same time also offering a generally poor deal in terms of quality of service per dollar spent by the citizens who use the system. This past profligacy is further compounded by the fact that for reasons of the complicated international economy, many countries are going to have to be far more careful about how they spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars in the years immediately ahead. We are not going to need another round of high cost, low impact investments to make it work. We simply take over 50% (your figure here) of the transport related budgets and use it to address projects and reforms that are going to make those big differences in the next several years. This is where the action is going to be in the years immediately ahead and where Frugal Transport kicks in. (This section just getting underway.)

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Slow Down
As most of our regular readers are well aware, World Streets is no friend of speed in cities. To the contrary, it is our firm position that a considerable number of the basic objectives associated with sustainable mobility and sustainable cities can be achieved if we do no more than to reduce top speeds in and around our cities in a strategic and carefully thought-out way. The great technological virtuosity of traffic engineers and technical planners permit us to do this, while at the same time retaining a well working transportation system, a healthier city, and a viable local economy. This is a major target of World Streets and many of our associates worldwide

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Share/Transport: The Third Way of Getting Around In Cities
Share/transport – the largely uncharted middle ground between the familiar mobility poles of “private transport” (albeit on public roads) and “public transport” (scheduled, fixed-route, large vehicle services) at the two extremes. Comprising a very large gamut of services of which among the best known are shared taxis, carsharing, ride sharing, and small private bus systems, it offers a form of mobility service that works when everything else fails or is simply not there. However it is one that until now has been poorly understood by policymakers and is badly in need of informed perspectives and policies. A first international conference is being planned for Kaohsiung Taiwan from 16 to 19 September 2010, with full information available in early June.

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Women as the Metric for Sustainable Lives: Leadership Role
World Streets, and the New Mobility Agenda directly behind it, have long held the position that our sector suffers badly from the lack of female perspective and female leadership. Rectifying this should be one of the major targets of policymakers and citizens at all levels of society and in all countries. We have pursued this recommendation vigorously since the founding of this program in 1988, and firmly believe that a reasonable target for female participation in leadership groups at all levels is in the area of 40%. In our publications and conferences, we go into detail as to how this can be done and why the strong leadership role is critical.

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The Hundred Faces behind World Streets
We firmly believe that the move to sustainable transport and sustainable lives is a very personal matter. For that reason every article that appears in World Streets is accompanied by a short bio note and photo identifying the author. We want you to know who they are and what they look like. To this end we have assembled for your viewing pleasure small photos of 160 of our authors and collaborators. Have a look.

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National Partnership Programs/Language Editions
True, English is a widely spoken and read language. But true too that most of the activity carried out at the working level in countries whose language is other than English is in the language of the place. So if our goal is to have a worldwide impact, we must find ways to reach the people who count, in ways which efficiently and fully engage them. To that end we have initiated a series of collaborative projects which are already reaching out to key actors in several language areas, starting with a highly successful Italian edition and a different approach to reach the key actors in Swedish. Others presently under discussion. Would YOU like to talk about it?

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Now . . . what about you?
Because this is an important set of issues and you can make a difference. So consider this an open invitation to lend a hand in making World Streets a more useful and successful tool and source. We need your help both (a) to improve the technical product, but above all to identify and (b) to take direct contact with eventual collaborators, subscribers, sponsors, and organizations at the national or international level whom you may know and who can help support this unique public interest enterprise and help it make an even more effective contribution. You will be surprised at how much you can do to make it happen, if you choose to.

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Eric Britton is Managing Director of the New Mobility Partnerships and founding editor of World Streets. Contrary to what you may surmise, he is not alone. You can reach him at editor@worldstreets.org , Tel. +331 7500 3788 in France or +1 (213) 984 1277 in the US. Or via Skype at newmobility.

No Accident! Traffic and Pedestrians in the Modern City

As most of our regular readers are well aware, World Streets is no friend of speed in cities. To the contrary, it is our firm position that a considerable number of the basic objectives associated with sustainable mobility and sustainable cities can be achieved if we do no more than to reduce top speeds in and around our cities in a strategic and carefully thought-out way. The great technological virtuosity of traffic engineers and technical planners permit us to do this, while at the same time retaining a well working transportation system, a healthier city, and a viable local economy. Listen to what John Rennie Short and Luis Mauricio Pinet-Peralta have to tell us on the subject.
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The Hundred Faces behind World Streets

We firmly believe that the move to sustainable lives is a very personal matter. For that reason every article that appears in World Streets is accompanied by a short bio note and photo identifying the author. We want you to know who they are and what they look like. These are not autonomous or institutional pieces; everything that appears here has a name and face behind it. Today we have assembled for your viewing pleasure small photos of 160 of our authors and collaborators. There are more and of course we really do need to have each identified by name and country. In time.

The people whose faces you see here come from France, Italy, South Africa, Britain, China, Sweden, Finland, England, Singapore, and Uganda — just to identify the top two rows.

* * * Click images for enlargements. * * *
Do you notice a fair proportion of women among our authors? That is no accident. Indeed it is one of the primary challenges of our entire program under both World Streets and just behind it the New Mobility Agenda: to, in a purposely contentious word, feminize the sector. From the top down. Up to now we are managing about 30% female participation here; that is good but not good enough. So give us some time to work on it. (And in the meantime have a look at Http://tinyurl.com/ws-women for more on this.)

Age profile of our collaborators? Broad! On the one hand we have contributions from some of the most important original senior thinkers, innovators and doers in the field. That’s very good. But we don’t stop there. We work very hard to ensure that we are also continually bringing in a large number of talented young people, and in the process helping to prepare the future leaders.

What do all these people do in life (when they are not writing for Streets?)? As you can imagine their activities cover a very wide span indeed. They are university professors, policymakers, international civil servants, transport system operators, scientists, inventors, doctors and public health workers, a couple of mayors, graduate students, journalists, filmmakers, community workers, activists, and the long list goes on.

Here is one thing they all have in common: in everything they do for and with World Streets, and indeed in many other parts of their work and lives, they act as volunteers and responsible citizens. That it turns out is necessary in this case since from the beginning our decision was to run World Streets “off the economy”. It was our guess that this was going to be the best way to set this off from the rest and to get the job done. A different paradigm encouraging different thinking. So we decided not charge for anything, not to take advertising, and, symmetry obliges, we do not pay for anything. You can bet that none of our collaborators are going to get rich through this association — but you can also bet that there is great satisfaction on their part.

And since this is about sustainable transportation and sustainable cities, it would seem fair for us to know at least something about how these people actually get around themselves and their day-to-day lives. They are, I can tell you from personal acquaintance with many of them, quite fit lot and this is no accident. A number of these people cycle and walk for transport every day. (That reminds me, we should carry out some kind of small survey of our authors and collaborators in order to see if we can learn something about their transportation habits.)

What sets them off from the rest? As editor and oft-times collaborator in projects in many parts of the world, I have been able to get to know many of them quite well indeed, often over some years. What can I say about them that might not be immediately apparent from the pictures? The phrase comes to mind from the wonderful film that we shared with you all earlier this week on courage and leadership when the former mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus, who when confronted by the press concerning his lack of political allies and links with the power structure, he countered by saying ” Soy un hombre independiente”, I am an independent man. Yes that’s it – they are independent men and women. (See film here – http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2010/05/lessons-in-leadership-profiles-in.html.)

How can we end this? Here is who we are: Chinese and Americans, Swedes and Indians, French and Germans, English and Irish, Japanese and Koreans, Dutch and Australians, Serbs and Croats, Finns and Turks, Filipinos and Malaysians, Austrians and Czechs, Danes and Canadians, Brazilians and Mexicans, Argentines and Slovenes, Russians and Poles, Swiss and Chileans, Portuguese and Taiwanese, Indonesians and Kazakhstanies, Greeks and Icelanders, and more.

We are this. We are an ad hoc, unplanned, independent, uncontrollable, United Nations of concerned citizens. We are assuming our responsibilities. And we are going to win!

One day on World Streets: 9 May 2010

Eric Britton,
Editor, World Streets

When English is not enough. Well then let’s do it in Italian,. (Or Swedish, Finnish, Portuguese, Chinese, French or . . .)

1. Start here: Italy, Italian and New Mobility. In June 2009, after four months of successful publication and an enthusiastic public reception in many parts of the world, the World Streets team found ourselves talking with an Italian colleague, the environmental activist Enrico Bonfatti who had been scanning the readership maps of World Streets and in the process noted that there were only one or two regular readers of the publication in Italy. Why? Good question.

Might it be that there was no interest in the concept of better explanation?

2. Time and language:
We concluded that Italy was in many ways a typical case, and that while there is plenty of interest in many parts of the country in these matters, almost everyone is suffering from major information overload on the one hand — and furthermore that very very few of us, even those of us who know another language well, are all that comfortable if we have to read daily dispatches on these complex if interesting matters in anything other than our own main language.

Now that may come as a surprise to anyone who thinks that English is taking over as the universal language. But if you actually take the time to speak with and get to know the people who are working with these matters at the level of cities, agencies, public interest groups, or even universities in different parts of the world, you will see that when it comes to day-to-day communication all of us really do work best in our main language. (The reactions to this claim turn out to be quite interesting and are by no means unanimous. However we have found upon careful examination and discussion with those directly involved that the thesis stands up to inspection and is realistic and relevant. So we have not hesitated to make it a pillar of our work.)

3. 1 July 2010: Nuova Mobilità goes on line in Italy.
After careful consideration and diligent preparations over a two-month period, starting on 1 July and with Enrico Bonfatti stepping forward as managing editor of the new publication, we set out on an adventure to bring these concepts into the daily life of colleagues across Italy, with the publication written in careful Italian and adapted for the Italian institutional context and felt priorities.

Over the remainder of 2009 we saw readership expanding regularly and could see from the stats that the journal was being visited by individuals and groups in more and more cities up and down the peninsula. As of this date we are seeing something on the order of anywhere from 100 to 200 Italian readers checking in each day, and thus far have noted visits from more than 60 Italian cities and, somewhat surprisingly, roughly 2 dozen from other parts of the world.

What is especially striking about this map for those of you happen to be familiar with Italy, is that in addition to the expected heavy readership in the northern half of the country, we are also seeing real interest from the South. This is an excellent sign for the future.

And if you wish to practice your Italian, nothing could be more simple: all you have to do is click to www.nuovamobilita.org. And if your usually excellent Italian should fill you, no problem, you will see the machine translation tool on the top left of the site. Benvenuti nel futuro della mobilità sostenibile in Italia.

4. What about other language/country editions?

One lesson we have abundantly learned over the last year of hard work in creating and publishing daily this Italian Journal is that it is not a job to be undertaken lightly. Despite the fact that roughly 2/3 of all the articles that appear are adapted from the latest postings of World Streets, there is more to it than simply having the skills to produce a good translation. The articles need to be selected and adapted for Italian readers, in the Italian cities, institutional and policy context; –but in addition to that there is the entire challenge of creating specific Italian content, which is also a time-consuming mission and which continues to be a process that even after all these months still needs to be fully engaged.

As result, we have discovered that organizing and maintaining anything along the lines of Nuova Mobilità is pretty close to a full-time job for one talented, hard-working person. This of course has economic implications, with which our readers will be entirely familiar.

5. Bridging the language gap:
What to do in the event that there is still this challenge of finding a way to bridge the language gap, but in a first instance perhaps not taking on the full load and financial implications of creating a new dedicated publication? This is a problem which we are facing with several colleagues and concerned organizations in Sweden, Finland, Portugal, France and Taiwan — and here is the way in which we are collaborating to get the job done.

The key lies in the creation of a special monthly edition of World Streets which provides in the target language a careful synopsis and one click access to the full contents of all content and commentaries published in the daily journal over the preceding month. These monthly reports are specially created by the World Streets team, working closely with the collaborating national sponsors in order to ensure that the final product is not only accurately and quickly developed, but that it is presented in a form which is agreeable to read and easy to move beyond through one-click links to the full sources in each case.

* * * Here is an example of a typical World Streets Monthly Edition, in this case is prepared to summarize for our subscribers/sponsors all items appearing over the month of April 2010 – http://tinyurl.com/ws-apr2010. For a copy of the other language editions, get in touch and we will be pleased to share them with you.

6. The last kilometer challenge

The “last kilometer” or “last mile” is, of course, a term from the telecommunications and cable television industries involving the final leg of delivering connectivity from a communications provider (in this case World Streets) to an end-user (in this case you and your busy colleagues). Here it is specifically aimed at supporting and expanding the network of those agencies, local authorities, universities, operators, associations, consultants and concerned citizens working on these issues within their country or region.

The following diagram and notes are intended to give a picture of how this can be made to work.

Once the current monthly report has been prepared with our language partner, they are then dispatched to all of those in the host country who are concerned with these matters. This listing turns out to be quite extensive in all cases thus far encountered, and includes not only the key national ministries and agencies charged with matters of transport, environment, cities, economics, social justice and more, but also all those working on these challenges at the level of the specific city or local administration, researchers, transportation operators, university programs, consultants, public interest groups, concerned citizens, and the national media.

Our goal in each case is to create an outreach in which the map in each cooperating country will gradually grow and eventually come to resemble the same level of coverage which we are achieving in Italy.

7. Want to discuss a collaborative outreach project?

We will be pleased to provide further information on both approaches and invite interested readers to get in touch by phone, e-mail, snail mail, Skype or, best of all, this is the power so we can talk about all this in person. Here is a quick summary of our main contact information:

Eric Britton, Editor
World Streets/The New Mobility Partnerships
8, rue Jospeh Bara, 75006 Paris France
Tel. Europe – +331 7550 3788
USA +1 (213) 984 1277
Skype: newmobility

Lessons in Leadership / Profiles in Courage "Bogotá Change"

The Colombian presidential elections will be held in less than three weeks on May 30. The campaign is all about ideas, leadership, and courage. And what could be more critical for a country or a city event to have these lined up together with a proven capacity to innovate, administrate, and to ensure that good policies and measures are continuously being scrutinized for performance and adapted to ensure that they are making the fullest possible contribution, year after year after year? Grab a cup of coffee and check out “Bogotá Change”. You are going to learn something.

* * * Click to “Bogotá Change” here * * *
Not all that long ago Bogotá, the Colombian capital, was considered one of the world’s most dangerous cities. At an altitude of over 2,600 meters up in the Andes mountains, seven million people were fighting a losing battle against drug crime, corruption, poverty and, not least, against each other.

But in 1995 the colorful and independent Antanas Mockus surprised many by being elected to become the city’s Mayor, after having been fired as the vice-chancellor  of the university where he had mooned his ungovernable students in a fit of rage. Mockus’s anarchistic and untraditional methods set about a social revolution that meant that Bogotá today is a role model for cities such as New York and Mexico City. ‘Bogotá Change’ tells the story about how this happened, and shows that politics in fact can be both funny and deeply inspiring.

If you are interested in how a city in a developing country was transformed through leadership, vision, and much work, this video done by a professional movie producer from Denmark is a good investment of 60 minutes of your time.

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And what if, instead, you share your car? Next generation carsharing hits the street

The concept of “organized carsharing”, in which people join groups which allow them to put their own cars at their members’ disposal for short-term rental, is one that has been around for decades and which has really taken off over the last dozen years. But of late we are seeing a new kind of carsharing paradigm emerge: in which people rent out their own vehicles on a flexible basis to anyone belonging to a member group, with the whole thing orchestrated by a package of software services and set of operational and legal obligations, with the end result of that your car goes to work for you (finally!). This is peer-to-peer carsharing and after years of being an item of occasional discussion among cognoscenti is now starting to hit the streets in earnest. Continue reading

World Streets: First Steps on Facebook

We live in a time of not only ever greater problems and challenges before our sector but also one of fast evolving tools and other means of collaboration. each of the dozen-plus specialized fora and discussion areas that make up the New Mobility Agenda, and of course World Streets itself. We are obliged to work with the available free tools. Here is the latest addition to the lot – World Streets on Facebook.

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 on Facebook:
To some of you this may seem like a bit of a stretch, but after all it is 2010 and after all (again) we are losing and losing big the war of sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. We have some important messages to share among us, and here is where we really have to make use of every tool out there which might be put to work for our good cause.

Hence in this case — and why not? — Facebook. So just yesterday we set up our best first cut of a Facebook page for World Streets, which you can now see, join, comment and use at www.facebook.worldstreets.org.

Home page text:
World Streets: First Steps is intended to serve as an open door for the Facebook community to the issues and contents of World Streets, the 21st century daily newspaper that has a single job: to provide you with high quality, readable, concise, food for thought and leads specifically on the topics of sustainable mobility, sustainable cities and sustainable lives, world-wide.


* Click image to expand.
Signing in:
To access the site you have first to create a Facebook page, but as most of our readers know this is no big deal and can be set up quickly in a reserved, professional and secure manner. That done, once on line all you have to do is click to www.facebook.worldstreets.org and there you are on the home page.

In closing, let me be the first to indicate that I do not at all have a clear picture of how this Facebook interface is going to work out. But I would be a poor friend of sustainable development and social justice if we did not at least give it our best shot.

Tell us what you think, either here or on Facebook. This is after all a team enterprise.

Eric Britton
Editor – editor@worldstreets.org

Promoting road safety and clean air in Kathmandu

This is the second article in a series coming in from Nepal, showing how the combination of traffic restraint and the push toward the creation of pedestrian- friendly areas is giving results in their capital city. The reader should bear in mind that the traffic situation on most of the city streets is extremely chaotic and dangerous, above all as a result of the explosion of fast-moving two wheelers. The city also suffers from major air quality problems due to a noxious combination of heavy traffic, dirty engines, thin air, natural meteorological factors and its location in the high Kathmandu Valley.

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World Streets/Monthly Report – April 2010

We are aware that most of our busy readers do not have the time to check into World Streets on a daily basis. For that reason we make available to our subscribers and sponsors in addition to the daily edition, a monthly summary which brings together in one place all postings and comments in a manner in which the busy reader can scan the month’s titles in a few lines and make a decision as to whether or not to call up and read the full article. Time-efficient communication in an overload world.
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