Will the real British local transport policy please stand up.

About two weeks ago I sent out a red flag to a short list of my most respected British transport/environment colleagues with a cry for help in preparation for a keynote speech I had been asked to deliver to a conference scheduled to take place this Thursday, 2 December, in Liverpool, and where the speaker just before me is a respected ministerial representative of the latest British government. I confessed to my distinguished British friends that I was at best half-educated in terms of the current policy and practice debate in Britain and needed a fast tutorial before exposing myself to a critical audience. They responded fast, generously and most usefully as you will soon see here in a follow-up piece to the conference; but one of the responses opened up his perceptive comments with an amusing analogy which I thought you might enjoy this morning. Continue reading

The Road Transport/Energy Challenge in India

Environment vs. Mobility? (Image source: Times of India)

“A few weeks ago, we (India Streets) had reported about India’s plans to reduce the climate change impact from its transportation sector. However, we saw that India’s plan, like many other plans out there, attempts to tackle the problem almost entirely by improving vehicle and fuel technology without adequately dealing with the most important factor – the number of vehicle-kilometers travelled. In the article below, we will read Prof. Madhav Badami of McGill University argue that “[fuel economy improvements will do little to mitigate [climate] impacts, and might even exacerbate them to the extent that the improvements increase motor vehicle activity by reducing the costs of driving… On the other hand, measures to curb vehicle-kilometers can provide major “co-benefits” by helping control energy consumption and related emissions, as well as other transport impacts.” Continue reading

2011 Work Plan: First we have to pay for it

Paris. Thursday, 25 November 2010

Subject: Heavy traffic on the way to sustainable cities and sustainable lives . . .

Dear friends and colleagues,

With the harvest now safely in the granary, the livestock firmly locked in the barn, the muskets loaded and plenty of wood chopped to see us through a long and surely hard winter, it is time to cook up a big meal and invite everyone within shouting distance to come to celebrate that we all have somehow made it through one more year and have at least a fair shot at the one to come.

So on this special day for Americans, wearing my hat as founding editor of World Streets I decided this morning to pick up pen and write a short note to you (and approximately one thousan d f riends and colleagues in cities and countries literally all over the world) to see if they, you that is, might have some ideas as to how this thing we call World Streets can now organize to deal with the challenges and the opportunities of the year ahead. For, as you will see in our and other pages, there are surely plenty of both. Continue reading

Thanksgiving 2010 and Morning in America

On the eve of Thanksgiving 2010 sitting here in Paris, my thoughts not unnaturally turn to my native America. And since our view here is from the street I have to think a bit unhappily about why is it that we in this great country do not seem to be able to let go of “old mobility” – i.e., whenever you spot a problem you build something to solve it (also known as the Edifice Complex) – as the highest-possible cost, least civil, one size fits all solution to our problems of efficient transport and fair access in and around cities. Of course we Americans invented old mobility a long time ago — and at the time it seemed like such a logical and dynamic solution to the connection challenges of a vast growing nation. As indeed it was. But suddenly it’s 2010, the twentieth century is long behind us, and if we look carefully at the low quality of what we are seeing on our city streets across the nation it would strike one that perhaps it is time to rethink OM from bottom to top and come up with something a lot better. For example New Mobility, which without our having to define it here is the basic strategy and value set that is behind the far more successful city transport arrangements we can see in hundreds of leading cities around the world – and none of them sadly are American.

Why and how have we arrived at this sad state of affairs? Well, let me ask a foreigner working in this field who has long lived in and long admired America to tell us about what he thinks is going on. Sometimes when you are lost it helps to stop the car, roll down the window, and ask for some directions. Let’s try. Continue reading

From Australia, Jarrett Walker on transit’s role in “sprawl repair”

Urban sprawl is at its best a very mixed bag, as we all know. But worse yet behind its tempting glamorous face it surreptitiously locks in unsustainability in many many ways, ending up with a grossly unfair package of no-choice mobility combined with close to totalitarian car dependence for all at the top of the awful list. But is this a prisoner’s dilemma in which everyone at the table is forever destined to lose once those die are cast? Not so sure about that. The other day, we heard from Paul Mees with our review article “Locked in Suburbia: Is there life after Autopia?” where he suggests that we will do well to look more closely at the options other than hand-wringing that are in fact there to be taken. While today, Jarrett Walker walks us through his interpretation of how “sprawl repair” can work without waiting for some distant Nirvana (or Hell, whichever my be your vision of choice).
Continue reading

“Where do good ideas come from?”

As our regular readers know well, World Streets is in the collaborative idea-building business to define, reinforce and advance the New Mobility Agenda on streets and in cities around the world. So whenever we hear about something or someone who can help us sharpen our vision and tools, we are a willing audience. Today we are pleased to share with you a sharp five-minute brainstorming presentation that the popular science writer Steven Johnson has recently made on exactly our topic. You can buy his intriguing book under this title if you click here. But for now, sit back and let’s hear to what Steven has to share with us on idea-building. Continue reading

1.4285714285714285714285714285714 e-10

With the world’s population to pass seven billion next year– meaning that my and your fair share of the world’s resources will be on the order of 1.4285714285714285714285714285714 e-10 – it is time perhaps to give some consideration as to who “owns” what on this sweltering planet. The very concept of ownership digs very deep into the psyche and the way in which the owned object is used. Let’s take your or my car for example. The odds are that one of us is an owner – and it is well known there is not a single country, a single city on this planet in which the owners of automobiles pay even a small fraction of their total cost to society. What does that mean in this particular case? Continue reading