Monthly Archives: November 2010

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).
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“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 1.4285714285714285714285714285714e-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

Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City

The author of this careful and quite extensive book review of the battle for America’s streets is Karthik Rao-Cavale, a graduate student at Rutgers University and an associate editor of our sister publication, India Streets. He writes: “This review was originally written for a class I am taking with Prof. John Pucher here at Rutgers University. I am putting up this review here even though the book reviewed talks mainly about the United States, because I feel that the lessons learned are most immediately applicable to developing world. It is a lengthy read, but I hope you will enjoy it.”

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India Steers Full Speed towards Low Carbon Transport

We do not normally carry media releases on projects, programs, reports or books, but today we make an exception and are gladly posting the following important announcement. We share this both here, in India Streets and on the Sustran Global South forum for comment and discussion. It is our firm intention to keep an independent eye on this potentially promising program, and our firm hope that the money spent and technical resources brought to the job will result above all in multiplying the number of many and diverse on-street examples of how sustainable mobility works in the interest of the entire population — and not just the privileged (automotive and relatively affluent) few. As William Blake put it roughly two centuries ago: “He who would do good to another must do it in minute particulars.” We pledge keep as eye on the minute particulars, in the hope that we are going to see examples of policies and practices not only for India but for the world. Continue reading

The P2P carsharing saga continues: The WhipCar story

WhipCar is a very recent British start-up in the still little known peer-to-peer car owner/rental business.  World Streets recently interviewed the group’s founders and managers, Tom Wright and Vinay Gupta, to get at their side of this unfolding rather surprising 21st century alternate car story.  (And the first thing they told us was that it’s not quite carsharing. Let’s have a look.) Continue reading

Rough trade on the streets of Bogota

This piece reports on a wave of unanticipated “free enterprise” mobility solutions that have cropped up in the city of Bogotá in the last years. One bottom line is that these pedicabs represent a challenge for government on several scores. But at the same time they are providing affordable transportation  for people (voters) who need to make those trips. Now that you know this, what follows is a rough and ready machine translation of an article that appeared in the local paper, El Tiempo, yesterday. If you are interested in the topic you can learn a lot from these lines. And if you wish it in beautiful language, well strap on your best Spanish and click here.  Seguir pedaleando. Continue reading

Locked in Suburbia: Is there life after Autopia?

Something like ten percent of our lonely planet’s population are today thoroughly locked in — or at least think they are — to an “automotive life style”.   While in barely two generations  the earth’s population has  tripled, the automotive age has, step by silent surreptitious step, changed the way we live — and in the process made us prisoners of just that technology that was supposed to make us free forever. That’s a bad joke and bad news. But there is worse yet, and it comes in two ugly bites. For starters, in addition to the ten percent of us already hapless prisoners of our cars, another twenty percent of our soon seven billion brothers and sisters are standing in line eagerly in the hope of getting  locked in as quickly as possible. And as if that were not bad enough, the consensus among most of the experts and policy makers is that our goose is forever cooked, and there is little anybody  can do about it. Well, maybe not. Spend some time this Monday morning with Paul Mees, as he attacks this received belief and suggests . . . Well, why don’t I just get out of the way and let Paul speak for himself. Continue reading

Happy Diwali. (Thank you Pallavi.)

Happy Diwali. (Thank you Pallavi.) Today at the end of the very first week of publication of our brave new India Streets, we like to take a page out of the book of our associate editor Pallavi Pant who wished us all today “Happy Diwali”. And since I for one (“I” in this case being Eric Britton, an editor of India Streets) really did not understand what it was about beyond a kind of “Hindu New Year + Thanksgiving” (sorry!), I had to look it up. And for those of you who share my ign … Read More

via India Streets

Parking realities in the real world: An example from Calcutta

Paul Barter reports on the basic principles of parking and real world contradictions from Calcutta, in an article posted yesterday to his new blog “Reinventing Parking: Understand your community’s parking policy choices”. And as many of our readers will recognise, it’s an old old story.
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Vision and virtuosity in the Big Apple: Managing the transformative moment

Dear Mrs. Mayor,

If you are considering a public bicycle project for your city, may we respectfully urge you to take a page out of New York City’s book on transportation innovation in the context of a previously car-based city.  So before your project  starts exposing hundreds, thousands of innocent people to the daily dangers of untamed traffic, think first to plan and build those key hundreds of kilometers of protected city cycling provision for the men, women and children of all ages who will be taking to your streets.  After all, that’s your job.

The editor, World Streets

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The benefits of being Obama

This article published today by our colleague and associate editor of India Streets, Karthik Rao-Cavale in his outstanding blog “India lives in her cities too!”, provides an excellent example of the kind of clear thinking that is needed in the face of abundant contradictions that constitute life on India’s streets. Would it not be a wonderful thing if President Obama were to be invited to walk the streets and see for himself this aspect of daily life in one of the world’s greatest cities. I am sure that he would be moved to a far greater degree than sitting down to one more boring and inevitably hypocritical State Dinner. And he would go back to his crushing work load in Washington a far better friend of India. I promise.
- Eric Britton. Editor., India Streets.

The latest news from Mumbai is that President Obama is about to visit, and all the routes he might possibly take are being beautified. Some of them are even being adorned with date palm trees, despite these trees being completely inappropriate for Mumbai's humid climate. And alongside, anti-encroachment drives are being carried out to evict "illegal" hawkers squatting on the pavements. This prompted one KRP Gupta to ask why it is that while Obama … Read More

via India lives in her cities too!