World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 17, No. 3

The Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice is the long-standing idea and print partner of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda since 1995. The Autumn 2011 edition appears with articles by Theo Haris, Michelle Zeibots and John Elliott, and Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy. In the article that follows you will find the hard-hitting lead editorial by founding editor John Whitelegg. (For a more complete introduction to World Transport click here.)

– – – > To obtain your copy of WTPP 17/3 click here.


– John Whitelegg, Editor

The three articles in this issue of World Transport Policy and Practice deliver a strongly coherent message about the transport debate globally and the importance of a much improved relationship between science, evidence-based knowledge and the world of transport policy.

This journal was founded 18 years ago to add to the logic and rigour of transport policy through the scrutiny of evidence and analysis and the distillation of the results of that scrutiny into policy advice.

Sadly our conclusion is that transport policy is still largely free of any close link between scrutiny, rigour and the choices that are made. Transport policy is still deeply embedded in a car-dominated culture and a touching belief in the links between expensive transport infrastructure and economic growth and job creation.

The relatively independent careful observer of transport policy can be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that transport policy is very simply about building more roads, high speed rail and airport expansion so that more of us can move around at a greater speed and travel more miles and not be disturbed in this activity by the behaviour of others trying to do the same thing. In spite of a huge explosion of rhetoric and spin around climate change, sustainability and civilised cities the important work still goes on in ministries of transport and in the world of PFIs and transport infrastructure to give us a higher level of mobility than last year and make sure it goes up again next year.

The independent, careful observer will very rarely find a transport policy that sets out a staged programme of reducing car park spaces, decommissioning highways and turning them into parks and woodland, closing residential streets to through traffic or setting out a clear vision of zero deaths and injuries in the road traffic environment or a zero carbon transport future. Once again we are very pleased indeed to congratulate Sweden on doing both these things but there is no sign of such clarity of thought and purpose in the UK or USA or Australia.

The UK contrary to the lessons that can be learned from Sweden, is very busy building new roads, expanding the number of lanes on motorways, increasing the speed limit on motorways from 70mph-80mph and cutting budgets for walking, cycling and public transport

In this issue Theo Haris presents a critique of “green cars” and highlights the dangers associated with the pursuit of green cars as if this actually delivers sustainable transport objectives.

Michelle Zeibots and John Elliott revisit the important subject of new roads generating new traffic and link this to public participation and democratic process in transport policy making. The situation in Zurich with its well-developed citizen involvement process produces better outcomes than the systems in place in London or Sydney.

Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy turn their attention to the debate on densification. In this article they are responding to an earlier article by Paul Mees (the “density delusion”) in which he criticised the view that making our urban areas denser can bring about significant gains in reducing per capita energy use in transport, reducing CO2 emissions and improving public transport patronage. This is a hugely important debate but also one that runs the risk of distracting sustainable transport advocates from the task of creating low carbon, resilient and people-friendly cities.

At the risk of exceeding established bounds of editorial freedom our view is that we all have a very urgent and important task in the world which is to correct a major malfunction in the way policy makers and their advisers are dealing with the totality of mobility, urban form, budgets and quality of life.

Transport policy interventions as currently carried out in most parts of the world can be described as a “boondoggle” to use a strange but attractive American expression. The English equivalent is “a dog’s dinner” though some prefer “dog’s breakfast”.

We urgently need to re-arrange almost every aspect of transport policy and spending to deliver a high quality of life for all citizens, much reduced levels of mobility with higher levels of accessibility to the things that need accessing, much improved social justice including spending the vast bulk of transport money on improving the accessibility of the young, the poor children, women and the elderly. We need zero carbon, zero deaths and injuries, zero air pollution and current outcomes are quite simply not good enough.

In delivering what is needed to be delivered we will require an approach to land use and density that avoids sprawl and suburbanisation. We will need new developments near high quality public transport nodes and not 10 miles down a minor road in the countryside with a bus every Tuesday and Thursday. We will also need a world class public transport system that can deliver a seamless journey experience across a highly integrated, dense network of services and we will also need many millions more citizens on bikes and feet rather than bus, train and tram and we will need this in China and India as well as Australia and the UK.

The density debate has produced a degree of polarisation but it is abundantly clear that all those arguing for low energy and resilient cities, zero carbon transport and high quality public transport are all working towards the same goal. The goal is clear. It is a society that values people, propinquity, security, sociability and the joy of living in a high quality environment. It is a society that recognises the manifold defects of relying on 1000 kg of metal to move around 80 kgs of person and take up far too much valuable space in cities. This we do agree on.

Space is a unifying concept and focus for all our efforts. Please take a moment to look at the cover page of this issue of WTPP. This is a diagram to illustrate the relative space demands of transport choices. A car driver takes 115 sq metres of space, a tram occupant 12, a cyclist 10, a train passenger 7 and a pedestrian 3 square metres. Land is valuable, space is precious and we cannot afford in any way at all to supply several billion people in the urbanised world with 115 sq meters each for their trips.

We are very grateful indeed to Yvonne Meier-Bukowiecki, Leiterin Fachbereich Mobilitätsmanagement of the City of Zurich for permission to use this diagram which she presented at a conference in Wuppertal in Germany on 30th September 2011.

John Whitelegg

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Contents of Autumn 2011 edition

Editorial                                                                                                                       3
– John Whitelegg

Abstracts & Keywords                                                                                            5

Urban road building and traffic congestion: What went wrong?         6
– Dr Michelle E. Zeibots and John R. Elliot

Is there such a thing as an environmentally-friendly car?                 27
– Theoharis Tziovaras, M.Sc.

The Density Multiplier: A response to Mees                                           32
– Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy

Corrections                                                                                                           46

Abstracts & Keywords

Urban road building and traffic congestion: What went wrong?
– Dr Michelle E Zeibots and John R Elliott

This paper investigates the claim that greater investment in roads would reduce traffic congestion and improve the environment in British and Australian cities. It provides an overview of the phenomenon known as induced traffic —the additional traffic generated in response to faster travel speeds made possible by the addition of road or motorway capacity — and broadly reviews the findings by government committees charged with the responsibility to investigate the outcomes from road proposals. When taken as a whole, there appears to be a cycle at play where road expansion is advocated to overcome congestion; people in affected neighbourhoods object, saying they want public transport to be improved instead; governments react to public complaint; road expansion policies are put on hold and new policy directions are investigated; congestion continues to be a problem, and; eventually road expansion policies creep back into government transport plans so that the cycle begins again.

In light of this history, we ask why government administrations in the UK and Australia, and other parts of the world, have continued to increase road capacity as a solution to congestion when all the evidence indicates it generates additional traffic that perpetuates congested conditions? We attempt to answer this question by examining the structure of transport decisionmaking and governance systems and how these influence which views within society ultimately dominate transport policy. We compare community reactions to urban motorway proposals from Britain and Australia with those in Switzerland where direct democratic mechanisms feature in the decision-making system.

We conclude that transport infrastructure decisions are not always motivated by the need to provide viable transport solutions for users. The representational democratic systems operating in Britain and Australia appear vulnerable to other interests and motivations that often conflict with the interests and wishes of the general community.

Key words: induced traffic, road proposals, road capacity, congestion, transport infrastructure, transport decision-making, community reactions, urban motorways, governance systems

Is there such a thing as an environmentally-friendly car?
– Theoharis Tziovaras, M.Sc.

This paper identifies flaws in the language and concepts around “green cars” and “environmentally friendly” cars. Whilst it is possible to produce cars with lower levels of polluting exhaust emissions and greenhouse gases there remains a fundamental problem around the impact of cars on the use of space, road traffic danger and damage to community life. In the wider context of transport, society and automobile use there is no such thing as an environmentally friendly car.

Key words: green car, environmentally friendly car, electric vehicle, life cycle analysis, noise, congestion

The Density Multiplier: A Response to Mees
– Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy
Density debates are highly emotional; it seems to cause many people in transport policy to go into a rage. We have often been the focus of these rages and in recent times Paul Mees has begun suggesting that we are part of a =density delusion‘(Mees, 2009). This article attempts to show why we must take density seriously.

– – – > To obtain your copy of WTPP 17/3 click here.

About the editor:

 Managing Director of Eco-Logica, John Whitelegg is Visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University, Professor of Sustainable Development at the Stockholm Environment Institute, and founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. Research interests encompass transport and the environment, definition of sustainable transport systems and a sustainable built environment, development of transport in third world cities focusing on the relationships between sustainability and human health, implementation of environmental strategies within manufacturing and service industry and development of environmental management standards. He has published widely on these topics. John is active in the Green party of England and Wales and is the national spokesperson on sustainable development.

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2 thoughts on “World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 17, No. 3

  1. Professor Whitelegg has, in exactly 975 words, given us one of the most cogent, tightly reasoned, readable arguments in favor of sustainable behaviour in our benighted sector that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.


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