Every once in a while an article pops in over the transom, as happened this morning, that provides us with a good, independent checklist of the woes and, if not the solutions, at least the directions in which solutions might usefully be sought to our transportation related tribulations. And this carefully crafted piece by Danish architect Henrik Valeur is a good case in point. His independent out of the box perspective leads him to making comments links and pointing out relationships which take him well beyond the usual transportation purview. And if his immediate source of comment in this article is the awful, the quite unnecesssary situation on the streets of India’s cities, the points he makes have universal application. Healthy stuff for planners and policy makers. Let’s have a look.
We are inviting comments and background information on this our central concept behind this project, i.e., what is this thing we call transportation equity all about? We are looking for a variety of views and perspectives on our topic and not some kind of warm and glass-eyed unanimity. For if we cannot handle complexity, contradictions and fuzziness, then we are not about to make headway with this challenge. This first note with references came in from Todd Litman, executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in Victoria Canada.
If you would like to have an advanced taste for some of the content, approach and the general voice of the book, you may want to consider clicking to https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/equity-book which calls up a selection of articles and comments which are now in process for the final. Please understand that at this point most of these pieces are still incomplete working drafts, and not surprisingly they are of uneven quality up to now. That is part of the challenge.
In the meantime, you may note when you call them up they are presented to you simply with the latest postings on top. Which of course is not the order in which they are being treated in the book now in process. Still, they should give you a good feel for where we are going with this, we think important, book.
The goal of this open collaborative project and crowd sourcing exercise, which spans the period January 2012 to December 2013, is to organize, hold and report on a series of public dialogues in a certain number of host cities and government groups on different continents, meeting with and seeking out the views of a broad cross-section of people, groups and interests who are ready to brainstorm on the concept of equity as a potential base for a new transport paradigm and strategy for the city.
Equity? Hmm. This, it turns out on inspection, is not quite so easy a concept to get across. In English it’s already tough enough. And as I have learned somewhat painfully, it gets even more challenging in many other languages. Here are some late night thoughts on this word that I share with you in the hope it may inspire comments and clarification. So here you have my notes, more or less in the order that they came to mind late in the night.
– – – > For more on the Equity Agenda click here.
Early this morning World Streets welcomed our 3000th registered reader. After almost to the day four years of faithful service to the cause of sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives, since the beginning of the year we have started to receive a substantial increase in these contacts. For example, even as I write this note, the number is up to 2015 (which you can confirm for yourself in the top right column). We feel proud and hope that you as one of our readers feel proud too. After all , the only reason we are here is to learn from each other and do what we can to make our cities and our planet fairer and better places for all, today and tomorrow.
Nothing is more attractive to me than a muddled discussion awaiting its first theory.
– E. O. Wilson, Biophilia, Harvard University Press, 1984
And if ever there were a “muddled discussion” in the domain of public policy, just about everything we have heard and seen over the last decades under the heading of “sustainable development” and “sustainable transportation” has to be placed firmly in this category. Hopes, rhetoric and promises have run higher than high, while concrete achievements and realities have been tragically few and far between. We are grievously losing the war of sustainability on just about every front you can imagine. Something has to be very wrong, something fundamental, something structural and something which apparently is not getting the attention it requires.
In the last months of 2011 subject to a series of preparatory discussions, the author was invited to work with the support of a small team of professionals under the direction of the City Planning Department /Transportation in order to organize, carry out, and as appropriate follow up on these open public conversations. We spent close to two months laying the base for the public discussion stage of the project.
During the two weeks in Helsinki we met with almost 200 people representing a broad cross-section of interests and points of view, organized and participated in on the order of twenty interviews and brainstorming dialogues, three half-day master class sessions, and on 27 April a final plenary presentation organized to present and invite first feedback and recommendations on this intensive process. The final presentation was followed by a session of questions from the audience and general discussion, with a brief closing summary of observations and findings made by the Deputy Mayor of Helsinki Pekka Sauri, in charge of Public Works and Environmental Affairs for the city.
One year almost ot the day after the start-up of the first Helsinki project, I have carefully reviewed this original article, slightly rewritten it for clarity, but above all have added a fair number of observations, questions and cautions by distinguished colleagues following this project in many parts of the world. Valuable food for thought for anyone who wishes to get a handle on some of the fundamental issues to be considered for eventual equity-based transportation reform.
That old transport paradigm, the one we are still living with today, is far too narrow in terms of the range and quality of people targeted and services offered, and in the process fails to serve what is — in fact — the transpiration majority.
The “transportation majority” is not what most people think, transportation planners and policy makers among them. The transportation majority are all those of us who increasingly are poorly served by the mainline service arrangements that eat up most of our hard-earned taxpayer money and fail to offer them acceptable and efficient choices that mesh with their special needs and circumstances. And each year as our populations age this majority grows in numbers.
As is or at least should by now be well known, a transportation “system” is well more than a collection of largely free-standing bits of infrastructure, modes, links, agencies, institutions, bureaucracies, laws, operators and more, concerning which decision scan be taken on a piecemeal basis. It is in fact a textbook example of a disorganized complex system, or more specifically a vast, chaotic, contradictory, time-lagged but ultimately manageable ecosystem. And if it is our ambition — which it should be — to construct, or rather reconstruct, our city transport systems into functional high-performing sustainable ecosystems. it can help to build up our understanding of the process in steps. Continue reading
First step: Say good-bye to Old Mobility
“Old Mobility” – with its relentless stress on more, supply, more vehicles, more speed, ever greater distances and more infrastructure as the knee-jerk answer to our mobility problems — has been the favored path for conceptualizing, decision-making and investment in the sector over the last 70 years. It is fully charted, surprise-free and easy to see where it is leading. Aggressing the planet, costing us a bundle, draining the world’s petroleum reserves, and delivering poor service for the majority . . . this tired approach is a clear failure. It’s time for a major change of course.
The objective here is to combine vision, policy, technology and entrepreneurial skills in such a way to create and make available to all a combined, affordable, multi-level, convenient, high choice mobility system which for just about everybody should be more efficient than owning and driving a car in or into town. Let us start with this as our goal and then see what is the work that must be done in order to turn it into a reality.
In order to understand what needs to be done to create healthier lives and a better performing set of transportation arrangements, World Streets has from the very beginning made a consistent distinction between what we call “Old Mobility” vs.”New Mobility.” The difference between the two is simple, straight-forward . . . and substantial.
Old mobility was the dominant form of transportation policy, practice and thinking that took its full shape and momentum starting in the mid twentieth century, at a time when we all lived in a universe that was, or at least seemed to be, boundless and free of constraints. It served many of us well in many ways at the time, albeit with numerous and notable exceptions, though we were blind to most of them most of the time. It was a very different world back them. But that world is gone. Gone and it will never come back.