(BC) A New Mobility Strategy for your City

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Basic principles and strategies of the New Mobility Agenda

The shift from old to new mobility is not one that turns its back on the importance of high quality mobility for the economy and for quality of life for all. It is not and should not be seen as a step down in terms of life quality.

Note to the reader: This is an advanced draft section of a shortly forthcoming book to be published under the working title BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transportation to Smaller Asian Cities.  For latest background on the project click to the Project Workbook https://goo.gl/aUoSK4 . To access draft chapters,  https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/better-choices/. You also may wish to check out the work in progress for a Planners Bookshelf which is freely available at  https://goo.gl/fv3Giv.

Password protected. Because the draft documents at this stage are intended only for internal review and the critical comments and suggestions of our expert international colleagues, they are password protected. If you would like to share your critical comments and require access, drop a line to the author eric.britton@ecoplan.org 

To the contrary! with the proven organizational models and technologies we now have at our fingertips, and in the labs, it is possible to redraw our transportation systems and use of valuable public space so that there is less inefficient movement (the idea of one person sitting in traffic in a large car with the engine idling is one example, an empty bus another) and more high-efficiency, high-quality, low-carbon transportation that offers many more mobility choices than in the past, including the one that environmentalists and many others find most appealing: namely, getting what you want without having to venture out into traffic at all. Now that’s an interesting new mobility strategy, too.

Here you have the two dozen key underlying principles of the strategic policy frame that is needed to shape and guide the transition principles that we and colleagues around the world have diligently pieced together over the years of work, observation and close contact with projects and programs in leading cities on all continents under the New Mobility Agenda.

The short words of introduction after each strategy title below are intended here only as a first check-list of key principles, to be consulted and used carefully to screen all new project and investment commitments in the sector. Each has an abundant literature and each is an accepted part of the New Mobility Agenda toolkit. Let’s have a look, starting wiht the most important issue and choice of all.

Strategy 1. Climate Emergency leading the way

Planetary issues such as climate change and massive resource depletion, do not have a major voice in most local transportation plans and investment decisions. The on-going emergency sets the global timetable for action in our sector. Getting the carbon, and with it fossil fuels, out of the sector is an important goal in any event. But low-carbon strategies per se are not really a strategic tool per se.

At the same time GHG reduction works as a strong surrogate for just about everything else to which we need to be giving priority attention in our cities, chief among them the need to cut traffic. Fewer vehicles on the road means reduced energy consumption, less pollution in all forms, fewer accidents, reduced bills for infrastructure construction and maintenance, quieter and safer cities, and the long list goes on.

What is so particularly interesting about the mobility sector is that there is really a great deal we can do in a relatively little time. And at relatively low cost. Beyond this, there is an important joker which also needs to be brought into the picture from the very beginning, and that is that these reductions can be achieved not only without harming the economy or quality of life for the clear majority of all people. To the contrary sustainable transport reform can be part of a 21st century economic revival which places increased emphasis on services and not products.

Strategy 2. Reduce traffic radically (And fast).

The critical, incontrovertible policy core of the Agenda – is to find a way to engineer major, near-term big number percentage cuts in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and in particular in high density areas. If we don’t achieve this, we will have a situation in which all the key indicators will continue to move in the wrong direction.  As in fact, as the case today.

But we can cut traffic, and at the same time improve mobility. And the economy.  And equity.  And that’s our New Mobility strategy.

Strategy 3. Expand HOV mobility services available to all:

Extend the range, quality and degree of integration of high-occupancy non-car mobility services available to all. A whole range of exciting and practical new service modes is needed if we are to keep our cities viable.

The list of these alternative service types is quite long, and in addition within each of these are a considerable variety of different ways of delivering these services. Among the most widely known are small community buses, elderly and handicapped services, carsharing and car clubs, ridesharing and carpools, nonmotorized transport including cycling and walking, taxis (both legal and illegal since the latter exists), DRT or demand responsive transit, various forms of hitchhiking and slogging, and the long list goes on.

And they need to COMBINE to offer better, faster and cheaper mobility than the old car-intensive arrangements or deficit-financed, heavy, old-technology, traditional public transit. We need to open our minds on this last score and understand that rather than being stuck in the past with a 19th century version of how “common people” best get about, it is important to move over to a new paradigm of a great variety of ways of providing shared transport mediated in good part by 21st-century information communications technologies.

 Strategy 4. Tighten time frame for action

Select and gear all actions to achieve visible results within a two to four-year time frame.  In that allocate at least 50%, preferably more, of all your transportation budget on measures and projects that are going to yield visible results within this time frame. Set firm targets for all to see and judge the results. No-excuse results-oriented transport policy.

Strategy 5. Design and Deliver for the Transportation 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, no-choice, car-based, truncated service arrangements that eat up most of our taxpayer money and take away our choices. And each year, as our populations age this majority grows in numbers.

(For details see section https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/bc-equity-efficiency-and-the-invisible-transportation-majority/)

Strategy 6. Take advantage of frugal economics:

We are not going to need another round of high cost, low impact investments to make it work. We simply take over 50% 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.

Strategy 7. Build on what we have:

For many transportation planners and experts schooled in the old mobility college, this will be one of the least evident of the strategic building blocks behind the New Mobility Agenda. In the first place, because many of these systems or services turn out to be almost invisible to policymakers working in the transport sector. These can range from various kinds of taxis and community or specialized transport services, all the way to the kind of chaotic, streets-clogging or almost invisible modes, often dangerous (dangerous, because that is the way we treat them) services such as small private buses, shared taxis, pedicabs, informal carsharing, informal ride sharing, and a range of illegal or arrangements which I can or not they to work for lots of people in many places, but which in most cases and despite their present drawbacks probably need not to be suppressed but rather to be better understood, negotiated, improved in consort with the suppliers, and integrated into the multilevel range of transportation options that are really what is best suited for cities in all parts of the world.

Strategy 8. Irreversibilities: Do not build yourself into a corner

Many cities which today enjoy immensely improved transportation systems and services were not always so wise in the past. As a result major bits of transportation infrastructure which were improperly planned and built time had to be removed. This is a costly and painful process. The lesson we can learn from that — particularly at times like the present where it most parts of the world money is scarce — is not to build ourselves into a corner that later we would like to get out of. Therefore all major construction projects which involve the expansion of road infrastructure and vehicle traffic need to be examined critically at the present time to determine the full cycle of events they are likely to set off, and with a careful analysis of determining if there are other, possibly better, cheaper and faster ways of getting the job done.

Strategy 9. Design and deploy packages of measures

As distinguished from the old ways of planning and making investments what is required in most places today are carefully interlinked “packages” of numerous small as well as larger projects and initiatives. Involving many more actors and participants. One of the challenges of an effective new mobility policy will be to find ways to see these various measures as interactive synergistic and mutually supporting projects within a unified greater whole. A significant challenge to our planners at all levels

 Strategy 10. Integrate the car into the new mobility pattern

State-of-the-art technology can be put to work hand in hand with the changing role of the private car in the city in order to create situations in which even car use can be integrated with a far softer edge into the overall mobility strategy. These advantages need to be widely broadcast so as to increase acceptance of the new pattern of urban mobility. The new mobility environment must also be able to accommodate people in cars, since that is an incontrovertible reality which will not go away simply because it would seem like an ideal solution. We are going to have plenty of small and medium-sized four-wheel, rubber-tired, driver-operated vehicles running around on the streets of our cities and the surrounding regions, so the challenge of planners and policymakers is to ensure that this occurs in a way which is increasingly harmonious to the broader social, economic and environmental objectives set out here.

 Strategy 11. Full speed ahead with new technology

New mobility is at its core heavily driven by the aggressive application of state of the art logistics, communications and information technology across the full spectrum of service types. The transport system of the future is above all an interactive information system, with the wheels and the feet at the end of this chain. These are the seven-league boots of new mobility.

Strategy 12. Technology agnostics/Performance advocates

Please note: We do not care, nor should we care, what is the technology to be used or favored at any point in the system. It is not the role of inevitably under-informed, naive, and ever-hopeful policymakers to make determinations about which technology is going to be the best to build into the system. This is way past their level of competence, and is not in any event even necessary in order to create the preconditions of a better transportation system. But what our policymakers can do, and what they should do, is to specify not technology but performance. There many ways in which this can be done, two of which include two performance standards and emissions standards. But there are more.

Parking day. Pay hourly rate, feed the meter and use it all day long. Invite your friends.

Strategy 13. Play the “infrastructure joker”

The transport infrastructures of our cities have been vastly overbuilt and are still not able to deal with the problems of the geometry of the growing number of ars that are competing for that limited space.  And when it comes ot sustainable mobility and sustainable cities they are unable to deliver the goods. We can do a lot better, as long as we leave those old ways fo thinking behind us. That’s just great, since it means that we can now take over substantial portions of the street network for far more efficient modes.

Strategy 14. Design for and by women in leading roles

Our old mobility system was designed by, and ultimately for, a certain type of person (think about it!). And so too should the new mobility system: but this time around it should be designed to accommodate specifically women, of all ages and conditions. Do that and we will serve everybody far better. And for that to happen we need to have a major leadership shift toward women and, as part of that, to move toward gender parity in all bodies involved in the decision process. It’s that simple. (See To fix Sustainable Transport: Ensure Full Gender Parity in all Decision and Investment Fora (QED))

* What happens if roughly half of the people biking in your city are female?  It is a success!  And what happens if there are many more people on bikes but the great majority are male. it is a FAILURE. (Sometimes life is simple.)

* And for green space and city parks. IT IS THE SAME THING! You have to go back to the drawing board!

Strategy 15. Outreach and Partnerships

This approach, because it is new and unfamiliar to most people, is unlike to be understood the first few times around. Hence a major education, consultation and outreach effort is needed in each place to make it work. Old mobility was the terrain in which decisions were made by transport experts working within their assigned zones of competence. New mobility is based on wide-based collaborative problem solving, outreach and harnessing the great strengths of the informed and educated populations of our cities. Public/private/citizen partnerships.

 Strategy 16. Lead by Example:

If you are mayor or other elected official. If you are engaged as a professional in public policy areas that relate to the sustainability agenda . . . you don’t have a choice really, you must lead by personal example. This means getting to work by bike, walking, public transport or some form of carsharing/ridesharing at least two days a week. Every week. By doing this, you will have hands-on knowledge of what works and what does not in your city. You become Eyes on the Street. You will be authentic and credible. You will be the kind of leader we need to identify and guide the reforms, policies and projects that must now be put in place. And if you do not do this, if you stay in the back seat of your limo, you won’t get my vote.

Strategy 17. Set High Targets

“If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it” or so the expression goes. That is true when it comes to transportation reform as anywhere else. So in order to reinforce the move toward sustainable transportation what should be the thing we decide to commit for measure? Too many high targets and we are lost. So what about picking ONE to be sponsored and implemented the highest levels of state government and making that a major program supported by a vigorous public information program and open data for citizen inspection and confirmation.

  • What should that one target be?

Strategy 18.  And Make Them Widely Known 

Everyone involved, and certainly including the general public, need to be made continuously aware of the fact that something different, something serious is going on. If people selling cars and gasoline hammer through the media every day to pass their message, we need to take a page out of their book to do the same. And not just feeble one-time well-intentioned shots, but an aggressive continuing strategic media campaign with the resources behind it to make it stick.

 Strategy 19.  Have a failure strategy

No matter how careful we are in the planning, design  and implementation process, every bright project or service idea we may have will necessarily succeed the first time around. So, we are going to need in each case a strategy for failure. (Stuff happens). What we want to do, if absolutely necessary, is to FAIL EARLY — and to build into each project and program feedback mechanisms that will allow us to be the first to spot the weakness.  And then to have a backup strategy for how we handle it and what we do next. The objective has to be not to hid from failure, but to learn from it and carry on from there. 

Strategy 20. Reward and Support Innovation

Policy makers but also other institutions and groups who care about their city need to be supportive and on the lookout for innovation, of which there is plentiful need in our sector. It will be useful to create something along the lines of a central repertoire that will keep track of innovational attempt in difference places. It will be useful to create incentives to encourage innovation, through prizes, publicity or financial awards. The idea is to celebrate innovation and adaptation of good ideas and hard work no matter what their origin. Because government cannot do it all.

 Strategy 21. Surprise

Try not to lecture and not to bore. Give a careful look to the possibility of introducing or testing what may at first appear to be “crazy ideas”.  For example, what about paying people who leave their car behind, and bike or walk (or take some form of shared transport) to work. Require public officials and employees to come to work not in solo cars? Or pay people to take the bus for a while (to help them test and maybe build some new habits? Change the mode. Engage imaginations. Engage vulnerable people. Ask them for ideas. And if it does not get results, into the garbage can.

Strategy 22. Create a Climate of Change

Before you started your new mobility program, the main kind of change that was visible to most people in the city were for the worse.  More traffic, more time looking for parking place, more lost time in transit, noise, air pollution, accidents, etc.  A climate of change, and in almost all cases, change for the worse.

To create a positive climate of change, what is needed is a continuing flow of new ideas coming in which offer specific type of visible improvements, most of them small and local, but visible so that the population can start to develop a positive attitude about the transition strategy.

 Strategy 23. But above all . . . PICK WINNERS!

There is no reason for policymakers to take unnecessary chances. New approaches demand success. When it comes to transport innovation in the second decade of the 21st century there is no margin of error. Moreover, the track record of the kinds of approaches that are needed to create a new system is rich and well documented. Meaning that we can choose policies and services with track records of success and build on all this accumulated experience. (And there are plenty of them out there if we are prepared to look and learn.)

We asked the reader to be patient with these short descriptions, each of which needs to be introduced and developed in considerable detail. But that is not the objective of the present exercise. In each case, and let us take this one for example, it is easy enough to say that an important strategy is “to reduce traffic radically”. But then there is a matter of how this is achieved. But the important thing is that once that this is expected as an underlying general principle for policy, then it is time to put the technical experts on the challenge of how to achieve it.

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