In order what needs to be done to create a healthier and better performing set of transportation arrangements, World Streets make a consistent distinction between what we call “old mobility” and “new mobility.” The difference between the two is quite simple. And substantial.
Old mobility was the 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 us well in many ways at the time, albeit with 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 over. And it will never come back.
The planet was enormous, the spaces great and open, energy abundant and cheap, resources endless. The “environment” was not a consideration, “climate” was the weather, technology was able to come up with a constant stream of solutions, builders were able to solve the problems that arose from bottlenecks by endlessly expanding capacity at the trouble points, and fast growth and the thrill of continuing innovations masked much of what was not all that good.
Fifty things that were wrong with Old Mobility
Old Mobility policy and practice does not work well in the realities that constitute the 21st century, because it is . . .
- Socially destructive
- Based on essentially closed system thinking (i.e., looking at “transport” in isolation from the rest)
- Statistics based (i.e., bound by the past)
- End-state solution oriented
- Supply oriented
- Oriented to maximizing vehicle throughput and speeds
- Expert based
- Engineering-based (i.e., working “within the box”, albeit often with high technical competence)
- Binary: i.e., either “private” (i.e., car-based) or “public” transport (and nothing of importance in between)
- De facto car-based
- Costly to the community (unnecessarily)
- Costly to individuals (unnecessarily)
- Costly to the planet
- Resource intensive (unnecessarily)
- Total dependence on costly imported fossil fuels (unnecessarily)
- Highly polluting
- Massive public health menace
- Destroys urban fabric
- Hardware and build solutions, technology oriented
- Treats ex-car solutions as (very!) poor cousins
- Offers poor service/economic package to elderly, handicapped, poor and young
- Sharp divide between planning, policy and operations
- Obscure (to the public) decision making processes
- Focuses on bottlenecks impeding traffic flows (i.e., builds for increasing traffic)
- Attempts to anticipate them and build to forestall
- Searches for large projects to “solve” the problems
- These large projects and the substantial amounts involved often lead to corruption and waste of public moneys
- Still too much separation from underlying land use realities.
- Inadequate attention to transportation substitutes or complements
- Increasingly technical and tool oriented (this to the good)
- Not doing the job that we need in 2005 and beyond!, and finally and worst of all. . .
- Creates a climate of passive citizenry and thus undermines participatory democracy and collective involvement and problem solving
But this does not reflect the priorities and the reality of transport, our needs, and our potential in the 21st century, and above all in our cities which are increasingly poorly served by not only our present mobility arrangements; but also the thinking and values that underlie them. Our rural areas are likewise suffering and without a coherent game plan. We now live in an entirely different kind of universe, and the constraints which were never felt before, or ignored, are now emerging as the fundamental building blocks for transportation policy and practice in this new century.
It’s time for a change. And the change has to start with us. You see, WE are the problem.
But we can also be part of the solution. Let’s see what it could look like if we started with the theme of equity.
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Some World Streets references to help dig in on this:
The Old Mobility impasse (PDF)
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9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France
Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .