Op-ed: On the importance of a coherent planning vision

Most of what we are seeing in Penang when it comes to planning and policy in Penang is terribly familiar.  The bottom line until now at least is that overall you are not doing well, because you do not have a plan or a coherent vision to guide you.  That’s the bad news, but the good news is that you are not alone.

Montréal has never really had a coherent planning vision – they simply react to developers’ proposals.

Montreal thinks bigIn fact Penang could hardly be more lucky because there is not only abundant information on the fast-growing number of well thought out examples of cities, projects and approaches that are showing the way for sustainable transport and sustainable cities. But there is also an even longer list of examples of cities that are getting it blatantly wrong. These should be understood and integrated into the thinking and planning process of the city, just as much as the attention which must be given to understanding and adapting “best practices”. If you look closely you will see there are patterns that repeat themselves again and again. It is important to be aware of them.

Here you have an example of the city of Montréal, while doing a fair number of good things in terms of transport, public space and environment, is at the same time  suffering badly from the lack of a well thought-out understanding of how transport issues cannot be treated without full attention to land use and the structure of the city. Again painful signs of Penang. And how did this come up?

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Op-Ed: Critiquing the Penang Transport Master Plan

Mayllasia Penang blog top page - local traffic

The following  strategic commentary appeared in the form of a long letter responding to an invitation by the chief transport planner of Penang with the State Government Office to comment on a strategic presentation and commentary he was about to make at end year in Kuala Lumpur reflecting back on the  Penang Transport Master Plan (2013-2030) carried out for the State by Halcrow and AKC Planning   and published in a final version in October 2-12. Mr. Lim’s commentary. Cross Roads, Game Changers & Bulls’ Horns, is available here

Update. My quick six-point “Summer 2015 Executive Summary” follows:

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Running out of cars? Let’s have a closer look at the evidence

green-carGlen Lyon of the University of the West of England draws our attention to a recent expert event in Britain looking critically at the evidence and debates surrounding ‘peak car’. The article to which he draws our attention provides a detailed written account of a roundtable discussion on the topic which took place in London on 20 May 2014. Much needed, it is now available at: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/23277/. A summary follows.

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Big House Equity Outreach: Bring in All Local Actors, Views & Implementation Partners

Too often when it comes to new transport initiatives, the practice is to concentrate on laying the base for the project in close working relationships with people and groups who a priori are favorably disposed to your idea, basically your choir. Leaving the potential “trouble makers” aside for another day. Experience shows that’s a big mistake. Instead from the beginning we have to take a . . .

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Letter from Bangalore: The Derelict Mile

Sujaya Rathi  reports from Bangalore:
india-bangalore-pedestria woman crossingPrivate vehicles in India have seen an unprecedented growth in past two decades and there is no sign of slowing down.  Many initiatives to curb the trend have not been successful.  This article highlights an important aspect that attribute to the above unsustainable phenomenon, which has been ignored: “The Derelict Mile”.
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Book report: Sustainable Transportation Planning

Michael Alba reports from Boston on this new guide for transport planners:

Sustainable Transportation Planning seeks to tackle the greatest social and environmental concerns of the 21st century, focusing on the role of transportation in creating more sustainable communities. It is a how-to guide for anyone interested in the economic, social and ecological health of cities. Continue reading

Op-Ed: What/who keeps holding back New Mobility reform?

If you get it, New Mobility is a no-brainer. However, while the New Mobility Agenda is a great starting place, it is not going to get the job somehow miraculously done just because it is the only game in town when it comes to sustainable transport. There is plenty of competition for all that space on the street and  between the ears. We have a few potential sticking points here that need to be overcome first. Let’s have a quick look to get this exchange off the ground. After some years of talking with cities, and working and observing in many different circumstances, here is my personal shortlist of the barriers are most frequently encountered in trying to get innovative transportation reform programs off the ground, including even in cities that really do need a major mobility overhaul. Continue reading

Remembering Donald Appleyard

Safe Streets is a collaborative worldwide project of World Streets which will aggressively network over the whole of 2012 in our search for shaping ideas with some of the leading thinkers, groups and programs in the field , looking to the future but also not forgetting the past — including drawing attention to the defining contributions of a certain number of leading thinkers. teachers, writers and sustainability activists, who are no longer with us but who through their work have laid down some of the most important principles which we now need to recall and take into account as we move to create a broad common framework for sustainable streets all over the world. For those of you who do not already know about the formidable vision and work of Donald Appleyard, we have pulled together a collection of reference points that should give you a good first introduction, and at the end of this piece some additional reference materials for those wishing to go further (as indeed you should).
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City as a time capsule: Urban highway construction mania still booming in 2011

Transport planning and policy in Lahore Pakistan today, as reported by public policy consultant Hassaan Ghazali, looks like something that was dragged out of a moss-covered time capsule on a hot day: a tawdry reminder of the kind of old mobility thinking, interest-wrangling and mindless investments of hard-earned taxpayer money that challenged and in many cases helped destroy the urban fabric of cities across North America and in many other parts of the world half a century ago. 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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“The First Step in the New Mobility Agenda is . . . not to take that step at all”

Editorial: Transportation vs. Access vs. (New) Mobility:
This troubling triad has been around for a long time and continues to haunt many of us to this day. Even here at World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda, our puzzling over the rightful combination and interpretation of these three in many ways related concepts is a matter of several decades. Let’s see if we can open up this important topic for creative discussion.
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Density without tears: Singapore’s Transportation Secrets

Density. Sprawl. Car-dependence as a result of car use’s gradual reshaping of our cities. The unintended consequences of a no-policy transport and land use policy can be catastrophic for many, in many ways. And once the damage has been done(see the map of last week’s piece contrasting two cities of the same population size: Atlanta and Barcelona)it is not easy task to get the toothpaste back into the tube. But let’s get to that another day. Today let’s listen to Christopher Tan on Singapore’s no tears transport policy.

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Moving People: Solutions for a growing Australia – Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

When it comes to both old and new mobility, Australia offers an interesting case. Along with a group of countries that may seem surprisingly mixed at first glance, and which would include of course the perennial United States with the spacious Canada right in its footsteps, but which also a number of the Nordic countries and in particular Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland who have followed the toxic combination of personal wealth and ubiquitous cars to the extent in which it has in many ways locked them into an all-car no-choice system, the Australian mobility pattern is right up there with the “best” of them. But life moves on and in every one of these countries you will now find a growing number of individuals and groups who are questioning the old ways. Have a look at this sample of leading edge new mobility thinking in Australia. We find it both refreshing and instructive.

Moving People: Solutions for a growing Australia

* Note: the full 81 page report is available at http://www.ara.net.au/UserFiles/file/Publications/Moving_People_report.pdf

National land transport policy issues and directions

Australia’s current land transport systems are not sustainable in economic, environmental or social terms. To substantially improve the sustainability of Australia’s land transport systems, national land transport policy for at least the next decade needs to be framed around outcomes:

a. Congestion management: to manage congestion costs, improving economic competitiveness and quality of life in our cities;
b. Environmental improvement: to achieve substantial cuts in transport greenhouse gas emissions;
c. Social inclusion: to ensure adequate accessibility options are available for all Australians (and international visitors);
d. Health & safety: to make the transport system safe and encourage healthier transport choices; and,
e. Energy security: to increase our energy security by reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels.

This report focuses primarily on the people elements of the land transport task.

The key Policy Objectives that are required to improve the sustainability of our transport systems are:

• Changing the modal balance for transport away from such a high dependence on motor vehicles;
• Improving the environmental performance of all transport modes but particularly of cars and trucks; and
• Ensuring that travel opportunities are available to all, irrespective of personal circumstances.

These three policy objectives can be translated into six major Program Directions:

i. Reducing the demand for travel
a. Land use planning (increased density, co-location)
b. Maximising opportunities for walking and cycling
ii. Achieving a shift to lower carbon transport modes
a. Cars to public transport, walking and cycling
b. Trucks to rail
iii. Improving vehicle utilisation
a. Higher car occupancy
b. More efficient freight movements
iv. Reducing vehicle emissions intensity
a. More efficient vehicles
b. Smaller passenger vehicles
c. Alternative fuels
d. Intelligent transport systems
e. Better driving practices
v. Increasing mobility opportunities
a. Provision of reasonable base public transport service levels
b. Using existing public transport opportunities (e.g. school and community buses) more effectively
vi. Creating a more sustainable freight network
a. Focus on freight movement to ports, hubs and to connect key manufacturing/distribution centres

A seven point national plan

These initiatives would be encouraged by the following National Land Transport Seven Point Plan.

1. Increased investment in public transport. (see Sections 2.7 and 4)
2. Freight capacity investment and efficiency improvements (see sections 3.2.3 and 3.2.7)
3. Road pricing reform, and reallocation of road space to prioritise low emission modes (see Section 3.2.3, 3.2.7 and 5.4)
4. Improved accessibility for all with the establishment of Regional Accessibility Planning Councils, behavioural change programs. (see Sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.5)
5. More compact, walking and cycling friendly urban settlements. (see Section 3.3)
6. Improved fuel efficiency. (see Section 3.2.4)
7. Improvements in transport research and information—implementation of a National Transport Research Program (see Section 5.2)

The public transport role

Australian public transport systems and services must play a larger role in future national land transport solutions, as a key means of improving the sustainability of these systems. Service improvements must be delivered in an efficient manner, to assure value for money to governments and the community.

Public transport system and service development should encompass:

• delivering improved customer service;
• investing in network extension and service
• enhancements; making better use of existing infrastructure;
• driving improved land use and transport planning; and,
• maximising value for money for Government.

The report outlines a range of ways in which Australian public transport services can be improved to enable the sector to enhance the sustainability of Australia’s land transport systems. It also identifies ways in which public transport service efficiency can be improved.

Following the lead now being provided by COAG, Federal and State funding support for the implementation of substantially improved public transport systems and services should be dependent upon both the existence of State integrated strategic planning systems, including land use and transport systems, and also upon the existence of programs that help to assure efficient service delivery is achieved. Benchmarking can help to provide this assurance and should be part of the assessment criteria for any funding request to the Federal Government to assist upgrade public transport systems/services.

The case for federal funding

The sustainability issues confronting Australia’s land transport systems are very significant and growing in magnitude. They affect all Australians. While the cities are the areas of greatest concern, regional and rural areas also confront many of the issues (e.g. the road toll, greenhouse gas emissions, social exclusion, economic competitiveness related to infrastructure provision and energy security). Because of the scale and geographical spread of these issues, national policy and program responses are required for effective solutions. This must, involve the Federal Government showing leadership and working in partnership with others. Some issues require a specific Federal policy and program response. The sheer scale of the financial requirement means that state-based budgets wil not be sufficient to equip Australia’s cities with adequate transport services.

The recently announced Federal provision of over $4 billion towards a number of transformational urban public transport initiatives under the Building Australia Fund, on recommendation from Infrastructure Australia, demonstrates that the Federal Government recognises the importance of transformational change. The December 2009 COAG Communique supports this acceptance.

Programming for outcomes

Federal government involvement in land transport must contribute to the resolution of a number of national issues that are severely impacted by land transport services/ system performance. The following national land transport program structure is proposed.

The chart indicates the alignment between the critical national land transport issues and the proposed outcome-based response programs. A program structured along these lines encourages an integrated, “modally-agnostic” approach to the pursuit of solutions to land transport problems, which is important for achieving transformational change—as distinct from an approach that is simply more of the same. Program elements in each area would need to include a wide range of measures for maximum effectiveness. This would include measures associated with (for example) infrastructure improvement, system regulation, and operations management, etc. A clear set of national key performance indicators should be developed and monitored, to measure progress against these critical policy goals.

Because of the long time period that will be required to implement many of the changes (especially those related to developing more compact urban land use patterns), long term funding commitments will be fundamental to the achievement of effective outcomes. Rolling five year Federal funding commitments, with provisions to guarantee minimum flows, will be vital to driving transformational change. These should support State/ Territory (and local government in some cases) five year plans.

The national interest issues discussed in this report require transformational change, not simply “more of the same”. The focus for Federal funding support should be on capital assistance to projects that lead transformational change and improve the national interest outcomes identified in this report. In some cases this assistance will be the majority of the funding required for a particular initiative. In others it will simply be top-up funding, to support private sector funding. The top-up could be in recognition of identified external benefits from the initiatives in question that the private sector is unable to capture as in some port projects.

The Federal Government should not involve itself in the operation of land transport systems that are currently State/Territory or local government responsibilities but should influence the development direction of those systems in ways that contribute to better outcomes when assessed against the national interest issues raised in this report. In providing funding support along such lines, the Federal Government needs to assure itself that outcomes represent social value for money and that funding recipients do not simply substitute Federal money for State/Territory/local government money. The use of performance benchmarking, a comprehensive planning approach and subsequent performance monitoring can protect against these risks.

An important consideration in structuring Federal financial support for land transport infrastructure is whether to adopt a formula-based approach to distribution of funding allocations (primarily to States and Territories) or to rely on a bid process, where bids are submitted in accordance with pre-specified criteria and allocations are made to those proposals which best meet the criteria, irrespective of geography. The latter approach characterises the Infrastructure Australia approach. The former is closer to the basis for current Federal allocations of land transport financial assistance (basically road funding). An argument for including at least an element of formula funding within a Federal financial assistance program for land transport is that to do otherwise would unfairly penalise a jurisdiction that has put in additional past effort at its own expense and currently has a smaller backlog than others, simply because of greater effort. It is proposed that a part of Federal land transport financial assistance should continue to be formula-based and part be based on transport-plan based project submissions.

Sustainable funding—road pricing reform

A reformed transport pricing regime should become the basis of a sustainable approach to national land transport policy.

A reformed road pricing system should cover all vehicle classes and all costs attributable to road use.

Possible options to structure such a charging system include:

1. a use-based charge to cover carbon costs (the current Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme curiously proposes offsetting the carbon price for cars by excise offsets for three years, a system that is at odds with the purpose of emissions trading);
2. a usage-based charge to cover the costs of road construction and maintenance attributable to lighter vehicles;
3. tonne kilometre charges for the additional road damage attributable to heavy vehicles;
4. a use-based charge to cover the external cost component of accident costs;
5. use-based charges to levy vehicles for air pollution costs; and,
6. a congestion pricing scheme to make users accountable for the congestion costs attributable to their road use, by time and location. Existing fuel excise and registration charges would be abolished and replaced by the above charges. There would need to be an Intergovernmental Agreement to implement such a system, because the incidence and scale of revenue flows would differ substantially from the current arrangements.


The national land transport policy framework outlined above, which focuses mainly on people movement, is based on:

• identification of the critical national land transport
• issues that require a national response for their resolution;
• formulation of a comprehensive, outcome-driven approach to national policy/program structure; implementation of a set of planning processes that feed the policy/program structure in an integrated manner;
• concentration of Federal land transport assistance funding in seven categories to promote outcome achievement.

The proposals should place Australia in a strong position to provide a world class 21st century land transport system.

# # #

This report is a collaborative publication produced by the three leading groups representing the public transport industry in Australia (the Australasian Railway Association, the Bus Industry Confederation and the International Association of Public Transport–UITP).

It has been jointly authored by John Stanley (Adjunct Professor, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, University of Sydney) and Simon Barrett (Managing Director of L.E.K. Consulting, Australia).

The report is targeted at key policy makers in Commonwealth and State Territory Governments, with an interest in, or responsibility for, transport policy and related areas.

* For further information: Prof. John Stanley at j.stan@bigpond.net.au

* Again: the full 81 page report is available at http://www.ara.net.au/UserFiles/file/Publications/Moving_People_report.pdf

How to build more traffic? It’s not hard. Read on.

A bit down on the resource column just to your left is an early warning system of sorts which calls up relevant articles from an eclectic collection of independent sources that publish regularly in areas related to our field. One of these is Planetizen, where yesterday we spotted this thoughtful interview we thought you might wish to check out. It’s an old story, but good research helps us to get beyond the purely anecdotal. And now that we know it, the job is to get that message across where it counts.

Freeways Responsible For Emptying Out Cities

– Interview by Tim Halbur, managing editor of Planetizen

A recent study shows that for every significant freeway that gets built in a major city, population declines by about 18%. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, author of the study, talks with Planetizen.

Photo: Nathaniel Baum-SnowNathaniel Baum-Snow is a professor of economics at Brown University. His research has been remarkable consistent and urban-centric since writing his dissertation in 2000 on “The Effects of New Public Projects to Expand Urban Rail Transit.” Baum-Snow’s work came to our attention when he was cited in a recent Boston Globe article quoting his study that concluded that each new federally-funded highway passing through a central city “reduces its population by about 18 percent.” The implication of this type of data-driven evidence of the effect of highway construction on cities is often hard to find, so we went to the source.

BAUM-SNOW: There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence we see out there in metropolitan cities that a lot of jobs exist in the suburbs, and that that wasn’t nearly as true 40 or 50 years from now. But amazingly enough, there’s not a lot of systematic, empirical evidence about the extent of which that employment decentralization has occurred, and their isn’t a lot of empirical evidence about how commutes have changed over time. In the process of writing my first paper about highways and suburbanization, I tried to read everything I could about this and I couldn’t find anybody who’d looked at this in a systematic way across metropolitan areas.

And it turns out that not only has the nature of residential and employment locations have changed dramatically, but the nature of commuting patterns have also changed dramatically. Now, the vast majority of commutes do not involve the central city at all, even commutes made by people who live in metropolitan areas, whereas in 1960, the majority certainly involved central cities either as origins or destinations or both. And that’s a major change. I think the next step is to try to understand all the things that generated that change.

PLANETIZEN: Over the last couple of decades, planners have shifted their attention to thinking about regional planning. It seems to me that your research could indicate that regional planning is unnecessary, because people tend to live and work in their own locality. Is that your take?

BAUM-SNOW: Actually, I think it’s an argument in favor of having more regional land use and transportation planning, and the reason is that if suburb A builds a highway to connect to suburb B, that’s going to effect the distribution of commutes not only between those suburbs but also the commutes in the region as a whole. So there are going to be these externalities where someone in suburb C has a faster way to get to work, so they’re going to start using it and filling up this new highway. And a business downtown might say, hey, there’s this new infrastructure, let’s go locate out there and I can have a lot more space to work with. So anytime one part of a region changes something, it’s going to effect population and employment throughout the metropolitan area. So I think it’s important to engage at the regional level.

I think that zoning and densification are important. But there’s no way to make people or firms locate in a densely packed manner without providing the transportation infrastructure to allow them to do it. So you have to have some sort of policy at the metropolitan area-level. And what you can get is local communities imposing costs on everybody else by doing something like imposing big exclusionary zoning right next to the urban core. And that’s clearly not economically efficient for the region as a whole- they’re obviously trying to protect their housing values. So I think that it’s important for regional government to be proactive and realistic with transportation planning.

Everybody would like to live in a dense neighborhood as long as they have the biggest house on the block. So they have a lot of living space, but their neighbors are all contributing to the sidewalk life. There’s a balance there that is hard to get around, so there is a role for zoning that encourages density and gets the transportation infrastructure set up in a way that is feasible.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jbrownell.

PLANETIZEN: So was the creation of the highway system a good thing overall or a bad thing?

BAUM-SNOW: I do think that there was a welfare benefit from highway construction for a lot of people. People get to live in bigger homes, they have more choice in where they’d like to live. Now most households are dual-worker households, which wasn’t true back in 1950. Highways have allowed two people living in the same house to commute to different areas each day, so I think there’s been a welfare gain from that. So it’s sort of a mixed bag, but I think most people would say that although there have been some costs, the highway system has been a good thing.

A lot of people think that decentralization is about fleeing to the suburbs out of central cities, but if you look at the change in the spatial distribution of the population across large metropolitan areas, you find that it’s really much more of a spatial phenomenon. You see that the population density in the more peripheral regions of central cities actually went up quite a bit over the last 50 years, while the population of the central business districts went down.

PLANETIZEN: And how did you, as an economist, get interested in issues of transportation and land use planning?

BAUM-SNOW: Growing up I’d always been interested in urban transportation. I always loved riding the subway, and one of the first puzzles my parents gave me as a kid was a puzzle map of the United States with all the states and the interstate highways. And I would memorize the subway maps and bus maps, stuff like that. So it was always something I liked.

And as I got older, I would explore different neighborhoods in Boston (where I grew up), and I was fascinated how you could have such heterogeneity in land use patterns and in socio-demographic patterns within such a small space. So in college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I had an interest in public policy and politics, and I took a lot of different classes. Economics struck me as a field that had the best hope in helping me think about all of these things in a satisfying way.

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Nathaniel Baum-Snow is an assistant professor of economics at Brown University. You can access his research papers at his website here.

About the author:
Tim Halbur is managing editor of Planetizen, the leading news and information source for the urban planning, design and development community. Tim is the co-author of Planetizen’s Insiders’ Guide to Careers in Urban Planning and Where Things Are, From Near to Far, a book for children about city planners and what they do. He is also an audio producer and artist, collaborating with artists Amy Balkin and Kim Stringfellow on Invisible 5, a self-guided critical audio tour along Interstate 5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles engaging with issues of environmental racism.

Heritage and transport: And leadership by example?

“We’ll keep our cars thank you very much. And we shall park them where we want. And for as long as we choose to. If heritage is a barrier, let’s move it out of the way. And, by the way, what moral authority do you have to tell me otherwise?”

– Simon Bishop, Delhi, India

Climate Change is so serious explain the policy wonks that it is like a war. Did Gandhi then delay the salt march due to the searing heat of Gujarat? It took place when the Gujarat cauldron was heating, finishing in April 1930. Did Gandhi continue to take His Majesty’s coin as a lawyer as ‘the system was made to support the Empire and until it changed. We wouldn’t? This is a key point. Until policymakers start to take a lead and practice what they preach who will believe the product they are trying to sell?

“The problems of excessive traffic are crowding in upon us with desperate urgency. Unless steps are taken, the motor vehicle will defeat its own utility and bring about a disastrous degradation of the surroundings for living… Either the utility of vehicles in town will decline rapidly, or the pleasantness and safety of surroundings will deteriorate catastrophically – in all probability both will happen.”

The prophetic words of Colin Buchanan in the UK 1963 “Traffic in Towns” Report are now ringing in the ears of Indian towns and cities. Drivers include; a high and fast growing urban population, rising levels of prosperity, inadequate public transit, sprawling cityscapes, and easy lines of credit. All are factors behind a growing appetite to raise status through motorcycles and cars and buy into the suburban dream waiting just round the corner. More on that at the end of the article!

The impact of growing traffic is being felt specifically on built heritage in a number of important ways. The historic centres of Indian towns and cities were not designed for motorized traffic. Streets were meant to be narrow to offer shade for all manner of pedestrian and animal traffic to go about their business without struggling too much against the extreme heat of summer. Pick up any Lonely Planet to India and you’ll find testimony that such a heritage fabric lends itself for the tourist to enjoy on foot or by bicycle. Sadly exhortations to ‘explore the old city by cycle rickshaw’ or ‘hire a bicycle to enjoy the outskirts of the town’ are fading away as pollution, noise and danger render the option unpalatable.

A perfect case in point is the system of nallahs or streams running through the city of Delhi. Built by the Tughluqs to supply the city with water nearly 1,000 years ago these nallahs or streams could be cleaned up to act as ‘greenway’ walking and cycling corridors. Just one nallah in South Delhi, for instance would link five of the seven ancient cities of Delhi, providing unrivalled access for tourists, school children, families to get in touch with the proud history of this city. Led by hungry contractors, the picture below shows what is happening in practice.

Defence Colony Nallah ‘Before and After’, South Delhi

Not only is tourist revenue under threat, but local people are increasingly hooted at and bullied in their own backyard by motorized transport. Parks and gardens are difficult for children and the elderly to get to. Street play is hazardous between parked vehicles and erratically moving traffic. What visual and aural intrusion is doing to deter tourists from ‘Incredible India’ is one thing, but the associated levels of pollution are also damaging building fabric. In larger towns with roads over 30 metres in width, high levels of traffic are also decreasing the economic viability of heritage buildings as they become dangerous and difficult to access – witness Sabz Burj on a traffic island in Delhi.

Traffic renders Sabz Burj inaccessible in Delhi

On a wider level whole communities living in historic enclaves are severed by wide arterial roads cutting through their heart or surrounding them from outside.
At a policy level there is a yawning gap between land use and transport planning. Delhi, the capital city of India still has no Transport Plan.

A series of exhortations in the Master Plan to build cycle tracks on all arterial roads are rarely observed and, without any network plan, those that are remain ineffective. In the absence of any multimodal plan to reduce journey distance through the application of compact, mixed land use strategies, large numbers of people are moving to greenfield apartments that can only be reached by motorbike or car. The newly opened Gurgaon Expressway from Delhi, saturated with traffic years ahead of schedule, is the result.

There are isolated examples of towns that have challenged the ‘inevitable’ threat to their heritage caused by unbridled suburbanization and motorization but only one has done this in a systematic way; linking environmental, social and economic objectives. Located near the India-Pakistan border, the Punjabi town of Fazilka removes cars from the city centre during daylight hours.

The market area was the first part of town to be made car-free. Four-wheeled vehicles are not allowed to drive in this zone during 12 daytime hours, although even then it has not yet been possible to prohibit motorcycles successfully. The Municipal Council President Anil Sethi places an emphasis on improving local transport options rather than in encouraging long distance travel. Sethi eschews overpasses and flyovers in favor of initiatives like the ‘Eco-cab’ scheme where residents can use their mobile phones to dial a cycle rickshaw to take them door-to-door. The local tea seller or shopkeeper keeps part of the telephone fee for acting as the cab controller, directing rickshaws to their customers.

Car-Free Fazilka ©Down to Earth Magazine

Other examples of towns applying the ‘car free’ concept, although not in a holistic way like Fazilka include Nainital, Shimla and Darjeeling where cars are banned during retail hours on the main shopping streets. The concept is an in emergency response to the huge influx of tourist traffic during the summer months. This, combined with steep hillside topography constrains the movement and storage of vehicles. In Nainital a system of Eco-Cabs operates where users obtain a ticket from a booth at either end of the main street and then travel from one side of the town to the other. Challenging gradients preclude cycles or cycle rickshaws in Shimla and Darjeeling but allow for pedestrians to enjoy unfettered access to the main shopping streets.

In a sign of things to come, the Carter Road in the Bandra area of Mumbai organized its first car-free day on 21st February 2010. Forty thousand local residents and Bollywood celebrities including Priya Dutt pledged to take part whilst the area was closed off to traffic. The aim of the event was to focus people’s attention on the impact of vehicles on pollution and in inhibiting healthy living and exposure to the great outdoors.

Car-free Carter Road, Mumbai, 21st February 2010

Perhaps the key point to make, however, is that cars are aspirational. The policy wonks who rail against the Tata Nano would be the first to scream and cry if they were asked to make sacrifices by walking or cycling to the office or using public transit. Most have chauffer driven, A/C vehicles clogging up the roads on the way to their next conference.

Go to the Habitat Centre in Delhi by cycle, home to a host of environmental and UN organizations and you will be politely waved through the service entrance and forced to face oncoming car traffic. Go to a conference by cycle and you will be waved away. When these leaders asked if they walk or cycle the inevitable answer is ‘No, it’s too dangerous.’, ‘When the roads are planned for cycles I will use one’, ‘ It’s too hot for 9 months of the year in India to cycle’. The answer is always why I can’t do something, not why I can. In fact it’s perfectly possible to cycle in the Indian Plains early in the morning or late in the day when most people commute even during the hotter months with a folded shirt in your bag, a hat on your head and a T-Shirt on your back.

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About the author:

– Simon Bishop is working as a transport and environment consultant in Delhi, where he lives with his family. In India he has worked on bus and cycling projects like the Delhi BRTand helped set up the Global Transport Knowledge Partnership. Before coming to India two years ago Simon worked in London as a planner on demand management and travel marketing schemes, receiving an award from the Mayor for “London’s Most Innovative Transport Project”. He authored ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ – Policies for Sustainable Aviation’ while working as a policy adviser in the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Resource: Planning for Sustainable Travel – Tools for better integration between land use & transport planning

The UK Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) announce “a powerful new tool for planning practitioners, local authority officers and Councillors for better integration between land use and transport planning”. Planning for Sustainable Travel is a web-based resource with a summary practice guide, identifying the 11 key land use levers that planners and transport planners can use to help achieve lower trip rates, shorter travel distances and greater use of sustainable travel modes.

“The guidance makes two key recommendations:

1. Much more attention should be given at an early stage to analysing locational options for major development – selecting places likely to generate low trip rates and the greatest potential to offer a competitive alternative to car use.

2. New developments should be planned to achieve levels of car distance travelled per head that are lower than the average for the transport authority area and that are good practice benchmarks

It is intended that the guidance acts as a resource bringing together current sometimes disparate advise under one website and guide.”

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* For a short intro to the report – http://www.cfit.gov.uk/pn/091023/index.htm

* For project website – www.plan4sustainabletravel.org.

* Full guidance is available at www.plan4sustainabletravel.org.

* Planning for sustainable travel (summary guide)

* Planning for sustainable travel (leaflet)

* Planning for sustainable travel (background and technical analysis)

* For background on the CfIT – http://www.cfit.gov.uk


Daniel Parker-Klein
Transport Planning Policy Officer
Commission for Integrated Transport
55 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0EU
t +44 020 7348 1970
f +44 020 7348 1989
m +44 07894 620655
e daniel.parker-klein@ciltuk.org.uk

Home Location , Smart Growth and Sustainable Transport: Changing Patterns

A significant key to sustainable transport resides in our land use. And what more important land use decision than where we chose to live, the place in which we start or end the lion’s share of our personal travel each day? In this article our guest Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute sheds judicious light on claims and counter-claims of Smart Growth, as true in Delhi, Moscow or Cape Town as in North America.

Op-Ed: Chaotic India has an Urban Edge

“The unprecedented urban growth taking place in developing countries reflects the hopes and aspirations of millions of new urbanites. Cities have enormous potential for improving people’s lives, but inadequate urban management, often based on inaccurate perceptions and information, can turn opportunity into disaster.”
– State of World Population 2007, UNFPA.

“I regard the growth of cities as an evil thing, unfortunate for mankind and the world, unfortunate for England and certainly unfortunate for India…It is only when the cities realize the duty of making an adequate return to the villages for the strength and sustenance which they derive from them, instead of selfishly exploiting them, that a healthy and moral relationship between the two will spring up.”
– M. K. Gandhi

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