One of the reasons why such a small proportion of the world cities are working on having more sustainable transportation systems has to do with the fact that these are literally “complex systems”, a category of social and economic interactions which is far more complicated than laying down additional meters of concrete.
A complex system is filled with nuances and surprises, as a result of the fact that all of the bits and pieces that constitute them interact with each other, and all too often yields contradictory results which are quite opposite from what the initial practitiones or policymakers may have wished to bring about. The classic example of this is of course the discredited “predict and provide” approach to transport which famously creates a mindset which consistently favors more traffic. So even with all of the goodwill and hope in the world, many of these policies or approaches achieve results which are contrary to the initial expectations and often deleterious.
It is amazing how words can pop up and associate in a situation in which a number of people with different ideas and orientations come together to see if they can put their fingers on some elusive but important truth.
Over the past months as a civil society consensus critiquing the State government’s transport plan in Penang (and, no less important, the process behind it) has slowly taken shape, this short phrase is starting to crop up often enough to serve as a common motto, a watchword, a rallying point to give high visibility to the ideas and proposals that are better adapted to the important work that remains to be done
When we speak of the path to s sustainable transport system and sustainable Penang today we now speak with a unified voice of Better, Faster, Cheaper. Let’s have a look.
We all know the story about The Blind Men and the Elephant?
Fine, but do you know the one about The Blind Men and the Penang Transport Master Plan?
Of Mice, of Men and . . . of Penang
When I first visited Penang back in late summer 2013 in response to an invitation by Think City, I had several weeks to profit from a steady diet of site visits, lectures, master classes and intense skull sessions with ten different key groups (including media, local government, transport operators, auto industry and lobby, regulators and police, gender balance, cycling and pedestrian groups, civil society, the universities, and finally “hacking sustainable mobility”). All of which, as I travelled around both the island and mainland, gave me an excellent occasion to start to get a feel for both “halves” of Penang. Not a city, not a state, but in fact an in many ways typical and varied metropolitan area.
The more you solve the problem the bigger the PROBLEM gets. Even in Mouse Town.