TISA – First letter to network

Paris, Monday, 13 December, 2010

Dear Robert,

Here is the beginning of an idea for you that may (a) eventually be of use to you and your program and (b) which might also be a place where we can make good use of data borrowed from your databases. Let me explain:

Transport International Sustainability Assessment

I am sure that most of us have had a chance to have at least a quick look at the OECD PISA rankings of middle school education and performance levels in 74 counties of a wonderful range of sizes, types and condition. Striking eh? The results are wonderfully eye opening, and of course need to be interpreted with great globs of good sense and care. Still, they send some strong and valuable signals.

In our sector there have been a fair number of projects, plans and tries of different kinds in the past to do some things along these  general lines, more and less ambitious. I know of some of these and think it might be a good thing if someone were to remind us of the proposals and work done along these broad lines over the last several years. Almost all of these proposals are ambitious, with the advantages and the limitations that the good word brings with it.

Well, while we sit around sweating the climate and waiting for something better, I would like to propose that some of us get together and see if we can start to fashion a real, independent, and as good as we can make it set of more or less comparable indicators of each country’s sustainable transport status. What can we do that is pretty simple, fast and at the end of the day accurate enough to inspire attention, if not always respect. The idea of course is to put the bad performers on the hot seat and to see if we can draw attention to those how are doing better.   Like our friend PISA, it will have to be a composite index, and like PISA, no matter how good we make it people will argue about it. That comes with the territory.

We know in advance that countries like the US are probably going to be pretty far down the list, and moreover that any country with lots of long distances, prosperous populations, and cold weather are going to have to fight their way out of the bag to get a decent slot on the list.  But of course in all this the devil (or god, your preference) is in the details.

So to get the ball rolling, I would like to ask each of you to close your eyes and help us start to see if we can come up with a short list of enough practical indicators (a) to provide decent coverage of the terrain while (b) not sending us back into doctoral research programs to come up with information and clues that are needed today.

Let me toss out a single idea which I bet you had not thought of. some kind of a number which represents the quotient of the number of carshare vehicles in the country vs. total private cars?  In fact, let’s ask our friends over at the World Carshare Consortium to see if they can help us already construct such an index. If so, and I am sure this will follow shortly we already have a first step down this path. That alone would be worth some thought and discussion.

Here are my first quick thoughts on other possible easy to come by indicators that we might then try to figure out how to fashion into some kind of more meaningful whole.

  • Walk scores and indicators
  • Bike scores and indicators
  • Parking scores and indicators
  • Public transport  scores and indicators
  • Gas/petrol consumption (cut various ways for perspective)
  • Carshare vs. cars
  • Speed limits in built up areas
    • Say % or length of streets where posted speeds are less than 20 mph/30 kph. Or something
    • Deaths on the road
    • Incidents
    • Health scores and indicators
    • Is there a “Code of the Street”
    • Etc.
    • Your candidates here.

Again, at this point it is not my objective at least to try to come up with something that is rock solid in all respects. There is a swaying that I have always liked: If something important is worth doing, it is worth doing badly” (Then with that in hand we can go back and do it better. No sense in waiting around for some sustainability messiah to save the planet (even in this season).  We have to do it ourselves.


Eric Britton

PS. Not to overload a single email, but the attached might be worth a few minutes.

| 8-10, rue Joseph Bara 75006 Paris.  | +331 75503788. | eric.britton@newmobility.org |  Skype:  newmobility  |

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