Selected World Streets postings since 1 Dec. 2010

I have been asked by several readers to provide a quick shortlist of postings that have appeared under my name in World Streets in recent months which in my view, individually and collectively, offer a representative introduction to my approach to issues of planning, policy and practice in the field of sustainable transport and sustainable cities, worldwide. Here you have a selection of ten quite different articles which appeared in the journal over the last two months. Your critical and other comments on any of this would be very welcome. You can get them to me via Eric.Britton@worldstreets.org.

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1.    Will the real British local transport policy please stand up.

About two weeks ago I sent out a red flag to a shortlist of my most respected British transport/environment colleagues with a cry for help in preparation for a keynote speech I had been asked to deliver to a conference on 2 December, in Liverpool, and where the speaker just before me is a respected ministerial representative of the latest British government. I confessed to my distinguished British friends that I was at best half-educated in terms of the current policy and practice debate in Britain and needed a fast tutorial before exposing myself to a critical audience. They responded quickly, generously and most usefully as you will soon see here in a follow-up piece to the conference; but one of the responses opened up his perceptive comments with an amusing analogy which I thought you might enjoy this morning.

2.    The World – the Climate – the Strategy. Come argue with me.

Let me sketch out an easy to understand (or reject) climate/transport foundation strategy that presents some stark contrasts with the ideas and approaches that are getting the bulk of attention when it comes to targeting, policy and investment in the sector — and which in a first instance is quite likely to earn me more enemies than friends (that goes with the territory). At least until such time that these basic underlying ideas are expressed in a manner which is sufficiently clear and convincing that we can with confidence put them to work to turn the tide. So here you have my first brief statement of the issues, the basic strategic frame and the key pressure points to which I invite your critical reactions and comments. In a second piece in this series, to follow shortly, I intend to have a look at the package(s) of measures, policies, tools, modes, etc. which can be sorted out, combined and refined to do something about it. Or maybe not.

3.    Transport, environment and public policy in hard times

We have no money gentlemen, so we shall have to think.
– Ernest Rutherford, on taking over the Caversham Laboratory in 1919

On 2 December the managing editor of World Streets, Eric Britton, was invited by the organizers of the National Autumn Conference of ACT TravelWise to present the keynote address, following an opening presentation by Norman Baker, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Transport of the just-elected UK coalition government. The theme of the conference was “The Right to Travel – Getting more for less” — and Britton was asked to bring in some international perspectives and possibly some less familiar ideas for the largely British audience immediately following the Minister’s presentation.

4.    Grading Sustainable Transport: Scholarship A. Leadership C-

One of the often voiced claims of World Streets is that those who best understand the issues and priorities behind sustainable transport and sustainable cities are failing to command the high ground in the debate and the politics of decision simply because we are just not good enough at communicating our ideas, first to each other and then to the world. All too often when confronted with a decision issue, with our strong academic orientation and backgrounds, we prefer to turn to the familiar world of more research, fatter reports and that next great conference, while at the end of the day what we really need is a concise, credible, understandable presentation of our best ideas and the choices that need to be made.

5.    Autolib’ – Paris bets big on new carshare technology

A sustainable transport system is a system of choices – quite the opposite in many ways of the old all-car no-choice model that all too often spends most of its time in taking up scarce space but not moving. With this very much in view, the City of Paris has just stepped up to the plate and is now in the process of bringing into service what they propose will be a new link in the chain of sustainable transport options: a carsharing system not quite like any other. The biggest and most daring carshare bet of all time

6.    Unfair, unsafe and unwise – a major crisis abuilding for sustainable transport in Britain

Dear British Friends and Colleagues, Forgive me if I am being naïve, but based on what I am reading and hearing it strikes me that there is a major crisis abuilding for sustainable transport in Britain in the months immediately ahead — as a result of the coalition government withdrawing funding from a lot of mainly small and local (since they really have to be small and usually local and focused if they are to succeed) sustainable transport initiatives This strikes me as a caring if distant observer as unfair, unsafe and unwise.

7.    Interview: Sharing is important on the World’s Streets

On a cold gray Paris winter day Ms Lesley Brown, editor of Mobility magazine, came to World Streets to interview the editor about his noisily stated views on the importance of sharing in the future of the transport sector. Her article made it into the pages of Mobility on 20 January, which you can read in the original here or just below.

8.       Ridesharing Institute – Contribution to today’s TRB discussions

I wish I could be with you for these important discussions because I am firmly convinced in the potential for ridesharing in its many diverse forms as a vital and critical means in the process of moving from unsustainable to sustainable transportation. However, I want make sure that I keep the main thrust of my eventual contributions at the basic strategic level. It may ultimately turn out that it’s a good idea to go to a bricks and mortar institute somewhere doing something — but let me first reach back a bit into what I see as the underlying strategic issues and choices in an attempt to get a bit of perspective on the fundamentals

9.    Testimony: Science and Technology Select Committee, UK House of Lords

In the last weeks I was asked to provide written testimony and evidence in answer to a “Call for Evidence” for the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee on the subject of “Behaviour Change —Travel-Mode Choice Interventions to Reduce Car Use in Towns and Cities”. As can happen in these things, in my remarks I moved away from their chosen topic (instruments for behaviour change), on the grounds that there are other more fundamental issues that need to be tackled first.  In the following you will find my submittal of last Monday to the committee, whom I thank for giving me this opportunity to share my views.

10. UK High Speed Rail: Going very fast in the wrong direction

In the field of transport, no matter how straight-forward the issues may seem to be to the busy citizen, merchant, reporter or policy maker, when it comes to making wise policy it really does take a certain level of time and attention to detail to come to grips with the underlying issues and priorities that shape the outcomes. The awful conundrum encumbering the mobility issues of our new century from a policy perspective is that just about everything turns out upon study to be unobligingly complex, interdependent, complicated and time lagged Let’s embrace a bit of complexity here. (Written with John Whitelegg.)

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