The Seven Simple Truths of Sustainable Mobility: Part II

Dear Per,

This is a brilliant question (below) and I have posted it as a comment to World Streets as well as here. And thanks, I am very happy to have my best go at it, because you are getting right into the guts of the issues.

If you have just made me the mayor of Stockholm, Cairo, or Beijing, here is how I would go about my job.

1. I would accept your expert recommendation and set a target to reduce the number of households in the city proper by 50% in the next five years, targeting 10% reductions already in 2012.

a. I would not present myself for reelection unless my targets are met (or at least come very very close).

2. I would further mandate that this transfer will take place by choice, a citizen’s choice. That is to say, it’s my job as mayor not only to cut low occupancy own-car travel in our city, but also to provide “better than own car” options for all. I am confident that by working with the best I can achieve that and that in the process half the households in my city will sell off that unnecessarily expensive car, save money, save hassles, and get to where they want to go more quickly than if they hung on to their elephant.

3. What this last (better than car) refers to is of course an integrated cocktail of multiple modes and choices, and it is my job to make sure that my cocktail is better, faster and cheaper than hanging on to your car (in most cases).

4. Sticks: While on the one hand I will be making life just a bit more constrained for car owner/drivers year by year (fair enough since they in the past have benefited from huge public subsidies for inefficient and unfair use of the public infrastructure), my staff and I, together with a wide range of transport providers and others concerned will use the full available toolkit. My tools for doing this would include:

a. Steady transfer of street space to more space efficient modes

b. Full cost pricing for parking throughout the city, along with steady cuts in on-street parking (in stages like the rest of course) as we transfer that space to better uses.

c. For drivers travelling through the city center to get to their destination, the first step will be to reduce the speed limit to 50 kph (30 mph) on the main axes, with aggressive enforcement by all available means.

d. I would also seriously consider enacting road user charges on these through axes (though not using last generation technologies since things are moving very fast in this area pushed by technology advances)

e. I would put an end to all road construction and widening, and use the money allocated or planned for them for advancing the New Mobility Agenda in my city.

5. I accept that I will have fierce and at time insulting resistance from not only the car lobby and many local business people (at first, until we have prove our approach is also good for business). I am prepared to take that heat. But there will also be initial resistance from many honest citizens who are car owner/drivers and have not only have become accustomed to using their cars without constraint (Freie fahrt für freie buerger) and have as a result organized their lives around their car. But these people will be able to hold on to their cars if they deem them necessary, it is just that the cost and time in transit will be gradually increased over the five year transition phase. And in any event as the advantages of the new arrangements become clear, many of them will buy into the new mobility for reasons of their own.

6. And in parallel as we start to clear lanes and streets of their old use patterns, we will be bringing in new modes and travel options that in their totality prove a “better than car” transportation option for the city.

7. Then when I have been elected mayor again, I will start the whole process over. After all, this is a democracy and the people voted for me to do just that.

I realize that I have not responded to all your questions Per, but I would hope that the above sketch would deal with the highlights – at least as I see them.

Vote for Britton.

On Behalf Of
Sent: Friday, 25 February, 2011 12:06


Yes, I agree, these are seven simple truths, worth repeating. But … maybe they are so simple they’re not useful in the ‘old mobility reality’? Let me pick an example (exception) for Truth number 3:

Suppose you have a city, crowded with cars. How big proportion of the cars/VKT could remain in a future? 80, 50, 30 or zero per cent? Since the car have so many advantages zero is less plausible. Let us aim at 50 %, close to many calculations and visions. Suppose this city also have a large proportion (20 %) of traffic going through the city center. It’s easy to see the use of a new road “going pass” the city and many politicians may strive for that. Even in the future picture with 50 % less car traffic this new road may fit and make a good ‘net value for money’. The new pass-by road could ease the crowded city center and create new capacity, but also for PT and bikes. Isolated the road is bad, but in the future vision it make sense.

This is not unusual, in fact a standard wish/demand from city councils today. As I try to sketch it could be wise to build a new road, with (limited) increased capacity IF (and only if) it fits into a plan for new mobility and rebuilding a city center. I believe there are many examples of this kind of city shaping in our part of the world. The hard task is, as I see it, to sketch a sensible picture of the future city, relate it to the demands of today and make the politicians understand it. What could be built and what should not?

Best Regards

Per Schillander
National expert
Car-Sharing/Car-Clubs and Car-Pooling/Ride-Sharing

Direct: +46-31-63 52 28
Mobile: +46-70-658 52 28

Swedish Transport Administration
405 33 Gothenburg, Sweden

One thought on “The Seven Simple Truths of Sustainable Mobility: Part II

  1. Eric – Is there a word or idea missing in recommendation number 1: “…set a target to reduce the number of households in the city proper by 50% in the next five years, targeting 10% reductions already in 2012.”

    You want to reduce the number of households in a city? If that’s the case Detroit has certainly nailed that goal big time! But it’s not a very good political platform for a politician.

    Perhaps you meant “trips per household” or something like that?


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