In the following you will find brief introductions to the twelve major policy areas around which we intend to focus and organize our work program over the year ahead. For more you are invited to click the title lines in each case, which will take you directly to the full set of materials and articles thus far developed on that broad topic area under our work program since the first issues of World Streets appeared in the opening days of 2009.
(Note: World Streets also offers several pretty capable search engines which you will see just to your right here. Also, if you wish to know exactly how many items there are under each of the following policy topics, if you go to the “Serarch by Topic” engine and then drop down to your category, you will see the number of articles.)
The International Advisory Council on Sustainable Transportation has been one of the basic building blocks of our work program since first established in 2005. This group is above all distinguished by its quality, its relevance and commitment to the challenges we face in and around our cities, and their great diversity. Spanning all continents, disciplines and ages, from distinguished elder statesmen to energetic young people just a few years out of school but already actively involved with these challenges in the field. The present and the future. And a good (but not good enough) number of highly qualified women leading the way with their work and vision. It is our hope that this easy framework of collaboration and eventual exchange will not only profit from their energy, experience and counsel, but that it will also possibly stimulate us all to think more about sharing — the only path to achieve a sustainable planet. And oh yes, we understand full well that it will not be easy.
There is, to the best of our knowledge, not an abundance of scientific proof as yet available which corroborates our thesis that equity is to our mind the most powerful building block and core qualification and test for a sustainable and just transport system. Not only sustainable and just, but also efficient and economic. The activities in this vector of our work program will do what they can to advance the equity/transport agenda over the year ahead. Hopefully the early work done in 2012 in Finland and Estonia will further extended in various ways over the year, while we shall try to see if we can encourage other country groups, public agencies and research programs to take their own look into this promising policy concept. (You may also want to keep an eye peeled to the flow at
At the end of the day most of what needs to be done in practical terms to move to a more sustainable transport system will be the results of awarenesses and decisions that are taken by local government. That is the reality, but behind that reality is a real quandary, and that is that mayors and city councilors are in almost all cases not really experts when it comes to new thinking about transport and mobility — and worse yet, as almost always gravely overstretched with the other concerns of their office and obligations to the residents and voters of their city. How to breach that gap? That is what Good morning, Madame Mayor is all about.
In the “old days” transportation policy decisions were taken by experts, more often than not with (hopefully) deep technical qualifications in the particular mode, service area or technologies targeted. There was virtually no attempt to bring citizen knowledge and competence into the planning and decision process, other than the occasional knee-jerk presentations and “public consultations” late in the planning process which at the end of the day did not have much impact on the final decisions and actions. In recent years this is starting to change, and if today the exceptions and examples are found mainly in leading edge situations, the fact is that in an increasing number of places we are seeing serious inroads being made as the systems are starting to open up by active citizens, bringing in the competence, energy and knowledge of the community at large. We shall be keeping a close eye on these developments over the year ahead.
We found early on that this topic of making “public transport free” offers an excellent microcosm for better understanding and challenging our thinking on three important fronts. First, it is the kind of topic that excites media and public attention. Second, it encourages discussion of what we mean by “public transport” in the context of our cities, challenges and opportunities in this still quite new and very different 21st century. And third, it pushes us to take a far deeper look into what we mean when we use that word “free”. In asking these questions and encouraging vigorous debate, a number of important policy points can be made and brought to the attention of the public and the decision makers. It’s a great topic not least because it is solidly counter-intuitive. All of which is a vital part of the necessary 21st century learning process. Remember: Learn/Unlearn/Relearn
A beautiful city is not necessarily a city of great buildings or impressive infrastructure. It is a city that offers a beautiful experience to the people who live there in their day to day lives. It is perhaps above all a quiet city. And a safe city. A city in which it is easy to get around. A city of streets and neighborhoods that work, meaning good mixed-use so that the people who live there can find much of what they need and want within a short walk or bicycle ride. A beautiful city is a place in which independent local businesses flourish and are able resist the competition of imported chains and malls. From the vantage of sustainable transport specifically, our beautiful city is one that is walkable and bikeable under comfortable and safe circumstances. In this section we look specifically at matters which relate to walking, cycling and mixed use.
The concept of shared transport is at once old and new, formal and informal, but above all one that is growing very fast and changing in many respects just as fast as it grows. Something important is clearly going on, and next year we shall continue to look at this carefully, in the hope of providing a broader strategic base for advancing not just the individual shared modes (e.g., car-share, ride-share, bike-share, , taxi-share, street-share, time-share, etc.), but of combining them to advance the sustainable transport agenda of our cities more broadly. Are we at a turning point? Is sharing already starting to be a more broadly used and relevant social/economic pattern? Is there an over-arching concept which we can identify and put to work for people and the planet? And what do you need to look at and do to make your specific sharing project work? You are looking at our 2013 work program.
“Slowth” is a New Mobility transport planning concept, usually deployed in congested urban environments, where transport is recalibrated for lower top speeds, but the result is shorter overall travel times across the entire system. An important element of the slowth strategy is the use of techniques that reduce start and stop driving, including the strategic elimination of unfunctional traffic lights and stop signs. Strategically reduced top speeds can lead so multiple advantages, including great traffic safety, smoother traffic flows, greater regularity in terms of trip times, noise reductions and considerable improvements in terms of fossil fuel savings. Also, slower traffic is more social and civic, qualities that also should be favored by local government. This is a powerful model which urban planners and traffic engineers, with a few notable exceptions, are only recently starting to take seriously. An important New Mobility concept, it is also referred to as “slow transport.”
This wide-open collaborative thinking exercise will stretch out over 2013 and will focus on a single question. But one of many parts. What is the “modern motor car” going to look like in the decade immediately ahead? Will it be more of the same? Or will it mutate into a very different form of mobility? Who is going to own it? And how is it going to be used? Where and when will it be driven (and eventually parked)? Will it be piloted by a warm sapient human being, or will it be driverless? Will it still have wheels, doors and tires? Will it continue to be a fossil fuel and economic menace to well-being? What will be its impact on the environment? And what will be the impact of the “environment” on it? On public safety? On quality of life for all. Will it be efficient, economic and equitable? Who will make them and where? Is it going to create or destroy jobs? And how fast is all of this going to occur? We are calling this future and for now quite unknown car an xCar. We define an xCar as a motorized vehicle, most often with four wheels, capable of carrying people and goods, and most probably for the decade ahead (the only one we really care about in this exercise) with a human being at some kind of wheel to guide it. Our job over 2013 will be to give it dimensions.
These are powerful policy tools, which can get real results but from which policy makers run away with fear in the dear hearts. That’s a huge mistake. As a key to a more sustainable development the use of economic instruments for environmental policy has been on the agenda for more than two decades; it was the Brundtland report which put economic instruments on the agenda (World Commission, 1987). With its plea for a sustainable development, the Brundtland report recommended the increased use of economic instruments. Here is a quick shopping list of some for the economic instruments to which we shall be giving attention and reporting on when useful over the coming year: Prices, Taxes, Road user charges, Tolls, Road pricing, Congestion charges, Rebates, Credits, Fines, Externalities, Costs/benefits, Electronic toll collection, Variable pricing, Distance based charging, Full cost pricing, Penalties, CO2 tax, Revenues, Green taxes, Energy taxes, Fuel pricing, Polluter Pays Principle, Pollution tax, Externality tax, variable insurance charging, etc.
We have from the beginning of our work on the New Mobility Agenda in the mid eighties given a lot of thought and weight to what happens when consequent numbers of women get involved in all stages of the transport planning and decision process – – and by large numbers we means representation that approaches full gender parity — say at least 25% of those involved. We might say that this has not been a particularly popular position with many of our colleagues, political and technical, and thus tends to be largely ignored if not actively resisted. The core of our theory is this: when large numbers of women get involved they also tend to talk to each other in a sort of parallel conversation. These can lead to some different perspectives and recommendations, and given the importance of their parity makes them very hard to ignore. We intend to keep pushing on this part of our agenda in 2013.
The drive to sustainable transport and sustainable cities in China is one of the central focuses of the World Streets 2013-2015 work program just getting underway (it would have to be, wouldn’t you say?). Thus far it is organized in two modest parts:
- What World Streets has had to offer thus far – Click here
- And from our Facebook page of this title – Click here
But stay tuned. A lot more to follow.
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