What was wrong with "Old Mobility"

In order what needs to be done to create a healthier and better performing set of transportation arrangements, World Streets make a consistent distinction between what we call “old mobility” and “new mobility.” The difference between the two is quite simple. And substantial.

Old mobility was the form of transportation policy, practice and thinking that took its full shape and momentum starting in the mid twentieth century, at a time when we all lived in a universe that was, or at least seemed to be, free of constraints. It served us well in many ways at the time, albeit with exceptions, though we were blind to most of them most of the time. It was a very different world back them. But that world is over. And it will never come back.

The planet was enormous, the spaces great and open, energy abundant and cheap, resources endless. The “environment” was not a consideration, “climate” was the weather, technology was able to come up with a constant stream of solutions, builders were able to solve the problems that arose from bottlenecks by endlessly expanding capacity at the trouble points, and fast growth and the thrill of continuing innovations masked much of what was not all that good.

37 things that were wrong with Old Mobility

It does not work well in the realities that constitute the 21st century, because it is . . .

1. Based on an essentially closed system (looking at “transport” in isolation from the rest)
2. Hierarchical
3. Top-down
4. Centralized
5. Statistics based (historical)
6. Bounded
7. Reductive
8. End-state solution oriented
9. Authoritarian
10. Supply oriented
11. Oriented to maximizing vehicle throughput and speeds
12. Expert based
13. Engineering-based (i.e., working “within the box”, but with high technical competence)
14. Binary: i.e., either “private” (i.e., car-based) or “public” transport (and nothing of importance in between)
15. De facto car-based
16. Costly to the community (unnecessarily)
17. Costly to individuals (unnecessarily)
18. Resource intensive (unnecessarily)
19. Total dependence on costly imported fossil fuels (unnecessarily)
20. Highly polluting
21. Massive public health menace
22. Destroys urban fabric
23. Hardware and build solutions, technology oriented
24. Treats ex-car solutions as (very!) poor cousins
25. Offers poor service/economic package to elderly, handicapped, poor and young
26. Sharp divide between planning, policy and operations
27. Obscure (to the public) decision making processes
28. Focuses on bottlenecks impeding traffic flows (i.e., builds for > traffic)
29. Attempts to anticipate them and build to forestall
30. Searches for large projects to “solve” the problems
31. These large projects and the substantial amounts involved often lead to corruption and waste of public moneys
32. Still too much separation from underlying land use realities.
33. Inadequate attention to transportation substitutes or complements
34. Increasingly technical and tool oriented (this to the good)
35. Anachronistic,
36. Not doing the job that we need in 2005 and beyond!, and finally and worst of all. . .
37. Creates a climate of passive citizenry and thus undermines participatory democracy and collective involvement and problem solving

But this does not reflect the priorities and the reality of transport, our needs, and our potential in the 21st century, and above all in our cities which are increasingly poorly served by not only our present mobility arrangements; but also the thinking and values that underlie them. Our rural areas are likewise suffering and without a coherent game plan. We now live in an entirely different kind of universe, and the constraints which were never felt before, or ignored, are now emerging as the fundamental building blocks for transportation policy and practice in this new century.

It’s time for a change. And the change has to start with us. You see, we are the problem. But we can also be part of the solution. So off we go!

Some World Streets references to help dig in on this:

Sustainable transportation’s Dirty Secret

We badly need a new American transportation model (because the one you sent us is broke)

Why transport planners need to think small to tackle climate change

The Old Mobility impasse (PDF)

Honey, you got to slow down

What/who keeps holding back New Mobility reform?

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