Category Archives: local government

On expertise and public participation

It appears that the folks at the Lucknow Municipal Corporation have a curious notion of the meaning and purpose of public participation. When their funding proposals under the centrally sponsored scheme for urban development (JNNURM) were rejected due to the lack of public participation, they came up with the brilliant idea of a “city volunteer technical corps” that would participate in the planning process. Members will be chosen by the city corporation based on “expertise” in planning and related areas. The newspaper also reports that a prior attempt to constitute such a consultative body was aborted when “undesirable” persons who were not “experts” entered the consultative group. The corporation promises only to include “desirable” persons this time round. Read More

via India lives in her cities too!

What percent of your city’s street space is allocated to non-car uses

The pie chart you will find just below  graphically illustrates the state of street space allocation today in New York City, after four years of hard work on a committed local effort by city government and many associations to free street space for pedestrians, bikes and buses. All that for less than one half of one percent of the public space given over to cars. So here is our question this morning: Do things look any better in your city in 2011? We invite your reports and comments. Continue reading

What/who keeps holding back New Mobility reform?

If you get it, New Mobility is a no-brainer. However, while newmob is a great starting place, it is not going to get the job somehow miraculously done just because it is the only game in town when it comes to sustainable transport. We have a few potential sticking points here that need to be overcome first. Let’s have a quick look.

After some years of talking with cities, and working and observing in many different circumstances, here are some of the barriers are most frequently encountered in trying to get innovative transportation reform programs off the ground, including even in cities that really do need a major mobility overhaul. Continue reading

Outreach – Local Actors & Implementation Partners

Too often when it comes to new transport initiatives, the practice is to concentrate on laying the base for the project in close working relationships with people and groups who a priori are favorably disposed to your idea, basically your choir. Leaving the potential “trouble makers” aside for another day. Experience shows that’s a big mistake.

A Big House/Open Door Approach
Concerned local/regional government agencies, transporters, business groups, local employers and others should be brought early on into discussions, planning, implementation, and follow-up. It is vital to bring to the table as wide a range of groups and interests as possible, from the city and in the surrounding region in each case, including those whose views may be negative about any of the kinds of major shift in today’s transportation arrangements. Nobody likes change out of the blue, especially those “imposed” on us by people who are indifferent to our problems and priorities It is natural to block these unwelcome proposals.

The key to success is to take a big house/open doors approach. Make sure that you bring in all those groups, interests, people who are going to be impacted, positively or possibly negatively. Better to have them inside the tent and from the beginning.

One of the richest and most exciting phases of the preparatory projects from the outset is that of taking contact with all these groups in order to discover what they are already doing to advance the sustainability agenda in your city. And what they are ready and able to do if they get the right kind of support.

Below you have our generic checklist of possible local collaborators, partners, and interested parties. As you look through it from the perspectives of your own community, you will see that there are gaps here. But this at least can get you started.

Local/regional government agencies

1. City hall(s)
2. Communications, public information specialists
3. Community development programs
4. Energy, conservation
5. Environmental services (including monitoring stations and services)
6. Fire department
7. Fiscal and economic policies
8. Mayors (personal commitment)
9. Ombudsman
10. Other towns and municipalities in region
11. Parking policy and administrating
12. Police and traffic authorities (local and regional)
13. Public health
14. Public space management
15. Related incentive programs
16. School system
17. Social services
18. Special event management
19. Street vendors, kiosks, etc.
20. Taxes and charges
21. Transport and traffic planners
22. Urban development/master planners
23. Other concerned agencies, services?

Mobility purveyors, representatives

1. Ambulance and hospital transport
2. Carshare operators
3. Carpool/ride-share operations
4. Church, etc. buses, ridesharing
5. Cycling groups
6. Emergency transporters and services
7. Fleet managers
8. “Ghost” or black/illegal taxis and carriers
9. Goods/Freight delivery
10. Jitneys
11. Message/courier services
12. Package delivery
13. Paratransit providers
14. Parking providers (public and private)
15. Pedestrian associations and action groups
16. Postal buses (mainly in rural areas)
17. Public transit operators (rail and road)
18. Rental cars, vehicles
19. Rideshare and hitch-hiking services
20. School and other special buses
21. Taxis, limo and chauffeur services
22. Transport services for elderly, handicapped
23. Transport shelters
24. Walk/Bike to School groups
25. Other?

Movement substitutes, Demand Management

1. Activity clustering
2. Carfree housing
3. E-meeting technologies (videoconferencing, voice conferencing, other)
4. Land use planning
5. Teleshopping (and delivery)
6. Telework, telecommuting programs
7. Travel diaries, logs
8. Trip chaining
9. xWork (new ways of organizing distance work)

Other key and potential actors, Supporters, Opponents

1. Board of Trade and other industry groups (including infrastructure)
2. Automobile associations and related industry groups (get them on board early)
3. Chambers of commerce, Business groupings, Downtown associations
4. City boosters
5. Colleges and universities
6. Clubs, churches, synagogues, mosques
7. Consultants, university/research groups working in these areas
8. Developers, real estate agencies,
9. Employers
10. Financial community, banks, insurance companies
11. Foundations, individuals and others able to provide financial support or backing
12. Fundraisers
13. Green Maps (Toronto has a fine one)
14. Groups or people interested or involved in earlier Car Free Days or similar car free projects or demos in region
15. Hospitals and health agencies (including public health)
16. Including eventual sponsors and sources of active participation and support
17. International, national, regional environment, mobility, etc. agencies and associations
18. Local and regional media (old and new)
19. Local merchants, chambers of commerce, downtown associations
20. Media: traditional and new
21. NGOs, Public interest groups, associations
– Environmental, ecological, public health, clean air groups
– Non-motorized transport: Pedestrian, cycling, skating, running groups
– Associations concerned with elderly, handicapped and poor
22. Out of town commercial centers
23. Polling organizations
24. Red Cross, emergency services and public information programs
25. Schools and educational institutions
26. Specialized consultancies, working in these areas
27. Street performers, musicians
28. Transport user groups
29. Urban development, public spaces,
30. Women’s groups
31. Youth, sports and recreation groups

# # #
Comments and suggestions for improvement of this rough listing are more than welcome.

If you think that transport policy and investment decisions are best taken in smoke-filled rooms peopled exclusively by your transportation experts, perhaps accompanied by some of your principal suppliers, then the New Mobility Agenda approach to outreach and broad public consultation and direct involvement is probably not for you.

Mayors, city councils and local government have a lot more their plate than the transportation-related issues of their community. And there are just 24 hours a day. However to the extent in which local leaders are ready to reach out into the community deeply and often, they are going to find that there are resources and skills out there which need to be drawn on. 21st-century governance is based on the continuous reaching out for the skills and inputs of active citizens. Getting this right requires both considerable thought and careful use of state-of-the-art communication systems.

We have long maintained that mayors and local politicians who get this right will probably be able to stay in office as long as they choose to.

The editor

Dialogue: Who is going to take the lead?

Who are going to be the main actors leading the transition to sustainable transportation in and around our cities?

This is not entirely self-evident since there are a fair range of what would seem to be possible candidates. However in order to sort this out, it will be important that we first have a realistic understanding of what has been going on up to now. And to say the least, the news is not good.

When it comes to “sustainable transportation” there is out there a rich world of rhetoric, claims, advertisements, notices, media pieces, announcements of projects and events, that taken together can give one the impression that something important, something even transformative is going on. But when you get down to the harsh reality of what is going on at the level of the street, a very different picture emerges.

The sad fact is that after twenty years of talk, and, it has to be said, a rising crescendo of messages and even actions, the sad news is that every day in just about every city on this planet, traffic is getting worse, the amount of scarce resources consumed continues to escalate, the injustices extended, the basic economics ever less viable, and the environmental cost steadily mounting and edging toward climate meltdown. We are failing to meet the challenge. It would be exceptionally weak-headed of us to be optimistic under these circumstances.

We all know that something must be done and that it should be done without further delay. However it is far less clear who is going to do what under these circumstances. The fact is that despite all of the conferences, reports, talk about treaties, and even pioneering projects and accomplishments here and there, there is a continuing leadership vacuum. Who is going to fill it?

The goal of this week’s open dialogue is to ask you for your views on this. Later we can build on your feedback and ideas in older to develop a broader analysis, but what better way to start than to ask the hundreds of knowledgeable people who check into World Streets every day for their own views.

To get us started on this, you will find your left a small reader poll asking for your views on this. In addition, you will find is always that there is space for comments right below here, and we invite your contributions with real interest.

Here are our candidates. If we missed anyone important, please let us know.

* International organizations
* NGOs
* Scientific/academic community
* National governments
* Industry and private sector
* Cities and local government
* Local associations/transport, environment, etc activists/groups
* The media
* Children, schools
* Foundations
* World Streets
* You – as a citizen, parent

The word is now to you.

The editor

Governance: The politics of transportation

“Two cheers for the market. Not three.”*

Günter Blobel is one Nobel Prize winner who is not resting on his laurels. Friday’s New York Times published an Op-Ed piece which goes right to the heart of the concerns and priorities of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda – the politics of sustainable transportation and the need for wise governance to provide the dynamic frame that is needed for the energies of democracy to work. We thank Dr. Blobel for agreeing to share his thoughts with World Streets.

Eyes on the street in Dresden:

Save the Dresden Elbe Valley
– By Günter Blobel
Published: June 4, 2009, International Herald Tribune

The Dresden Elbe Valley is likely to be deleted from the list of World Cultural Heritage sites at the annual meeting of the World Cultural Heritage Committee of Unesco on June 23.

This is due to the construction of a huge four-lane highway bridge that bisects the Elbe Valley site at its most sensitive position, thereby destroying one of Europe’s last river landscapes.

Ultimately responsible for this impending calamity is Chancellor Angela Merkel herself. As chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union she failed to correct the misguided politics of her party colleagues in Dresden, the capital of the federal state of Saxony. She did not publicly oppose their numerous provocations of Unesco. And with her assertion that this is a “regional” problem, she has ignored Germany’s contractual obligations to Unesco.

-> The full text of this article is available from the NYT on-line by clicking here.

– Günter Blobel, professor at Rockefeller University in New York City, was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He is founder of the nonprofit Friends of Dresden, to whom he presented the lion’s share of his million dollar 1999 Nobel award.


Here is some first background on this important project and clash from Unesco World Heritage Website at

Dresden Elbe Valley

Brief Description

The 18th- and 19th-century cultural landscape of Dresden Elbe Valley extends some 18 km along the river from Übigau Palace and Ostragehege fields in the north-west to the Pillnitz Palace and the Elbe River Island in the south-east. It features low meadows, and is crowned by the Pillnitz Palace and the centre of Dresden with its numerous monuments and parks from the 16th to 20th centuries. The landscape also features 19th- and 20th-century suburban villas and gardens and valuable natural features. Some terraced slopes along the river are still used for viticulture and some old villages have retained their historic structure and elements from the industrial revolution, notably the 147-m Blue Wonder steel bridge (1891–93), the single-rail suspension cable railway (1898–1901), and the funicular (1894–95). The passenger steamships (the oldest from 1879) and shipyard (c. 1900) are still in use.

* For full text of article click here.

And from a Unesco report of 04.07.2008.

Dresden’s status was called into question in 2006 because the Waldschloesschen bridge now under construction was viewed as a threat to the valuable cultural landscape. UNESCO has recommended the bridge be replaced with a tunnel.

Voters approved the bridge construction in 2005, however UNESCO offered a grace period last year so alternatives could be evaluated.

* For full text of article click here.


Editor’s comment: From a New Mobility perspective.

Here we have a perfect microcosm of the kinds of conflicts we face every day and in every corner of this beleaguered planet in the struggle for sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. On the one side, unexamined inertial attitudes reinforced by a broadly shared failure to recognize the imperatives of this very different new century. And on the other hand, a failure of the proponents for preservation to reach deeply enough into the issues and choices to convince.

I would like to think that it is not too late to band together to encourage an immediate halt to construction subsequent to an independent review of the bridge options, of which there are surely a number which can be packaged in such a way as to deal with the concerns of those who need to get from A to B in their city. There are organizations and groups in Germany, and internationally, who can work with the city and key actors on all sides to help sort this out in a way that deal with the concerns of the public while at the same time preserving their magnificent heritage.

It would seem to me that the strong push to the Green parties across Europe in the just-concluded European elections, and in Germany, signal that the time is right for this kind of review and rethink. It is not just a matter of one bridge and one city, but of the future of the planet. No less!

We intend to keep on with this governance dialogue, which to our minds is not getting nearly enough attention. It is of course deeply political, and that is the one area in which progress is most needed. How to get a strong majority of citizens behind the sustainability agenda? Stay tuned.