Category Archives: traffic

Safer Streets LA – Wrap a couple of spare neurons around this one

From the 2012 Safe Streets Challenge project:
If you are (a) into safer streets and (b) ready to dig in to understand that things out there are not necessarily what one might necessarily think, may we suggest that you check out here this slightly counterintuitive piece that was posted this morning in our parallel Safe Streets project. Continue reading

Parks in, Cars not out? Is that going to be our future?

reports in today’s New York Times about the new trend whereby “All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created.” That is certainly good news and true, but there is a bit more to it than that as you will see if you read on. Continue reading

Safe Streets defining principles: Remembering Donald Appleyard

Safe Streets is a collaborative worldwide project which will aggressively network over the whole of 2012 in our search for shaping ideas with some of the leading thinkers, groups and programs in the field , looking to the future but also not forgetting the past — including drawing attention to the defining contributions of a certain number of leading thinkers. teachers, writers and sustainability activists, who are no longer with us but who through their work have laid down some of the most important principles which we now need to recall and take into account as we move to create a broad common framework for sustainable streets all over the world. For those of you who do not already know about the formidable vision and work of Donald Appleyard, we have pulled together a collection of reference points that should give you a good first introduction, and at the end of this piece some additional reference materials for those wishing to go further (as indeed you should).
Continue reading

Man – > Technology – > Speed – > Distance – > Destruction of proximity

This out of control bulimic spiral begins with man’s uncontrollable tool-making itch, and from thence ,and unknown to us at the time, to tools which take on transforming lives of their own — one of which in the domain of mobility being ever-increasing speed, which in turn leads to ever-increasing distances, and which finally and in largely unnoticed fatal tandem destroys the reality and oh-so important qualities of proximity and community. That’s the deal and facing all this is the challenge of this collaborative project for 2012. What we thought was merely more convenient transportation, has snuck up on us and turned into very inconvenient and altogether unanticipated transformation. Continue reading

Toward a new paradigm for transport in cities: Let’s see what Carlos Pardo has to say

The Stuttgart conference of Cities for Mobility this year represented an important step forward in the construction of a well-defined agenda for new mobility that up until the present time has been sadly lacking. But what we have managed to develop over the last two decades is a certain number of basic principles spanning many different areas and kinds of operational situations, but somehow until now we have failed to put them all together into a well-defined, convincing operational and policy package. We think of this as the move toward a new paradigm for transport in cities – and it all starts with . . . slowing down. Continue reading

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

Part I: Ten steps to get the job done:
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.

– Eric Britton, Editor Continue reading

Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City

The author of this careful and quite extensive book review of the battle for America’s streets is Karthik Rao-Cavale, a graduate student at Rutgers University and an associate editor of our sister publication, India Streets. He writes: “This review was originally written for a class I am taking with Prof. John Pucher here at Rutgers University. I am putting up this review here even though the book reviewed talks mainly about the United States, because I feel that the lessons learned are most immediately applicable to developing world. It is a lengthy read, but I hope you will enjoy it.”

Continue reading

Hell is a gyratory system . . . so we want our cities back – Views from Britain on our one-way past

We put in traffic lights and stop signs in order to make our streets safe. We convert from two-way streets to one-way streets in order to permit cars to move more rapidly down them. And in almost all cases these decisions are made not on the basis of a broader systemic understanding of the traffic network as a whole, nor from an explicit philosophy as to what the basic underlying values and priorities should be, but always piecemeal, ad hoc, and one of the time. All of which renders the networks of most of our cities ripe for rethinking and redesign. Here is one view from London.

Hell is a gyratory system,
so let’s celebrate the return of cheerful anarchy to our roads

– Stephen Bayley, from The Times

It is the end of the road for the detested one-way street. Transport for London, perhaps the biggest manager of one-way systems in the world, at last acknowledges a truth painfully proved by harrowed pedestrians, bruised bicyclists and infuriated drivers: one-way systems do not work. Cities have been wastefully sacrificed to the false gods of efficiency and rationality. Now we want our cities back.

After a consultation in 2006 Tottenham Court Road — and soon Piccadilly, Pall Mall, Gower Street and the notorious Wandsworth one-way system (a congealed eternity of hot metal and annoyed people) — will return to two-way traffic. So a ruinous experiment is under final notice after 50 years of fuming. A culture that thought speed a measure of success and volume a measure of prosperity is being driven down the off-ramp.

This is a powerful metaphor for the new, more liberal, reasonable, responsible, lightly governed future that we are told awaits us. Certainly the one-way past created absurdities we could do without.

What is more existentially exasperating than a No Entry sign? This graphic of universal urban frustration was standardised by the League of Nations in 1931 (the year that the same ineffectual busybodies merely tut-tutted about the Japanese invasion of Manchuria).

Roads are not natural; they are inventions. And sealed roads to carry heavy traffic are inventions as typical of the 19th century as the typewriter and the diesel engine. MacAdam created the information superhighway of Victoriana. One-way streets were the final, and now obsolete, refinement of the road as a communications medium. They remain as dread memorials to vanished concerns, alien values and hopeless, irrelevant targets.

The concept began with good intentions. Albemarle Street in Mayfair became uni-directional in 1808 when crowds attending Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lectures at the Royal Institution made traffic-planning necessary. But the modern theology of traffic management dates back only to 1963 when Colin Buchanan, a town planner, published his ruinously influential report Traffic in Towns.

Wheeled traffic has been successfully mingling in towns and cities since the Etruscans, but Professor Buchanan took great exception to the idea and intended, with great athletic earnestness, to separate people and cars, the better for us to prosper by accelerator. The official attitude to cars in 1963 was curiously similar to Victorian ideas about prostitution: a mixture of acceptance and disgust.

With a fixity of purpose perhaps inviting Freudian interpretations, Buchanan wanted flyovers, clearways and pedestrianisation. Out went the clutter of accumulated townscape. Towns were to be cleansed of intimacy, hazard and surprise. In came Mr and Mrs Citizen swooping at high speed along urban motorways in a bizarre dystopia where your Cortina “saloon” would drive you to a Ballardian destiny in a tower block (where unspeakable crimes might be perpetrated).

In towns, the false god of the one-way street was an agent of change that proved catastrophic. This, of course, was the very moment that other visionaries thought it wise to, quite literally, decimate the railway system in the interests of “economy”. The M25 between Junctions 8 and 9 northbound on a Monday morning is their memorial. And the hell of Wandsworth, Vauxhall Cross or Hammersmith is Buchanan’s.

One-way systems are wrong because they are counterintuitive and seek to impose a spurious logic on human behaviour, something always at its most interesting when irrational. There is surely something very nasty in the concept and expression “gyratory”. It suggests circles of Hell and invites the conjoined idea of futility and an endless quest for an impossible goal.

To enter any gyratory system — often survivable in a car, more precarious on a bike, but suicidal on foot — is to go on bargaining terms with urban aggression and the one-dimensional solutions of the traffic engineer. In pursuit of something that looks good on a graphic, but does not work on the ground, sinister gyratory systems generate millions of unnecessary miles and thousands of tons of pollution.

And people hate them. Best to reinstate the Darwinian struggle of the two-way street and re-create cities that respond to the cheerful anarchy of individual purpose, not a chilly master plan. This is a prospect pleasantly hinted at in a new exhibition. The architectural publisher and bike evangelist Peter Murray has created a series of enamel plaques mocking London’s one-way system. Of Fitzrovia he says it “fails in its aspirations to speed the traffic, but succeeds in confusing cyclists and traffic alike”.

One-way was designed to “reduce congestion”. In true conformity with the Orwellian model, it did the opposite. One-way ? “Wrong way, go back” as the signs say on US freeways. I’m glad to say we are.

# # #

About the author:
Let me quote the author directly from his website you can find at http://www.stephenbayley.com/: “Stephen Bayley was once described as ‘the second most intelligent man in Britain’. This is controversial and very possibly untrue, but what is indisputable is that – as the author of more than ten books, nearly thirty exhibition catalogues, countless articles, broadcasts and newspaper columns – he is one of the world’s best known commentators on modern culture. Tom Wolfe said of him “I don’t know anybody with more interesting observations about style, taste and contemporary design.”

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article7097837.ece

The Battle for Street Space – Part II

Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets

– Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore


Traffic Calming—The First Wave
For several decades there have been efforts to use roadway modifications, such as humps and chicanes, to control motor vehicle speeds on streets whose primary roles are non-traffic ones (Hass-Klau 1990). Such traffic calming began in north-west Europe and by now is familiar almost everywhere.

Early traffic calming tended to focus on streets at the lowest levels of the roadway hierarchy to reinforce the primacy of access and pedestrian activity at that level. More recently, adaptations of traffic calming techniques have been applied to some streets at higher levels of the hierarchy, such as short stretches of shopping streets and the main streets of towns. An early Dutch traffic calming innovation, the Woonerf or “home zone”, involved a complete redesign of urban residential streets to make it clear to motorists that they were guests in a home environment. This was a precursor to the more ambitious shared space experiments.

Tempo 30 Zones (Or “Twenty’s Plenty”)

A variation on traffic calming is to simply signpost very low speed limits, notably 30 km/h (or 20 miles/h). Many European cities now have extensive Tempo 30 zones (Figure 1). Graz in Austria has been a pioneer, with a blanket 30 km/h speed limit over much of the city. Only major roads allow higher speeds of 50 km/h or more. Sweden’s “Vision Zero”, which aims to eliminate road deaths and minimise the effects of the “foreseeable crashes” between pedestrians and motor vehicles, has prompted more Tempo 30 zones in that country.

Shared Space (Or “Naked Streets”)

The shared space approach to streets emerged in the 1990s, pioneered by the late Hans Monderman in towns across the northern region of the Netherlands. Sometimes called “naked streets”, this approach is also seen as a second generation of traffic calming that has been spreading rapidly with trials underway in many countries. Shared space completely overturns the idea that urban road safety depends on predictability and on clearly defining who has the right of way (Hamilton-Baillie 2008). Shared space designs often remove most traffic lights, signs and kerbs. No particular user or movement has automatic right of way. This forces road users (car or truck drivers, bicycle users and pedestrians alike) to proceed cautiously and to negotiate their way forward, mostly through eye contact. Australian innovator, David Engwicht (2006), calls this “safety through intrigue and uncertainty”. If this is difficult to imagine, then the videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/Sharedspace will help.

Low speeds are both a consequence of and a necessity for this social mode of negotiated motion. In high-speed traffic the human mind is not capable of negotiating with other road users through eye contact. We can only do this at or below about 30km/h. Both crash incidence and the probability of death or injury, even for pedestrians, are very low at these speeds (Shared Space project 2005). Trials have included main streets and intersections in town centres. Surprisingly, travel times hardly suffer because, although top speeds between junctions are much lower, there is much less stopping at intersections.

Even though shared space includes motor vehicles, they become very much part of the public realm at low speeds. Monderman made clear that shared space design is only for the parts of the network that can be designated as public realm. His vision of an expanded public realm includes many surprisingly busy streets. However, it does not include those major arterial roads on which high speeds remain important. These remain traffic space.

Accidental Shared Space

The informal emergence of shared space street dynamics can be seen when pedestrians and/or slow vehicles dominate a street space, leaving motorists little choice but to proceed on a negotiated and cautious basis. This is common in inner urban streets of many developing countries (Figure 2). It can be seen also on the narrow streets of Singapore’s Little India area. Such “chaos” is of course widely lamented, with pedestrians and other road users blamed for indiscipline. Moreover, at times of low pedestrian activity, traffic speeds do rise and crash risk and severity can become very high. However, the imposition of traffic-focused design in such places would often be a mistake. A better option for these streets might be shared space by design rather than by accident.

Bicycle Boulevards/Slow Streets Network

Traffic-calmed “bicycle streets” on which bicycles have clear priority over motor vehicles are common in German cities, among others (Pucher and Buehler 2008). A number of North American cities, notably Berkeley, California, have successfully used bicycle boulevards to enhance their network of safe, low-stress routes for bicycle users. Bicycles enjoy relatively uninterrupted journeys along these streets, whereas motor vehicles often face detours.

Multi-way Boulevards

Surprisingly, it is also possible to create public realm and local access functions on very busy roadways that move a large volume of fast-moving traffic. Multi-way boulevards are one way to do this. The Boulevard Book by Jacobs et al. (2002) highlights their potential and provides guidance on design. The trick this time is to create slow spaces at the edges

Some of the most elegant and successful streets in the world, such as many of the avenues in Paris, are multi-way boulevards. They are typically grand streets that have a central zone that is primarily traffic space. Then there is a tree-lined landscaped zone with walkways. This wide median separates the main traffic lanes from a smaller roadway next to another footway and the building line (Figures 3 and 4). In the best boulevards, this side-access street forms the low-speed public realm where traffic, bicycles and pedestrians can share the space safely. The authors argue that well-designed multi-way boulevards, such as Avenue Montaigne in Paris or the Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona, have good safety records, and the traffic lanes work better than equivalent space on conventional roadways. Many countries in Asia, including India, China, Vietnam and Indonesia, also have a tradition of multi-way boulevards. Some, such as CG Road in Ahmedabad, already work well while others could benefit from an effort to ensure low traffic speeds in the service lanes in order to include these lanes and their adjacent medians as part of the public realm.

“Road Diets”

“Road diets” is another innovation that allows public realm to be created with minimal impact on the utility of traffic space. As you may guess from the name, arterial roads have their traffic lanes reduced (and sometimes narrowed). However, a centre turning lane or turning bays are added, often with medians and an expansion of pedestrian and cycling space as well. In many situations, all this can be done without a loss of vehicle capacity.

References

Department for Transport (DfT) U.K. March 2007. Manual for Streets http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/ manforstreets

Engwicht, D. 2006. Int
rigue and Uncertainty: Towards New Traffic Taming Tools. Creative Communities International (This is an e-book which can be downloaded via http://www.lesstraffic.com/index.htm).

Hamilton-Bailie, B. 2008. Shared space: Reconciling people, places, and traffic. Built Environment 34 (2), 161- 181.

Hass-Klau, C. 1990. The Pedestrian and City Traffic. Belhaven Press, London.

Jacobs, A.B., Macdonald, E. and Rofé, Y. 2002. The Boulevard Book: History, Evolution, Design of Multiway Boulevards. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Patton, J.W. 2007. A pedestrian world: Competing rationalities and the calculation of transportation change. Environment and Planning A, 39(4), 928 – 944.

Pucher, J. and Buehler, R. 2008. Making cycling irresistible: Lessons from the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. Transport Reviews 28 (4), 495-528. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1080/01441640701806612

Shared Space project. June 2005. Room for Everyone: A New Vision for Public Spaces. Report of the European Union Iterreg IIIB project ‘Shared Space’. Available via http://www.shared-space.org

Shared Space project. Oct. 2008. Final Evaluation and Results: It Takes Shared Space to Create Shared Understanding. Report of the European Union Iterreg IIIB project ‘Shared Space’. Available via http://www.sharedspace. org

Svensson, Å. ed. 2004. Arterial Streets for People. Report of the ARTISTS Project (Arterial Streets Towards Sustainability). Available via http://www.eukn.org/urbanmatrix/ themes/urban_policy/urban_environment/La


Paul Barter is an Assistant Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where he teaches infrastructure policy, urban policy, transport policy and an introduction to public policy. He has published studies of transport policy in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. His current research interests are in innovation in transport demand management, public transport regulation, and contested priorities in urban transport policy.

This article appeared in the May number of JOURNEYS, a new LTA Academy publication (The Land Transport Authority of Singapore) and is reproduced here with their kind permission and that of the author. We felt that this is such a good survey it deserves wide circulation and international, and we are pleased to provide it here. To view the original article and illustrations, you are invited to click here.

The Battle for Street Space – Part I

Earning a Public Space Dividend in the Streets

– Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Abstract: Experiments with shared space or “naked streets” have captured imaginations and considerable media coverage in recent years. Most of the excitement stems from surprise that streets without kerbs, road markings or signage can work well and achieve “safety through uncertainty”. This paper looks at another equally important insight from shared space.
It focuses on a series of innovations that, like shared space, re-arrange the roles of streets in new ways to yield a “dividend” of expanded urban public realm, with little or no loss of transport utility. Such a space dividend should be especially welcome in dense cities that are both congested and short of public space.

Introduction

What are streets and roadways for? An obvious answer is traffic movement. But that is clearly not the whole story. A second role is to allow the reaching of final destinations— the role we call “access”. Thirdly, streets can be valuable public places in their own right. In addition, moving high-speed motor vehicles differ enormously from movement by low-speed, vulnerable modes such as bicycles. Unfortunately, speedy motor traffic movement and the other roles of streets are in serious conflict. For almost a century, the tension between these roles has been at the heart of debate over street design (Hass-Klau 1990; Jacobs et al. 2002). This article reviews emerging resolutions to this tension.

The Battle for Street Space

The essence of a street is that it serves all these roles simultaneously—providing for traffic movement and access, and as public space for urban activities. However, mainstream roadway management has spent many decades seeking, like Le Corbusier, the “death of the street”. It tends to turn everything between kerbs into “traffic space” where motor vehicle movement is the design priority (Patton 2007).

Motorised traffic, slow modes and pedestrians are strictly segregated in both space and time. The role of streets as “public realm” has been largely restricted to the pavements (sidewalks) and to pedestrian zones. Most cities are desperately short of attractive public space and space for the networks needed by the gentle but vulnerable modes such as walking and cycling.

Since the 1930s, traffic engineers have routinely classified every roadway in a hierarchy according to the degree to which it serves either traffic movement or access. Major arterials and expressways which are at the top of the hierarchy are managed primarily for maximum vehicle mobility. Any access functions are carefully limited to contain “friction” with the mainstream traffic. Only streets at the lowest level of the hierarchy are used mainly for access. Furthermore, the planning process often seeks to remove as much activity as possible (and hence, the “public space” role) from roadways and their vicinity. The influential UK report of 1963, Traffic in Towns by Colin Buchanan, reinforced the idea that segregation was essential (Hamilton-Baillie 2008).

The roadway hierarchy has no place for streets that serve both traffic and multiple other purposes (Svensson 2004). Yet, traditional urban streets and main streets remain ubiquitous. They provide (inadequately) for both access and mobility and are sites of perennial conflict. Such conflict is especially obvious in the heavily used streets of many dense Asian cities. The conventional traffic engineering approach offers little guidance for such multi-role streets (Svensson 2004).

Expanding Public Realm without Evicting Motor Vehicles

Recently, a series of promising street management innovations has emerged that re- assert in new ways the multi-purpose nature of the street. (See Box Story “Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets”.) They offer ways to increase the public realm without removing the motor vehicles or seriously undermining the utility of the motorised traffic system. Does that sound too good to be true?

These innovations exploit common insights and principles. First, they involve making a strong distinction between “traffic areas” or “highway” and public space or the “public realm” (Shared Space project 2005). Traffic areas are the realm of conventional traffic engineering where high-speed motor vehicle movement is primary, with its flow carefully segregated from slower users like pedestrians and cyclists.

Second, some of this redefined “public realm” can be shared. It includes new spaces designed for the peaceful co-existence of public place activities, slow movement by vulnerable modes as well as motor vehicles, especially those seeking access to the vicinity. The key to such co-existence lies in keeping speeds low, ideally to no more than about 30 km/h (Shared Space project, 2005). Low speeds mean that motor vehicles need not be excluded but those present will mainly be making access movements or on the “last mile” (or the first) of their trips.

Third, these innovations shift the boundary between public realm and traffic space, so that a surprising amount of what we now think of as traffic space becomes part of the low-speed public realm. In shared spaces and in other slow zones, such as Tempo 30 zones and bicycle boulevards, whole streets and intersections are converted to public space. In multi-way boulevards, public realm includes everything from the building line to the outer edge of the central, high-speed traffic lanes. This newly expanded public realm serves local motor vehicle access, slow-mode movement, public space roles and sometimes some through-traffic (with low priority and at low speed). Only the high-speed traffic movement is excluded and kept within traffic space.

Fourth, a key design goal is that both the public realm and traffic space should work better by being kept distinct (Shared Space project 2005). Cities still need high-speed traffic space of course, just as some pure pedestrian space must also remain. But a surprising amount of shared public realm could be reclaimed without diminishing total traffic capacity. The key is that most of the expansion of the public realm envisaged here would take over traffic space that does not work very efficiently anyway. For example, the capacity of many of today’s motorised traffic lanes is reduced by turning movements, kerbside drop-offs, parking, loading and other street activities. After transforming such spaces into public realm, the remaining traffic space can be re-designed more thoroughly for its traffic function. Moreover, the new public realm retains some traffic function, albeit at low speed, as a safety valve at times of extreme congestion.

A high percentage of traffic volume in most cities is carried by roads at the top of the roadway hierarchy. Much of the remaining traffic is in fact short-distance traffic, or is on the first or last “mile” of a longer trip, or is circling for a parking spot. Such traffic does not need high speeds. In fact, a slower environment is more appropriate for access movement. Furthermore, although public realm requires very low peak speeds, the approaches discussed here also usually reduce the need for stopping and starting, so that average speeds and travel times are often little changed. Therefore, reclaiming such space as public realm has less impact on traffic performance t
han one would think based purely on the percentage of traffic space “lost”.

Expanding the low-speed public realm would also allow us to be much more tolerant of a diverse range of small, vulnerable vehicles that currently do not fit easily into our transport systems. These include bicycles, in-line skates, skateboards, kick scooters, wheelchairs and many other “Personal Mobility Devices”.

Barriers to Change

As with most innovations, change will take more than a simple policy decision. In most countries, roadway management practices are deeply embedded in institutions, their missions, objectives, performance-measures and boundaries of responsibility between agencies; in professional guidelines, codes and design standards; and in traffic rules and road user education.

Fortunately, little change is needed in conventional roadway management when it is applied to its appropriate domain i.e. the highspeed arterials and highways. It is only within an expanded public realm and at its boundaries that drastic change is called for. Standard practice must no longer apply to such spaces. Level of service (LOS) has no place here. Nor do conventional approaches to road safety, such as removal of “fixed hazardous objects”. Roadways that form part of the shared public realm should not resemble highways despite the presence of motor vehicles. Design principles for such streets, including signage and road markings, must be different from those for traffic space.

The public realm of streets needs a whole new set of procedures, guidelines and metrics of success. More research is needed to develop them. This is beginning to happen through experimentation in many countries (Shared Space project 2008; Hamilton-Baillie 2008; Jacobs et al. 2002). The Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have revised their guidance manuals on street design (e.g. DfT 2007). Traffic engineers will need to adapt their problem solving to the special challenges of designing shared public realm. They will need to collaborate more with urban design professionals and urban planners, who will also need to take more interest in the streets that they have long neglected.

Conclusion:

This article has provided a quick review of promising new ways to reconcile movement, access and place-making within our precious urban rights of way. New public space is gained through including low-speed access movement by motor vehicles within the public realm. It is this “public space dividend” that has been my focus. It may be too soon to tell if these ideas can deliver on their promise. We may only find out by trying them out.

—–

This article was first published in the May edition of JOURNEYS, an Academy publication of the Land Transport Authority of Singapore(LTA). We thought that many of our readers might not have picked it up, so we are most pleased to reprint here with their kind permission and that of the author.

Paul Barter is an Assistant Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where he teaches infrastructure policy, urban policy, transport policy and an introduction to public policy. He has published studies of transport policy in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. His current research interests are in innovation in transport demand management, public transport regulation, and contested priorities in urban transport policy.

Why transport planners need to think small

No matter how big or small all movements have their heresies and orthodoxies. In the domain of transport policy, questioning the primacy of motorized public transport over cycling and walking is like suggesting that the world may not be flat after all. The mercury rose and emails flew on the Sustainable Transport Sustran online discussion group earlier this week when Beijing’s announcement to make the city ‘a public transport city’ by 2015 hit the wire.  One contributor questioned Beijing’s strategy, which was based solely on raising levels of rail and bus ridership to 45%. Once the mainstay of China’s urban transport system, the bicycle, didn’t even get a mention. Continue reading

Plan B: The New Mobility Agenda ( Mission Statement)

Plan A, with its stress on supply, vehicles and infrastructure has been favored for decision-making and investment in the sector over the last 70 years. It is well-known and easy to see where it is leading. Responsible for something like 1/5 of all greenhouse gas emissions, costing us a bundle, draining the world’s petroleum reserves . . . Plan A is a clear failure. Time for Plan B.

World Streets is not exactly what one would call a neutral source. We have a very definite position on transport policy, planning and investment, the result of long experience of working with and observing the sector in its daily operation in cities around the world. It would not be true to claim that these views are unique to us; indeed they have been distilled over the years as result of contacts and work in collaboration with farsighted colleagues and policymakers in many places. They are shared, at least in good part, by many of our most distinguished colleagues.

It is only appropriate that I clearly state the underlying philosophy of this new sustainability journal in no uncertain terms right here at the outset. Our position on this is clear: namely, that we face a major planetary emergency that requires immediate high priority action at the very core of public policy, and that we have the means available to make the difference. But until now we are not addressing the issues at the level of intensity required. We need a plan of action. So let’s have a look.

The New Mobility Agenda in brief

The main reference point for all that you will read in these pages is the long-term program, the New Mobility Agenda, an international collaborative effort focusing entirely on transportation in and around cities. It has been in operation since 1988 with continuous interactive presence on the internet as one of the pillars of the collaborative knowledge-building process that is behind it. And this is what we have concluded:

Virtually all of the necessary preconditions are now in place for far-reaching, rapid, low cost improvements in the ways that people get around in our cites. The needs are there, they are increasingly understood — and we now know what to do and how to get the job done. The challenge is to find the vision, political will, and leadership to get the job done, step by deliberate step.

But we have to have an explicit, coherent, ethical, checkable, overarching strategy. Without it we are destined to play at the edges of the problems, and while we may be able to announce a success or improvement here or there, the overall impact that your city needs to break the old patterns will not be there. We really need that clear, consistent, omnipresent, systemic strategy.

The Agenda provides a free public platform for new thinking and open collaborative group problem solving, bringing together more than a thousand leading thinkers and actors in the field from more than fifty counties worldwide, sharing information and considering together the full range of problems and eventual solution paths that constitute the global challenge of sustainable transport in cities.

Managing the transition: Basic principles

And it must be understood that the shift from old to new mobility is not one that turns its back on the importance of high quality mobility for the economy and for quality of life. It’s just that given the technologies that we now have at our fingertips, and in the labs, it is possible for us to redraw our transportation systems so that there is less inefficient movement (the idea of one person sitting in traffic in a big car with the engine idling is one example, an empty bus another) and more high-efficiency, high-quality, low-carbon transportation that offers many more mobility choices than in the past, including the one that environmentalists and many others find most appealing: namely, getting what you want without having to venture out into traffic at all. Now that’s an interesting new mobility strategy, too.

Here you have in twelve summaries the high points of the basic strategic policy frame as we see it: principles that we and our colleagues around the world have diligently pieced together over the years of work, observation and close contact with projects and programs in leading cities on all continents under the New Mobility Agenda. (If you click here you can see in a short video (four minute draft) a synopsis of the basic five-point core strategy that the city of Paris has announced and adhered to over the last seven years. With significant results.)

1. Climate-driven: The on-going climate emergency sets the base timetable for action in our sector, which accounts for some 20% of greenhouse gasses. At the same time GHG reduction works as a strong surrogate for just about everything else to which we need to be giving priority attention in our cities, chief among them the need to cut traffic. Fewer vehicles on the road means reduced energy consumption, less pollution in all forms, fewer accidents, reduced bills for infrastructure construction and maintenance, quieter and safer cities, and the long list goes on. What is so particularly interesting about the mobility sector is that there is really a great deal we can do in a relatively little time. And at relatively low cost. Beyond this, there is an important joker which also needs to be brought into the picture from the very beginning, and that is that these reductions can be achieved not only without harming the economy or quality of life for the vast majority of all people. To the contrary sustainable transport reform can be part of a 21st century economic revival which places increased emphasis on services and not products.

2. Tighten time frame for action: Select and gear all actions to achieve visible results within 2-4 year time frame. Spend at least 50%, preferably 80% of all your transportation budget on measures and projects that are going to yield visible results within this time frame. Set firm targets for all to see and judge the results. No-excuse transport policy.

3. Reduce traffic radically. The critical, incontrovertible policy core of the Agenda -is BIG percentage cuts in vehicle miles traveled. If we don’t achieve this, we will have a situation in which all the key indicators will continue to move in the wrong direction. But we can cut traffic and at the same time improve mobility. And the economy. That’s our new mobility strategy.

4. Extend the range, quality and degree of integration of new mobility services available to all: A whole range of exciting and practical new service modes is needed if we are to keep ou
r cities viable. And they need to COMBINE to offer better, faster and cheaper mobility than the old car-intensive arrangements or deficit-financed, heavy, old-technology, traditional public transit. We need to open up our minds on this last score and understand that rather than being stuck in the past with a 19th century version of how “common people” best get about, it is important to move over to a new paradigm of a great variety of ways of providing shared transport mediated in good part by 21st-century information communications technologies.

5. Packages of Measures: As distinguished from the old ways of planning and making investments what is required in most places today are carefully interlinked “packages” of numerous small as well as larger projects and initiatives. Involving many more actors and participants. One of the challenges of an effective new mobility policy will be to find ways to see these various measures as interactive synergistic and mutually supporting projects within a unified greater whole. A significant challenge to our planners at all levels

6. Design for women: Our old mobility system was designed by, and ultimately for, a certain type of person (think about it!). And so too should the new mobility system: but this time around it should be designed to accommodate specifically women, of all ages and conditions. Do that and we will serve everybody far better. And for that to happen we need to have a major leadership shift toward women and, as part of that, to move toward full gender parity in all bodies involved in the decision process. It’s that simple.

7. The shifting role of the car: State-of-the-art technology can be put to work hand in hand with the changing role of the private car in the city in order to create situations in which even car use can be integrated with a far softer edge into the overall mobility strategy . These advantages need to be widely broadcast so as to increase acceptance of the new pattern of urban mobility. The new mobility environment must also be able to accommodate people in cars, since that is an incontrovertible reality which will not go away simply because it would seem like an ideal solution. We are going to have plenty of small and medium-sized four-wheel, rubber tired, driver-operated vehicles running around on the streets of our cities and the surrounding regions, so the challenge of planners and policymakers is to ensure that this occurs in a way which is increasingly harmonious to the broader social, economic and environmental objectives set out here.

8. Full speed ahead with new technology: New mobility is at its core heavily driven by the aggressive application of state of the art logistics, communications and information technology across the full spectrum of service types. The transport system of the future is above all an interactive information system, with the wheels and the feet at the end of this chain. These are the seven-league boots of new mobility

9. Play the “infrastructure joker”: The transport infrastructures of our cities have been vastly overbuilt. And they are unable to deliver the goods. That’s just great, since it means that we can now take over substantial portions of the street network for far more efficient modes.

10. Frugal economics: We are not going to need another round of high cost, low impact investments to make it work. We simply take over 50% of the transport related budgets and use it to address projects and reforms that are going to make those big differences in the next several years.

11. Partnerships: This approach, because it is new and unfamiliar to most people, is unlike to be understood the first few times around. Hence a major education, consultation and outreach effort is needed in each place to make it work. Old mobility was the terrain in which decisions were made by transport experts working within their assigned zones of competence. New mobility is based on wide-based collaborative problem solving, outreach and harnessing the great strengths of the informed and educated populations of our cities. Public/private/citizen partnerships.

12. Pick winners: New approaches demand success. There is no margin of error. So choose policies and services with track records of success and build on their experience. (And there are plenty of them out there if you are prepared to look and learn.)


Where to from here
?

To move ahead in time to save the planet and improve life quality of the majority of the people who live in our cities — no, they are not all happy car owner/drivers; get out there and count them; you’ll see — we need to have a fair, unified, coherent, and memorable strategy.

There may be other ways, better ways one would hope, of facing this emergency. If so we are ready to learn, let us hear from you. This is the challenge to which World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda are addressed.

Eric Britton, Editor, World Streets, Paris, France

Op-Ed: On encouraging car-users to leave their cars behind

On encouraging car-users to leave their cars behind

– Bina C. Balakrishnan, Transportation Planning and Engineering, Mumbai *

Mumbai is encouraging car- users to leave their cars behind for the commute to work, through parking initiatives.

Currently over 90% of the parking demand is met by on-street parking, which is either free or very nominally charged. A parking policy has been worked out, where there will be NO free parking and all parking will be charged –the concept of “Universal Pay & Park”. These rates will gradually be raised so as to be reflective of the real estate values of the locality- after all, a car is a personal property that is using public space for a period of time!

All residential parking demand is also met on-street, with resultant loss of carriageway capacity throughout the road network. In order to release this space for community use such as pedestrian movement or movement of traffic, the concept of “Parking Facilities” is being introduced. These will be off- street parking areas (under ground, multi-storied, or on in-frequented side lanes), with add–on features such as basic maintenance / repair facilities, valet drivers, car wash services- all under the charge of a registered contractor who will be fully responsible for the safety of the car. The entire facility can be monitored by CCTV, and connected to the Police network as well as the Internet, so that both the Police as well as owners can ensure that vehicles are not being misused. It thus becomes more attractive to park in these facilities rather than on- street.

Also, given the security concerns today, the parking concessionaire and his staff can be trained as “Neighbourhood Watch”, providing assistance to the locality if required, as well as supplementing the Police in their work, forming the lowest tier in the security set-up.

Additionally, on-street parking on all arterial roads is banned, and off-street parking facilities have been recommended in commercial areas also. The owner makes a call to the facility nearest his destination just as he is approaching, and valet drivers will be dispatched to pick up and drop off the cars.

Multi-storied parking is also being provided near train stations, connecting them through Skywalks to the train platforms, in order to encourage Park- and-Ride trips.

The road width thus released could be reallocated, and used for an exclusive bus lane on arterial roads, or to increase the width of pedestrian pathways, which are almost non- existent in Mumbai.

Reference:

http://www.visionmumbai.org/images/projects/report_parking%20issues.pdf
http://www.binabalakrishnan.com/transport.htm

Mrs. Bina C. Balakrishnan, binac@rediffmail.com
Transportation Planning & Engineering
Mumbai, India

* 28 April 2009. Mrs. Balakrishnan is the one hundredth concerned citizen to join the informal World Streets Sentinels program (Eyes on the Street) since its inception on 2 April 2009. Click to http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2009/03/world-streets-correspondents.html for map showing the latest listings. Are you ready to be the 101st?