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Fwd: Re: WorldTransport Forum "The Future Intelligent Transport Systems initiative" - one more short-sighted interest-fed government-industry boondoggle

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  • Michael Yeates
    It appears some on these lists may not have received the following ... ... It appears some on these lists may not have received the following ... Date: Wed, 11
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 13, 2006
      It appears some on these lists may not have received the following ...

      Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 10:15:31 +1000

      Apologies for any duplicate addresses .... also please forward to Sustran-discuss@... ....

      Thanks Andrew and Eric ...

      This is what we should be discussing ... not just future technologies and 40 year horizons (eg the Foresight obesity project) but CURRENT applications and evaluation of interventions that were last year's "future" solutions ... but were never able or allowed to "hit the road" in terms of trials, demonstrations, short term evaluations, and then, iterative feedback and longer term evaluation, etc.

      And in addition, surely the focus on transporting goods and people while essential is "back to front" ..? Surely there is a need to address NOT transporting people and goods (as far or as easily)?

      This is one reason why Mayer Hillman's efforts re carbon are so important even if Greenhouse gas effects, or global warming or oil supply peaks or depletion are problematic. Is there much point in being technologically and scientifically advanced but still deciding to take the risk?

      Perhaps then a bigger question is why do "we" waste these "valuable" but expendable resources and 'create' costly 'waste' from them ... whether in building roads, destroying farmland or forests or fishing, or by fueling more and more cars, trucks, buses and trains?

      Two examples (as illustrative cases).

      1. Why do "we" increase the transport distances rather than reduce them? Is there a limit? In other words, what imperative "drives" the movement of goods and people further and further? Then perhaps ITS might have a role, not as we do it now or talk about it in the future, but in monitoring and perhaps reducing the distance a tomato or a bunch of cut flowers or a person travels and at what FULL cost?

      2. Why do "we" support walking and cycling (arguably efficient and/or "sustainable" modes of transport) but in reality, do almost nothing about making them as "safe+convenient" (a reference to a phrase I use and which might be useful in a GOOGLE search) as travelling by the carbon guzzlers? Indeed why is it that "we" can't even develop simple devices to show road users HOW to "Share the Road" ie with pedestrians and cyclists? Because "we" still have to give priority to the carbon guzzlers? (There might even be a link here to the Foresight obesity project?)

      One example of showing HOW to "Share the Road" has been in use in Brisbane (Australia) for over 10 years and in other places similar concepts for both shorter and longer periods.

      But the "gas guzzler" mentality is so strong that most authorities will automatically reject anything that promotes showing HOW to "Share the Road" in favour of limited pedestrian crossings and for cyclists, "bike lanes or bike paths ... or nothing". Why?
      [Anyone interested in the case is welcome to use phrases like <BFZ>, <yellow BIKE symbol> or add <yeates> to those to search the web]

      But back to ITS. One of the ITS ideas which gets a lot of publicity but little exposure in reality is crash avoidance systems. Why are these not more advanced and available as a "clip on" accessory for any vehicle used on the roads?

      Putting some of the various (admittedly incomplete) views above into the crash avoidance technology concept produces a new way of addressing (I dare not suggest solving) quite a few of the problems where "we" seem unable to implement solutions (and thus show and evaluate outcomes).

      Can you imagine trying to drive something like a "car" fitted with crash avoidance technology in a street or road where cyclists and pedestrians also "Share the Road"? The "car" would be next to useless ... as long as sufficient "people" were around and sufficiently assertive. Wouldn't Critical Mass take on a new meaning and role? Wow?

      My guess though is that while we are building cars that reduce the damage they cause to what "Vision Zero" describes as "soft people",  I am not so sure the crash avoidance systems are being designed to (almost) prevent a "car" to crash into a pedestrian or cyclist.

      Perhaps I'm wrong ... I hope so.

      So in a nutshell, it seems the problem is the process "we" seem to uncritically accept namely the wider community is (almost) excluded from the scoping and early development of the ideas and only brought in when those involved think it is time to do so ... usually well down the development line (thus the Cartesian analogy is fine with me Eric) ... by which time, the project has a life of its own and develops an almost inevitable duality between those in support and those against ... and that of course suits the process, because what better reason to do nothing than to have the community in a brawl over what to do that is new?

      What better than allow the status quo to continue until someone again suggests a new (or sometimes the same) idea?

      Phil Goodwin covered this well in a recent 'one pager' article in LTT about how "induced traffic" keeps getting forgotten ... (other than by those promoting the need for new roads who call the effect "demand").

      So anyone in the UK or Europe or elsewhere want to implement and trial some "old" new ideas with an eye on assessing the outcomes FOR the future instead of continually looking at the future while the status quo continues more or less unchanged ... despite some marginal shifts, and very occasional but not usually radical changes?

      As just one example, anyone want to implement a project to show HOW to "Share the Road" with "soft people"?

      Michael Yeates

      At 05:07 AM 11/10/2006, Andrew Curry wrote:


      I need to declare an interest here before I start to respond: I was one of the futures consultants who worked with the UK Foresight, which is an independent body inside the Department of Trade and Industry, to create (with a wide range of stakeholders) the scenarios component of the Intelligent Infrastructure Systems project. All the outputs are now online at www.foresight.gov.uk. I'm responding here personally rather than professionally.

      Full disclosure over. The ITS contracts are only a part of the work being done to develop transport policy in the context of future constraints. The soft systems work which underpins the scenarios (which wasn't done by me) is robust and challenging - and looks at the whole context. A number of the stakeholders and advisers - including some well-respected social scientists - ensured that the agenda of the project was as much about alternatives to mobility as easing/encouraging mobility. Without getting into the detail of the four scenarios of themselves, at the heart of each of them is a different 'core driver' of transport use and policy; from ICT innovation, to built environment, to high resource cost, to carbon controls/road rationing.

      I also know, through my work (and therefore can't say much more) that the Department of Transport is engaging with other government departments in the UK to try to develop a cross-government view of future transport policy which extends well beyond the relatively narrow part of the work which was mentioned at the ITS. But the Intelligent Transport Systems Congress isn't really the right place to talk about the other stuff.

      Eric, if you've looked at the scenarios and systems work, and the science summaries, I'm happy to have a debate about whether it covers the right sort of areas. If you haven't, would you like to do that?

      With best wishes

      Andrew Curry

      On 10/10/06, Eric Britton <eric.britton@... > wrote:
      PS: Harsh criticism as this may seem, my goal here is a very positive one. Read on.
      Boondoggle : Hate to say it John but to my mind this is but one more short-sighted interest-fed government-industry boondoggle: in short the winners are once again circling their wagons and gaily divvying up the accumulating spoils while the planet and the well being of ordinary people continue to come under grave attack every day as the establishment continues in all impunity to ignore the real bottom line. Which believe me is not "intelligent" transport systems.
      Oops : The fact that such a program is further interest-driven by members of the academic community, who to my mind should have a far deeper understanding of the gravity of the situation we face in this sector and its many components and spin-offs, is, in its own way, quite grave.  Dear academic colleagues. May I respectfully ask that you step back from this kind of thing until we have made at least some palpable progress on the terrible matters at hand.  Your intellect, skills and energy are much needed on far more important things.
      Syndrome : This is part of a larger syndrome to which we have collectively subscribed without quite realizing it. Namely, our sector has fallen victim to an egregious Cartesian tendency to parcelize the whole into many bits and pieces beyond the limits of any common sense (just look at the organigram of any ministry of transport to see how that works) and then sub-optimize this and that with gay abandon. Thus we have roads and streets that have been optimized through construction and yes! electronics for speed and throughput, when the communities around them have quite a different set of requirements. And what could be a better indication of this than our exchanges of yesterday on the subject of the New York times article  'Delays mire U.S. road project in Aceh '  look at Robert Cowherd's telling comments on this in the morning mails here. (And BTW, can anyone think of a good name for this syndrome?)
      Refocus : The fact is that we are now at a fork in the road, and if there is any one thing that can help us make a choice as to where we are now going to invest our energies and brilliance, it is to the following simple question which to my mind should stand first in line every time any public authority is going to use our hard earned taxpayer money (it's ours, not theirs) to fund stuff that is going to shape the future. "What can be done via this line of action (in their case ITS) so that we can put those technologies to use in THE NEXT TWO TO THREE YEARS TO GET VISIBLE RESULTS AND PATTERNS OF POLICY AND PRACTICE THAT CAN BE REPLCIATED BROADLY AND AT LOW COST WORLD WIDE.  And if your program is not structured to respond to this usefully, then out it goes. We can look at the long term when we have some breathing space. But this is not the situation in October 2006 and will not be surly for the remainder of this decade.
      So off you go Department for Transport, Department of Trade and Industry and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and all your good friends from industry: redline your mandate along these lines and you have something really useful there.  Keep us informed. We too are part of the solution. Work with us on it.
      Eric Britton
      PS2. Dear colleagues. Am I horribly wrong in this? If so it would not be the first time. So let me put it in front of our various peer groups here so that we can get different views on this.
      A radical new approach to funding highly innovative and wide ranging
      research into key long term transport issues was announced yesterday by
      Minister for Transport Stephen Ladyman and Lord Sainsbury, DTI Minister
      for Science and Innovation, at the Intelligent Transport Systems World
      Congress in London .
      The new approach to research is expected to result in far greater
      Advances than simply awarding funding to a single organisation. It will allow a
      small number of consortia with wide ranging expertise to work in
      collaboration to tackle some of the major transport challenges we face
      over the next decade.
      The Department for Transport, Department of Trade and Industry and the
      Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will jointly provide
      £9 million of funding, with a further £3 million expected from industry
      The Future Intelligent Transport Systems initiative is intended to
      stimulate new ideas, concepts, products or services that will:
          * Further improve safety on our roads by reducing collisions,
       casualties and deaths;
          * Result in better, more reliable, accessible and safer public
       transport services;
          * Lead to even greater efficiency in the road freight industry;
          * Improve road network management; and,
          * Provide better travel information, allowing travellers to make
       informed choices on how and when to travel.
      Further details can be found within the call for Expressions of
      Interest to participate, which can be found at:
      < http://www.dti.gov.uk/innovation/tech-priorities-uk/innovation_platforms/page33795.html http://www.dti.gov.uk/innovation/tech-priorities-uk/innovation_platforms/page33795.html
      Jon Maybury
      Innovation Platform Manager
      Intelligent Transport Systems
      Department of Trade and Industry
      Office of Science and Innovation (OSI)
      151 Buckingham Palace Road,

      London SW1W 9SS
      Tel: 0207 215 1196
      Mobile: 07810 558891
      Home Office: 01252 819610
      Email: < mailto:jon.maybury@... jon.maybury@...
      Email (on the move):
      < mailto:jmaybury1@... jmaybury1@...
      Web: < http://www.dti.gov.uk/innovation/tech-priorities-uk/innovation_platfor

      email from Andrew Curry
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