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facing up to distributional disequity

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  • mwigan@vaxc.cc.monash.edu.au
    One of the currently unfortunate aspects of many sustainable transport directions is that the spatially advantaged gain disproportionately form many of the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 28, 2001
      One of the currently unfortunate aspects of many sustainable
      transport directions is that the spatially advantaged gain
      disproportionately form many of the measures. And the spatially
      disadvantaged get more so...

      This is all too obvious in Melbourne (where I live most of the time),
      where the inner city has had a major boom in new (and
      expensive, and generally child unfriendly) units and flats in
      medium high density areas of what is the inner city. This is also
      the location where walking and cycling and public transport is by
      for the best and as a result it is a real option (even without any
      ideological commitment - a very good test of sustainable
      behavior) to give up having a car. this is boosting richer
      income/lower child holding households into improved situations -
      while the outer areas remain, due to their very low densities and
      connections between quite distinct but still adjacent suburbs or
      facilities, the province of high child holding lower income
      households - who are forced into not just one but often two cars
      that they really cant afford. This pattern has been clear for several
      decades, but rationalization of public facilities has increased the
      range that people mulct cover to access key facilities (both in time
      and space). The distances preclude walking and cycling, which are
      are not practical options for the combinations of distance,
      dependent shepherding and nighttime movements (security) as
      well as the basic inability of current public transport to serve such
      areas. Even as close in as 12 km, non-rail-linked major activity centres are
      not accessible (or rather cannot be returned from) after as early as
      6 pm

      None of this is new.

      However the promotion of Portland and Zurich as models seems to
      mysteriously omit the major economic and environmental benefits
      secured by those within the 'sustainable centre'.. and the
      dwelling prices have risen to suit.

      In the longer term there will of course be some adjustments - but
      a longer term that will largely preclude many of the spatially
      disadvantaged now..

      The gap between the vision of a need for changes in city activity
      systems and key activity locations, of housing stocks and
      densities and locations, and the reality of passing through the steps
      and adjustments required to reach them have been severely

      The transitional processes impact on work practices, decades
      long public facility investments, migratory patens and family life
      cycles: on the underemployment of many in a changing economy
      requiring far flung spatial searches for jobs (and thus personal
      transport for all but the favoured few who have spatial advantage
      in their location or lower sunk costs and transfer costs in
      changing it)

      Clearly the purity of the complete sustainable vision is only
      reachable via a series of less than perfect steps. (examples
      include reducing car dependency and lowering energy costs and
      parking area and road space costs) via small motorcycles.. there
      are many other measures that have simply not been assessed in
      terms of effecting the transitional process, in terms of altering
      commitments to a currently unsustainable direction, and in terms
      of the types of vision need to ensure that movement occurs
      without the cost impacting most heavily on spatially and
      economically disadvantaged.

      I would like to see some serious attention paid to these
      issues. transitional maybe, but we are addressing a decades
      long program anyway. with any discount rate at all, however
      small, these costs must weigh heavily in the balance against
      some of the (undercosted) costs of not reaching a sustainable
      state in time...

      It is not just a question of one generation v another, but of the
      factors that must be surfaced to make the movement occur in
      cumulatively the best direction, if not the perfect one. the
      accumulated costs and gains in each year are as real to many
      as the costs if we do not reach a sustainable endpoint!

      There are catalytic conceptual issues that need to be worked
      upon in several disciplines

      Even such a simple issue as costing unpaid work (an obvious
      shortfall in transport assessment since the early work in time use
      in transport done after Szalai, and which I participated in myself
      in the 1970's) has taken several more decades to get into the
      national accounts of even the first few countries to recognize this
      aspect of gross social product... an in transport the methods of
      time valuation made it clear that this needed to be done for
      coherent and complete evaluations 25 years ago... yet time
      valuations for walking cycling motorcycling are still not treated
      coherently and consistently in evaluations.. let alone other
      actors required for a proper sustainable evaluation accounting
      balance! and as for the age/health access to the 'sustainable'
      modes by age group, this sees to have entirely eluded many
      polemicists in the area..

      There are remarkably few fundamental disagreements on the
      need for a sustainable human environment, but the means of
      defining what these are and how to assess the balance of
      advantage or otherwise are still not coherently treated in the now
      all-important the transitional processes, policies, instruments
      and adaptations needed for and more sustained and less
      ideologically-driven attention to broaden the base of the
      community understanding and professional appraisals in all the
      affected fields.. and to inform the redistribiutional actions and
      investments essential to allow a fair distribution of the present
      costs (and indeed benefits) of these movements in the
      sustainable direction.

      This transitional area is one that Shell could validly invest in to its
      own shareholders advantage as well the goals and practical
      realization of sustainability.

      Marc Wigan
      TRi Napier University Scotland
      Oxford Systematics Australia
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