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Benefits of slowing the motorisation process

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  • geobpa@nus.edu.sg
    ... From: Paul Barter [mailto:geobpa@nus.edu.sg] Sent: Thursday, 7 June 2001 5:45 AM To: ShellComments@NewMobility.org Subject: Benefits of slowing the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2001
      -----Original Message-----
      From: Paul Barter [mailto:geobpa@...]
      Sent: Thursday, 7 June 2001 5:45 AM
      To: 'ShellComments@...'
      Subject: Benefits of slowing the motorisation process

      Dear friends and colleagues

      I would like to suggest that explicitly slowing down or delaying
      motorisation is one policy that can help cities to achieve a successful
      transition as they become wealthier and find a rising proportion of
      residents can afford private motor vehicles.

      Of course, I am not saying this is the only thing cities need to do but
      slowing the motorisation process seems to have had a powerful effect in a
      number of cities that I have looked at so far. Accordingly, efforts to find
      or demonstrate efficient and politically acceptable ways to slow or delay
      motorisation could be an important focus for the new Shell Foundation
      transport centre.

      My comments below are suggested by my research which looked at comparisons
      of the transport histories of a number of Asian cities in particular. My
      working hypothesis, which is one of the arguments in my 1999 PhD thesis at
      ISTP in Murdoch University and in a paper in preparation, goes roughly as

      There seems to be a common feature of a number of cities that have been
      relatively successful in maintaining a range of viable modes of urban
      transport (in other words, some degree of "balance" in their transport

      A number of such cities managed to slow down or delay the motorisation
      process to some extent (and in some cases also restrained motor vehicle
      usage) as incomes rose. Even when this was not done for urban transport
      reasons, it seems to have allowed such cities to "buy time". It gave them
      breathing space in which they were able to enhance their ability to cope
      with cars and to enhance the quality of the competitors to private motorised
      modes. For example, in these cities public transport was able to retain the
      middle class as customers in greater numbers and for a longer period during
      the era of motorisation. This often allowed public transport to remain
      viable and to actually play a role in catering to rising aspirations for
      mobility by improving services gradually (in some cases dramatically).

      In the successful cases I have examined, the effort to slow or delay
      motorisation began at a rather low level of private vehicle ownership
      (usually much less than 100 vehicles per 1000 people). In a number of
      important cases, such private vehicle restrain began well before any
      high-quality or high-capacity rail mass transit existed (even if the promise
      of such investments was sometimes part of the political selling of the

      Examples include:
      - Singapore (slowed motorisation from the early 1970s when private vehicle
      ownership had begun to surge upwards), Hong Kong (restraint of motorisation
      from early 1970s) and Seoul (very early restraint of motorisation based on
      macro-economic strategy that discouraged consumer spending and borrowing.
      this was only relaxed in the mid 1980s). In each of these three cases, most
      investment in high-capacity mass transit systems came many years after the
      onset of restraint.

      - Japanese cities (like Korea, very early restraint of motorisation based on
      macro-economic strategy that discouraged consumer spending and borrowing.
      This was relaxed slightly from the 1960s onwards, by which time large
      Japanese cities had established high rail-oriented transport patterns)

      - arguably western European countries (and cities) effectively slowed the
      motorisation process (when compared, for example, with places like North
      America, Australia or New Zealand). Even if it was not at first a deliberate
      urban transport policy, relatively high fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, and other
      vehicle-related costs in most of western Europe helped to make motorisation
      in Europe occur somewhat later and less explosively than it otherwise would
      have. Most large European cities already had extensive rail systems by the
      motorisation era. But in some cases, large investments in rail did not occur
      until at least the 1950s (eg Stockholm, Vienna) and may have been 'derailed'
      had motorisation been earlier and more explosive than it was.

      I would argue that the slowing of motorisation in these cities may be an
      important factor explaining the fact that they now generally have higher use
      of public transport and non-motorised transport and lower use of private
      motor vehicles relative to other cities of similar income levels in which
      motorisation was never deliberatly slowed down.

      As has been argued by many people, efforts to restrain motorisation or
      private vehicle use are likely to be most politically acceptable when the
      revenues raised are clearly targetted at improvements within the transport
      arena, especially at the alternatives and competitors for private vehicles.
      In cities with low motorisation these transfers are almost always
      progressive, since only the richest households own private vehicles. The
      equity issue becomes slightly more complicated as motorisation progresses,
      which is another reason why it is a good idea to start early.

      There may be other possible routes to successful, and relatively less
      unsustainable, urban transport. But the slowing of motorisation seems to be
      a policy which makes the task of moving in the right direction much easier.
      I believe it needs to be considered very carefully by all countries and
      cities that are currently on the edge of or in the midst of the early stages
      of mass motorisation.

      I hope this helps or is food for thought at least.


      Dr Paul A. Barter
      Visiting Fellow, Department of Geography
      National University of Singapore
      1 Arts Link, Singapore 117570
      Tel: +65-874 3860; Fax: +65-777 3091
      E-mail: geobpa@...
      (I'm also known as A Rahman Paul Barter)

      I do not speak for NUS or for the Geography Department.

      PS I am still volunteer contact point for SUSTRAN Network information
      services http://www.geocities.com/sustrannet

      But for all other SUSTRAN Network matters contact the NEW SECRETARIAT:
      Dr Bambang Susantono and Ms Moekti H. Soejachmoen
      Sustainable Transport Action Network for Asia and the Pacific (SUSTRAN
      c/o Pelangi Indonesia, Jl. Danau Tondano No. A-4,
      Jakarta 10210, Indonesia.
      Tel. +(62 21) 573 5020, 571 9360
      Fax +(62 21) 573 2503
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