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[@ccess] Negative thoughts on metro in general (and on from there)

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  • eric.britton@ecoplan.org
    Ain t this a grand discussion? If you take the time to pull out and review the entire range of comments thus far received, as I have, you will I think find a
    Message 1 of 6 , Mar 11, 2000
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      Ain't this a grand discussion? If you take the time to pull out and review
      the entire range of comments thus far received, as I have, you will I think
      find a number of interesting and useful insights, and questions, on which to
      build and hone your own views and choices on these matters. And since the
      people on these lists are among the most important sources in the world of
      advance thinking, counsel and decision support on the issues, this is, I
      believe, a useful exercise indeed.

      And if we are in fact moving toward a new paradigm of transport in cities
      (which is where I think this is going), I guess it would not be out of place
      if I chip in with a few more observations, building in part on the
      communications that have thus far come in:

      1. One of the more interesting points been made here is the call for
      understanding our mobility options in cities as not some sort of
      archi-limited bipolar choice ("public" vs. "private' transport or nothing),
      but that we need instead to think in terms of the full "mobility spectrum",
      behind which in turn there are a wide range of institutions, ownership and
      entrepreneurial matters. Indeed, if we look around we can see that in many
      places one of the main enemies of better transport in cities has been the
      doctrinaire insistence that the only alternative to the private car is what
      roughly amounts to soviet-style (read rudimentary, costly and uncompetitive)
      "administered, deficitory public transport". May I suggest that as we take
      apart the results of the Bogotá Car Free Day experiment, and then try to
      piece it back together again via this collective process, we will see some
      pretty important evidence in support of the idea of getting a lot better at
      "in between" transport, such as new uses of "taxis", colectivos, vans,
      shared vehicles of many kinds, etc.

      2. And may I insist on the importance of the new technology vector here?
      Most of us who have been educated to the transport field in the past tend to
      think in terms of boxes on wheels and their associated physical
      infrastructure. But transport in cities in the future is going to be, above
      all, an information-led sector which, in fact, is the only way that we are
      ever gong to be able to make our systems sustainable. However, when we begin
      to take that into consideration our whole original frame of reference
      collapses and an entire new range of issues and choices emerge. Thank God!

      3. I hope that we are pretty much agreed that the basic argument here is not
      that we need to close down the London or Hong Kong metros, but rather to be
      sure that we are 100% rational, informed and unbiased when it comes to
      understanding how best to spent the NEXT BILLION DOLLARS that we may be able
      to get our hands on in City X. If you can make the argument for spending
      that on a metro over the counter arguments that the smartest and best
      informed of the people on this list, well then bravo! Do it! (But you
      won't be able to. It's that simple. So, as we say so demurely: "Goodbye to
      (new) metros.")

      4. "Cooking the numbers:" We would certainly like to thank Duarte for
      reminding us about this important point. When it comes to mega transport
      projects, especially those which are to be funded one way or another by
      public sector institutions and their main partners and sources of counsel
      (who, let us remind ourselves, are by and large playing with someone else's
      money), there is a lot of cooking and recooking that goes on. Nor is this
      always in the interest of truth or the public interest. Caveat emptor.

      5. If not metros, what then? Since we now know (a) that cars do not work in
      cities, including foremost among other grounds for simple reasons of
      geometry, (b) that Parkinson's Law of Transport in Cities will see to it
      that demand will always expand first to fill and then to overfill the supply
      of available infrastructure (until such time that the city just finally
      gives up and dies, that is), and (c) that even if we spend that billion
      dollars on our new metro that the Law will continue to prevail on the
      streets of the city, it strikes me that the first step is to decide to face
      the problems where they exist today, rather than try to run away from this
      cruel and unrelenting reality and try to bury them somehow, for what we know
      will be a few years at best.

      6. This means that we have to face the facts and learn to work better, much
      better, with what we have by way of our (transport's) share of the total
      urban real estate in each place. Now, if such a challenge may come as
      something of a disappointment to people and institutions who have long
      believed that the correct course was to try to build your way out of the
      problem, it nonetheless opens up a huge range of areas of innovation and
      management which are new, exciting, different and potentially enormously
      powerful tools in the interest of sustainability. Perhaps the most
      difficult challenge comes at the very beginning here, as people and
      institutions who have been trained to think and act in one way need to learn
      to readjust their sights and tools. Fortunately their analytic and other
      skills are going to be critical to the conversion process, so it's not like
      being a 50 year old coal miner with no apparent place in the economy to go.
      All those good traffic engineering and planning skills are gong to be even
      more important, and more challenged, in our new transportation environment
      of the 2000's.

      For those of us who are concerned with matters of sustainability and
      transport in cities, these are hugely exciting times. Unless of course we
      choose to continue to burrow our way out of the sunlight and reason.

      Yours in ready compromise,

      Eric Britton


      P.S. SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT REFERENDUM IN SWITZERLAND: Tomorrow, March 12, is
      the day of the vote. The call is for government and its agencies there to do
      whatever is needed to decrease motorized vehicle kms in the region by 50%
      over the course of the next ten years. The target area is the entire Swiss
      Confederation, the cantos, and the communes. For details see
      http://www.actif-trafic.ch/. Whether this public initiative makes it or not
      (Light a candle!), we propose that the results be carefully scrutinized in
      these various discussions groups and fora, in the hope that we can learn the
      lessons of this important experience in activist democracy (as opposed to
      the administered brand that so many seem to prefer... see de Tocqueville for
      further clarification on this one).




      ecopl@n ___ technology, economy, society ___
      Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara, 75006 Paris, France
      Eric.Britton@... URL www.ecoplan.org
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    • eric.britton@ecoplan.org
      Dear Colleagues, In 1972 or thereabouts a referendum was held in Zurich in an attempt to get public confirmation for a planned new metro project there. The
      Message 2 of 6 , Mar 18, 2000
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        Dear Colleagues,

        In 1972 or thereabouts a referendum was held in Zurich in an attempt to get
        public confirmation for a planned new metro project there. The expert
        proposal, despite strong political backing, was not approved by the
        electorate, with results that we all now know.

        My question to you this morning is this: Can anyone out there point us to
        some links or email us some materials that tell this interesting story.
        Truth is, I received a Ford Foundation grant back then to look at a trio of
        failed transportation initiatives (the others were the Third London Airport
        and the proposed Voie Express Rive Gauche here in Paris) and wrote up a
        pretty good report on it, but in my cosmic disorganization I can find no
        trace of all our hard work.

        Kind thanks if you come up with anything on this.

        With all good wishes,

        Eric Britton

        ecopl@n ___ technology, economy, society ___
        Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara, 75006 Paris, France
        Eric.Britton@... URL www.ecoplan.org
        Voice/Videoconference +331.4441.6340 (1-4)
        Voicemail/Fax hotline: Europe +331 5301 2896
        Voicemail/Fax hotline: North America +1 888 522 6419 (toll free)
      • Eric Bruun
        Eric Britton, et.al: It seems pretty paradoxical to me that as the world supposedly gets wealthier, and cities get larger, that the justification for Metros
        Message 3 of 6 , Mar 21, 2000
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          Eric Britton, et.al:

          It seems pretty paradoxical to me that as the world supposedly gets
          wealthier, and cities get larger, that the justification for Metros
          gets more difficult? What would you suggest for Athens if the decision
          to invest was being made today if not a metro? Eric Bruun
        • eric.britton@ecoplan.org
          Eric Bruun writes on this date: It seems pretty paradoxical to me that as the world supposedly gets wealthier, and cities get larger, that the justification
          Message 4 of 6 , Mar 22, 2000
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            Eric Bruun writes on this date: "It seems pretty paradoxical to me that as
            the world supposedly gets wealthier, and cities get larger, that the
            justification for Metros gets more difficult? What would you suggest for
            Athens if the decision to invest was being made today if not a metro? Eric
            Bruun "

            Excellent question. I have some slight advantage with this city choice
            having lived and worked there on two occasions for several moths at each
            time. Thanks for asking, Eric. So here's what I'd do. Step by step:

            1. Ask by way of reminder to have in front of us the best estimates of costs
            of the metro project as planned, with of course additional estimates for
            externalities, including the cost to commerce, traffic, etc., of the
            disruptions created by and during the process of construction.

            2. That will yield a number... whatever it is, along with, hopefully, a very
            brief summary of who is going to pay for what and when.

            3. I then will ask for a brief point to point resume (say on 1-3 pages) of
            what are the exact targeted benefits, to whom, when, etc.

            4. I then would put these numbers and short documents before this august
            group for a first set of ideas, reactions, and comments
            .
            5. Then I will move to Athens.

            6. In parallel I will start to work with the budget which I have requested
            and been given - exactly 5% of the estimated total cost (incidentally less
            than the annual interest otherwise paid on the total bill) - and will go to
            work to achieve a substantial proportion of the objectives within the next
            two years (so as to be in time for the Olympics with our new transportation
            infrastructure), along with a whole bunch of objectives and programs of my
            own.

            7. One of my first steps will be to organize a REAL Car Free Day (not to be
            confused with the laconic variants that one sees in some places.. see
            http://www.ecoplan.org/carfreeday/ for more on that) - which will not only
            give ma lot of my policy and investment targets, but which will also give me
            the overwhelming political base I shall need in order to get done what we
            need to do.

            8. I'll put up traffic cams all over the place (say a couple of hundred)
            linked to the Web.

            9. All of this will be posted on the world's best bilingual Web site with
            all details, proposals, progress, etc. available for public information,
            discussion, and international expert comment and feedback.

            10. We'd then also develop the world's best All-Mode Advanced Passenger
            Information System (see our first rough attempt ins Bilbao on this at
            http://www.transbilbao.net)

            Two years later, you'd see world level results and probably 80% of the
            Athenians would want me to run for mayor. Or maybe get the Elgin (or
            Parthenon, to give them their rightful name) Marbles back.

            Or should we just give the money to Bechtel and all go on vacation?

            With all good wishes,

            Eric Britton

            ecopl@n ___ technology, economy, society ___
            Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara, 75006 Paris, France
            Eric.Britton@... URL www.ecoplan.org
            Voice/Videoconference +331.4441.6340 (1-4)
            Voicemail/Fax hotline: Europe +331 5301 2896
            Voicemail/Fax hotline: North America +1 888 522 6419 (toll free)
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