1633"Or, practices for which we are struggling to find appropriate justification'
- Jul 20, 2011
I find that there is great good sense in this counsel from Paul Minett in the context of our on-going Worst Practices exchanges and examples -- and I definitely agree that it needs to be put up close to our main title (which I am utterly loatch to abandon).
Thank you Paul.
From: Paul Minett [mailto:paulminett@...]
Sent: Wednesday, 20 July, 2011 02:21
To: 'eric britton'
Subject: RE: [sustran] A very short list of very bad practices
Perhaps the title should not be 'worst practices' or even 'bad practices'
but 'practices for which we are struggling to find appropriate
justification'. That would enable you to move the item to a different
classification when (if) it turns out that they had a good plan all along.
64 21 289 8444
On Behalf Of eric britton
Sent: Tuesday, 19 July 2011 9:03 p.m.
I received a fair number of communications both on and off-line and I find
them interesting, challenging, and generally very encouraging. But at the
same time I am made aware of the fact that I have most probably not
communicated the basic goal behind this project, so let me see if I can now
clarify a bit.
For starters, this is not a witch hunt. It is not my interest to castigate
or humiliate any project or group behind it. Life is complex and filled
with all kinds of internal contradictions, and moreover the kinds of
projects and policies that concern us here tend to be in process, in
constant evolution and adaptation, until that is the day comes in which they
close down forever. That of course is the time to do a postmortem. But in
our particular case here is my guess that we will be sharing information on
projects in process, so let us make sure that we (that I) do not give up on
possible adaptations and improvements that may well be in process,
And if the usual ambitious goal of Best Practices surveys and inventories is
to get out there and capture quite a large number of attractive and
instructive projects, it is not at all the case in our own modest Worst
Practices mini project. What I am looking for is one or two handfuls of
outstanding from examples which we can learn. Yesterday's article in World
Streets on the Los Angeles Interstate 405 road widening project is a good
case in point. Let us take a minute to have a look at it together:
Exemplary Strong points: (Always a good place to start since our goal is to
see if we can have a balanced understanding of what is going on and what may
have gone wrong.)
. Caltrans and the other players involved in this project are
extremely good at what they do.
. Not only are they world level performers when it comes to creating
the planning and engineering standards to make a project like this work, but
they also, in partnership with other players, consistently manage to do a
fine job of bringing their projects in to standard and on time.
. For those of us familiar with driving in LA, we can testify on an
almost daily basis the manner in which the road crews get their job done,
often within minutes of the plan and clean up the mess so that the traffic
can start to roll. ("The cones are up.")
Exemplary weak points and commentary:
1. Oh dear. It is after all 2011 and if we have learned one thing about
sustainable and on sustainable transportation over the last decades, it is
that any project which extends the capacity of the infrastructure to carry
yet more moving motor vehicles is a definite Worst Practice strategy.
2. The concept of creating HOV lanes in the place of what went before is in
theory an excellent one, but in practice is often watered down and abused in
a number of ways. (Maybe somebody can explain to me in a convincing manner
why electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles should be allowed with a single
passenger on to HOV, and while I am ready to listen and whether you can pull
a rabbit out of a hat that I have ever seen, I most doubtful that you will
convince me or any other experienced independent observer.)
3. The articles' authors commentary concerning the limitations of
carpooling as presently practiced in the region is, according to my best
information, right on target. Does this mean, however, that HOV lanes are
not part of the solution? Not at all! But what it does mean is that the
old ideas about how to do this need to be brought up to date. So, if we
were to think about it from this perspective, here we have a situation in
which there is what looks like a potentially excellent hardware solution
(i.e., converting portions of the existing road infrastructure to HOV lanes)
needs to have better complementarity in terms of software and operations.
4. So, to summarize, they failed to do the whole job. We have at the base
of this project a good idea, well executed on the hardware side -- other
than the fact that the project team made the old and now well known error of
actually increasing infrastructure capacity for cars -- while for the rest
they simply fail to give attention to the most important part of all --
i.e., how to get more people into fewer cars with improved mobility and
improved quality of life. Basically they were taking an old mobility
approach to a problem/opportunity that required new mobility strategic
That is my take on this as an example of the sort of thing that I would like
to see in our modest shared Worst Practices inventory and commentary. I am
sure that a number of you will come in and do more and better, at least I
hope so. But my reason for sharing this with you this morning is that I
wish to offer this is an example of the kind of project analysis and
commentary that I believe can help us to better organize our ideas and be
better prepared for future initiatives and opportunities.
I look forward to hearing from you either personally or here with your
views, objections, and eventually your ideas and suggestions on the basic
concept here namely , that of setting out to create a collaborative, open,
independent Worst Practices inventory and commentary.