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555re WorldTransport Forum Sustainable transportation in tongues was Fwd: Re: [Kyoto2020] Express toll roads + More on

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  • Michael Yeates
    Jan 31, 2006
      Dear Eric and others battling for a better world,

      I note the wonderful effort to describe "sustainable transportation" (ST) and also the interesting comments in the earlier emails (below). My apologies for any double postings but both "topics" are included in the subject line above for those who missed one of them).

      There are two aspects of ST that seem to be particularly elusive whether for short or long trips.

      The first is the extent/degree to which the transportation is "sustainable" eg in energy use to name one "measure". But also given the historic role of transport(ation) in encouraging/assisting further development that then requires more transportation which is usually less sustainable (eg cars, planes in particular), surely we need to consider the effects/impacts of transportation on development of towns and cities over time.

      It seems clear that in the not too distant future, rocket trips to the moon and beyond could well be considered as "sustainable" if the ST  definition/description relates primarily to the relative efficiency and/or "necessity" rather than, say, to actual energy consumption eg per person or per kg.

      It would seem that walking or use of human powered vehicles (HPVs) should rank far higher on an ST scale but do they in practice or even in policy?

      This view is supported by the oft-repeated view that "improved" transportation only encourages more use/demand and faster travel induces longer trips ... outcomes which in both cases are arguably not (very) "sustainable" ie global trips by plane of cut flowers ... or people.

      The second consideration then is one I first heard put in a very logical form by Mayer Hillman way back last century (over 10 years ago) in 1995. Hillman questioned the impacts of public transport (which are almost identical to those of dominant car use) being promoted as a viable or useful alternative to reliance on cars (and a similar view applies to trucks etc) rather than promoting walking and cycling.

      The title of Hillman's paper is apt ... "Cycling as the realistic substitute for the car: burying the conventional urban myth about public transport" (Velo-city Conference Basel 1995).

      Thus the real reason for promoting public transport is to do with still catering for the longer, cheaper, more comfortable car-type trips as an alternative to walking or cycling and the impacts they would have.

      This view is now further developed by the notion of carbon use (but other expendables should also be included). As Hillman has pointed out, the per person carbon use for someone (eg me) to fly to the UK from Australia (in that case for a cycling conference!!) is roughly the equivalent per person of the average carbon use for transport for 1-2 perhaps now 3 years in Australia.

      We should never forget that a similar view applies to freight ie per kg.

      So if carefully considered, I have a choice... either I fly to attend a conference in UK once every 1-2 years and use ZERO carbon over that period back here ... or I don't go to the conference. That is the price of a claim for not being even less sustainable!

      Of course I could consider slower modes with much less carbon cost eg like sail powered travel, but unfortunately, to allow more people to travel further and faster, planes have developed rather faster (and with more comfort and convenience and even safety) than sail powered travel.

      So here we have another aspect of ST that does not seem to be considered ... the negative impacts of ST based on other than "natural" or human power.

      So back to the emails below. It seems to me that ST is NOT well described by light rail if the result is trams bursting at the seams with people when many of those trips are induced by cities and towns that have developed in response to faster and further trips by more people.

      I suggest that ST (esp as a "technology" we know currently) really begins with MAXIMUM use of modes with as close as possible (NOT as close as practicable) zero energy expenditure and that the arguments for ST are then much weakened by including high tech non-renewable and carbon/nuclear energy using modes such as public transport (aside from public transport schemes such as Copenhagen's "city bikes" and where the service whether transporting passengers/freight is provided by others using HPVs etc).

      It follows then that walking including human powered vehicles of all types and for all purposes (ie including cycling) must rank far higher as ST than any form of carbon consuming mode (and similarly for nuclear fuel) and in between are the modes fueled/powered by short term renewables including wind, water and sun and possibly, some other "natural" thermal sources.

      Otherwise and perhaps it is inevitable (but then the description of ST should say so), ST will be used to promote modes of transport and development that are far from "sustainable" to the detriment of the modes that are sustainable.

      That is, there is a high risk of repeating the domination of transport(ation) by modes that are just like the car in terms of outcomes and impacts.

      Unlike back in 1907 (nearly 100 years ago!!), we are in a better position to at least question and guard against these types of problems.

      Why 1907?

      Back in 1907 during a debate about introducing a fuel tax, the UK Prime Minister Asquith described the car as "a luxury that is apt to degenerate into a nuisance". In 1907 ...!!

      How true!

      It therefore seems that in trying to describe/promote ST, we should try to ensure that ST does not facilitate similar outcomes to current practices unless they result in "true" ST.

      We should guard against a proliferation of light rail for example if described/promoted as ST when in fact it is really only a "better" solution and questionable alternative to allowing cities to become so congested that the car is such a nuisance it is no longer a luxury and walking and HPVs become not only viable but again a luxury ...!

      Thus, in the interim and in the description of ST, we should all try to ensure ST encourages more walking or cycling or using any other HPV ... and using public transport and the car less... if only to demonstrate and experience ST.

      That way there is at least a chance that public transport won't, like car use, become so dominant that the "true" ST modes are still seen as dangerous, unhealthy, a problem, inconvenient and a nuisance ... to their detriment.

      In other words, should we not at least consider whether, if ST is not the most suitable description/definition, then perhaps another concept is needed in order to keep ST from "becoming" the description/definition of/for transport(ation) that is promoted as sustainable but is increasingly less so to the detriment of the sustainable modes?

      Michael Yeates
      Public Transport Alliance
      Brisbane Queensland Australia .............
      To: Kyoto2020@yahoogroups.com
      From: Anzir Boodoo <ab@...>
      Sender: Kyoto2020@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 22:24:40 +0000
      Subject: Re: [Kyoto2020] Express toll roads + More on

      On 13 Dec 2005, at 14:04, Eric Britton wrote:
      > I love trams by whatever name and feel that indeed they have their 
      > place in and around our cities-- but that is a very specific place 
      > and should not be allowed to be interpreted as the substitute for 
      > sliced bread.
      > What’s wrong with all-light rail in this overall strategic context? 
      > Two things (again in my book):
      > They cost a great deal more than other solutions which can do at 
      > least as good and perhaps a better job in terms of all the basic 
      > parameters that we need to address and meet ­ social, economics (of 
      > individuals and the community as a whole), environmental, resource. 
      > Public health, life quality, community.. .. and of course the long 
      > list goes on.
      Can I offer http://www.trampower.co.uk as a possibility? They've been 
      working on a low cost light rail system that claims to be 
      commercially viable in many cities, and have called upon me to help 
      publicise it.

      Of course, that doesn't deal with the implementation time and the 
      political reluctance to have light rail that we experience in the UK. 
      Systems which very successfully carry huge numbers of people in full 
      to bursting trams are often described as "failing". partly because 
      virtually none of the systems can recoup their huge construction costs.
      Anzir Boodoo MRes MILT Aff. IRO
      transcience, Leeds Innovation Centre, 103 Clarendon Road, LEEDS LS2 9DF

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