72WE CANNOT FIX THE PRESENT SYSTEM!!
- Sep 19, 2001Dear Friends,
This last good observation on Sustran from Kisan Mehta on pedicabs,
riskhsaws, et al has been haunting my mailbox for the last several days as I
have been scratching my head and trying to figure out how I might somehow
usefully in this matter. Here is my best quick stab for now with the
following proviso: you all know the old saw that to a man with a hammer all
problems look like nails. So you may find that the ideas that follow may
suffer from this syndrome as well.
Lets take a minute and see if we can at least figure out a couple of
important things that we know and them maybe a few others that we dont
but perhaps should:
Item 1: Pedicabs, riskhsaws, motorized or not, bicycles and all that stuff
with only a couple of wheels and often motors have to be THE wrinkle in the
terrible conundrum of sustainable transport in Third World cities that put
it in an entirely different league from what we are seeing in the so-called
West. And this is of course not even to mention the further complications
of animal drawn transport.
Item 2: There is no clear model (known to me) that shows how (if at all)
they should be integrated into the global transportation system, which
should be sustainable, should be socially just, and probably should also
have some place for other transport forms as well.
Item 3: We know that car-based systems of the kind that without any doubt
underlay the root thinking of most transport policy makers in the Third
World, and their first world advisors and bankers, are clearly NOT the
Item 4: But we also know for a fact that this car-based model (which of
course includes and defines by default the space available for its poor
cousin public transport or mass transport cousins) is the one that is in
place -- and which now somehow needs to be dislodged.
Okay, I admit. Up to now I have said absolutely nothing original on this or
anything that you all do not know full well. But if we look at it in this
light and if we further bear in mind that those four points only start a
list of many others which all head uniformly in the same direction it does
suggest one thing. AND THAT IS THAT WE CANNOT FIX THE PRESENT SYSTEM.
Hmm. Now that to my mind is a kind of interesting statement, because,
barren though it might at first seem, it does in fact contain the seeds of
what might be our eventual answer. Let me toss out a few ideas that might
possibly feed your own and better thoughts on all this:
a. The cars have to come out. This requires a program of street space
shifts which probably should be deliberately spread out over say a two or
four year period, at the end of which something like 90% of all private cars
are removed from the city traffic stream. (In a democracy or something that
wishes to pass for such, this should really not be unachievable since nine
out of ten or nineteen out of twenty or more households simply dont have
own cars in the first place.
b. The traditional modes HAVE to be integrated into the solution set, not
just as minor add-ons or barely acceptable perverse artifacts of the past,
but as central elements of the sustainable transportation system. Like the
Critical Mass people, they can rightfully claim that they are not
obstructing traffic they ARE traffic! (And the justifications for this
are so many and so well known to this group that I need not try even to
c. This leaves the question about how do all of the richer folks get around
in the brave new world of sustainability and there we have some
interesting answers. By deregulating the field, we can expect that a whole
number of new entrepreneurs will emerge who are ready and able to provide
first class non-car transport (i.e., based on multiple occupancy with
variations) using vehicles of quite some range of sizes and types (and
prices). Think of these new systems as the logistical variation of say
mobile phones as opposed to the old POTS networks.
d. What about so-called public transport and its many variations? Well,
to my way of thinking that is just part of the puzzle, and certainly where
one has a well working pt system there is every reasons to maintain and
improve it. Moreover, the sort of things that we are seeing with the
TransMilenio in Bogota and the Curitiba busway system are surely going to
emerge as an important part of this new world of city transport. But that
said, we know for sure that they too only respond to one part of the much
Lets assume for the moment that this is a pretty good list and analysis of
the situation, where, if it is true, does it leave us? Well, I guess it
suggests that we are or at least should be searching for an entirely new
model, and that this is the only way out there by which we can break the
impasse. So, if all we do is continue to build another fly-over here,
another new bus lane there, clean up a few engines over there, and even one
of your wonderful three billion dollar all bells and whistles metros that
will solve who knows whose problems in maybe half a generations time . .
that inevitably all this will add up not to nothing, but to a situation
which will continue to go from bad to worse.
Well, if we do know that, and if we can organize and get some strong
agreement on that from say one thousand of the leading thinkers and
practitioners in the field before we all die of old age (or asphyxiation),
then maybe we have a running start on a new world of transport policy and
practice. And of course what would be great about this is that the West
will be able to look on and learn enough maybe even to save itself.
Do we have a discussion here? Or an action program as we managed to have
for Bogota? And if so, what next?
With all good wishes,
The @New Mobility Forum is permanently at http://newmobility.org
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