Re: [sustran] Re: Transport governance is also one such area which isnotwell-researched.
- I have been reading the works of Elinor Ostrom, this year's winner of the
Nobel Prize for Economics. Ironically, she is a political scientist. But
her ideas may help here.
She studies CPRs, or Common Pool Resources, all in the natural domain:
oceans, fish stocks, forests, rivers/streams. Her point is that localized
goverance institutions do a better job than formal
state/national/international ones removed from the interplay of the parties
sharing the resources. Her writing, and that of a growing community of
academics, touches on game theory, social-capital writings, economics
(informal economies), and anthropology.
But she doesn't look at 'modern' sharing, except for the 'knowledge commons'
(publishing and the internet).
But transportation -- and the continuous public right-of-way system that
front on all properties -- is a shared space for human activity (along with
a fair amount of activity of other species, e.g., road kill). The growth in
demand for automobiles and the two-wheeled motorized units represent a
break-down in the sharing of this most important spacial system. That these
units are privately owned, vs. a pool of vehicles that are accessed only
when needed (carsharing, bike-sharing, and even the new Peugeot "mu" system,
just announced) makes it even worse, making parking of them as much or more
of a problem for cities, as driving them. They become very inefficienty
used, and their high ownership forces owners to use them more than
necessary. And the accountability needed for safety has totally broken
down, with drivers claiming a 'right to privacy' whenever technology is
suggested as a measure/remedy.
We need to think of our project as the rebuilding the commons of these
rights-of-way. We need to focus on access not mobility, as the former
focuses on the trip to _minimize_ of footprint of each; while mobility tries
to _maximize_ the total units of distance traveled by each users, making
speed a personal value that ruins the sharing that is natural to a commons.
Before we point a finger at officials who we claim don't get it, we need to
be better ourselves at getting to the basis of our task. It is not just
that transportation has to be viewed as a single system, but at the way
transportation coexists in these ROWs and the other functions that occur
there, and are equally important for human ecology.
I see a much stronger need for local governance units having a role in the
utilization of the ROWs, and their natural bias toward satisfying short,
slow trips, and transit for slightly longer ones. The history of
transportation (a word that arrived with the nation-state and formal
economics) is one of what Ostrom et al. call "coarser" scales of governance
imposing their bias towards faster, more formal travel over the 'riff-raff'
(their term) of local commerce/movement/access.
Unfortunately, by discussing this at an international scale, we probably
impose the 'coarse' scale onto our thinking.
Thank you very much Dave and Chris for those fine comments. My role was simply to light a fire, and I would very much hope that others of you will pitch in. This is such an important subject, not so much for throwing rocks at hapless politicians and administrators, but far more important seeing perhaps a bit better what we can do to influence or create a better process of decision making and governance.
And if some recent events in India were the immediate inspiration that got the ball rolling, we can easily find plenty of outrageous examples in other places, including of course in our own backyards.
We get the quality of government that we create.
So I hope there will be more commentary on this. I for one await it with real interest.
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