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Re: [WorldCityBike] The Seven Simple Truths of Sustainable Mobility (Come argue with me)

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  • Richard Layman
    It s difficult to argue with you, because you laid out the argument so clearly, succinctly, and cogently. Oftentimes, when people raise the concepts of
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2011
      It's difficult "to argue" with you, because you laid out the argument so clearly, succinctly, and cogently.

      Oftentimes, when people raise the concepts of sustainable transportation, they talk about the advantage of "increasing choices" through investments in walking, biking, and transit infrastructure (and sometimes but not enough, programming).

      Choice is a big hook, and was the big hook used by the Labour Government in the UK on so many issues.  But expanding options doesn't mean that better choices are made, nor does it mean that scarce resources are necessarily used more efficiently and cost effectively.

      I counter that the issue isn't "choice," because given the choice most people will still drive, but that the issue is "optimality" of "throughput" and the cost-effective utilization of (scarce) transportation infrastructure. 

      It's a take off of the point that Jane Jacobs made once when asked about this question.  When someone asked her about congestion and there not being enough capacity, she said something like "you asking the wrong question.  The question isn't 'why aren't there enough roads?' but why are there so many cars?"

      So yep, I consider "sticks" necessary as well as more focused ways of addressing mobility choice through "design" -- both in linking land use and transportation planning policies and in focused transportation demand management planning and implementation systems.

      There is a really good piece in Fast Company magazine that just came out about "Active Design":

      In the U.S., Arlington County, VA (Master Transportation Plan) and Seattle (Urban Mobility Plan) have particularly good transportation plans that focus on optimal mobility and people throughput, instead of a more traditional mobility focus on enabling faster motor vehicle travel through the use of the traditional LOS methodology to justify road expansion projects.

      While Victoria State in Australia is the world leader in focused transportation demand management protocols, Arlington County, VA does a pretty good job in this area, although not exactly how it's done in Victoria, due to budget constraints.  However, at last year's Pro Bike/Pro Walk conference, I was shocked to see a presentation by "little" Whatcom County, Washington, which does TDM programming at the level of what is done in Victoria, working with a consulting firm out of Europe.


      Like many "simple" arguments, there's still a lot of complexity and nuance.

      Richard Layman
      Washington, DC

      --- On Fri, 2/25/11, eric britton <eric.britton@...> wrote:

      From: eric britton <eric.britton@...>
      Subject: [WorldCityBike] The Seven Simple Truths of Sustainable Mobility (Come argue with me)
      To: WorldCityBike@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Friday, February 25, 2011, 3:19 AM


      The Seven Simple Truths  of Sustainable Mobility (Come argue with me)


      Sometimes in life things can be simple. Let's look at one case.


      One of the problems with the hard up-hill fight for "sustainable transport" in cities and countries around the world is that so far everyone seems to have a different definition and a different agenda.  True, there are an enormous range of interests and concerns. Among them such important things as :improving conditions for pedestrians and cycles, car access and parking control, more ridesharing, carsharing, taxisharing, more flexible and responsive public transport services, strategic deployment of economic instruments (to reflect full social costs), BRT, congestion charging, speed reductions, etc. The long list goes on.


      And at the same time there are all those other measures and approaches which claim to fly under the banner of sustainability but which in our view need to be put to tougher and more public tests.  Many of these last call for very large investments of taxpayer money or property, and often considerable lag times before bringing even those benefits to the streets of our cities or indeed the planet.


      So we really do need a unifying  strategy.


      And  if you look hard enough, you will see that there is only one overarching strategy that will do the job.   It works like this:


      Truth 1.             You can't have a sustainable planet without sustainable cities

      Truth 2.             Nor sustainable cities without sustainable mobility

      Truth 3.             The key to sustainable mobility is to ensure that every step, every project, every investment you take will end up by reducing motor vehicle miles or kilometers (VMT, VKT) travelled both in that place and overall.

      Truth 4.             Moreover these reductions have to be achieved strategically, quickly and at scale. (Otherwise it fails the responsibility test.)

      Truth 5.             The policy response involves a strategic combination of carrots and sticks, which will of course be different from city to city and country to country, but even with all the necessary variations the central lines of the strategy will be the same.

      Truth 6.             We know all we need to know about both (a) the sticks (economic, regulatory and other instruments to reduce, sequester and control traffic, etc.) and (b) the carrots (all those other ways of getting around which need in each case to be woven into a mobility system of affordability, enhanced life quality and choice).

      Truth 7.             When you reduce VKT/VMT notably and rapidly through the best available means and proven strategies, here are the main benefits

      a.       You help save the planet: through resource savings and GHG and related emissions reductions

      b.      You proportionally reduce today's crushing dependence of imported fossil fuels


      And in order to achieve these ambitious – but completely doable – goals, you have to open up more choices and better and fairer mobility for all those in and around our cities who are at present NOT well served by the old (20th century dominant) own-car, no-choice  pattern (bearing in mind that this is a majority of all citizens).


      Conclusion: You can't do it with the carrots. And you can't do it without the sticks. We know what they are, so what is hold us back?


      Your turn:


      Eric Britton

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