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2005 WTN Environment Prize Nomination: Restoration Technology in Seoul Korea

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  • Eric Britton
    2005 WTN Environment Prize Nomination: Restoration Technology in Seoul Korea Dear World Transport and UTSG Friends around the world, Last year a number of you
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 18, 2005
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      2005 WTN Environment Prize Nomination:

      Restoration Technology in Seoul Korea


      Dear World Transport and UTSG Friends around the world,


      Last year a number of you joined us in supporting the nomination for the 2004 World Technology Environment Prize of Ken Livingstone and the London team for their pioneering work in making Congestion Charging not just a plea from academics and specialists but a living and vibrant on-street reality that has worked to encourage cities around the world to give serious attention to this important new mobility option.


      This year we are hoping to swing away from the earlier emphasis on North American and European people and projects to demonstrate to the members of the WTN and the international media that follows these events, to innovation in Asia. And with this in mind we have now nominated that Restoration Technology project in Seoul South Korea for this year’s Award.  I attach a Word version of the letter of nomination which I intend to send out formally no later than tomorrow morning, and just to be sure replicate the text just below.


      Against this buckhound I have two short questions/requests for you:  First to invite you to share with us any eventual suggestions that you might have that could improve the quality of this nomination.  And second – and once again – to see if I might encourage you to email to me a very short note indicating your support of this nomination. This information will be communicated to the organizers, and will also appear in the Seoul pages of the WTN 2005 Nominations link that you will spot at the bottom of our left menu for http://kyotocities.org.


      We hope to have you with us.


      Eric Britton



      Copy of draft letter of nomination for comment:


      2005 WTN Environment Prize Nomination:

      Restoration Technology in Seoul Korea



      The Commons: Open Society Sustainability Initiative

      Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara

      75006 Paris, France



      Dear Colleagues and WTN Fellows,


      This is to share with you my nomination for this year’s World Technology Environment  Award (Organizations) for the outstanding pioneering example of applied and real time “Restoration Technology” on the part of an extensive multi-disciplinary team in Seoul Korea under the active leadership of Mayor Lee Myung-Bak.


      The challenge that the city’s leaders have faced, in a nutshell, is that of managing the transition from a hard-pressed city suffering from unthought-out strategies and applications of an ‘old technology’ transportation/public space paradigm (in this case a chaotic combination of an exploding car population and ever growing but not improving road system) to something that draws on a far fuller palette of 21st century technologies and ideas, for  which we propose the phrase ‘Restoration Technologies’.  And since this is such an important issue of world wide dimensions , I am hopeful that we here in the World Technology Network will express our full support of what they have already accomplished and the on-going process which they have engaged.


      *     *     *


      As a fast-growing Asian mega-city, Seoul has seen its share of challenges, as its population increased from 5.4 million inhabitants in 1970 to over 10 million today (with 20 million in the metropolitan area).  During this period the number of motor vehicles has increased by 46 times to nearly 3 million vehicles.  The impacts on traffic congestion, public health, air pollution, and noise have all taken a huge toll on both quality of life and the economy of the city and those who live and work there.


      To face this challenge beginning in 2002, the incoming Mayor Lee Myung-Bak and his team at the Seoul Development Institute embarked on an alternative course of action, to use technology in a way to return the city to people.  The efforts of the Seoul team have centered on three major projects as path-breaking steps in the direction of a new technology, economic and life quality environment:


      1. The Cheonggyecheon restoration (think of this in its way as demand)
      2. Seoul Bus Rapid Transit (which addresses the other side of the coin supply side)
      3. Seoul Digital Media City (the extension of this new way of thinking about technology into the future)


      1.         Cheonggyecheon restoration


      While cities as diverse as Bangkok, Los Angeles, and Mexico City have prioritized the construction of roadways and flyovers, Seoul has decided to do the opposite.  Seoul has demolished an elevated roadway and has set about to restore a central waterway.  Once upon a time the Cheonggyecheon stream was a defining part of Seoul’s environment.  This waterway in fact was one of the reasons that Seoul was selected as the capital of the Joseon Dynasty in 1394. Unfortunately, in the face of modernization, the waterway was covered in 1961 to provide better access for private cars.  By 1968 an elevated expressway provided another layer of concrete erasing the memory of the waterway.


      The Cheonggyecheon project restores 5.8 kilometers of waterway and historical pedestrian bridges, creates extensive green space, and promotes public art installations.  This project, though, is not a tradeoff between economic efficiency and the environment.  Based upon a study by the Seoul Development Institute (2003), the project will produce economic benefits of between 8 trillion and 23 trillion won (US$ ) and create 113,000 new jobs. (You can get a vision of what this is looking like if you click here to <a href=”http://ecoplan.org/graphics/seoul-images.ppt>



      2.         Bus Rapid Transit project


      In support of this public space project and to make Seoul function on a more human scale, and with better economics, the city’s transportation system is at work on a two pronged program (a) to discourage private motorized trips and  (b0 to provide better mobility alternatives.  As of 1 July 2004, the city launched a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that has dramatically improved the quality of public transport.  Over 76 kilometers of median busways were constructed in 2004 (with a plan to expand this to 162.4 kilometers).  Over 5,000 buses have installed GPS tracking technology to ensure improved customer service, and 815 buses have been converted to operate on natural gas.  A smart card system is utilized to allow free transfers to different transit services.


      The BRT corridors have recorded a 26.9% reduction in traffic accidents over its first year of operation.  A single BRT lane carries six times more persons than a mixed traffic lane.  Travel times along the BRT corridors have been reduced by a factor of five.  Most importantly, the BRT system has led to an 11% increase in the use of public transport.


      3.         Seoul Digital Media City


      Finally, Restoration Technology is also the key to the project known as the Seoul Digital Media City.  In the place of a neglected landfill site, the city is transforming this space into a hub of commercial and cultural activity based around the theme of digital technology and media.  Construction on the site began in 2002 and is scheduled to be completed by 2010.  The hazardous and toxic waste on this brownfield site is slowly being converted through natural processes into useful materials, while the entire project is being developed in parallel with the city’s new mobility technologies and approach more broadly.


      These initiatives are only the first steps in Seoul’s Restoration Technology transformation.  The city is currently looking closely at congestion charging and stricter parking controls and the SOA technologies that go with them.  The key to Seoul’s experience has been the application of current generation technologies to create a more human and economically sound city. 


      Leadership and Managing Socio-Technical Change in a Pluralistic Democracy


      Any mayor brave enough (some might say foolish enough) to dare to make a major paradigm change in anything that is as fundamental to people in their day to day lives as the transport system they use in their city, and often suffer from, can be sure in advance of a rough ride indeed.  And this has certainly been the case of the first two prongs of the Seoul Restoration Technology project.


      We only have to go back to the enormous public fuss which went so far as personal attacks and legal challenges that accompanied the program of last year’s winner in this category, Ken Livingstone for his support of the Congestion Charging program in London, to get a taste of what a mayor who wishes to make a difference for his community is condemned to face.  And that is just one example that is close to us here. 


      And so it has been with some of the reactions to Mayor Lee Myung-Bak’s Restoration Technology program in Seoul. The forces of inertia and old interests  in these cases are enormous, and it is for this reason, as well as the technological and economic accomplishments of the program, that I am now proposing to name the Seoul team for this years World Technology Environment Award.  I ask you to join me in supporting this nomination.


      With all good wishes,


      Eric Britton


      PS. For further information, including a listing of a number of outstanding and respected international leaders, activists, researchers and authorities who are supporting this nomination, I invite you to turn to the home page of the Kyoto World Cities Challenge Initiative at http://kyotocities.org, and to click there the link on the left menu, WTN 2005 Nominations.


      The Commons: Open Society Sustainability Initiative - http://ecoplan.org

      Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara                75006 Paris, France

      Tel:  Europe: +331 4326 1323       N. America +1 310 601-8468

      Mobile:  +33 6 73.21 58.68        Fax: +33 1 53.01 28.96

      E: eric.britton@...    Backup: fekbritton@...



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