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Financing Transport Projects in Cities with EU Funding or Guarantees: A Proposal for Action

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  • Eric Britton
    Dear Friends, At the opening bash for this year’s European Moblity Week which was held in London last week, we stood up and tossed out a challenge to the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 21, 2005

      Dear Friends,


      At the opening bash for this year’s European Moblity Week which was held in London last week, we stood up and tossed out a challenge to the conference in the form of a proposal for what the European Commission might do itself in very specific, concrete form, and without further delay to make a real contribution in the tough up-hill struggle to more sustainable cities and transport systems.  The principal objective of the meeting was to introduce and explain about all the good things they and their associated cites and agencies are doing this year under the “Clever Commuting” theme that they have chosen for the 2005 events – to which they added some very interesting discussions of the politics of transportation from the vantage of several mayors who were really very good on the subject.  (See http://www.mobilityweek-europe.org/page.php?page==information_presentation&lang==en for more on this from the EU. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/sep2005/2005-09-15-01.asp for a general synopsis from ENS. And http://europe.tiscali.co.uk/index.jsp?section==Current%20Affairs&level==preview&content=92715 for a quick post meeting report).


      But at the end of the day the main purpose of a Car/Free Day or Mobility Week is not only to have a nice time, but to give us all an opportunity to consider how each and every one of us might get ACTIVELY and DIRETLY involved in advancing the New Mobility Agenda. And in this context it struck me that this might be a good opportunity to see if we can now hook the European institutions into all this in a more direct, powerful and shaping way.  And what better hook than money, eh?  They spend and lend a lot of it in the sector, but can this be done in a way that is more sustainability friendly? That’s the challenge.


      Here is the proposal that I made off the cup to the closing session of the meeting, rather quickly and without the help of any images or charts which would have helped me make this point.  What I noted from the discussions afterwards was that the savvy picked this up without any trouble, but that from the glazed eyes here and there I was too fast and too cryptic for most of those there.  So I should now like to see if I can in the next days put before the organizers and all those who attended a convincing page or two which sets out this proposal, which I now am pleased to set before you for your comments, suggestions, rectifications – and if you think it’s a worthy idea, perhaps you could let us know that you support it as well.


      Financing Transport Projects in Cities with EU Funding or Guarantees: A Proposal for Action


      A new look at how transport projects in cities should to be planned and financed in the future. The proposal runs as follows, in particular in the case of financing through any funds make available by any of the institutions which constitute the European Union, and including the European Investment Bank, all of whom have a very important role in the sector.  Here in a nutshell is how this might work.


      1.       No public moneys or guarantees should be made available for projects that do not demonstrate in convincing detail via their technical planning, independent expert evaluation, local outreach and open public review efforts that full provision has been made for accessing each of the main system nodes (think of this perhaps as bus or transit stations) from their respective hinterlands – and specifically by non motorized transport.  Typically this might take the form of a radius around each stop of something on the order of 3-500 meters, possibly more. Here is a crude sketch just to try to get the basic idea across, with the small dots intended to represent a station or stop, and the circles to give an idea of the surrounding hinterland to be served via NMT:



      2.       Such a proposal offers numerous important advantages for the city and people in question. First, it provides – and in many places for the first time – an official recognition and appropriate administrative and jurisdictional space for the full scale planning and implementation of these important mobility, sustainable mobility in fact,  components of a livable city. 

      3.       Second, it provide for the first time an appropriate level of funding which takes into account the importance of a structure for integrating these most environmental and ECONOMICALLY friendly means of getting around in our cities. (We should never lose sight of the fact that non-motorized transport, got right, gives by far the most bank per buck of any that is spent in the transport sector.)


      4.       It is of course not possible at this time and at this level of generality to put a number to the level of funding that will be appropriate for these important access arrangements.  But if we were to chose a possibly reasonable target out of a hat, we would put it at the area of 10% of total project budget. But the appropriate detail on this will come in each case out of the specific studies and projects needed in each place.



      5.       One additional wrinkle in this that is possibly worthy of attention has to do with the fact that if we are talking about, say, 400 media radiuses around each transit stop, in point of fact in many cases these areas of provision for non-motorized access will overlap. . . leading to the possibility of far more extensive overall “pathing” throughout the city, meaning that it will now be possibly to move safely and efficiently over larger distances by cycle, foot or other non-motorized options.


      6.       Mikel Murga of MIT and Leber further draws to my attention that each of these surrounding hinterlands needs to be looked at in the planning process not only in terms of offering appropriate and safe access to people moving under their own steam, but that also thought needs to be given to what can be done in each area, if needed, to provide the right kind of public space for this kind of transport.  The point here is that for such areas to be convivial and safe they must be more than open shoots which channel people to the stop or station, but that they need to be vibrant areas which offer attractions of their own, commercial and other. (One of the great advantages of this last wrinkle, is that it offers a way to bring more people and intersts, including economic intersts, into the planning and execution stage.  Sustainable Mobility needs friends, and this is one way to bring them on board.)


      Leading by Example:

      In closing, I would like to mention that in the event that the Commission and the others financial institutions of the European Union adopt this as firm policy for all their own financial support and guarantees in the sector in the future, but that the Commission will also encourage national and other levels of government across Europe to do the same.


      If we were able to get this onto the books and into practice, there is no doubt that European Mobility Weeks will go down in the record books as one of the great ones.


      *     *     *


      What you can do to help?


      ·         Send on your editorial and other suggestions and additions to make this clearer and more convincing.

      ·         Your ideas about other places where we should be making similar international peer proposals along these lines.

      ·         If you wish to add a short annex and commentary of your own, I am thinking about posting these along with the final proposal to the organizers of last weeks conference, the respective offices of the EU and a few other key places.

      ·         And if you think that this is a good idea and wish to go on public record as supporting it, a short note with your name, title, institutional affiliation and address would be most useful.


      It is my hope that with your suggestions, and eventually your support, that we will be able to do something really important with this.  What do you think?


      With all good wishes,


      Eric Britton


      The New Mobility Agenda is on line at  http://www.newmobility.org

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

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