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What is 'Sustainable Transportation'? Commentary

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  • eric.britton
    Thank you Stephen, This is a clear reminder that we need to be very careful in how we state all this, and I can only thank you for jabbing me on this. Here is
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31 9:00 AM

      Thank you Stephen,


      This is a clear reminder that we need to be very careful in how we state all this, and I can only thank you for jabbing me on this.  Here is my considered take on your point, and while I normally try not to engage in the exchanges here -- since this is what this particular Wikipedia group effort is about, I think it important that I share my reactions with the group as a whole.


      The Wikipedia is based on the principle of neutrality. Therefore when we write about our topic, we must see it as it is – not as we might perhaps wish it to be. (I have tried to provide some clear and pretty easy links into the guts of the Wikipedia workings that you can find in the lower half of the left menu under our Wikipedia top menu link. If you take the time you will see that there is more to it than you may have thought.  You will see how Nature magazine tested it against the Britannica. Interesting to say the least)


      Yes and of curse I agree with you on this Stephan: there has been a sustained current of critical lucidity in the world of transportation that goes back far before Mrs. Bruntland and, if you will, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_development. Jane Jacobs has been one very important force in this.  As have you, Mayer Hillman, and yet others. (See below)


      But – and I am sure that you will be the first to agree – this current of more critical thinking has until recently largely gone ignored by those in power. While there were indeed the occasional victories, they were the exception and not the rule. Far from it!  Dismissed by policy and decision makers with the wave of a hand – and even more often simply not acknowledged – as idealistic, impractical, impracticable, disingenuous, and even loony, leftist and anti-democratic ranting – the main lines of the transportation agenda simply were not impacted in any notable way. Look at it dollar for dollar and you’ll see that even today the whole thing is still for the most part about optimizing flows between points, maximizing vehicles throughput and all the rest.


      That said, and as the Wiki draft tries to state fairly: this situation is shifting -- and the shift goes back at least a decade in terms of its notably gaining momentum.  The truth though is that even today after so many years we continue to generate more words than key decisions.  There is now the rhetoric of sustainable transportation, and we are seeing it used and abused like never before. But there is still a great deal of progress to be made out there in the real world and on the street.  (And that is why I believe it is worth our all taking the time needed to make sure that we have a solid statement of what this is all about to put before the media, the researchers, the activists, students, those in government who often really would like to know how to do better. So I hope that I will be able to engage you all to this important group challenge.)


      As to when the first quantum break came, to get the ball rolling here I have based, on my own observations and experience, set an arbitrary limit of 1990 to this kind of continental divide. But it was in the early nineties the ball was really beginning to get rolling.  And by the time that the OECD and Canadian government got together to organize the international conference Toward Sustainable Transportation, in Vancouver in March 1996, things were really beginning to take shape. (You can find the original web page on this if you go to http://www.newmobility.org)


      In this entry, we are trying to view the phenomenon of the sustainable transportation movement as a whole (difficult of course since it really is the sustainable of its parts). There are clearly numerous antecedents: the freeway revolts in North America, the first Woonerfs in the Netherlands, the early carsharing projects – but in all cases these events or movements were about something else, something more specific and not about “sustainable transportation” as an identifiable whole.  Again, it was only with the last two decades that the movement really started to take shape.


      But then there is ever the ineluctable bottom line: a lot of the actors maybe talking the talk of sustainable transportation, but when it’s time to walk the walk, to spend the money, other values continue to prevail.


      Which is what sustainable transport today is indeed all about.


      PS. I would like to see if I can get some help from you all to fill out the following which once it is solid enough I would like to transfer to the Wikipedia to see what  others might do with it.  What you have here are a number of names taken off the top of my head – and it is so terribly incomplete that I must apologize. However I am sure that you all will be able to help us do a lot better. And let’s bear in mind that 1990 benchmark date.


      Some Early Voices of Sustainable Transportation (pre-1990)


      ·         Jane Jacobs

      ·         Stephen Plowden

      ·         Mayer Hillman

      ·         John Whitelegg

      ·         John Adams

      ·         Wolfgang Zuckermann

      ·         Jan Gehl

      ·         Peter Newman

      ·         Chris Bradshaw

      ·         Luud Schimmelpennink

      ·         Woonerf movement in the Netherlands

      ·         Donald Appleyard

      ·         Neil Goldschmidt


      Then, since these are important figures, it will be good if some of us might go in and start entries on those who are not already covered there.




      -----Original Message-----
      From: Stephen Plowden [mailto:stephenplowden@...]
      Monday, January 30, 2006 10:38 AM


      I dispute the history in this article, especially the suggestion that

      the idea that the job of transport planning was to supply infrastructure

      was little questioned until about 15 years ago. It was seriously

      questioned in Britain (and probably other countries, which never fell

      for the transportation studies which Britain imported from America - no

      blame to the Americans) since the mid 1960s and for reasons of

      efficiency as well as environment. (The "predict and provide" approach

      is simply infeasible; bus lanes improve the carrying capacity of streets

      in terms or people rather than vehicles.) Sorry, I don't have time to

      develop this theme now, but I am worried that this article is part of a

      historical myth which is now growing up.


      eric.britton wrote:


      > *What is ‘Sustainable Transportation’? *


      > (And how, if at all, does it relate to the New Mobility Agenda?)


      > * *


      > *New Mobility Note & Invitation to Discussion:*


      > *Editor’s note:* We have always felt that these two concepts represent

      > in a rough way two sides of the same basic coin. “Sustainable

      > transportation” defines the problem set and then goes on to provide

      > clues and in some cases supporting structures as to the kinds of

      > solutions that should be better understood and pursued. By contrast

      > the “New Mobility Agenda” is just that, an /agenda/ for change,

      > concentrating on specific measure and tools and implementation and

      > coordination strategies, with strong emphasis on short term (2-4

      > years) impacts. But just to be sure that this is clear and correct, we

      > have taken to the Wikipedia to post and test these two views. Starting

      > with the first, here you have our very rough and incomplete first cut

      > – for your comment and improvement. (Further background on the

      > workings and values of the Wikipedia, will be found on the New

      > Mobility Agenda site by clicking the Wikipedia link on the top menu.)


      > ********************************


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