Re: WorldTransport Forum "Highjacking sustainable transport"
I find this list a real yawner. Sounds like a report of a consultant after
a public participation exercise, as an effort to show all interest groups
they were heard, and now the engineers who really run things can get back to
building what they wanted in the first place: roads that carry vehicles full
of things and not very full of people as fast as possible, without anything
getting in their way. You get to claim the high road, while they continue
to dominate the low one.
First,I think it has to show a better understanding of what I call the
"ecology of transportation." Since engineers don't understand it, you have
to talk in mechanistic terms that do understand. David Engwicht, in his
books, takes a good stab at it. Jane Jacobs, in _Death..._ does the same for
planners. They want a science that serves people _in_ communities, not a
delivery system for an infrastructure to serve the private-car/truck market.
I wrote the "Green Transportation Hierarchy" in 1991 as my effort to do
this. It looks at travel value/per unit of what we now call footprint. I
One of the elements that comes out of this approach is that _informal_
transportation (walking, and most cycling) is better than formal
transportation on every measure except speed and isolation from one's
immediate surroundings (a positve to safety poeple and the commercial
interests championing "privacy", but a negative factor to "convivialists"),
as speed requires a "shell of safety" for the occupants, and requires giant
setback for adjacent landusers. And at intersections, you get huge public
works projects, with mayhem being the result of saving money with at-grade
This formality requires not just big roadways with lots of open space on
either side, it requires rules, regulations, insurance, and excessive
vehicle design criteria. A car is simply a bike designed for higher speeds,
each system expanded 20 times or so (impacts increase at the square of the
And what is speed to a road engineer? It is god (even though they justify
it by using "safety" as its surrogate). But transportation ecology shows
that it is something else. As speeds increase, a particular section of
roadway can accommodate fewer cars, such that the roads's capacity expressed
as vehicles/hr. actually declines a bit as design speeds increase. That is
not good for the collective whole, as the only way to get speeds high is for
fewer people to be able to drive at any time. The real problem is that, as
speeds increase, and drivers _expect_ more time savings, they will, over
time, simply arrange their life to _need_ to drive further for each trip (I
saw a figure in a recent UNC master's thesis that says between 1970 and
2000, the U.S. pop. grew by less than 1/4 the rate of VMT, vehicle-miles
traveled) Obviously _demand_ for road space, as Rory McMullun suggested, is
not finite; it should not be accommodated, but managed.
My NRFUT (neighbourhood-radius Foot-unit of Travel -- in my "Using Our Feet
to Reduce Our Footprint" paper, also attached), is another attempt to
qualify each trip's footprint.
There is also a street ecology at work, telling us what makes streets, our
main (and largest and most intensively) shared public space system,
convivial and productive to human affairs. I have coined the phrases, "Feet
Follow Fabric" to suggest what essential element streets must have, which,
of course, include Jacobs' "eyes on the street" as well as "Maximizes
Commerce, Minimizes Commotion" to describe the elements of transportation
overall in human affairs (commerce, of course, includes an human
relationships). I wrote about it in a submission to our roads department
about 10 years ago, which I can send to you as well).
Finally, your politically-correct elements of thinking about the young, the
poor, the disabled, the elderly, and women carries the implication that
everyone else (whom I call the AAAs, active, affluent adults) actually are
well served by the current status quo. They are not. They hate themselves
for being on the current treadmill of driving more but enjoying it less.
They don't like worring about hitting vulnerable road users; they don't like
to see their kids tethered and unhappy in their rearview mirrors or worrying
about running over them in parking lots and driveways; they don't like
spending time in anonymous roadway environments where there are no longer
any social conventions mandating civil behaviour; and they don't like the
fact that their household's in-town transportation costs now exceed their
housing costs. Everyone is losing; and the planet is not far from gagging
on it all.
I'll leave this topic for now. Get back to me if you agree that it might be
worthwhile to start over again and want any part of it developed further.