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Re: [NewMobilityCafe] "The Future Intelligent Transport Systems initiative" - one more short-sighted interest-fed government-industry boondoggle

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  • Chris Bradshaw
    Eric, To me, the problem with intelligent highway systems is that environmentalists and community activists don t even talk about it, positivel or
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 13, 2006
      To me, the problem with "intelligent highway systems" is that environmentalists and community activists don't even talk about it, positivel or negatively.  Why?  Because -- to provide you a possible way to express your Cartesian divide-and-confuse principle -- its proponents can't tell the trips for the kilometres.  They confuse _go_ with _get_.
      ITS tries to get more vehicle-kms-travelled per lane of roadway -- primarily by squeezing out most of the space between vehicles.  That space is required now so that each driver can have time to react to the behaviour of the driver ahead, given the reaction time of the standard human, and the average sensory sampling we use. [Such a gap, BTW, is inadequate unless the vehicle ahead stops under its own power, rather than by contact with a falling bridge section (as we had in Montreal a few days ago) or hitting another vehicle, as is common in areas with serious fog or snow squalls.]
      It ignores the fact that some trips are more important than others; that trips are often far longer than is necessary; that much of the cargo being carried is unnecessary or is consists mostly of packaging (sized for the length of its travel and the number of modes engaged, and containing lots of printing to help merchanize it); that railroads -- which carry far more per VKT than road vehicles -- sit underutilized; that roads carrying vehicles closer together might have to be built to a higher standard to handle road stress; that roads so heavily occuped by carrying motor vehicles are less useful or available for other functions (social, commerce, sight-seeing,etc.); and that relying on technology to replace human capabilities might prove to be less safe (how will the the system respond to "unintelligent" pedestrians and wildlife?).
      Worse, if there is a "transportation problem", it is not limited to overcoming congestion.  It relates to the energy crisis ("peak oil" and related militarism), inequitable access to transportation, traffic on streets that are to provide access for all and for a broad range of activities, health (obesity, trauma, respiratory problems, road stress), urban sprawl (related to both the space for vehicles' use and their storage between uses), and of course climate change.
      My reference to kms and trips is a challenge to the academic community to go back to basics.  Focus on trips ("get") rather than the distances travelled by each vehicle ("go").  Their focus should not be on getting as much movement as possible out of each lane-km, or out of each vehicle, but in finding how _little_ movement is necessary for people to live a decent life.  They should also look at how much of that travel needs to occur at the same time.  Then, how many vehicles of whatever types are optimally suited to that amount of travel?
      Also: Is just-in-time delivery producing the benefits that exceed its?  How many people occupying a car by themselves could be well served by a _seat_ in a shared vehicle?  How many people in this minimum-optimal city could complete their travels in a shared car, saving the need to provide 6-8 parking spaces for a personal car?  Has the loss of inter-model shipping (train to truck to boat, etc.) been a boon for travel efficiency, or should it be resurrected?
      The idea that big money and intellectual elites are chasing after a pig-in-a-poke here, reminds me of the big money and suburban concurrence that come together to get light rail projects off the ground, even while the parts of cities that have a natural dependence on transit suffer with poor service and high fares.
      Chris Bradshaw
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