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WE CANNOT FIX THE PRESENT SYSTEM!!

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  • eric.britton@ecoplan.org
    Dear Friends, This last good observation on Sustran from Kisan Mehta on pedicabs, riskhsaws, et al has been haunting my mailbox for the last several days as I
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 19, 2001
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      Dear Friends,

      This last good observation on Sustran from Kisan Mehta on pedicabs,
      riskhsaws, et al has been haunting my mailbox for the last several days as I
      have been scratching my head and trying to figure out how I might somehow
      usefully in this matter. Here is my best quick stab for now with the
      following proviso: you all know the old saw that “to a man with a hammer all
      problems look like nails”. So you may find that the ideas that follow may
      suffer from this syndrome as well.

      Let’s take a minute and see if we can at least figure out a couple of
      important things that we know – and them maybe a few others that we don’t
      but perhaps should:

      Item 1: Pedicabs, riskhsaws, motorized or not, bicycles and all that stuff
      with only a couple of wheels and often motors have to be THE wrinkle in the
      terrible conundrum of sustainable transport in Third World cities that put
      it in an entirely different league from what we are seeing in the so-called
      West. And this is of course not even to mention the further complications
      of animal drawn transport.

      Item 2: There is no clear model (known to me) that shows how (if at all)
      they should be integrated into the global transportation system, which
      should be sustainable, should be socially just, and probably should also
      have some place for other transport forms as well.

      Item 3: We know that car-based systems of the kind that without any doubt
      underlay the root thinking of most transport policy makers in the Third
      World, and their first world advisors and bankers, are clearly NOT the
      answer.

      Item 4: But we also know for a fact that this car-based model (which of
      course includes and defines by default the space available for its poor
      cousin “public transport” or “mass transport” cousins) is the one that is in
      place -- and which now somehow needs to be dislodged.

      Okay, I admit. Up to now I have said absolutely nothing original on this or
      anything that you all do not know full well. But if we look at it in this
      light – and if we further bear in mind that those four points only start a
      list of many others which all head uniformly in the same direction – it does
      suggest one thing. AND THAT IS THAT WE CANNOT FIX THE PRESENT SYSTEM.

      Hmm. Now that to my mind is a kind of interesting statement, because,
      barren though it might at first seem, it does in fact contain the seeds of
      what might be our eventual answer. Let me toss out a few ideas that might
      possibly feed your own and better thoughts on all this:

      a. The cars have to come out. This requires a program of street space
      shifts which probably should be deliberately spread out over say a two or
      four year period, at the end of which something like 90% of all private cars
      are removed from the city traffic stream. (In a democracy or something that
      wishes to pass for such, this should really not be unachievable since nine
      out of ten or nineteen out of twenty or more households simply don’t have
      own cars in the first place.


      b. The traditional modes HAVE to be integrated into the solution set, not
      just as minor add-ons or barely acceptable perverse artifacts of the past,
      but as central elements of the sustainable transportation system. Like the
      Critical Mass people, they can rightfully claim that they are not
      obstructing traffic – they ARE traffic! (And the justifications for this
      are so many and so well known to this group that I need not try even to
      summarize.)


      c. This leaves the question about how do all of the richer folks get around
      in the brave new world of sustainability – and there we have some
      interesting answers. By deregulating the field, we can expect that a whole
      number of new entrepreneurs will emerge who are ready and able to provide
      first class non-car transport (i.e., based on multiple occupancy with
      variations) using vehicles of quite some range of sizes and types (and
      prices). Think of these new systems as the logistical variation of say
      mobile phones as opposed to the old POTS networks.


      d. What about so-called “public transport” and its many variations? Well,
      to my way of thinking that is just part of the puzzle, and certainly where
      one has a well working pt system there is every reasons to maintain and
      improve it. Moreover, the sort of things that we are seeing with the
      TransMilenio in Bogota and the Curitiba busway system are surely going to
      emerge as an important part of this new world of city transport. But that
      said, we know for sure that they too only respond to one part of the much
      broader challenge.

      Let’s assume for the moment that this is a pretty good list and analysis of
      the situation, where, if it is true, does it leave us? Well, I guess it
      suggests that we are or at least should be searching for an entirely new
      model, and that this is the only way out there by which we can break the
      impasse. So, if all we do is continue to build another fly-over here,
      another new bus lane there, clean up a few engines over there, and even one
      of your wonderful three billion dollar all bells and whistles metros that
      will solve who knows whose problems in maybe half a generations time . .
      that inevitably all this will add up not to nothing, but to a situation
      which will continue to go from bad to worse.

      Well, if we do know that, and if we can organize and get some strong
      agreement on that from say one thousand of the leading thinkers and
      practitioners in the field before we all die of old age (or asphyxiation),
      then maybe we have a running start on a new world of transport policy and
      practice. And of course what would be great about this is that the West
      will be able to look on and learn enough maybe even to save itself.

      Do we have a discussion here? Or an action program as we managed to have
      for Bogota? And if so, what next?

      With all good wishes,

      Eric Britton

      The @New Mobility Forum is permanently at http://newmobility.org
      The Commons ___Sustainable Development and Social Justice___
      Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara, 75006 Paris, France
      Eric.Britton@... Tel: +331 4326 1323
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