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[World Streets] Transport in Cities: Plan A is Not Working (1)

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  • Eric Britton
    From lead article in World Streets of 18 May 2009: Transport in Cities: Plan A is Not Working (1) The goal of today s column is
    Message 1 of 1 , May 18, 2009
      From lead article in World Streets <http://www.worldstreets.org/> of 18 May

      Transport in Cities: Plan A is Not Working (1)

      The goal of today's column is provide an opening statement and then to
      invite short contributions (200 words or less) from our international
      colleagues around the world as to why "Plan " is not working in the
      transport sector of our
      1600-h/plan+A.JPG> cities worldwide".

      Why is this? The response almost always given is that there is not enough
      money for doing it right. For my part I have serious doubts about this.

      We would like to see if by putting our heads together on this we can
      together usefully pinpoint and question some of the broadly shared
      preconditions of policy and practice in the sector, not in order to
      criticize or cast blame but rather to see if through our collective efforts
      we can help come up with some positive ideas for near-term improvement.
      A bit of first background to get us started:

      Any fair-minded person who looks around the streets of our cities as things
      stand here halfway through 2009 has to be struck by the fact that our
      transportation arrangements are in very rough shape in almost all cities
      worldwide .

      This is not to say that there are not many people, programs, groups and
      institutions out there trying very hard to do better. It is just that the
      bottom line, whether functional, economic, environmental, or social, is
      highly problematic and actually crumbling in almost all cases. This is
      highly troubling, especially because there are in fact many things that we
      can do in order to improve performance in many places and at many levels.

      What can we do to work our way out of this situation? Well what about
      starting by taking a few steps back (yes, that is right, back!) in order to
      see if we can spot some basic patterns here, the idea being that once we
      have this in view we may be able to put our fingers on a couple of key
      pressure points that may permit us to reverse some of these downward trends.

      Primary building blocks of Plan A dysfunctionality: The first is surely the
      fact that we are so busy trying to put details after detail right that we do
      not recognize that there is de facto something like "Plan A" going on at all
      -- which, if we did get this message, would almost automatically lead us to
      start to think about something else . . . Call it "Plan B".

      Plan A is in almost all cases a pure example of "in the box"
      "problem-solving". To the innocent-eyed outsider it appears to be a clear
      case of surrender to the trends and the conditions which create them. Here
      are couple things which strike this observer about Plan A:

      · It is overwhelmingly inertial, i.e. in most areas it excepts
      trends and constraints constraints rather than challenging them directly

      · Focuses largely on infrastructure

      · Treats supply as if that were the key

      · Broadly accepts existing institutional arrangements

      · Consistently ignorant of, or alternatively fails to give full
      scope to, the critical externalities

      · More concerned with products than services

      · Weak on people in all their varieties of conditions and needs

      · Offers abundant excellent explanations as to why anything more
      far-reaching, radical, and eventually powerful is not possible.

      In a second article in this series I propose to get these issues in more
      detail. But for now let me be leave the word to you and invite your comments
      and suggestions.

      · Comments for now to New Mobility Café via

      Posted By The Editor to World
      ot-working.html> Streets at 5/18/2009 11:27:00 AM

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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