xTransit links to:
xTransit co-Blog :
What follows here (3 Jan 2005) is the beginning of our collaborate work in this area, which is much needed to help us all to understand better how all of this fits in with the New Mobility Agenda that we now need to use to drive transport and related decisions in our cities. We are calling it for now a "WorkPad". Keep reading and you will see how it is intended to work. And then, one hopes, you will pitch in to help us all make this into a more complete and more useful set of information tools for the much needed transformation process in our cities around the world.
This is the latest focus program of the New Mobility Agenda and The Commons, which just got underway on the last day of 2005 to make an important, to us, symbolic deadline. (Thus making it the on-schedule fourth in a series of ten year world surveys and support programs reporting on these technologies and their prospects, the first of which carried out in 1975, with new reviews in 1985 and 1995. We are nothing if not persistent.)
If you are looking for some of the historic building blocks that have in their various ways opened the way for what is now going to take place far more quickly than probably even you think: "Old" New Mobility Agenda, which you may know in the past, including such as shared taxis, dial-a-ride, DRT, Demand Responsive Transport, paratransit, and the long list goes on. Take any and all of those, and then complete the logistics/communications chain with internet and mobile phones -- and a no less important wholesale redefinition of the legal and regulatory context -- and there you have it: xTransit.
Here's how Ron Kirby and Kisten Bhat of the Urban Institute diagramed it in 1974 in their path-breaking report: Para-transit: Neglected options for urban mobility (ISBN: 0877661219).
And what's the big difference with these same concepts many of which have been around for decades? It's the technology, stupid! Stay tuned and get involved.
The job of this section of the WorkPad -placed here merely to get the discussions and serious work going and with no pretensions of being in any way definitive - is to rough out the main antecedents and eventual raw materials and components of a well working xTransit system. It is being posted at this point as part of the process of starting to define and development useful materials and perspectives on this important and as yet hugely underexploited mobility asset.
If you want to see an example of the sort of thing that we are targeting to provide under this heading, our World Carshare project at http://worldcarshare.com is the best example that we can cite today.
Please give us your comments and suggestions, both as to points of details and more broadly.
What xTransit is not:
Antecedents/ways of getting around:
Taxis (even in the single client variant, as least as an antecedent)
Demand Responsive Transport
Special Group Mobility Services
The other half of the xTransit equation:the logistics link:
"Who needs it?" "Why bother if it's just for a few people?" "Let's concentrate on the big problem."
In the world of human mobility there is not one "big problem". There is, for better or worse, just an ever-changing heteroclite confluence of a very large number of people, daily life realities, needs, possibilities, and desires. The old mobility vision of society is essentially one of striding workers, with jobs, fixed hours, trips, roads and the list goes on - all of whom to be served by our "normal transportation arrangements".
Then there are "the rest": the old, disabled, poor, etc., etc., and they too our bleeding hearts somehow figured out need to be catered to as well. Well, let's give them a bit here and there too. But most of our money is going to be spent on providing mobility arrangements for "normal people". That's right, isn't it.
No, it's not at all right. It is wrong. It is wrong because it is grossly unfair and uncivil. And it is also just based on a false precept. Why? Because that splendid vision of society simply does not jibe with reality. It never did in the past, and as our societies age it increasingly is absurdly contrary to reality. Here is the surprise, the kicker:
The "transportation majority" is not what most people think, transportation planners and policy makers included. The transportation majority are all those people who increasingly are poorly served by the mainline service arrangements that eat up most of our taxpayer money. And each year, as our populations age this majority grows in numbers.
Here is a generic short-list of the people who make up this too now all too silent majority:
And how are we going to provide for their mobility needs. Well for starters, by putting aside our old vision of the market and opening our eyes to the reality of the market. So let's get started.
"How street space is allocated, priced, and managed tells people how to travel".
A full and proper understanding of the actual context of this thing we are calling xTransit is vital to figuring out what if anything to do next with this concept and way of helping people to get around in our cities, and, yes, small communities as well. Without the context by way of background this is only one more of those many ideas, maybe good, maybe bad, that we can chat about forever and as the damage from the old dysfunctional system continues to mount day after day. But as I hope you know that is not what we are trying to do here at the New Mobility Agenda.
For a pretty good and fairly detailed introductory overview on the overall problematique as we see it, we can refer you to the "Here's our problem" opening section of the Kyoto World Cities 20/20 Challenge at www.kyotocities.org. But in the meantime and with one eye to the clock, what about accepting the following as a rather good surrogate for the rest when it comes to the dysfunctionalities -- thereby putting aside for the moment our very real concerns with pollution, economic costs, health impacts, taxpayer burden and the long list goes on (as you will see if you turn to the full treatment)? But let's simply for the purpose of putting xTransit into perspective think about all this for now as if the only problem that concerns us immediately is that of . . . the (egregious) space requirements of the "old mobility" (that is car-dominated) system.
The key to the New Mobility Agenda in cities lies in what is basically a two pronged approach: (a) aggressive, strategic infrastructure management and (b) parallel creation of a wide range of first class, desirable alternatives to the old mobility system which is now to be gently moved out of the city (or more realistically be greatly reduced in target areas and times), all while being left as a personal option for other transport as people may wish. (Bearing in mind that recent studies provide evidence that Swiss and German city dwellers who get to work and into the center by non-car means, nonetheless for the most part continue to own and use own cars for less dense travel and in the off peak).
The strategy is to withdraw steadily street space from "normal mixed use" and transfer it to more space efficient users, via programs of signage, traffic management, surface treatments and compliance monitoring. And this long list runs all the way from people walking and cycling in safety to traditional scheduled public transport plying fixed routes. That's a beginning, but is not going to be enough in most cities and their environs where the actual pattern of origins, destinations, and times of desired travel has exploded to a point that new means are going to be required to cater to at least a portion of this growing total.
Which is where xTransit in all its varieties comes in: space efficient transport (that in most cases has yet to be fully developed and put into place) that is by dint of load factors a rightful participant user of the new high density streets and lanes.
That's the broad strategic vision; now for the details.
When the first demonstration systems began to appear in the mid/late sixties, most ran into the dual problems of: (a) the technology was not there yet; and (b) insufficiently entrepreneurial skills on the part of the organizers. What was achieved however is that these first systems broke the ice and various groups and people started to look more closely at these group ride, 'third way' concepts.
An even less successful series of attempted innovations -- PRT or Personal Rapid Transit Systems (these entirely off the road, on their own guideways and (too) ambitiously computer controlled from start to finish) -- which despite being the beneficiaries of one, two, even three orders of magnitude more investment also bit the dust. But they too started various players around the world to thinking about high levels of service, and the ways in which new technologies might provide the glue to keep them together.
But the most important barriers that have delayed the progress and on-street introduction of these systems have been above all the result of the many ways in which the old system protects itself form innovation and change. Here are some of these which have been at times examined by researchers, public sector agencies, entrepreneurs, activists, and others hoping to create a more open framework for innovation in this badly constrained sector that is transport in cities.
Which brings us to what is doubtless going to be the most important single target, challenge and eventual contribution:
Some of the key issue areas that now need collective attention if xTransit is to advance in time to make a difference, both as a global concept and in its various parts:
The model for our collaborative efforts: Perhaps, until something better pops up, our collaborative efforts over the last decade via the World Carshare Consortium?
It might also be useful to recall that this is an example of what we call a Self-Organizing Collaborative Network, for which you will find further background in the also in-progress Wikipedia entry on this here (own window). You might also wish to have a look at their entry on Knowledge Building, which relates closely albeit without the ever-important component of collaboration for change.
This list has to be considered as partial and indeed misses out on the many good non-English languages sources that have been cared out on our subject. But we have to start somewhere. We list these for now in the order in which they originally appeared to make their contributions to this new field. Note that after about 1980, most references to "paratransit" increasingly refer to what is sometimes called "handicapped transport", in particular in the US and Canada.
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Last updated on 3 January 2006