A 20/20 Strategy for Your City?
  1. Point of departure
  2. Four steps
  3. "Car-like mobility"
  4. Overview/Highlights
  5. Planning and implementation notes
  6. 20/20 in brief

Planning a 20/20 Project:
  • Part I: 20/20 introduction
  • II: Brainstorm & Notes
  • III: Who makes it work
  • IV. Measures & Tools
  • V. Closing thoughts


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  • Point of departure

    Since this is perhaps an unfamiliar concept, first a few words of background.

    The driving idea behind the Kyoto Challenge is that sustainable transportation cannot, should not be allowed to wait in our cities. At least not by responsible government and community leaders. The fact is that the cost of our present arrangements is intolerably high.

    It is important to understand that sustainable transportation is not some kind of luxury, nor should it be seen as a secondary if "interesting" priority be the object of one more long term futures study or research project. Or yet another plan for building yet more infrastructure, buying expensive new rolling stock, bringing in new technology, etc. (all of which with an inevitable delay of years if not decades before the purported "improvement" bites in. And in the meantime your children are breathing that air, running those risks, and leading a life which is in many ways predicated and circumscribed by the very system that is supposed to serve them).

    How is it possible that almost all of our cities are accepting to live with these problems docilely? As if there were nothing that can be done other than to continue the old thinking, which means at the bottom line to accept that all of this continues . . . and continues to get worse. But wait! We are making the transition to something a lot better much harder than we have to. It's not all that complicated. Let's have a closer look.

    The first step is to take the time and trouble to understand that the full cost of the inefficiencies of today's dysfunctional transportation arrangements -- in environmental, life quality and economic terms -- has already way outstripped the carrying capacity of many cities and the planet as a whole. If you agree with that observation, you may wish to continue reading.

    The second step is to make a common-sensical observation: And that is to accept the evident truth that the costs of all this dysfunctionality are not a matter of some eventual long term concern. But rather that these are costs -- in terms of lives, public health, city form, time, quality of life, personal costs, costs to the community as a whole -- which citizens and voters in our city are paying every day. Huge costs. Running costs. And perhaps (we think yes, but let's take the time to see in detail in your city) entirely avoidable costs. With the clock ticking on this every day. So they should become a high priority for action and remedy. Shouldn't they?

    Here's our basic thesis in the face of this challenge: Sustainable mobility at the level of a city or region - which is what this is all about - can be achieved in far less time than probably most people ever thought. The means for achieving these ambitious objectives: a (a) targeted, (b) aggressive, (c) locally-driven, (d) coordinated, (e) now-oriented (f) pattern-break commitment on the part of local government and all concerned with the transport sector and its extensions and their impact on your city.

    But first of all you have to decide if you have a problem which is worth solving... in the very near term. Let's take a closer look:

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    "Car-like mobility" as a goal

    Our point of departure here is one that is as pragmatic as it may be surprising. Most recommendations for more sustainable transport systems seem to have as their underlying thesis that: "people should shift away from cars and move over to public transport". Nice thought. Awful beginning!

    We very much doubt that citizens in 21st century democracies are going to support in most places degraded levels of access as a result of such a program, no matter how noble its goals. For better or worse, people have come to look at car-like mobility as the best way to get around. But that is not the end of the story: it is just the beginning.

    What they are saying when they look steel-eyed at your ideas for a more sustainable set of mobility arrangements is not so much that they "love their cars and will never give them up" (though that very often is their heart-felt opening shot in the debate) -- but that they have come to expect a certain degree of convenience in their conveyance. So if what you, the environmental guys, planners and authorities, propose something that will be worse, then they simply are not willing to go along. We must take this as a fact of life and build out plans around it.

    The goal of a 20/20 project must therefore be precisely to seek out and combine services, measures, and innovations so that at the end of the day most people are now going to have ways of getting there faster, cheaper and safer than under the old car-based system, which anyway has entailed longer times of being stuck in traffic with each year that passes. We are a smart society and we have a huge number of tools at our disposal for doing better. Moreover, the present system is so grossly out of phase, so shockingly underperforming that it is not, in fact, all that tough a target to improve on. It's not as if the whole thing were close to perfect. So now under the whip of Kyoto we have the chance to put these more innovative and politically realistic to work. Let's not miss this golden opportunity.

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    Four steps needed to set the stage in our city

    • Step 1: We need to accept publicly that our city has a real problem of major dimensions in the sector, that these dysfunctionalities have very high running costs that fall due day after day, and that solving these problems should have highest priority for near term solution.

    • Step 2. We need to pose the following basic question: What is it that we can do in our city a very short period of time (say two years or so, i.e. within the local electoral cycle) that could make a big difference in the CO2 situation? (In the full knowledge that anything that reduces CO2 from traffic is going to have some very powerful and visible influences on other aspects of the system, economic as well as environmental and life quality improvements).

    • Step 3. Set out to find and mobilize some leaders and citizens (or activist citizens and leaders) in the city who are willing to look more closely at the issues and solution possibilities within this shorter than usual time frame of urgency.

    • Step 4. Take this still somewhat abstract concept and boil it down to something that is at once simple, concrete and effective: for example, a bullet proof 20/20 proposal and operatins plan for out city in 2005.

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    High Points

    Courage/Confidence/Commitment - Yes or No: A 20/20 program is not the type of initiative that you can expect to back in to or kind of half do. If you are not strongly committed to the concept of aggressive near term action in the name of a better and safer city, if you are timid or a victim of the system's inertia, if you doubt in your ability to get the community behind you, this is not an initiative for you. You can save yourself a lot of time and stop reading here.

    The solution starts with you: And here is the irony of this program and approach. It is that the only way that this job is going to be done is if you personally get involved. These pages are intended to provide you with some first orientation on all this; but above all it is your experience, your professionalism, and your commitment to sustainable development that are going to move this agenda ahead.

    Create your city team and start to brainstorm: Once you have decided to get involved, among the very first steps will be for you to go through your network to locate within you city knowledgeable people and groups with whom you can work to get this program moving. It will not be every mayor or city council that are going to have the vision, courage and sheer ability to make this work in their community -- after all if you look at their work load and many concerns you will understand that there are many others things on their plate at all times. But there are a number of local leaders with vision and courage out there, and it is up to us to find the ones that are going to understand what this is all about, and who will be willing to lead the way.

    Set explicit targets: ("People manage what they measure") Careful preparation of a highest-priority, broad-based, multi-level, phased, city-wide, collaborative action program that sets out to achieve (a) an explicitly targeted and strikingly high (we suggest that you look at what is needed to achieve a 20% reduction) area-wide reduction in traffic and associated public health impacts (CO2, accidents, etc.) in the city (b) within a specified and brief target period (again, we suggest that you start by looking at a 20 month target period).

    List of available measures is in fact very long (click here for more on this), but the crux of the approach lies above all in the systematic, perhaps even stealthy, integrated shift of a relatively modest portion of the total available road infrastructure to both old (i.e., public transport) and new "high space efficiency" movers.

    Ensuring success: There is a prudent process by which the 20/20 program's ambitious aims can be checked for consistency and do-ability, and which lends itself, indeed depends on, very specific local tailoring and participation. But any eventual remedial action program along these lines that is going to yield results has to be accompanied ("sold") by a clear target and process that the voters and public can understand, want to work toward, and which they are confident will yield visible near-term results.

    Massive new investments? Does this imply 20% new money on top of everything? No! But it does require rethinking, redeploying and repackaging. And yes, a certain number of new synergistic initiatives as well, including some which perhaps you have not yet considered.

    Everything new? Is this to suggest that the entire content of the 20/20 program must be new? Not at all. It is recognized that in many cities there are already projects and programs that are moving in this direction, or at least many elements of it. However the contribution of the 20/20 program is that it provides a broader underlying structure, higher visibility and a sense of urgency and support which has thus far been lacking.

    Planning and preparation: The planning period to develop a 20/20 program blueprint? Well, we propose a two week advance planning mission leading into an intensive focused three month effort, but only if there is major backing by and commitment of local government and the volunteer sector. Half-hearted support will just not work. Also requires considerable technical expertise on the part of transport planners and energetic entrepreneurship from both public and private sector actors in the city, to allow us to use their expanding toolkit to better understand and provide for the impact on the streets of the many changes that together constitute the New Mobility Agenda for the city.

    And the Long Term? This is not to say that there is no place for long term thinking and action in the New Mobility Agenda, but rather the level of urgency of the problems in most places requires immediate remedial actions. Thus, all longer term programs and thrust must be supported by aggressive and broadly supported near term actions, for which the scope is in fact very large. (Which by the way should not do you a great deal of harm if you happen to be mayor or councilman with an election in the wings).

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    Planning and implementation notes

    1. The most effective way of understanding the full extent of the dysfunctionality and costs of our current transportation arrangements is to document it as a broad based 'public health' problem --to our minds more useful and powerful than looking at it as one more transportation or even environment challenge. on.

    2. Your city can, if it decides to, make significant near term inroads in congestion, pollution and life quality on its streets, without waiting for more international treaties to be signed, draconian anti-car policies from 'eco-terrorists', new technologies to appear from heaven and take hold overnight, or leveraging large piles of hard earned taxpayer money to build new roads, intersections, metros, LRT or fund costly, deficitory public transportation operations that invariably end up either half empty or stuck in traffic.

    3. The solution? Careful preparation of a highest-priority, broad-based, multi-level, phased city-wide collaborative action program that sets out to achieve (a) an explicitly targeted 20% area-wide reduction in traffic and associated public health impacts (CO2, accidents, etc.) in the city (b) within a target period of 20 months.

    4. There is a prudent process by which the 20/20 program's ambitious aims can be checked for consistency and do-ability, and which lends itself, indeed depends on, very specific local tailoring and participation. But any eventual remedial action program along these lines that is going to yield results has to be accompanied ("sold") by a clear announced target and process that the voters and public can understand, want to work toward, and which they are confident will yield visible near-term results.

    5. Does this imply 20% new money on top of everything? No! But as your preparatory studies will tell you it will require rethinking, redeploying and repackaging. And yes, a certain number of new synergistic initiatives as well, including some which perhaps you have not yet considered.

    6. Is this to suggest that the entire content of the 20/20 program must be new? Not at all. It is recognized that in many cities there are already projects and programs that are moving in this direction, or at least many elements of it. However the contribution of the 20/20 program is that it provides a broader underlying structure, higher visibility and a sense of urgency and support which has thus far been lacking.

    7. The planning period to develop a 20/20 program blueprint? Step 1: a two week advance planning mission to decide and lay the base for . . . Step 2: an intensive focused 3/6 month detailed planning and deployment effort (the so-called 20/20 blueprint)

    8. But all this will work only if there is major backing by and commitment of local government and the volunteer sector. Half-hearted support will just not work. Also requires considerable technical expertise on the part of transport planners and energetic entrepreneurship from both public and private sector actors in the city, to allow us to use their expanding toolkit to better understand and provide for the impact on the streets of the many changes that together constitute the New Mobility Agenda for the city.

    9. This is not to say that there is no place for long term thinking and action, but rather the level of urgency of the problems in most cities requires immediate remedial actions. Thus, all longer term programs and thrust must be supported by aggressive and broadly supported near term actions, for which the scope is in fact very large. (Which by the way should not do you a great deal of harm if you happen to be mayor or councilman with an election in the wings).

    10. Can this actually be achieved in your city? A good way to check out the viability of this concept will be to have a look at the composition of the Inernational Advisory Council here, on the understanding that each of them have signed on to this proposal on the grounds that they think that with proper preparation can be made to work. Moreover, should be made to work. If you have any questions about it, contact any of them. Or us.

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