|The special challenges of transport in cities
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"We have to reduce about 80% of our greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 to 15 years."
President Clinton set the bar extraordinarily high in announcing the Clinton Climate Initiative collaboration with the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group in Los Angeles in August of 2006, setting out the goal of his program: ". . . to reduce about 80% of our greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 to 15 years." Hmm. This means global city reductions for the planet as a whole on the rough order of 10% or a bit less each year. And the clock starts ticking on 1 August 2006. This high reduction target is the vital litmus test to which every program, city, project and expenditure of funds and effort by all those who wish to make this work must be subjected.
Transport in cities - The million tailpipe problem
To understand this all you have to do is look out the window this morning, observe all the traffic and think about what's behind it. Clearly, it is quite one thing to work with producers and companies that are doing something and generating untoward emissions in the process. The relatively small number of sources involved, the relatively reduced numbers of players making the decisions, their well defined relationship with government, and the fact that almost all of the polluting sources oblige us by staying in the same place, make it one kind of challenge.
But when it comes to how people and goods trundle around in the city it's quite another set of issues. The so-called "million tailpipe problem". Look at all those cars, two wheelers, trucks and busses out there roaming through the streets. With the exception of those vehicles which are organized in fleets - buses, trucks, taxis and the like - all the rest, the overwhelming majority, are out there moving around for reasons that are firmly inside the heads of the people at the wheel. Millions of individual citizens who are living their lives and making their individual choices, often for reasons that even they do not fully understand. That is the main target group in our sector, and as you can imagine reaching them and influencing their decisions is quite another kind of challenge. But that is the one that interests us in particular and where we hope that we can be of some help to the Clinton/Large Cities Climate teams.
In an attempt to make this clear, here is a quick list of "challenges and responses" on matters of city transport which we draw to your attention as you start out on this leg of your challenge. If you want more on any item, all you have to do is click of course.
But briefly before you turn to this next section, a quick word here on our strategic view the Clinton Challenge from the city transport side. Although we are starting off here in a neutral questioning mode, and while we are aware of the extraordinary difficulties involved, we are taking it as a pillar of what is being proposed here and in any future work we might do on this, that the call for huge reductions is a valid one and that somehow we are going to be smart and wise enough to at least start to make significant global progress on this. Given the nature of the challenge however, we can be sure from the beginning here that the progress will be in something other than a convenient straight line. But now let's scratch some of the underlying issues before we take this any further.
We are confident that any city in the world that has the will and commitment, the technical virtuosity that is needed to make it work, and the leadership capable of mobilizing popular support, can reduce its CO2 production in the transport sector by anywhere from 5-10% annually for each of the next two to five years, and are ready to show how it can be done. But first let's look at the following.
At the end of the day, the quite unique problem with transport in cities from a policy perspective is that it does not lend itself to the same kind of one-shot analytic brilliance and decision-making that may do the job in other sectors of city management. It is, in sharp contrast, an enormously fussy, continuing, iterative process. The crux of the remedial policies in this sector in our pluralistic democratic societies is that they can require not only "executive decisions", international treaties or buying lots of new stuff, but that we need to find ways of dealing with and influencing many thousands, millions of mainly minute and personal decisions and changes made by individual citizens and groups with very different views on the topic of how they are to get about in their daily lives. It is an enormous strategic and political challenge to bring about these changes in people's minds and actions. This is, in a very real way, the unique Politics of Transportation.
To make all this happen is going to require a combination of vision pragmatism, generosity, commitment. Along with rare political leadership and a certain dose of guile. This is something that of all programs I know today, the Clinton Foundation just may be one of our greatest hopes. But for this to work there must also be in parallel a world wide networking effort which brings to the program the best of the experience, perspective and expertise available on these issues. Maximum diversity in the minimum space. And that is possibly where we can lend a hand.
Looking at them from a sustainability or Old/New Mobility perspective, I would propose that there are basically five gross categories of cities in the world today. Moreover, it's my guess that as you work your way down this list you find that the number of cities in each progressive category grows much smaller. Here it is in a nutshell, with "worse" of course meaning more traffic, more CO2 et al each year.
Category 1. Comatose, and . .
Category 2. Nervous, but . . .
Category 3. Starting to cope, but ..
Category 4. Ambitious, but . . .
Category 5. World Leaders - Clinton-compliant
Think of this as a Ladder of Sustainable Transportation performance, with one clear strategic goal of any eventual program being to do what is needed to help cities move up a rung as quickly as possible. It is my guess that the world leaders, who may serve to provide some practical examples for the rest, will be mainly in Category 4. And now in closing two questions:
With your permission your replies will be posted to the New Mobility Idea Factory and the Global South Forum. I look forward to them and hope that you will find this exercise of some use.
PS. It is my thought that this information, perspective and eventual diverse feedback from world colleagues who know their cities from direct in-place experience, may help the Clinton Climate Initiative/Large Cities transport team in their search for places, projects, methods and partners to, in some way, lead their campaign to encourage and assist the up-hill (but winnable) battle for the necessary huge CO2 savings in world cities.
The above message was posted to several hundred cooperating world wide colleagues with deep experience in our sector on 24 January, with a first set of responses that follow directly below. (For more go to http://newmobility.org and click the "Talking New Mobility" links to the Idea Factory and Global South (Sustran Network).
From: Sujit Patwardhan [mailto:email@example.com], India
Thanks Eric for this excellent exercise. Pune I would say is in Category 3 and somewhat stuck there. I will write in some detail soon. Warm regards,
From: Brendan Finn, Ireland
I suggest to add Category 0, those who are getting worse by doing plenty - of the "wrong" stuff - and are pretty determined to keep doing it. Those who are "doing nothing" - Category 1/2 - have at least paused in the hole they are digging.
I would put Dublin in category 3, dressing itself up as something better. For all the talk about Transport 21 and public transport investment, the big bucks have gone into roads and will continue to do so for the next few years.
For Cork, I would say that they are 4, with the caveats exactly as you describe them.
Cape Town, South Africa probably falls within category 2 and 3. Although there are some people in the local government who wish to implement measures to improve the situation, particularly in addressing the problem of congestion, there is still the problem of traditional thinking and planning who believe that expanding roadways are probably the only way to go. In many cases the traditional (old-school) thinkers and those with the money.
The interventions that are planned to be implemented are on a very small scale and are usually run as pilot projects, which once tested, stop because funding runs out.
South Africa is hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup and we are currently experiencing major congestion problems, particularly in the centre of town (where the main stadium will the built), so we can't image what it will be like once the large number of visitors arrive in the country.
There are however, some organizations that are working with governments to change their thinking and planning methods and hopefully make a difference.
We'll just have to wait and see.
On Behalf Of Ryan McGreal, Canada
Quoting firstname.lastname@example.org: > I would like to propose to you a thinking exercise. It works like this. . . .
Do you mind if I post this to Raise the Hammer? I think it's a great system for categorizing cities (my city, Hamilton, Ontario, for example, is clearly a Category 3).
On Behalf Of Ian Wingrove, UK
London is probably in category five. London is the only world city where car traffic as a proportion of journeys is in decline. Spending on public transport obviously dwarfs spending on roads, but apart from one new road bridge in East London which has been strongly opposed, there is no major road building program. Expenditure is slowly being switched to better things. The amount spent on cycling has trebled since 2004. The Demand Management Strategy now has around £30m of funding a year. As a result of this years agreement over the budget between the London Mayor and the greens we have started increasing the funding for walking.
There is also a big push on low and zero emission vehicles, as well as continuing work of safer roads. This year we also have £25m set aside over the next three years for work on climate change and transport. A climate change action plan will be launched shortly to add some substance to the targets and indicators.
The one area we still haven't cracked is planning, which is outside of the budget process.
Most of what is happening is outlined in the attached letter from the London Mayor to the two green Assembly members, which is the deal struck in return for their pivotal support for his budget.
From: Eric Britton
I am delighted to hear Ian that London is a strong Category 5 candidate? I recall when I was lending a hand in the Contested Streets film out of New York last summer, that they were looking very favorably on your fair city as a possible example.
But just to be quite sure on the ground rules in all this.
Category 5: Verifiable progress for the full defined city area (we need to be very clear on this) in terms of:
It may be that the first three on this list are all we need to do this job, but let me post this as a challenge draft and see what we can do with it.
I am eager to hear what others who know your city well have to say. I think this could prove a lively and creative exercise for us all.
On Behalf Of Simon Norton, UK
In the UK in particular divided responsibility is a particular problem. Most cities have no control over their transport policies -- buses are deregulated, decisions on trains are made at national level, and projects such as light rail are dependent on Government support. Cities do not have adequate fund raising powers. The planning system also denies the planning authorities (who are sometimes but not always the city councils) full control over what gets built, with the result that "planning drift" -- the gradual replacement of less car dependent development by more car dependent development -- is still widespread.
In London, the central area may deserve a category 5, though even there progress is agonisingly slow. Outer London boroughs, I think, are split between category 3s and category 4s.
Cambridge is to my mind a clear category 3. The County Council makes lots of good sounding noise but doesn't really have the policies to save the city (outside the historic area) from car domination. Politically the ruling group on the county council doesn't have a single member from within the city, and people from the surrounding area are far more car oriented, so this really isn't surprising. Unfortunately the County Council seems to be a regular winner of awards -- even though its political orientation is not aligned with that of the central government -- which gives a misleading impression of the real state of affairs.
On Behalf Of Chris Bradshaw
If you want to make the points that your five 'states' represents _kinds_ of cities, you will need names for each, e.g., the famous article by Sherrie Arnstein about kinds of public participation (http://lithgow-schmidt.dk/sherry-arnstein/ladder-of-citizen-participation.html).
Probably the titles would suggest either the outcomes (from "about to be overwhelmed" to "fated for significant upsurge in eco-tourism and reduced property taxes") for the various kinds or a characterization of their mental model of their own efficacy, e.g., "out-to-lunch", "slightly conscious," "struggling," "just coping, and "showing leadership."
You seem to have done a good job of keeping the 'rungs' on your ladder close enough that the next one up doesn't appear to be too daunting.
You should develop into a longer piece with specific jobs each needs to do to get to the next rung.
Chris Bradshaw, Ottawa
On Behalf Of Jack M. Nilles
Los Angeles, unfortunately, seems also to be stuck at 3. In the early 1990s the South Coast (or Southern California) Air Quality Management District had a regulation requiring traffic reduction. The regulation had some teeth, requiring all employers of more than 100 employees in a single facility to comply with an upper limit on the number of commuter cars associated with the facility--or face a fine of up to $10,000 per day of noncompliance.
This regulation spurred considerable interest in traffic reduction, including a telecommuting demonstration project by the City of Los Angeles. Alas, the captains of industry prevailed and the regulation was scrapped in the mid-90s. So even though our per capita, normal-sized automobile air pollution production has been decreasing, it has been largely through technology not behavior change. The city's telecommuting program vanished with the transition from Mayor Bradley (a populist) to Mayor Riordan (a financier). A decade after I thought we were finally getting people's attention we're back to the old ways of approaching the problem, not even questioning the need for, timing of, or vehicle used in some trips.
On the other hand, my car put on 700 miles in 2005. If only we can get the other 12 million LAers to try similar measures. OK, half of them. It's feasible. A couple of days per week.
Never mind level 5, are there any cities of more than 100,00 population at level 4?
On Behalf Of Jonathan Kagan, UK
Simon points out that being a category 4 or 5 takes more than commitment, it also requires a degree of independence. That being said, can anyone suggest a list of top cities in category 4?
-----Original Message----- From: Eric Britton (ChoiceMail) [mailto:Eric.Britton@ecoplan.org] Sent: Monday, January 29, 2007
Eric, If you want to make the points that your five 'states' represents _kinds_ of cities, you will need names for each. . . Probably the titles would suggest either the outcomes (from "about to be overwhelmed" to "fated for significant upsurge in eco-tourism and reduced property taxes") for the various kinds or a characterization of their mental model of their own efficacy, e.g., "out-to-lunch", "slightly conscious," "struggling," "just coping, and "showing leadership."
You seem to have done a good job of keeping the 'rungs' on your ladder close enough that the next one up doesn't appear to be too daunting.
To which I answered as a first go. What about . . . ?
Having scanned the CCI stuff, I know what the fifth level refers to. But the other four don't move me. What about:
I commend Clinton for what he said, since the current emergence of climate change as the Western world's #1 issue (a poll in the Globe and Mail's edition today says that's what it is in Canada), and the cities are where it has to happen.
I draw this exchange to your attention this morning with the thought that as you play with these words and the concepts behind them, you may, I would like to think, begin to dig in more deeply to the issues and challenges. I really think that all of us need to start to get involved and ready to pitch in to put this in high gear.
Transport in cities is perhaps the one area in which we can do most in the shortest amount of time. So stay tuned.
From: Carlos F. Pardo SUTP [mailto:email@example.com], Bogotá, Colombia
This rating is interesting, and very similar to the stages of change of Proshansky et al which are used to describe people's level of awareness towards physical activity. I adapted it to my "public awareness and behavior change in sustainable transport" training document (in www.sutp.org ), and I think it's also nice to apply it to cities. It's very simple and a good way to "rank" and know how to act upon them. I also wrote a bit about that in the training document, since people in the "1" stage (technically called precontemplation) are not really reactive to changing drastically to a very different setting (unless their mayor is very progressive), and people in the "4" stage (technically, action) are really easy to improve towards level 5 (maintenance).
In cities, there's also a big problem with those that find there is something wrong (congestion, emissions, road safety), but when they try to solve it they do unsustainable things: build highways, ring roads, pedestrian overpasses, ban rickshaws, ask for driver licenses for bicycles, take bicycles away from people without helmets (and the cost of retrieving the bicycle is higher than the bicycle itself). So they would be in a kind of "stage 3" but going the wrong way... I'm not sure how to go about this. Maybe a drawing would be good to show this, but I'm not that good drawing these things (or it takes me weeks to finish).
If this message is not yet too long, another concept that really extends all this is Vygotstky's zone of proximal development, which actually explains (though for education of children) how to teach with people depending on their current level of knowledge. The interesting thing is that he states this as a dynamic process (and writing it around 1930!) where people have a "zone" to which they can improve, so anything that goes beyond that would be discarded or never understood (only when they've reached a zone that goes farther).
I would then propose that people state the cities' ratings and the direction towards where they're going ("3 directed towards 5"). For example, Bogotá was for a long time a 4 or 5, but during the past few years may have been going down. These past few months, however, it is really aiming towards a 5 (and if Peñalosa wins again, it should definitely go to 5 and beyond).
Best regards, Carlos F. Pardo
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