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Showing posts from October, 2008

Bus systems that work

Buses may not be sexy (least of all Delhi's buses like the one above). But most cities desperately need to improve their basic bus systems.

And I am not talking about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) this time. No matter how much BRT you put in, neglecting the basic bus system will undermine your efforts. Jakarta is finding this.

The same goes for urban rail systems. These work best when complemented and fed by a good bus system. Seoul realised this in 2004. Unable to expand its subway, it turned to bus improvements for a dramatic boost to its system.

Maybe the only thing less sexy than a bus is bus regulation!

But if you care about public transport it is time to get interested in regulatory questions likethese: Who should plan the system? Who should own what? What roles are best for the public sector? What roles are best for businesses? How should they be rewarded? What kind of competition works for city buses?

Getting the regulatory framework right is at least as important as the enginee…

Places worth loving (and protecting from traffic)

What is "success" in urban transport policy?

A common answer used to be "keeping vehicles moving and avoiding traffic jams".

But by now, most people involved with urban transport realise that "keeping the traffic moving" is NOT a useful goal.

Mobility, especially mobility for vehicles, is just a means to other ends. It should never be seen as an end in itself. If we make preventing congestion our goal, we are confusing ends with means.

OK. So what is the real goal of urban transport planning then?

Most of us tend to answer "accessibility"! Planning for accessibility involves trying to make it easy to REACH the things we want to (like contacts, services, goods, jobs, education).

This seems like progress. Here we have a much more coherent purpose for transport planning, right?

Unfortunately, accessibility doesn't seem to excite many people. Despite decades of lip service to accessibility planning most cities still have way too much traffic-focused t…

How do those Dutch do it?

You probably know that the Netherlands has lots of cycling. They sure do! An amazing 27% of ALL trips* in this rich country in 2005 were by bicycle.

Riding in the Netherlands is also remarkably safe.

Safety in numbers (from "Cycling in the Netherlands", p.13)

So what is their secret?

How did the Netherlands get to be such a cycling paradise? There are several rather unhelpful theories.
"It is a flat country": No doubt this helps. But there are plenty other comparable flat places with much less cycling. "The Dutch have a long-standing 'bicycle culture'": Certainly they do. But is this a cause or an effect? So did many other countries at some point in the 20th century. Yet most of them somehow lost their 'bicycle cultures'. "They have good weather for cycling": I hear this when I talk about cycling in hot and sticky Singapore. But I suspect this theory is only popular among people who have never spent any time in a damp and windy Dutch …