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Showing posts from 2010

Download my thesis on urban transport and urban form in Pacific Asia

Despite its age (I finished it in 1999), I still get requests now and then for my PhD thesis. The old link to download it broke some time ago but last week the Murdoch University Research Repository came to the rescue and put it back up. So you can again  download it as a pdf via this page . Please forgive the shameless self promotion here! I never turned my thesis into a book, as many academics do. Instead I simply made it available on the web. A bad move? I did have some doubts when I saw bits of it plagiarized once or twice. But it also has 61 citations according to Google Scholar. I guess that's not too bad for an unpublished thesis. Last year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) picked up some of its ideas for their document,  Changing Course: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Urban Transport  [ PDF ]. The full title of my PhD dissertation is:   An international comparative perspective on urban transport and urban form in Pacific Asia: the challenge of rapid motorisation in de

Taxi insights and fun

The newly resurrected Transport Blog has an interesting riff on taxis  around the world. The post is an entertaining read, full of pithy observations (and quite a lot of speculation I suspect). Yet it cleverly sneaks in some important points on the dry dry topic of taxi regulation. Which is great because improving taxi industry arrangements is an important but sadly neglected element of urban transport policy. Hanoi's taxis feature prominently - hence the intriguing title " How to spook a Vietnamese taxi driver ". You have to read to the end to understand the reference. There are brief comments on taxi service and its regulation all over the world. If author Michael Jennings is to be believed, taxis in Bulgaria and Buenos Aires are to be avoided if humanly possible. Hanoi taxis in their natural habitat (a sea of motorcycles!) Singapore's get a little nod too. Which reminds me that a few years ago I wrote something about Singapore's taxi arrangements . Si

Can "shared space" street design reassure vulnerable users and still be shared space?

Shared-space design for streets and intersections deliberately creates a sense of uncertainty about who should proceed first. Such uncertainty is not a bug, it is a feature, as they say. In a well designed scheme, the results are said to be almost magical. The removal of clear-cut rules and signs and traffic lights prompts caution, low speeds and a negotiated approach to right-of-way instead of a rules-based approach. But there may be a problem.  Some of the most vulnerable users of streets don't seem to like shared space. It makes them feel ... vulnerable . In a comment on my post on Shared Space designs in Japan, David Hembrow (author of   a view from the cycle path blog) points out the Dutch cycling advocacy groups are not too keen on Shared Space: "Don't get too excited about Shared Space. I've yet to meet anyone here in the Netherlands who is enthusiastic about it. In fact, there is much criticism of it due to it having lead to a reduction in safety,

'Might makes right' versus 'duty of care' on the roads

'Who should be liable in road crashes involving bicycles?'. That's the question I posed over at Cycling in Singapore blog this morning. In many low-income or middle-income countries the road culture norms dictate that 'might makes right'. Small vehicles learn to get out of the way of the larger ones and the largest vehicles tend to barge their way through (more carefully perhaps than it seems at first glance... but they do seem to expect others to make way). However, in several European countries and in Japan, large road users are expected to exercise a strong duty of care for the more vulnerable ones.  So in the Netherlands for example, it will almost always be the motorist who is held primarily responsible in a crash with a bicyclist, even if the motorists broke no road rules. Does that seem crazy to you? Bicycles and scooters in Shanghai. It probably does seem strange if you live in the UK, the US or in almost any Commonwealth country, such as Singap

New parking policy blog: Reinventing Parking

"Parking" is currently the most common tag on this site and much of my research now focuses on parking. So it seemed time to consider starting a blog to focus specifically on parking policy. So that is exactly what I have now done. It is called Reinventing Parking . Among other things, I want to try to help communities understand the parking choices they face and to help them to improve their policies. If you agree with me that parking policy is important please visit Reinventing Parking and consider subscribing to its feed or via email.  Please spread the word to people who care about improving parking policy anywhere in the world.

Persuasive video on Pay-As-You-Drive (PAYD) car insurance

Here is an entertaining video explanation and exhortation on Pay-As-You-Drive (PAYD) insurance. Does your country, state or province have PAYD insurance yet? It was made by Cliff Caprani of British Columbia, Canada. See more context at the original site where there is a link to a petition for residents of BC. Hat tip: VTPI Newsletter, Summer 2010, by Todd Litman, one of the key experts on PAYD Insurance .

In urban transport be careful what you wish for

Freely flowing traffic is a good thing, right? And affordable motoring is good too, isn't it? Most motorists in most cities would surely agree. Maybe you would too? But as citizens and voters I think we need to be careful what we wish for. When political leaders decide that the central goals of urban transport policy are 1) solving traffic congestion and 2) keeping driving affordable, they may make themselves popular with motorists, but they also risk gradually turning their city into a monster.  I argued along these lines in a talk I gave on Wednesday to a couple of hundred junior college (high school) students (the presentation is at the end of this post). It was a non-technical talk on basic priorities in urban transport planning. Below is part of my reasoning. The Los Angeles region is not the world's most automobile-dependent city but it is the only mega-city to try so hard to keep driving fast and cheap. When faced with traffic problems it is tempting to ju

Useful analogy? Your car as a jack-of-all-trades and the alternatives as contractors

Can you help me make this analogy more useful? A household owning a car is like a tiny business hiring a jack-of-all-trades (but master of none ...). Your mobility needs during the course of a whole year can be likened to the skills and labour needs of a new business contemplating its first employee. Having a car gives you a tool that handles most of your mobility needs. It is like hiring a full-time staffer who is a 'jack-of-all trades'. He or she is versatile but not especially skilled or quick at any particular task. There are significant fixed costs too. You have to pay him or her about the same in both busy times and slow periods. In both cases there is an alternative.  A family can refrain from getting a car and rely instead on the various alternatives. That's like the small business putting off that first full-time employee and deciding instead to engage a series of contractors to do tasks that the owner-founder can no longer handle, as and when they ar

Singapore needs help with bicycle infrastructure design

After decades of mostly ignoring bicycles, Singapore's authorities have recently become more positive. "Bicycle paths" are appearing but we may need more help to get them right. An example in Sembawang. A painted line separates pedestrians from bicycle users. The change in attitude is very welcome. But some of us here are worried about the designs of these paths. The photo below illustrates one problem. 'Dismount and push' sign where the bicycle path meets the entrance to a parking area in the housing estate. My recent post at Cycling in Singapore looks at the bike paths in one such town (Sembawang). Be aware that most bicycle use in Singapore is at very low speed, is for short trips, and takes place on the footways, which are usually much narrower than the paths shown here. Conflict between bicycles and pedestrians is an emotive issue often raised in newspaper letters and online forums. Riding on sidewalks/footpaths is illegal but ubiquitous. The

Did the Japanese invent Shared Space Streets?

The shared space (or 'naked streets') approach to street design was developed in the Netherlands right? The late Hans Monderman was the pioneering hero who extended it to some surprisingly busy roads and intersections, correct? And it has been popularised and applied in the UK and elsewhere by Ben Hamilton-Baillie , hasn't it? Or did shared space emerge in Japan? In a recent Ecohearth post explaining the shared space idea , Dawn Marshallsay includes this sentence: It could be said that Tokyo led the way, as most of its roads follow the shared-space principle, although they were not purposefully designed to reduce accidents. Actually, it is mainly small side-streets that are like that, not most roads, but you get the point. Here are some examples photographed during my short visits to Japan. (Scroll down for more discussion after the pictures) Near Fukuoka airport and a subway station. Near Tokyo University and Ueno in central Tokyo. In Nishitokyo City,

Connections (July 2010)

In this segment I try to connect you with recent items relevant to reinventing urban transport.  From a public domain image at Wikimedia commons Robin Chase suggests a cap-and-trade approach to residential parking permits. An idea with potential I think. Charting Transport provides fascinating graphical analysis of journey-to-work mode shares in Melbourne. Cycling in Singapore blog highlights fruits of the slow shift towards more positive bicycle policy in Singapore (bike paths aimed at local, low-speed bicycle users but I worry about their quality and design). Human Transit marvels at the new Paris commitment to giving buses priority and space in the streets, even narrow ones. New York Times reports on the Guangzhou BRT. Great quotes from ITDP folks. The BRT was reported to have set a new BRT record of 800,000 trips a day. Hat tips Streetsblog and Transport News . Tokyo by Bike discusses confusion over Japan's bicycle laws. Twice . Copenhagenize warns of the dang

Let's give cars more competition!

What competition do cars have in your city? I don't mean competition between Toyota, Ford or Hyundai. I don't even mean competition between cars and public transport for this morning's work trips. I am talking about competition between a car-owning lifestyle and a set of alternatives that add up to a whole lifestyle, creating a complete 'mobility package' attractive enough to make car ownership feel optional. In places like Manhattan or Hong Kong or the inner cities of Zurich, Paris, Tokyo or London a lifestyle without your own car is already an attractive option even for wealthy people.   But could we extend the range of places where not having a car is an excellent lifestyle choice? Can we make car use more provisional and less locked-in to our liefstyles and our urban systems? How? Here is a presentation I gave last year which tackles some of these issues in a non-technical way. Under-appreciated and neglected urban transport policy opportunities (and ref

Parking in Asian cities - highlights and comparisons

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?   Try Reinventing Parking. ] Here is a presentation with highlights from the Asian Cities Parking Study that I have mentioned before . I gave this at the ADB Transport Forum in Manila in late May 2010. Barter for ADB Transport Forum 2010 What do you think? Post a comment. You may feel that the policy implications near the end don't necessarily follow obviously from the data in the earlier slides. And you would be right. Some of them are a little speculative. They are based on the wider findings, on the data in the study, on my wider research on parking, and on arguments advanced in the study report itself (out soon I hope).   A parking meter in Guangzhou. It serves two spaces and accepts only contactless card payment.

Singapore through New (World) eyes

On Sunday I spent an enjoyable few hours here in Singapore with Jarrett Walker, author of the excellent Human Transit (a must-read blog for anyone with an interest in transit planning). Today he blogged about the evening , complete with many photos. Jarrett works mainly in the 'New World' cities of North America and Australasia as a consultant on public transport planning. This was his first visit to this Asian city. It is interesting to see his take on the bits of Singapore that we explored together (Ang Mo Kio mainly). A few days earlier he also had some sharp observations on the pedestrian environment near his hotel near downtown Orchard Road. Image from Vsion at Wikimedia After reading Jarrett's post , you may want more on transport and urban planning in Singapore. You could start with my previous posts on the city-state (see here and here ).

India's years of walking dangerously - a sobering video

Just how bad can walking environments get? Answer: Very bad , as demonstrated in " Where are we to walk ?" a 9 minute video from Pune in Maharashtra, India.  Parisar explains who was behind the film : The film was conceptualised and shot by Susan Michet, an American student intern during her time in Pune in May 2009. The Alliance for Global Education funded Susan's stay and work in Pune, Janwani provided the office space and infrastructure, while Parisar provided the inputs regarding the content of the film. We also acknowledge Hema Gadgil's contribution of her voice-over to the film. After watching the film, do you have any ideas for our Indian friends? What can turn this around? Do you know of a city where things got this bad but which has since created a walkable city? Do you see redeeming features of Indian cities that offer some hope and which can part of the solution? For more on (un)walkable cities in Asia (especially South Asia) see also:

Parking slots are like toilets (according to conventional parking planning)

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?   Try Reinventing Parking. ] Planning systems treat parking and toilets in very similar ways and for similar reasons (such as to deter people from 'doing it in the streets'). Is this just a funny observation? I guess it is quite funny but I also have a serious point. Planning toilets like we plan for fire-escapes, elevators and plumbing does work quite well ( mostly ). However, planning for parking like we plan for toilets is problematic. Below, I list ways that conventional planning does in fact treat parking and toilets the same. Then I highlight key differences which make planning parking like toilets seem like a very bad idea. First, a list of how parking and toilets are (conventionally) planned in very similar ways: Both are treated as an essential ancillary service that every building will need. It is usually assumed that no fee (or a token fee at most perhaps) will be charged. Remember, we are talking


Connecting you with web destinations that caught my eye recently.  From a public domain image at Wikimedia commons CityFix Mumbai on transport and the gathering monsoon season in an Indian megacity A wonderful Streetfilm on the Cycle Chic movement which has grown from the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog Nate Berg at Planetizen on Johannesburg 'Persecution of the Pedestrian Majority' Transit (Klang Valley) analyses Malaysian objectives for public transport in the Kuala Lumpur region ( under the National Key Result Area ( NKRA ) targets) Econoblogger Felix Salmon hosts a fascinating debate on congestion pricing (with a New York focus) The Infrastructurist on a hi-tech corporate effort to help Ho Chi Minh City with its traffic problems The CityFix on South Africa's public transport improvements leading up to the football World Cup The CityFix again on NyayaBhoomi, a Delhi-based NGO that works for a better auto-rickshaw system in Delhi Coming event on '

Shoup's parking agenda is more profound than you think

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?   Try Reinventing Parking. ] Donald Shoup's ' The High Cost of Free Parking ' points towards a profoundly different way of thinking about parking policy. It offers much more than just a nifty way to price on-street parking efficiently.  Conventional parking policy in action in New Zealand Yet, in real-world policy debates over Shoup's parking ideas most people seem to focus only on his call to price kerbside parking for 85% occupancy . That's a pity because his agenda is much more interesting than that. First, a recap on Shoup's parking reform ideas.  He is focused on cities that currently have a conventional suburban-style parking policy, with cheap on-street parking and every building required to have plentiful parking. He is based in Los Angeles and his focus is on American cities. His ideas are also obviously relevant to places like suburban Canada, Australia and New Zealand which have adopted

Singapore-Malaysia cross-border transport agreement and opportunities

Singapore's bicycle community has noticed that last week's agreement on the Malayan Railways (KTM) corridor could create a wonderful bikeway opportunity. So far, this angle has had no media attention. More on this at the end but first I want to reflect on the wider issues in the agreement. A few years back, in my geographer days, I wrote about the surface links between Singapore and Malaysia. These are both international transport and urban transport at the same time. After a long saga, the two countries have finally reached an agreement on several important cross-border transport issues.  At the time I studied this about 5 years ago, it was an intriguing tale and a case of remarkably problematic cross-border cooperation. I am glad that win-win resolutions look like emerging.  My 2006 paper on this ( pdf ; publisher site ) discussed three main aspects and the latest announcement relates to all three (as well as several other issues, such as cross-border taxis,

Parking prices from a different angle

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?   Try Reinventing Parking. ] Is $400 per month for season parking outrageous or reasonable? Well, it depends ... But what does it depend on? One suggestion: the price of a hamburger! This rule-of-thumb for hourly parking prices comes from Pete Goldin at the Parking World blog yesterday, citing Dr Adhiraj Joglekar, founder of the website Hmmm. I guess they are alluding, tongue-in-cheek, to the Big Mac Index from the Economist. This index uses burger prices to correct for differences in the purchasing power of money in different countries. But seriously, what is the right comparison? Purchasing power is obviously not the only issue here, since parking prices usually vary from place to place within every city. Prices range from zero in many suburban parking lots to 'expensive' in the city centre. But the last time I looked burgers were not free-of-charge in the suburbs. How about

Motorcycles squeeze into urban nooks and crannies

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?   Try Reinventing Parking. ] Parking on the door-step (literally) in Hanoi The space efficiency of motorcycles is important for many Asian cities. Traffic engineers usually assume that motorcycles consume about half the road space of a car. In other words, two-wheelers' PCU value is typically given as 0.5 'passenger car units' in heavy traffic. But motorcycle parking can usually squeeze in many more than two machines per car space. These Taipei scooters may be an extreme case. How do they get them in and out? For the forthcoming Asian cities parking study, we found motorcycle parking space norms of up to 10 two-wheelers per car space . Singapore’s parking standards specify perpendicular car slot dimensions and its minimum and preferred size for motorcycle slots. Together these suggest that between 4.6 and 6 motorcycle spaces take the same area as a car space (Land Transport Authority 2005). In India, motor