Barter on What is Success in Urban Transport?


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Presented to Junior College geography students at Temasek JC, Singapore, 11 August 2010. Discusses for a general audience competing ideas about how to define 'success' in urban transport policy. Warns to be careful what you wish for. Wanting faster traffic and cheaper driving can be traps.

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  • Image from Zhukov and Robinson “Roads of Doom”
  • “ lock in” (a path dependence concept) is an important theme in this talk.
  • In order to understand this we need to discuss the structure and densities of urban areas.
  • Massive, long-lasting physical systems Roads Expressways Mass transit systems Vehicle sales & service system Fuels sales and distribution systems Large-scale urban structure Buildings Local layouts
  • Vehicle fleet turnover takes time Ways vehicles are paid for and regulated make them ‘sticky’ Households with cars gradually become more car dependent Key decisions not daily … just a handful per lifetime
  • For example, Manila, Jakarta or Bangkok have this to a considerable degree still, despite expressway building in recent decades. Singapore had a structure something like this before making a deliberate shift towards the ‘transit city’ model since the early 1970s.
  • Professions – such as traffic engineering, urban planning, etc Planning regulations – such as building codes, parking requirements
  • This image of surface parking near downtown Houston is from a magazine cover with editorial comments added by Eric Britton.
  • Todd Litman should be acknowledged as a key source for this framework.
  • There is a mismatch between the design of this street section (in Singapore) and its actual use.
  • If a street is built for fast movement (mobility) then it is difficult to also provide access to places along the route (access function) If designed for convenient access to all places along route then difficult to have fast travel along the facility Vibrant street life means people find the streets interesting enough and comfortable enough to just hang out in. greater willingness to reduce or slow traffic to prevent it from impacting on valuable places… Each street has a joint role as a mobility facility, an access facility and as a PLACE!
  • Streets with strong access and place roles can enhance these roles via design and regulation for slower speeds. The mobility role remains but with lower priority. Most trips involve only a short distance at beginning and end on this part of the network. Most of the trip will be at the usual speeds (eg 50 km/h on urban arterials).
  • Public transport transport in cities tends to do best with public planning/coordination and private operations.
  • Barter on What is Success in Urban Transport?

    1. 1. Success in urban transport? More is not always better Assistant Prof. Paul Barter LKY School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore Talk prepared for Junior College Geography students event at Temasek JC, Singapore, 11 August 2010.
    2. 2. 1. Careful what you wish for! <ul><li>Don’t confuse ‘ends’ with ‘means’ </li></ul><ul><li>Is faster traffic always better? </li></ul><ul><li>Is cheaper driving always better? </li></ul>Zhukov and Robinson
    3. 3. MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER IN URBAN TRANSPORT! <ul><li>American cities have tried to provide more and more mobility (especially by car) but have become “locked in” to car dependent systems </li></ul>
    4. 4. a. Higher traffic speeds and less congestion. Are these good goals? <ul><li>Is fast traffic a good goal for an urban transport policy? </li></ul>
    5. 5. Dense Cities are vulnerable to traffic <ul><li>Impossible to provide high road capacity per person </li></ul><ul><li>High Traffic per hectare </li></ul><ul><li>“ Traffic saturation ” </li></ul>Seoul . Paul Barter
    6. 7. Density Densities in 7 major cities at the same scale in a 3 dimensional view Source: Alain Bertaud
    7. 8. Main road network density versus main road length per person, 1990 Source: Paul Barter
    8. 9. Responses to traffic saturation? <ul><li>Tempting to focus on traffic speed: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>expand roads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>spread things out </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>in hope of increasing traffic speeds </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It can work BUT only with huge investment </li></ul><ul><li>ALSO creates unsustainable car-oriented city </li></ul><ul><li>Usual result is traffic saturation at a higher level of traffic! </li></ul>
    9. 10. Speed spreads the city – does not save time <ul><li>Development potential of land parcels depends on accessibility </li></ul><ul><li>Faster transport  more travel not saved time  urban area can spread out  in fact, it MUST spread out </li></ul><ul><li>Is Singapore an exception? </li></ul>Karl Fjellstrom, GTZ Photo CD
    10. 11. Physical lock-in Image source: Alain Bertaud
    11. 12. Physical lock-in Zhukov and Robinson
    12. 13. Household-level “lock-in” Photos from wikimedia commons
    13. 14. A ‘vicious spiral’ of increasing car traffic and urban sprawl leading to ever more demand for road space
    14. 15. City structure influenced by dominant transport modes (such as, the “walking city” pre 1850) Source: Newman (1995) c.f. Shaeffer & Sclar (1975); Adams (1970); Knox (1987); Hartshorn (1990).
    15. 16. Public transport city (rail, tram and bus influenced - early 20 th Century) Source: Newman (1995) Paul Barter Paul Barter
    16. 17. Bus and Non-Motorized Cities Source: Barter, 1999 Paul Barter Paul Barter
    17. 18. Automobile city Remember: in most cities, faster transport buys more space not more time! Source: Newman (1995)
    18. 19. Institutional lock-in <ul><li>Institutional arrangements often help entrench car dependence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Professions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Planning regulations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Road rules and norms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public expectations </li></ul></ul>
    19. 20. Photo: FOE UK People go further, faster in car oriented cities … but do they have better transport? Do they have good cities?
    20. 21. People go further, faster in car oriented cities … but do they have better transport? Do they have good cities?
    21. 22. Successful cities without high traffic speeds? Tokyo . Photo: Paul Barter London . Photo: Ben Hamilton-Baillie . Paris . Photo from Hong Kong . Photo: Paul Barter
    22. 23. b. Cheap driving: a good goal? <ul><li>Is cheap driving a good goal for transport planning? </li></ul><ul><li>For example: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cheap fuel (subsidy or minimal fuel tax) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low vehicle taxes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plentiful, cheap parking </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No congestion charging </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cheap for whom? Cheap for motorist or for society as a whole? </li></ul>
    23. 24. Driving can seem cheap in some countries BUT real costs are high <ul><li>Driving is often directly subsidised … </li></ul><ul><li>Externalities rarely priced – when activities affect the welfare others without payment or compensation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Pollution’: externality cost suffered by non-users (non-polluters) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Congestion: externality cost among users (EACH user damages service quality for BOTH self AND others) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fixed costs -- perverse incentives (need to ‘get my money’s worth’) </li></ul><ul><li>Marginal social cost exceeds marginal private cost </li></ul>
    24. 25. No such thing as free parking <ul><li>Free parking is not ‘free’. Somebody faced a cost … </li></ul><ul><li>Who should pay the cost of parking? </li></ul>Source: Shoup (2005) The High Cost of Free Parking
    25. 26. High costs of cheap driving <ul><li>Inefficient allocation of resources </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Excessive driving </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Excessive investments in roads & parking </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Harms alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>… so drivers see poor options </li></ul><ul><li>… and demand that driving stays cheap! </li></ul>Bangkok. Photo: Karl Fjellstrom
    26. 27. Travel demand management ... User pays for road use and externalities Source: City of Stockholm reports
    27. 28. Cheap driving and a focus on speed creates cities like this (Plentiful space for vehicles, huge distances driven, no time saved)
    28. 29. 2. Towards real, long-term ‘success’ <ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul><ul><li>Places </li></ul><ul><li>Comprehensive alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>If these are successful then don’t need to worry so much about traffic speed or cost of driving </li></ul>A Mobilien Bus Rapid Transit route in Paris
    29. 30. a. Focus more on REACHING than on moving (= accessibility) <ul><li>We mostly do not want movement itself (recreational trips are a small %) </li></ul><ul><li>We want to REACH things: goods, services and contacts </li></ul><ul><li>Just as happy if we can do so with little or no movement! </li></ul>Source: GTZ Photo DVD
    30. 31. What is success in urban transport? <ul><li>Transport policy is often ‘Traffic’ focused (focus on cheap vehicle movement and traffic speed; congestion as main problem; prompts road & parking capacity expansion) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on ‘Mobility’ is more efficient (=focus on efficient movement of people and goods; eg prompts bus priority) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on ‘Accessibility’ is even better! (=focus on convenience of reaching opportunities; eg ‘reducing the need to travel’) </li></ul>
    31. 32. Compact cities and transport/land-use coordination Source: Singapore URA, Concept Plan 1991 Source: Govt. of Netherlands
    32. 33. Example: transit-oriented planning in Tokyo (Hikarigaoka New Town) At terminus of new subway line (opened 2000) Mixed use with excellent ‘green’ walking and bicycle network to complement subway and buses
    33. 34. Public transport and efficient use of urban space in dense areas Source::GTZ (original source City of Münster, Germany?)
    34. 35. b. Make PLACES a higher priority (and their quality) <ul><li>Don’t let traffic blight key urban places </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid demolitions for road building </li></ul>Seoul . Photo: Paul Barter Los Angeles . Photo: Paul Barter
    35. 36. What are streets for? Amsterdam . Photo: Zaitun Kasim
    36. 37. Streets as places and access facilities not just traffic facilities <ul><li>Tension between street roles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>traffic versus access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>transport versus public realm </li></ul></ul>Singapore . Photo: Paul Barter Amsterdam . Photo: Zaitun Kasim
    37. 38. Lower speeds: the “secret” for expanding public realm but sharing with vehicles 30 km/h zones in Basel, Switzerland Ben Hamilton-Baillie .
    38. 39. c. Nurture COMPREHENSIVENESS of alternatives to private vehicles <ul><li>How should we treat public transport? </li></ul><ul><li>Just like any business? </li></ul>Cartoon: GTZ Thailand
    39. 40. Integrated excellent public transport
    40. 41. Example: Seoul’s 2004 bus reforms Source: Kim, GC 2007 with permission <ul><li>Labelled ‘Semi-public’ (meaning public control, private provision) </li></ul>
    41. 42. Seoul’s bus reforms Source: Kim, GC 2007 with permission
    42. 43. Public transport not enough on its own <ul><li>Work on improving its natural allies too </li></ul>
    43. 44. Summary <ul><li>Fast traffic and cheap driving are counter-productive as policy goals </li></ul><ul><li>More useful to focus on: - ACCESS (‘reaching’) - economic vibrancy of PLACES - fostering COMPREHENSIVE alternatives </li></ul>Paul Barter
    44. 45. Thank you Assistant Prof. Paul Barter, LKY School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore