The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty. ― John Maynard Keynes
This will shortly be developed into a private site reserved for the information and use of collaborating colleagues and aimed at charting progress in the author’s push over 2014 to lay the base for a major book on this theme. The book project is supported by a series of collaborative assignments, workshops, university seminars, presentations, journal articles, media interviews and city missions which will be used to test and deepen the ideas which constitute the key lynchpins of this ambitious project.
As is by now well known to our regular readers, as part of our 2015/15 program to make progress in the development of a general theory of transport in cities, we are giving attention to the possibility and usefulness of improving understanding of how different cities around the world stack up with each other when it comes to the performance in terms of sustainability of their urban mobility arrangements. You can see more on that background by clicking to two recent entries at “Weekend fishing expedition: You have heard of about PISA course. But what about PISTA?” at http://wp.me/psKUY-3EU and International Sustainable Transport/Cities Award Programs at http://wp.me/psKUY-3F5.
Against this background you can well imagine we were particularly appreciative when friends in Helsinki brought to our attention a recent benchmarking report carried out by Arthur D Little in collaboration with the UITP under the title “”the Future of Urban Mobility 2.0”, which is freely available at http://goo.gl/Jb6fX1. We leave you to consult and consider the full report (which incidentally makes for very thoughtful reading), but today we would like to look at several findings and methods of the team when it came to benchmarking the performance of such very different cities.
Work in progress: Over the last dozen years or so we are seeing a growing number of international award programs aiming at naming and compensating cities which are leading the way to sustainable transport. We are opening this posting today with short descriptions of programs already known to us, and it is our hope that with the help of our readers we will be able to extend this listing and make it more useful. Let’s have a look at what we have found thus far.
PS. Our special interest in all this of course is the nomination process, and above all the multiple criteria for selection, weighing and judgment. Eventually we intend to expand coverage to take into account some the leading national and regional award programs.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” vs. “The important stuff can’t be measured”.
In this critical spirit let us see what happens if we put this idea of somehow addressing the performance of cities and countries when it comes to sustainable transport, in front of the collective intelligence of our readers in order to see if something useful can be done with it. But first to get the ball rolling, some disorganized pre-thoughts about PISA and . . . PISTA.
Almost half a century ago, in 1969, two eminent professors at the University of California, Berkeley wrestled with the challenges of coming up with a “general theory of planning” and wrote in the abstract to their paper:
The search for scientific bases for confronting problems of social policy is bound to fail, because of the nature of these problems. They are “wicked” problems, whereas science has developed to deal with “tame” problems. Policy problems cannot be definitively described. Moreover, in a pluralistic society there is nothing like the undisputable public good; there is no objective definition of equity; policies that respond to social problems cannot be meaningfully correct or false; and it makes no sense to talk about “optimal solutions” to social problems unless severe qualifications are imposed first. Even worse, there are no “solutions” in the sense of definitive and objective answers.
Does this mean that we should give up on our efforts? Let’s have a look at their thoughts on the topic of a General Theory in their field. .
Each time you come into the General Theory site you are greeted at top of the page by photographs illustrating the great variety of traffic and street life in cities around the world.
They have been chosen to point up the vital context of this project, all of those close to infinite variations and wrinkles which distinguish one place from another, one street from another. It is our contention here that it is against this highly diverse and always on the move background that some form of general theory is needed to make wise policy and investment decisions.
Lyon, 28 July 2014
This little “workpad” is a corner of this new site where we struggle in public with some of the important defining questions. Since if we are unable to ask the right questions, how can we ever hope to find meaningful answers. And if not “answers” per se, at least some useful hints as to to get us and others moving in the right and much needed directions.
Now some early questions the author is asking himself (and you) this morning. And if you wish follow the latest dialogue on these points, we invite you to come back from time to time and see how al this progressing.