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Columbia, Transportation and the Politics of Happiness

David Byrne, Journal
…I wasn’t able to stay for the whole [meeting organized by Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer about transportation], but was excited to meet Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá (Colombia) who revolutionized the transportation and parks in that city.

He created a new bus mass transit system, bike lanes, pedestrian streets – all of which had the effect of relieving congestion, boosting the economy and making Bogotá and its surroundings a better place to live. …

Here’s an excerpt from a piece Peñalosa wrote called “The Politics of Happiness”:

…One common measure of the cleanliness of a mountain stream is to look for trout. If you find the trout, the habitat is healthy. It’s the same way with children in a city. Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.

When I was elected mayor of Bogotá and got to city hall, I was handed a transportation study that said the most important thing the city could do was to build an elevated highway at a cost of $600 million. Instead, we installed a bus system that carries 700,000 people a day at a cost of $300 million. We created hundreds of pedestrian-only streets, parks, plazas, and bike paths, planted trees, and got rid of cluttering commercial signs. We constructed the longest pedestrian-only street in the world. [more than 20km!] It may seem crazy, because this street goes through some of the poorest neighborhoods in Bogotá, and many of the surrounding streets aren’t even paved. But we chose not to improve the streets for the sake of cars, but instead to have wonderful spaces for pedestrians. All this pedestrian infrastructure shows respect for human dignity. We’re telling people, “You are important – not because you’re rich or because you have a Ph.D., but because you are human.” If people are treated as special, as sacred even, they behave that way. This creates a different kind of society.

  • “If a bike lane that isn’t safe for an 8 year old child it isn’t a bike lane.”

  • “Traffic jams are not always bad. The priority is not always to relieve them. They will force people to use public transportation.”
  • “Building more highways never relieves congestion.” (This was not his insight, but he reminded us how true it is.)
  • “Transportation is not an end – it is a means to having a better life, a more enjoyable life – the real goal is not to improve transportation but to improve the quality of life.”
  • “A place without sidewalks privileges the automobile, and therefore the richer people in cars have more rights; this is undemocratic.”

(13 Oct 2006)
Hat tip to Mobjectivist. Online interview with the Columbian mayor: The Politics of Happiness.

Bus Rapid Transit

Alana Herro, WorldChanging
This summer, the bus rapid transit [BRT] system of Bogotá, Colombia, earned the distinction of being the world’s first mass transport project to be approved (PDF) for participation in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). As such, it is a model for similar transport-related CDM initiatives in the pipeline worldwide. Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Laos, Panama, and Peru are all establishing or planning mass transport systems based on rapid buses, according to the Andean Development Corporation, the multilateral financial institution that helped develop the bid.

…BRT combines the efficiency and user-friendliness of light rail with the economy and flexibility of on-road vehicles. Using high-speed buses that travel in dedicated lanes, BRT systems vary by location but typically consist of seven elements, including efficient passenger boarding methods, adaptable route structures, comfortable stations, and technology that updates travelers on bus locations and timing, according to the Washington, D.C-based Breakthrough Technologies Institute (BTI),…
(14 Oct 2006)

The O-Bahn Busway

Shane Perryman, EB
In response to the story about “Superbus” in the Economist; Behold, the bus of the future, I suggest this link regarding the O-Bahn Busway regarding an exisiting, tested and probably cheaper more realistic compromise solution.
(11 Oct 2006)

Americans commute earlier and longer: study

Reuters via Yahoo!News
NEW YORK – Americans are leaving home earlier to get work, fewer are walking, and more are driving alone, according to a study of commuting trends released on Monday.

The study, published by the Transportation Research Board, found people are also taking longer to reach their workplaces, with the number of people with commutes lasting more than 60 minutes growing by almost 50 percent between 1990 and 2000.
(17 Oct 2006)