transportation

Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting 2012: Three big ideas from three big names in transportation

So this one time, Gabe Klein (Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation), Janette Sadik-Khan (Commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation), and Ed Reiskin (Director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) all walked into a bar…well, not quite a bar, but they did walk in together. Last week, the Transportation Research Board, a research body within the National Academies, held its annual meeting in Washington, DC. These three transportation visionaries spoke about Mobility Strategies for the 21st Century in one of hundreds of conference sessions throughout the week. Most of their presentations were focused on what each had already achieved in their city. San Francisco has smart parking meters, which allow for frequently-adjusted parking prices. Chicago had its first separated bike lane within Klein’s first 30 days in office. New York has blossomed with bike lanes and public seating areas in a mission to reclaim urban spaces for people rather than cars.

Urban Omnibus: NYC pedestrian plaza

The forward-thinking comments came mostly at the end, during a Q&A session. John Robert Smith, of Reconnecting America, hosted the session and posed the question to the panelists, “What one piece of advice would you offer the transportation professionals in the audience about how to achieve change?” Their answers highlight the need for public-private partnerships in the coming years.

Gabe Klein. If you have to have a boss, get a good one, and don’t be afraid to lose your job.

Ed Reiskin. Act short, think long. Communication and marketing are key.

Janette Sadik-Khan. Have a vision and show results.

Each of these comments reflects their individual backgrounds. Klein and Sadik-Khan are most recently from the private sector. Klein worked in several private ventures including ZipCar and Sadik-Khan had been a Senior Vice President of Parsons Brinckerhoff. The spirit in their comments is one of control – control to choose your boss and to put your vision into action. Reiskin, whose career has focused on the public sector, seems to be more political and strategic. He undoubtedly sees the need to leverage others’ power (e.g. politicians, the general public) through communication, marketing, and a baby-steps approach (act short, think long) to achieve his vision.

- Terra Curtis

Chromaroma. The Name Doesn’t Matter – It’s Cool!

I’ve never been a gamer. Even back in the days of early Atari, Sega, and Nintendo systems, I never got much beyond the 3rd or 4th level of Super Mario Bros. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about these fantastical worlds. But with today’s technology, games aren’t just about fantasy anymore. They take place in the world around us, intimately integrated with our lives, and we are the very characters in search of points, credits, and check-ins. And I am starting to come around. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/22023369 w=400&h=225]

Chromaroma from Mudlark on Vimeo.

I stumbled upon Chromaroma a couple days ago, a mobile app developed by Mudlark in the UK that turns riding The Tube into a social game. Poking around its website, I realized that all games are really just about incentives, and as any self-respecting economist will tell you, people respond to incentives. Chromaroma incentivizes riding public transport by giving riders points for each ride and sending them on missions to “capture” stations and identify unique locations along The Tube (like the station where Jerry Springer was born).

The game excites me not as much for its current use, but for its potential. Transport for London should seize this opportunity to make a public-private partnership. Mudlark now owns some extremely valuable data for the agency (it reminds me a lot of the data collected by San Francisco County Transportation Agency’s CycleTracks app). They can tell you when people travel, where they travel from, where they travel to, and whether they use a diversity of transit lines or mainly rely on it for commuting purposes. Depending on how widespread the game gets, it could even provide a measure of how overcrowded particular lines get – a metric for prioritizing transit investment.

The private sector has clearly seized on the opportunity technology presented to capture ubiquitous travel data. Let’s hope the public sector rides that wave as well.

-          Terra Curtis

Chromaroma. The Name Doesn’t Matter – It’s Cool!

I’ve never been a gamer. Even back in the days of early Atari, Sega, and Nintendo systems, I never got much beyond the 3rd or 4th level of Super Mario Bros. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about these fantastical worlds. But with today’s technology, games aren’t just about fantasy anymore. They take place in the world around us, intimately integrated with our lives, and we are the very characters in search of points, credits, and check-ins. And I am starting to come around. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/22023369 w=400&h=225]

Chromaroma from Mudlark on Vimeo.

I stumbled upon Chromaroma a couple days ago, a mobile app developed by Mudlark in the UK that turns riding The Tube into a social game. Poking around its website, I realized that all games are really just about incentives, and as any self-respecting economist will tell you, people respond to incentives. Chromaroma incentivizes riding public transport by giving riders points for each ride and sending them on missions to “capture” stations and identify unique locations along The Tube (like the station where Jerry Springer was born).

The game excites me not as much for its current use, but for its potential. Transport for London should seize this opportunity to make a public-private partnership. Mudlark now owns some extremely valuable data for the agency (it reminds me a lot of the data collected by San Francisco County Transportation Agency’s CycleTracks app). They can tell you when people travel, where they travel from, where they travel to, and whether they use a diversity of transit lines or mainly rely on it for commuting purposes. Depending on how widespread the game gets, it could even provide a measure of how overcrowded particular lines get – a metric for prioritizing transit investment.

The private sector has clearly seized on the opportunity technology presented to capture ubiquitous travel data. Let’s hope the public sector rides that wave as well.

-          Terra Curtis

Developing Countries Developing Solutions

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/30485000 w=400&h=225]

Introducing mo from LUNAR Europe on Vimeo.

At least three of our partner cities in this round of the Living Labs Global Awards are seeking solutions related to transportation. Lavasa, México City, and Guadalajara, each within a developing country, want to find ways to boost alternative transportation and keep infrastructure maintenance ahead of deterioration.

According to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), by 2030 almost three quarters of the world’s population with reside in cities, with most of that urbanization taking place in developing countries. In order to maintain health and achieve sustainability in the long term, these cities must stay ahead of the game in developing the transportation infrastructure, policies, incentives, and solutions that encourage limited use of fossil fuels. Several recent concepts are relevant to the challenges faced by these cities. BitCity, a conference on Transportation, data, and technology in cities was held November 4th in New York City. The conference, which will be ongoing, is meant to highlight innovation and expose the barriers currently preventing cities from implementing that innovation. Recorded sessions can be viewed online here.

A second transportation-related tid-bit to come across the radar screen is Mo (short for mobility), which uses smartphone technology with a “bike tag” to link travel data and different modal systems. The idea is to provide users with more choices about how to get around and incentives for making responsible travel decisions. (See the video above.)

Two other mobile apps stood out in a recent scan – Avego’s instant carpool app, Shout and Reroute.it, a mobile web app (works on any smartphone) that compares the cost, travel time, calories burned, and CO2 emitted for several different modes of transportation (e.g. walk, bike, transit, car, or taxi).

Shout is a free mobile app that helps you arrange carpool rides with friends, family, and coworkers in real time. Current “Shout Hotspots” – locations where a critical mass of users has been reached – include Orlando, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; Bergen, Norway; and Kinsale, Ireland.

Reroute.it was developed by fellows in the Code for America program this summer. It is meant to provide users with full information, and in theory they will use that information to make sustainable, responsible transportation choices. Because it relies on several open data sources, its full features are not available in all locations yet, but it will work everywhere. Seattle and San Francisco are fully featured, with Philadelphia soon to follow.

While some of these solutions may not be appropriate for developing countries’ cities currently, these locations are rapidly adopting mobile technology and present models for how to stay ahead of the curve.

-          Terra Curtis

Best Practices in Social Media

Lyndsey Scofield, an urban planning graduate student in New York City, tipped me off to a recent virtual workshop held by the National Academies of Science’s Transportation Research Board.  This workshop, entitled “Keeping up with Communication Technology: An Online Workshop on the Practical Use of Social Media,” gathered together 22 transportation professionals who shared their professional uses of things like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. In my experience, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) would not be the first group to come to mind when thinking about these more nuanced uses of social media tools.  Nonetheless, they put together an engaging array of presentations and resources on the topic as it relates to the transportation industry.  At least three of the presenters had been involved in MIT’s PlanningTech@DUSP conference this past January, a student-led half-day conference on urban planning and technology, so it is encouraging to see the insights of a few newer, younger urban planners trickling up into the collective consciousness of the TRB.

Ironically, I found one of the most interesting resources provided by the workshop to be “The Extreme Presentation,” a guide for developing engaging, persuasive, relevant, and action-inducing presentations.  If there’s one thing I have learned in grad school, it is that you either know how to leverage the value of PowerPoint or you don’t.  Most people don’t, and no matter how engaging the topic may be (e.g. a proposed new light rail through your neighborhood), poor use of a good tool will lead to a disengaged audience and a failed presentation.

The link between PowerPoint presentations and social media comes in their potential to create an impact.  The Extreme Presentation provides 10 steps, organized within 4 themes that produce this impact: politics and metrics, logic, rhetoric, and graphics.  Social media outlets involve each of these themes as well.  Outreach through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc, will be more effective if it includes a proper identification of audience, evidence-backed information presented in a way that is both relevant and visually stimulating to readers or listeners.  I know I could learn a lot from this strategy, and I’m happy that an institution as far-reaching as TRB embraces the concept as well.

- ­Terra Curtis

 

Kickstarting

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFY-UvNbm3s&w=440&h=280] By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about Kickstarter, “the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world!”  The website connects people, who are interested in funding creative progress, to projects seeking to achieve this goal.  Donors’ money is only obligated to projects that receive full funding pledges.  Two interesting projects that have been brought to my attention are City Fabric – a design project that gives people unique ways to talk about their place – and Flipphandle – an invention to enable the storage of many bicycles in a small space. I visited the site today to check out what other projects might be of interest to the Living Labs Global community.  I found a few that I think you should check out (some of which are already fully-funded).

  • JeepNeed – re-purposing “jeepneys” as mobile classrooms equipped with netbooks, internet access, and other materials and resources and work towards teacher ownership of the vehicle
  • A Map to Change – a writing and publishing project that plans to map infrastructure that enforces wasteful culture in the US as well as a proposed solution map – better, more efficient and less wasteful infrastructure.  These art pieces will then be used as a tool for change.
  • Spirit of Hope Bike Parking – a local church in Detroit did not have any bicycle parking and used Kickstarter to raise funds to hire a local metal artist to build them
  • TRANSIT/STASIS: Negotiating Movement in the City – an art publication and exhibition exploring the intersection of art and urban transit; technology and systems of movement.  Check out the results here!
  • Trains-forming America – a documentary project comparing and contrasting the use of trains as transportation in Europe and America. Looks like they completed European filming in May of this year.  Looking forward to the results!

Happy browsing.

- Terra Curtis

 

Integrating Modes

TAFor years, the US has focused on one mode: the automobile.  Recently, we’ve seen more investment being made in “livability” initiatives – making places nicer to walk, bike, and linger in.  We’re also seeing new investment in transit projects through things like the Federal New Starts Program and individual municipalities’ own local option sales taxes. While this inertia in alternative mode-specific investment is important and is likely a cause of an increase in alternative mode use, little attention seems to be paid to the integration and overlap of these modes, an area that has the potential to significantly decrease reliance on the automobile.

Most people’s trips involve at least two modes (often automobile + walking some short distance).  In cities, these two modes are often transit and walking, biking and walking, or driving and transit.  The way these two (or three of four) stages of a commute or other trip integrate, I think, can have a huge impact on attracting new users to transit or to bicycling.

The European Union must also see this potential.  They’ve already compiled a lot of information into an interactive website that links users to various country-specific multimodal journey planners, which in Europe include everything from rail to air to ferry to transit to car and to cycling modes.  On top of this, though, the European Commission on Mobility and Transport has launched a challenge to collect ideas for a more comprehensive multimodal journey planner for the whole union.

This call for solutions highlights the fact that modal integration is important at all scales – from the national down to the local – in personal transportation decisions.  As recent evidence shows, one of the key pieces of this integration is information.  When people have better information, they make better choices, and this information is in large part enabled by several new tech tools we have already seen or will continue to be developed in the months and years to come.

- Terra Curtis

Experience Stockholm's solution for visually impaired!

If you participate in our Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities you will have an opportunity to experience e-Adept, a groundbreaking accessibility solution at the cocktail reception taking place at the offices of Astando on May 11th in central Stockholm. E-Adept is a navigation, mobility and accessibility solution developed in partnership with the City of Stockholm. It enables visually impaired persons to navigate the city unattended - including public transport - through real-time urban data and digital map integration.

After several years of user-centric development working closely with visually impaired citizens, a group of users is now piloting e-Adept for 5 weeks as a full-life experience. You will be available to learn first-hand about the radical impact to their daily lives, provide detailed experience accounts.

Further, you will be able to try out the solution as well as meet project leaders from Astando and the City of Stockholm.

  • 161 million people globally would see their lives transformed by e-Adept
  • 30,000 citizens of Barcelona or 380,000 citizens in New York are severely visually impaired
  • E-Adept costs Stockholm only EUR 360,000 per year to maintain and creates EUR 17 million in value for the city
  • Also by Astando is Billy Bike, winner of the Future of Biking call by the City of Copenhagen in 2010
Our Handbook on Service Innovation in Cities covers e-Adept in detail.

Experience Stockholm's solution for visually impaired!

If you participate in our Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities you will have an opportunity to experience e-Adept, a groundbreaking accessibility solution at the cocktail reception taking place at the offices of Astando on May 11th in central Stockholm. E-Adept is a navigation, mobility and accessibility solution developed in partnership with the City of Stockholm. It enables visually impaired persons to navigate the city unattended - including public transport - through real-time urban data and digital map integration.

After several years of user-centric development working closely with visually impaired citizens, a group of users is now piloting e-Adept for 5 weeks as a full-life experience. You will be available to learn first-hand about the radical impact to their daily lives, provide detailed experience accounts.

Further, you will be able to try out the solution as well as meet project leaders from Astando and the City of Stockholm.

  • 161 million people globally would see their lives transformed by e-Adept
  • 30,000 citizens of Barcelona or 380,000 citizens in New York are severely visually impaired
  • E-Adept costs Stockholm only EUR 360,000 per year to maintain and creates EUR 17 million in value for the city
  • Also by Astando is Billy Bike, winner of the Future of Biking call by the City of Copenhagen in 2010
Our Handbook on Service Innovation in Cities covers e-Adept in detail.

Transportation Camp

Transportation Camp is an “unconference” – all sessions during the gathering are proposed and led by attendees.  These people come from a plethora of backgrounds; representatives from Grist, from New York’s MTA, from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Transportation, Streetfilms, and academia.  This past week, Transportation Camp East was held in New York; next week, Transportation Camp West happens in San Francisco.  It is organized by OpenPlans with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Information Law and Policy, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, 3GMobility, redhat, Urban Mapping, and many others. The chatter this event has created is remarkable.  Not only did discussion begin well in advance of the gathering, but also it has continued – a good measure of success.  You can follow the discussion on their website, but also through the Twitter hashtag #transpo.  Talks included “Can we do a road pricing system for really cheap with existing tech?” to “Tools for small and medium agencies.”

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/20936443 w=400&h=225]

Transportation Meets Technology in New York from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

The video above explains most of the detail of the event itself; it is meant to stimulate discussion on technology and transport, on innovation, on government 2.0, and on open data and transparency.  Twitter has facilitated not only organizing for the event itself, but also “offline” organizing.  People interested in these topics are holding tweetups; one group in particular, @CityCampSPb, organized a minicamp in Russia.  The result of the event is organized attention toward these issues, and with such a variety of attendees, action within government and private companies is likely to follow.

-Terra Curtis

 

Interview with Anette Scheibe of Kista Science City: from Fossil Fuels to Intelligent Transport Solutions ‘the Stockholm Way’

Interview with Anette Scheibe of Kista Science City: from Fossil Fuels to Intelligent Transport Solutions ‘the Stockholm Way’.This entry is the first in a series of interviews conducted by Cluster in collaboration with Living Labs Global (LLG) in occasion of the second edition of the second edition of Living Labs Global Award, an international technology award for digital services that add high value to users in cities around the world. 8 global cities partnered with LLG to search for solutions to their most pressing local problems in a global context.

Google's Next Steps

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, recently wrote a brief article indicating his company’s role in the “mobile revolution.”  As we have highlighted in our book Connected Cities, mobile technologies already have been responsible for and continue to offer further opportunity in market creation (to the tune of 256 billion euros).  The technology has only hit the tip of the iceberg, and Schmidt notes the next three places he intends to take it.

First, Google will focus on the underlying fast networks; second, on the development of mobile money; and third, on the availability of inexpensive smartphones in developing countries.  Of note in the second two categories are a few companies from our Showcase.  It appears that Google’s initial intents in regards to mobile money are for consumers in more developed regions; it’s near field communication, or NFC, technology enables smartphone users to pay for groceries, clothing, or other consumables simply by waving their phone near an in-store device. As far as I can tell, this technology would also be useful for things like mobile parking or public transit passes.  Park-line’s current model involves paying for parking by using your mobile phone to make a call to a processing center; NFC would make these calls unnecessary.  Similarly, Transport for London could move away from necessitating a physical “Oyster card” by enabling NFC.

The use of mobile technologies in developing countries is already well known.  We documented Mission 4636, which used mobile technology to facilitate the first responders to the Haiti earthquake.  Of course, their reach could have been much broader had the local population had access to more mobile phones.  Somewhat surprisingly, 90 percent of the world’s population already does have access to mobile networks, though this does not mean they actually own a mobile device, nor does it mean they have access to smartphone technology that significantly improves access to information.

The brevity of Schmidt’s article has attracted a fair amount of attention.  We’ll keep our eyes out for updates.

-Terra Curtis

Mobility and Access in Mexico

IMG_4856 Transportation planners often talk about mobility and accessibility.  Mobility is the concept of being able to move freely from point to point, while accessibility reflects the set of possible destinations within reasonable reach.  The two are not necessarily complementary, as downtown Manhattan offers high accessibility with low mobility (congestion), while rural Maine downtowns offer much lower accessibility but high mobility.

I recently returned from a 10-day trip around three states of Mexico: Quintana Roo, Yucatán, and Campeche.  This area of Mexico has a few large cities (including Mérida, Campeche city, and Cancún) but is mostly home to smaller cities of thirty- to fifty-thousand residents and much smaller Mayan villages.  One remarkable facet of travel here is how mobile one can be – buses within cities and between cities are plentiful, frequent, and many are very low-cost.  Aside from buses, Mexicans take advantage of many other forms of transport as well – bicycles, tricitaxis (half-motorcycle, half-utility bicycle), and colectivos (taxi vans that charge a low per-person fare to travel between popular origins and destinations) – many of which are foreign to Americans and, if found in our cities, would be more likely to be considered novelties than real transportation solutions.  But, in an area where sprawling development is a relatively new thing, older and denser cities allow for this type of mobility. I found accessibility to be high as well, particularly in the cities located at intersection points of several transportation corridors.  Smaller Mayan villages tended to be located along single roads and would offer small local businesses, such as taquerias, a school, and almost always a church.  Bigger cities offered all types of businesses, from shoe repair shops to groceries, hospitals, fish, meat and produce markets, and lawyers’ and doctors’ offices.  What makes these cities different from American cities (among other things) is how intermingled these commercial establishments are with residences.  Mexico has very few zoning laws, allowing for mixed land uses of this type and increased accessibility.

As Mexico continues to develop, a major challenge will be to maintain its mobility and accessibility – more people means more congestion on tiny, old urban streets.  The contrast was highlighted for me on a bus ride arriving to Mérida from Cancún.  Across much of the peninsula, traffic was low and travel speeds were high; however, upon arrival in Mérida we immediately slowed to a crawl on narrow, two-lane, one-way streets among bikers, scooters, taxis, colectivos, city buses and several personal automobiles.  We walked the distance later in almost the same time.  And, as a pedestrian on these streets, the air quality was noticeably poor, thick with exhaust fumes.

I think we stand to learn a lot from developing countries’ transportation systems.  Implementing these ideas would require adaptation to developed countries’ established systems; however the ideas – of less fossil-fuel-dependent and more communal-based travel systems – are entirely relevant.  Mexico should also learn from the US and other developed countries, while maintaining the accessibility they have allowed.  Short term increases in mobility through private auto ownership only lead to long term decreases in mobility.

-Terra Curtis

Mobility and Access in Mexico

IMG_4856 Transportation planners often talk about mobility and accessibility.  Mobility is the concept of being able to move freely from point to point, while accessibility reflects the set of possible destinations within reasonable reach.  The two are not necessarily complementary, as downtown Manhattan offers high accessibility with low mobility (congestion), while rural Maine downtowns offer much lower accessibility but high mobility.

I recently returned from a 10-day trip around three states of Mexico: Quintana Roo, Yucatán, and Campeche.  This area of Mexico has a few large cities (including Mérida, Campeche city, and Cancún) but is mostly home to smaller cities of thirty- to fifty-thousand residents and much smaller Mayan villages.  One remarkable facet of travel here is how mobile one can be – buses within cities and between cities are plentiful, frequent, and many are very low-cost.  Aside from buses, Mexicans take advantage of many other forms of transport as well – bicycles, tricitaxis (half-motorcycle, half-utility bicycle), and colectivos (taxi vans that charge a low per-person fare to travel between popular origins and destinations) – many of which are foreign to Americans and, if found in our cities, would be more likely to be considered novelties than real transportation solutions.  But, in an area where sprawling development is a relatively new thing, older and denser cities allow for this type of mobility. I found accessibility to be high as well, particularly in the cities located at intersection points of several transportation corridors.  Smaller Mayan villages tended to be located along single roads and would offer small local businesses, such as taquerias, a school, and almost always a church.  Bigger cities offered all types of businesses, from shoe repair shops to groceries, hospitals, fish, meat and produce markets, and lawyers’ and doctors’ offices.  What makes these cities different from American cities (among other things) is how intermingled these commercial establishments are with residences.  Mexico has very few zoning laws, allowing for mixed land uses of this type and increased accessibility.

As Mexico continues to develop, a major challenge will be to maintain its mobility and accessibility – more people means more congestion on tiny, old urban streets.  The contrast was highlighted for me on a bus ride arriving to Mérida from Cancún.  Across much of the peninsula, traffic was low and travel speeds were high; however, upon arrival in Mérida we immediately slowed to a crawl on narrow, two-lane, one-way streets among bikers, scooters, taxis, colectivos, city buses and several personal automobiles.  We walked the distance later in almost the same time.  And, as a pedestrian on these streets, the air quality was noticeably poor, thick with exhaust fumes.

I think we stand to learn a lot from developing countries’ transportation systems.  Implementing these ideas would require adaptation to developed countries’ established systems; however the ideas – of less fossil-fuel-dependent and more communal-based travel systems – are entirely relevant.  Mexico should also learn from the US and other developed countries, while maintaining the accessibility they have allowed.  Short term increases in mobility through private auto ownership only lead to long term decreases in mobility.

-Terra Curtis

Eight Global Cities Launch Technology Award to Help 40 Million Citizens

Eight global cities from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America join us in a challenge to find innovative solutions to major societal problems by opening competition among international solution-, technology- and service providers. The eight winners of the Living Labs Global Showcase Award will be invited to pilot their solutions in these cities, proving the effectiveness of new solutions and offering a first step for innovative providers to enter new markets. http://www.livinglabs-global.com/flash/awards2011.swf

The participating cities, representing 40 million citizens from Europe, Africa, North America and Asia call for solutions that can solve some of their most pressing challenges:

  • Automation of Urban Services
  • Intelligent Urban Lighting Solutions for Social Interaction & Orientation
  • Venture finance for millions of African entrepreneurs
  • Sustainable Initiative on Intellectual Property Protection
  • Creating the Next Generation of Government
  • Solutions for digitally enabled accessible ecoCities
  • Intelligent Transport Solutions
  • Smart solutions for 10,000 Smart Houses, 16 Green Communities, 1 Eco-City

Oracle Corporation and Asia’s Farglory have been named as corporate partners for the 2011 Living Labs Global Award. Submissions follow the format of the Living Labs Global Showcase and can be submitted for free until the 28th of February 2011. A shortlist of the top 40 Showcases will be presented by the international juries on March 21st 2011. Winners will be announced at the Award Ceremony on May 12th 2011 at the Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities.

Behind each Category lies the commitment of a city to pilot the winning showcase, with full institutional support to evaluate the impact the solution can have on reaching the community’s objectives.

My war on regional digitized road and transport data in Stockholm

During the years 2006 – 2009 when working in the regional public transport I found an lucky opportunity to fill one of my companies most frustrating data black holes with ones and zeros. But you can’t win them all! Listen to my story. You are one year old when you learn to walk, you are five or six when you learn to ride a bike and at least 16 when learning to drive. All of us have as a primary means of traveling - walking (and here I include all in wheelchairs) and even motorists are occasionally forced to leave their car - at least to be able to refuel the car.

Although, since the modern era began, cities has focused on the car's traction, and to be frank , we have built cities such as displacing pedestrians as second-class citizens. When Sweden a few years ago legislated that motorists have an obligation to give way to pedestrians intending to cross the street - then motorists raged and state that this is a traffic hazard!

In wintertime all municipalities in Sweden are carefully plowing the roads. Although, in many of these municipalities leaders has decided that the property owners shall be responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks. How many property owners do you think it is along a normal Swedish roadside - and how likely do you make it a pedestrian is offered a safe and pleasant journey? And bike lanes often proves to be a perfect place for the snow brigade to put aside the snow.

In Sweden, the public exercise of power is highly decentralized and we have a very comprehensive municipal planning monopoly. But there is also very important to have a coherent national road infrastructure. Sweden therefore decided very early that it was important to establish a national database of road network. Yes, that is, the motorist road network, administrated by the National Swedish Road Administration. First on the runway by filling it with content was in fact the forest industry. They used this excellent almost free of charge resource to post their temporary forest roads so that their forest machines and trucks could find their way to all the remote and well hidden places where harvesting is currently underway. See there - an excellent commercial application of one of the society offered national data infrastructures!

In this decentralized Sweden, the municipalities are also responsible for the local road network. Therefore, also the digitization of the local road network has been a local affair and the Swedish Road Administration has therefore never been able to force any municipality neither to gather the data, nor to deliver it anywhere. Of course, the local politicians has limited budgets and if he / she has to choose among local public opinions, the one that demands for digitized road networks has never been particularly vociferous. In fact, even after 14 years of operation, this database NVDB has not yet signed contracts with all Swedish municipalities.

In fact, when NVDB established in 1996, bike lanes were not even on the horizon. Today as the National Traffic Administration offers the possibility after many years of nagging (not the least from me) quite many municipalities have supplied data, but there is still no one offering municipalities an opportunity to store a digitized pedestrian lane database.

I used to work in SL, the Stockholm County Public Transportation Authority, and there I was responsible for the development of Internet and mobile services. Such a core service is the travel planner. SL's network is an integrated intermodal network that spans 26 municipalities and, yes, you already understand the problem. All the county has actually delivered the digitized road network and that means that all players, especially yellow pages business and Garmin and TomTom etc have been able to develop great services. But in public transport you are totally dependent on that the footpaths are digitized - for all public transport passengers must get to and from stations and bus stops. For SL, the lack of an across municipal boundaries associated digitized pedestrian network the travel planner becoming increasingly a problem as customers always expect better and more advanced services.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw78Pwtg38w&w=425&h=350]

A few years ago when Stockholm won the opportunity to host the ITS World Congress, I saw an opportunity to change this. I put on the top of my (read SL) wish list a coherent and digitized route network for walking and biking. I quite easily in these collaborative surrounding of the National Swedish Road Administration, the National Swedish Rail Administration, The National Swedish Transport Administration, the City of Stockholm, the National Swedish Railway Company and many, many other stakeholders found friends of the mission, realizing the importance of this. Mobility services for people with impairments, police and rescue services must be found to the door even on local private pedestrian areas in closed yards, the postal service must even find doors in the z-axis, so this should be a easy piece, I thought. I built relations with ALL, and all agreed on the importance of access to such data - but no one was willing to either take responsibility or to share responsibility, this includes my former employer.

In despair I went to one of the largest commercial global players in GIS. They had a great interest - to map the inner city of Stockholm on the basis of the business traveler's perspective ... but could not see any profit to make in the mapping of walking paths in the Stockholm archipelago. No luck again.

Finally I found one guy with the same burning fire inside for the same thing as me, he ran the exact same question from one of the largest and leading infrastructure consultancy firms, actually he was the CEO of a large subsidiary specializing in GIS.

Today he is no longer there and still today you cannot find a coherent pedestrian and bicycle road network in this county.

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is my biggest carrier failure. And I indeed take it very personal.

- Åke Lindström, Market Director Kista Science City

My war on regional digitized road and transport data in Stockholm

During the years 2006 – 2009 when working in the regional public transport I found an lucky opportunity to fill one of my companies most frustrating data black holes with ones and zeros. But you can’t win them all! Listen to my story. You are one year old when you learn to walk, you are five or six when you learn to ride a bike and at least 16 when learning to drive. All of us have as a primary means of traveling - walking (and here I include all in wheelchairs) and even motorists are occasionally forced to leave their car - at least to be able to refuel the car.

Although, since the modern era began, cities has focused on the car's traction, and to be frank , we have built cities such as displacing pedestrians as second-class citizens. When Sweden a few years ago legislated that motorists have an obligation to give way to pedestrians intending to cross the street - then motorists raged and state that this is a traffic hazard!

In wintertime all municipalities in Sweden are carefully plowing the roads. Although, in many of these municipalities leaders has decided that the property owners shall be responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks. How many property owners do you think it is along a normal Swedish roadside - and how likely do you make it a pedestrian is offered a safe and pleasant journey? And bike lanes often proves to be a perfect place for the snow brigade to put aside the snow.

In Sweden, the public exercise of power is highly decentralized and we have a very comprehensive municipal planning monopoly. But there is also very important to have a coherent national road infrastructure. Sweden therefore decided very early that it was important to establish a national database of road network. Yes, that is, the motorist road network, administrated by the National Swedish Road Administration. First on the runway by filling it with content was in fact the forest industry. They used this excellent almost free of charge resource to post their temporary forest roads so that their forest machines and trucks could find their way to all the remote and well hidden places where harvesting is currently underway. See there - an excellent commercial application of one of the society offered national data infrastructures!

In this decentralized Sweden, the municipalities are also responsible for the local road network. Therefore, also the digitization of the local road network has been a local affair and the Swedish Road Administration has therefore never been able to force any municipality neither to gather the data, nor to deliver it anywhere. Of course, the local politicians has limited budgets and if he / she has to choose among local public opinions, the one that demands for digitized road networks has never been particularly vociferous. In fact, even after 14 years of operation, this database NVDB has not yet signed contracts with all Swedish municipalities.

In fact, when NVDB established in 1996, bike lanes were not even on the horizon. Today as the National Traffic Administration offers the possibility after many years of nagging (not the least from me) quite many municipalities have supplied data, but there is still no one offering municipalities an opportunity to store a digitized pedestrian lane database.

I used to work in SL, the Stockholm County Public Transportation Authority, and there I was responsible for the development of Internet and mobile services. Such a core service is the travel planner. SL's network is an integrated intermodal network that spans 26 municipalities and, yes, you already understand the problem. All the county has actually delivered the digitized road network and that means that all players, especially yellow pages business and Garmin and TomTom etc have been able to develop great services. But in public transport you are totally dependent on that the footpaths are digitized - for all public transport passengers must get to and from stations and bus stops. For SL, the lack of an across municipal boundaries associated digitized pedestrian network the travel planner becoming increasingly a problem as customers always expect better and more advanced services.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw78Pwtg38w&w=425&h=350]

A few years ago when Stockholm won the opportunity to host the ITS World Congress, I saw an opportunity to change this. I put on the top of my (read SL) wish list a coherent and digitized route network for walking and biking. I quite easily in these collaborative surrounding of the National Swedish Road Administration, the National Swedish Rail Administration, The National Swedish Transport Administration, the City of Stockholm, the National Swedish Railway Company and many, many other stakeholders found friends of the mission, realizing the importance of this. Mobility services for people with impairments, police and rescue services must be found to the door even on local private pedestrian areas in closed yards, the postal service must even find doors in the z-axis, so this should be a easy piece, I thought. I built relations with ALL, and all agreed on the importance of access to such data - but no one was willing to either take responsibility or to share responsibility, this includes my former employer.

In despair I went to one of the largest commercial global players in GIS. They had a great interest - to map the inner city of Stockholm on the basis of the business traveler's perspective ... but could not see any profit to make in the mapping of walking paths in the Stockholm archipelago. No luck again.

Finally I found one guy with the same burning fire inside for the same thing as me, he ran the exact same question from one of the largest and leading infrastructure consultancy firms, actually he was the CEO of a large subsidiary specializing in GIS.

Today he is no longer there and still today you cannot find a coherent pedestrian and bicycle road network in this county.

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is my biggest carrier failure. And I indeed take it very personal.

- Åke Lindström, Market Director Kista Science City

Innovation Nation

As a follow up to recent posts regarding our Summit on Service Innovation, I thought I’d comment briefly on a topic I heard discussed today in the halls of my university.  The topic was transportation innovation, and why in the US we seem to see less of it than in other countries, particularly Sweden. Carolyn McAndrews, a scholar at the University of Wisconsin, has done a lot of comparative research in this area and has a journal article currently under review on the topic.  It turns out that there are a few structural differences between the two countries that might explain the differences in innovative transportation projects. First, planners in Stockholm are responsible for a specific area of the city, and within that area, they dictate planning for all aspects of what we would call a comprehensive plan.  This allows the planner to become very intimately aware of local conditions and desires, and perhaps even to establish a trustful relationship with citizens, perhaps enabling him or her to promote more innovative projects.

Secondly, for some reason, the Swedish government tends of support ideas at their theoretical stage, whereas here in the US we tend to want proof of a concept before we’ll invest in it.

I found this discussion interesting, and relevant for Living Labs, because it seems like we could come up with the best ideas possible but for some structural and/or cultural reasons, never allow them to see the light of day.  Rather than to dwell on this, I think we should view it in the positive and recognize that with some restructuring around our decision making metrics, we might better harness our country’s innovative spirit.

-Terra Curtis

Innovation Nation

As a follow up to recent posts regarding our Summit on Service Innovation, I thought I’d comment briefly on a topic I heard discussed today in the halls of my university.  The topic was transportation innovation, and why in the US we seem to see less of it than in other countries, particularly Sweden. Carolyn McAndrews, a scholar at the University of Wisconsin, has done a lot of comparative research in this area and has a journal article currently under review on the topic.  It turns out that there are a few structural differences between the two countries that might explain the differences in innovative transportation projects. First, planners in Stockholm are responsible for a specific area of the city, and within that area, they dictate planning for all aspects of what we would call a comprehensive plan.  This allows the planner to become very intimately aware of local conditions and desires, and perhaps even to establish a trustful relationship with citizens, perhaps enabling him or her to promote more innovative projects.

Secondly, for some reason, the Swedish government tends of support ideas at their theoretical stage, whereas here in the US we tend to want proof of a concept before we’ll invest in it.

I found this discussion interesting, and relevant for Living Labs, because it seems like we could come up with the best ideas possible but for some structural and/or cultural reasons, never allow them to see the light of day.  Rather than to dwell on this, I think we should view it in the positive and recognize that with some restructuring around our decision making metrics, we might better harness our country’s innovative spirit.

-Terra Curtis

Streetsblog Success

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/13190639 w=400&h=225]

Streetsblog San Francisco shows its political clout! from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

I wrote earlier this week about Betaville, a SimCity-like “game” that acts like an urban planning wiki.  I wrote a while ago about the town of Cary, North Carolina and their Virtual Interactive Planner (“VIP”) tool.  Both of these solutions attempt to solve the problem of public participation in planning, deliberately.

Streetsblog, who I’ve probably referenced before but never written about exclusively, is an entirely different solution, and I think it solves the same problem (and others) better.  Streetsblog is a collection of blogs from all over the US and abroad, each focusing on “transportation policy goodness.”  Its purpose is not singly to involve the public or to gather ideas.  Rather, all it really is is an amazing collection of up-to-date information.

However, it has become much more than that.  In San Francisco, Supervisor Eric Mar gets his information first from Streetsblog, not from within City Hall.  Community members and activists from all sides of transportation debates comment with gusto (this article got 26 comments in about a day).  So, without even trying to, Streetsblog has become more than a deliverer of information.  It has become a producer of information, ideas, and conversation that serve both to educate the public and inform public officials.

It’s a great use of blogging technology that has helped stimulate productive conversations between everyday citizens, activists, and representatives in San Francisco.  It’s probably doing the same thing in your city, too.

­­-Terra Curtis