Visions for Thought: Sustainability DC and Melbourne's MPS

So we have already seen a bit of debate on the discussion paper for Melbourne's Metro Planning Strategy (previous post here) which sets vision for Melbourne's future, but with the submission time coming to a close in just over a month, I thought it might be interesting to look at the visions of another city Washington DC.

Washington DC has recently released 'Sustainable DC' which aims for a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable city.

The plan addresses current and future challenges to:
  • create jobs and grow the economy while supporting local businesses;
  • improve citywide health through clean air and water and access to healthy food and lifestyles;celebrate diversity and improve social through equal access to services and assistance for those who need it most; and
  • protect the local environment and global climate for wildlife, ourselves and our future generations.

What I really like about this plan is that alongside each goal is a target (and actions).  In total, there are 31 of these sets of goals and targets relating to visions based on jobs and the economy, health and wellness, equity and diversity and climate and environment.  An example is below (from health and wellness):

Goal: Inspire healthy, active lifestyles for all residents regardless of income, ability, or employment.
Target: By 2032, cut the citywide obesity rate by 50%.
Action: (short term) Expand public park access and programming to promote healthy lifestyles 
through physical exercise. (This is followed by a paragraph on district funding priorities).
Action: (long term) Invest in a public health campaign to promote the benefits of healthy eating and active living.  (This is followed by a paragraph explaining how the district will support this).

As I said, I like to be able to see a tangible target - because it more specifically notes what is sought.  The goals and targets are ambitious, but this is positive, right? After all, they are there to be aspired to.  However, it's important that these targets are well researched and justified, rather than just an arbitrary figure.  I also like that actions are clearly identified, and that they are identified for a range of different time frames.

Back to Melbourne's MPS - our discussion paper is still a draft for discussion - but what will the final version look like? As our plan is in the works, it's worth looking at what other cities have done and are doing, (as well as our own planning history), to make sure we make the most of the opportunity to set the tone for Melbourne's future - if you something you like or dislike in this or other examples - make a submission!

Submissions for the MPS are open til 5pm on the 28th of March.  There's also a major community forum open to the public (though you need to register) on Saturday 2nd of March.  More details can be found here.

Read more on Sustainable DC here.

Super Tuesday Bike Data Day Coming Up

Tuesday 5th of March is the Super Tuesday Annual Bike Count, which "provides participating councils with reliable annual figures of bicycle commuters and their movements on roads and bike paths"

Between 7am and 9am volunteers will be out collecting data, entering it online.  Bicycle Network then verifies the data and collates findings to send to participating local councils.

This is a great opportunity for local governments to get more info about how many people are riding and where.  This can be used to assist in local cycling strategies and to inform necessary facilities.

More info at Bicycle Network.

Is This the Building of the Future?

So this one seems a little 'Jetsons' like if you know what I mean, but wow, talk about an action packed building!

This document from Arup's UK branch imagines the 'urban building of the future'.

In 2050, the urban dweller and the city are in a state of constant flux - changing and evolving in reaction to emerging context and conditions.  The urban building of the future fosters this innate quality, essentially functioning as a living organism in its own right
This imagined building's structure will be flexible and adabtable both in terms of structure and materials, and also in terms of use and function. It will incorporate renewable and recyclable material, produce more resources that it consumes and contain urban food production.  According to the document, the building will integrate with the community through public facilities, integrated transport links and integrating with the public realm.  Lastly, it will be a 'smart system' collecting and utilising data on energy use and production, transport, weather and occupancy requirements to "execute informed and calculated decisions about the optimal use of resources".

Wow - yep this super building makes a heap of promises. I'm interested in seeing how even one aspect (transport integration, sustainability, flexibility) could start to become more common in buildings - but will a building like this exist by 2050?  Who knows?

Read more here.

Do 'Park and Ride' Schemes Encourage More PT Use?

In short - not really.  According to a study in Adelaide (published in Road and Transport Research),  park and ride schemes have been found to actually increase the number of cars on the road.

Park and ride schemes provide parking (often cheap or free) at junctions with public transport enabling commuters to drive from home for part of their journey, and take public transport for the rest.  This idea was meant to encourage public transport use for people who would normally drive, and ease traffic pressure on roads.

However, the study showed that "over 82% of respondents who previously used mass transit for their entire journey now travel part of the way by car".  At the same time, there was little evidence of additional trip generation for the connecting public transport services.  This shows that the scheme actually puts more cars on the road than it takes off - at least in areas that are in the catchment of the parking bays.

This issue aside, there are some other beefs one may have with schemes like this. Land use is one - is parking really the most efficient use of land in locations like this - particularly when the cost of the parking for the user is usually cheap if not free?  Surely there are better ways to encourage PT use (greater coverage, more services, better services, more incentives for PT and disincentives for cars)? Or is park and ride simply a short term option whilst these initiatives are in the works? What do you think?

Thanks to Scott Martin for sending through the link and interesting info on this topic.

Read the study here, and a brief newspaper article based on it at InDaily here.

5 Million Electric Cars in China 2020?

Policy to promote electric vehicles (EVs) in China has stepped it up notch with a suite of new incentives to reach the ambitious goal of "500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and 5 million by 2020" as reported in the Australian Financial Review.

Local governments have now said that license plates for EVs will be free, which for other cars cost about $11,600 US.  There's also a further subsidy of about $16,000 US per approved vehicle.  On the other hand, EVs are more expensive than other cars, so these subsidies help reduce the gap - but not eliminate it.

China has a strong interest in EVs, not just to continue to promote their economy as a 'green production superpower' but also because some Chinese cities are experiencing hazardous levels of pollution.

5 million electronic cars by 2020 could be tough to achieve given that current production rates will have to work hard to even come through on the supply end. Charging points is also an issue- this infrastructure will have to be in place for a goal like this to be achievable.

These issues aside, it is good to see that the World's most populous nation gearing up EVs - even if a small percent of people take it up, given the sheer population of China, it's a considerable step in the direction of moving away from petrol based travel, not to mention advancing technology in this area.

The full article is available here (but you can only see it if you're a subscriber - sorry!)

Cable Car Commute

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? NO... it's Lagos' proposed cable car system. Ropeways Transport, a private company in Lagos is planning a cable car to "help ease the current transportation difficulties, and restore dignity to commuting".

This cable car system will cover three routes in the busy Nigerian city at an estimated cost of 500 million US $. Each leg is expected to accommodate 8,000 commuters per hour. According to Ropeways, the system "will provide commuters affordable, safe, timely and stress-free mode of transportation". Trips are expected to cost about $1.50 US.

So I'm not really sure what they mean by cable cars being a more dignified mode of transport (is it because they are high above the masses looking down?), but this comment aside, will cable cars ease congestion in the city?  On the plus side, they seem to be cheaper than rail infrastructure, and can transport a fair amount of people per hour.  On the negative, cable cars generally only go from one point to another, with no stops in between - so how convenient will it actually be for many people? 

Construction begins in November this year and is expected to be completed in 24 months.

Read more at 'Punch' here