Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Congress The New Urbanism: 2007 London Transport Summit (Day 1)

I`ve just arrive back home from the CNU transportation summit in London. I'd write something here about my train journey if this blog was for rants...but as it isn't, i`ll just give a quick overview of the event. There is video and audio from the conference on the way so stay tuned!

Day 1: Monday November 14th

There where three presentations that we where still talking about the next day. The first was on the CNU-ITE manual 'Major Urban Thoroughfares' (Large PDF). This manual in its current form is by no means supported by everyone from CNU--the same is probably true for ITE--but it is still seen as progress on the issue of major roads in cities. Some felt that motorways have no place in an urban context and that boulevards are the way so solve this conflict, a significant divergence still exists between ITE and CNU on when this idea and many others should be applied. it would appear that there is significant conflict mainly on the applicability of certain measures to a given place. Perhaps a history of projects and careful cross comparison can help settle these debates. Reducing uncertainty is part of the issue but the other significant part is politics, society needs to ask itself what it wants its streets for...are they only a means or are they also of value in there own right? This idea of place vs function was a reoccurring theme.

The second presentation of note was on the new uk planning guidence for streets 'Manual for Streets' is compromised in several ways but significantly it is now the only relavent DfT/DCLG document on road design: it superceedes that last document which has been officially binned giving this new advice added strength. For the first time the govornments official guidance is specifically geared towards enhancing the urban environment in order to make it more walkable.

The final presentation that caught my attention was by Transport for London (TfL) on the congestion charge (currently a flat £8 fee for driving in central London) and alternatives to travel by car on London. Despite what you might have heard the congestion charge does actually bring in significant amounts of revenue for TfL the administrative costs are significant but around 2/3rds of the revenue is plowed back into transport investment. Of this the vast majority goes on the bus service and particularly bus station upgrades and security. However the total TfL revenue is several billion pounds annually so the congestion charge is only a small part of the overall total. The key success of TfL has been its ability to get people out of cars and onto buses. I think that this is an important example for other cities. Congestion charging is best used as a compliment to improved and extended bus services. In this way people from every part of society can effectively be moved out of cars and on to mass transit.

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