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Transport

Washington’s Metro — the costs of carelessness

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the second post in a three-part series from Brian Levy on the manner in which the media, activists and politicians talk about the role of government. This post reveals how multiple layers of government and inattention to quality controls leads to deterioration in performance.

June 22, 2009 WMATA Collision
June 22, 2009 accident on Metro's Red Line
For those who are so disposed, finding instances of government dysfunction can be like shooting fish in a barrel. But the resulting back-and-forth cycle of blame, defensiveness and recrimination can be a dangerous distraction from the crucial task of  getting public agencies that play a central role in our daily lives to work better. Take the example of Washington’s Metro.

Each year, as part of my teaching at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, I select a ‘live’ example of the challenge of public management. This year, Washington’s Metro seemed to be a good case to choose — barely a week has gone by without one or another crisis of Metro management making it into the headlines.

The Metro case demonstrates vividly the costs of carelessness in our discourse about government. (In a complementary blog post, I drill more deeply into how this ‘Great Gatsby’ government discourse works. ) But it also points to a possible way forward — how a combination of public entrepreneurship and active citizenship potentially can be leveraged to foster a sustainable turnaround of performance. (For additional detail on the recent Metro experience, here is a link to an article published in the Washingtonian, a few days after I taught the case at SAIS.)

In the beginning, Metro looked like a success story. It opened its doors to passengers in 1976; its 117 miles of track, over 215 million trips per year (and up-front $9.3 billion capital investment) made it the second largest system in the United States. Washingtonians came to expect a streamlined, comfortable, reliable, and aesthetically pleasing commute. In 1987 and again in 1997, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority won ‘Outstanding Achievement’ awards from the American Public Transportation Association.

But beneath this success something else was incubating.  By 2001, the key management tasks had become routine operational ones – but Metro’s long-time (1996-2006) general manager, Richard White, was not one to sweat the details. “He was a frequent visitor on Capitol Hill…He drove to work….He was part of the regional dialogue about highways and land use and everything else….[he] didn’t spend much time mingling with the rank and file”. The system began to decay. In 2006, the Metro board terminated his contract, three years early.

Campaign Art: One bad decision on the road can be fatal

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Most of us are familiar with the “hot seat”, a game in which an individual is asked a series of questions in rapid-fire with limited time to respond.  The game tries to get the person being quizzed to answer without thinking too much so his/her responses are more candid. But what if the answers are a matter of life or death? What if the choices we make decide our future?

This is the message of Transport for London: life is made up of a series of small decisions, and one bad decision one on the road can be fatal. 

According to the World Health Organization, around 1.25 million people worldwide die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Distracted driving is a common cause for traffic accidents, with mobile phones becoming increasingly more problematic. Indeed, drivers using a mobile phone are approximately 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers who are not. Texting or calling while driving leaders to slower reaction times— notably in braking reaction— impaired ability to keep in the correct lane, and shorter following distances.  
 
Transport for London: One Risk is Too Many


Campaign Art: Every day, 500 kids don't make it. But you can save them.

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

According to World Health Organization figures, 500 children are killed each day in road crashes globally.  In fact, road traffic injury ranks among the top four causes of death for all children over the age of five years.  To raise awareness of this deadly reality, Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the international motoring federation, and Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Road Safety, turned to world renowned film director Luc Besson to deliver a potent message: children face incredible danger when crossing the road!

‘Save Kids Lives’, shows children in the townships of South Africa and in central Paris, France walking to and from school to show that the risks children face are almost universally shared, whether they are due to a lack of safe infrastructure or as a result of heavy traffic. The film is shocking, and may contain images some people find disturbing. But that’s exactly the point, according to Todt, who believes that it will help focus attention on making roads safe for children everywhere.

The film was launched the first week in October to coincide with International Walk to School Day and to support #SaveKidsLives, a UN initiative that calls for action to stop the growing number of road deaths worldwide and for decision makers to prioritize children’s safety.
 
VIDEO: Save Kids Lives

Women and bicycles - the solution for those left behind in the wake of the Mediterranean human tsunami

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Also available in: العربية

The entire world is hypnotized by the struggle of the European continent with the rapidly escalating numbers of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Yet, only a handful reflect about the plight of those who stay behind, entangled in violence and persecution, or those who remain in refugee camps. Some believe those 'left behind' are the solution and saviors to the future of the Middle East and Africa, and one great way to help them is to give them bicycles.

//www.middleeasteye.net/news/women-yemen-peddle-right-bike-1871266777#sthash.4alYKG2m.dpuf“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” – Susan B. Anthony

In 2015 alone, the UN Refugee Agency reported that of the 520,957 people attempting to cross the Mediterranean, 2,980 died or went missing. Eighteen percent of the migrants are children and 13% are women. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, an estimated 200,000 additional refugees are still planning to make the sea journey by the end of 2015. So, the seismic human waves are far from subsiding in the region.

Today, there are a series of internal and regional armed conflicts around the world, most of which are concentrated in two regions: the Middle East and Africa. The desperate attempts by so many Syrians to flee Assad regime’s and the Islamic state’s terror by escaping to security in Europe has caught the world’s attention. However, Syrians are not alone in deserving compassion. Although international interest in Afghanistan has waned and most foreign troops are gone, the war there is only getting worse. In addition, there is an influx of desperate refugees from Eritrea, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia, and Bangladesh who are just as entitled to refugee status as the others.

While humanity is being washed ashore in the Mediterranean Sea, the treacherous passage does not resemble a migration, but a human tsunami. The departing refugees and migrants leave a vacuum, as the most skilled, able-bodied, and educated keep leaving the continent, most of them are males.  This leaves females, elderly and disabled behind and entangled in the local violence. The families left behind often count on reuniting with their loved ones in the near future or hope to receive remittances to support their livelihoods as they try to rebuild their communities. 
 
What should the world do with these gutted societies? The global community should invest in women power, leadership opportunities for women, and in modifying the social order with regards to female emancipation on the continent. We must pay immediate attention and react with empathy and solidarity.
 

‘Orderly traffic’ as a governance measure: a suggestion

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Traffic in IndiaMeasuring good governance can be tricky, but 'orderly traffic' can be used as an indicator since it offers insights beyond its limited definition.

As hard as it is to define ‘governance’, we have plenty of indicators to measure its quality: quality of key public services, extent of corruption, ease of doing business, etc. One of the challenges with these indicators is the distance between the process and outcomes, in particular, the assumptions involved in the translation of certain process into tangible outcomes. It follows that by mixing up indicators for processes and outcomes, we risk, well, measuring what doesn’t matter, and not measuring what does matter.

So as the title of this post suggests, could ‘orderly traffic’ be a good measure?

A familiar context: I live in Nairobi (and prior to that, in Delhi) and spend a considerable time waiting in traffic. What often makes traffic a problem is a complete lack of coordination amongst motorists on the road. However, I don’t think the onus of coordination at an intersection should rest on motorists – there are traffic lights or traffic police whose job it is to enforce discipline to ensure orderliness on the road. In many cities though, this is plain theory. In reality, traffic lights may not exist, or be broken; the traffic police may be absent, or just be incompetent. Motorists joust with each other every day and often end up creating gird-locks that hold everyone up. Please note that I am not talking about slow traffic caused purely due to long stops at intersections waiting for the lights to change. I am specifically concerned with the ‘orderliness’ of the flow. People waste time, fuel and a lot of their good humour (unless you are in a zen state) when they are in these gird-locks. It is usually more than evident to everyone whose fault it is and what the solution should be – and that usually only serves to raise tempers on the road. On days when the traffic flows smoothly, everyone seems happier. Zipping home after work is often the high point of the day.

Blog post of the month: Cycling is everyone’s business

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

This post is also available in French and Spanish .
“I’ve seen some of the highest performance bicycles in the world, but I believe the most powerful bicycle is the one in the hands of a girl fighting for her education, or a mother striving to feed her family.” 
- F.K. Day, Founder of World Bicycle Relief

  
The rainbow jersey, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, or Vuelta a Espana—that’s what usually comes to mind when we think of cycling. However, elite cycling is only one small spoke of a much larger wheel.
 
By some estimates, there are already more than two billion bikes in use around the world. By 2050, that number could be as high as five billion. Over 50 percent of the human population knows how to ride a bike. In China, 37.2 percent of the population use bicycles. In Belgium and Switzerland, 48 percent of the population rides. In Japan, it is 57 percent, and in Finland it’s 60 percent. The Netherlands holds the record as the nation with the most bicycles per capita. Cyclists also abound in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark. The Danish capital, Copenhagen, is considered the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. It’s known as the “City of Cyclists,” where 52 percent of the population uses a bike for the daily commute. Bicyclist commuters are generally healthier than those who drive motor vehicles to work. They also remain unaffected by OPEC decisions about crude oil production or the price per barrel.
 
Due to the size of China’s population, and the need for bicycle transportation, statistics on the country’s bikeshare program are staggering. In a database maintained by Russell Neddin and Paul DeMaio, more than 400,000 bikeshare bikes are used in dozens of cities on the Chinese mainland, and the vast majority of those bikes have been in operation since 2012.  There are an estimated 822,000 bikeshare bikes in operation around the world. China, therefore, has more bikeshare bikes than all other countries combined. The country with the next-highest number of bikes is France, which has just 45,000.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 
Africa in 2030: drones, telemedicine and robots?
The Guardian
In 2000 the CIA’s national intelligence council made a series of pessimistic predictions about Africa. They suggested that sub-saharan Africa would become “less important to the international economy” by 2015; that African democracy had gone “as far as it could go”; and that technological advances would “not have a substantial positive impact on the African economies.”  Clearly, predictions don’t always come true. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of mobile connections in Africa grew by 44%. In 2011, mobile operators and their associated businesses in Africa has a “direct economic impact” of $32bn, and payed $12bn in taxes. It made up 4.4% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, according to a 2012 report.  But the advances in communications are not the only element defining Africa’s future:
 
Good Governance: Well-Meaning Slogan Or Desirable Development Goal?
Forbes
Corruption last year cost the world more than one trillion dollars. That is a trillion dollars we can’t use to get better health care, education, food and environment. And corruption is only part of the problem of poor governance – many countries are run ineffectively, lacking accountability, transparency and rule of law.  Running countries better would have obvious benefits. It would not only reduce corruption but governments would provide more services the public wants and at better quality. It is also likely that economic growth would increase. In a recent UN survey of seven million people around the world, an honest and responsive government was fourth in the list of people’s priorities, with only education and healthcare and better jobs being rated higher.  But how should we get better governance?

Cycling Is Everyone’s Business

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

This post is also available in French.
“I’ve seen some of the highest performance bicycles in the world, but I believe the most powerful bicycle is the one in the hands of a girl fighting for her education, or a mother striving to feed her family.” 
- F.K. Day, Founder of World Bicycle Relief

  
The rainbow jersey, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, or Vuelta a Espana—that’s what usually comes to mind when we think of cycling. However, elite cycling is only one small spoke of a much larger wheel.
 
By some estimates, there are already more than two billion bikes in use around the world. By 2050, that number could be as high as five billion. Over 50 percent of the human population knows how to ride a bike. In China, 37.2 percent of the population use bicycles. In Belgium and Switzerland, 48 percent of the population rides. In Japan, it is 57 percent, and in Finland it’s 60 percent. The Netherlands holds the record as the nation with the most bicycles per capita. Cyclists also abound in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark. The Danish capital, Copenhagen, is considered the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. It’s known as the “City of Cyclists,” where 52 percent of the population uses a bike for the daily commute. Bicyclist commuters are generally healthier than those who drive motor vehicles to work. They also remain unaffected by OPEC decisions about crude oil production or the price per barrel.
 
Due to the size of China’s population, and the need for bicycle transportation, statistics on the country’s bikeshare program are staggering. In a database maintained by Russell Neddin and Paul DeMaio, more than 400,000 bikeshare bikes are used in dozens of cities on the Chinese mainland, and the vast majority of those bikes have been in operation since 2012.  There are an estimated 822,000 bikeshare bikes in operation around the world. China, therefore, has more bikeshare bikes than all other countries combined. The country with the next-highest number of bikes is France, which has just 45,000.
 

The Things We Do: Design with the User in Mind

Roxanne Bauer's picture

City planners and design professionals have long known that the way in which physical space is constructed affects human behavior. Walkways, doorways, and lighting direct people for strategic reasons, colors and textures impact our sensory experiences, and the size and flow of space affects our social interaction.

Physical space is also important in designing transportation infrastructure where entry and exit points direct the flow of traffic, ticketing affects efficiency, and roadways shape the speed and orientation of traffic.

As one architect puts it, “Designers often aspire to do more than simply create buildings that are new, functional and attractive—they promise that a new environment will change behaviours and attitudes.”

Consumers consider these aspects when they decide how to travel in a process known as translation in which they consider personal benefits and costs of a product. In this case, people make ask themselves, ‘I know a new bus line is available, but will it save me money or time?’ or 'I can ride my bike, but will it be safe?'  The process is complex, and occurs over time and through repeated interactions.

In order to put design to good use in changing attitudes and behaviors, the city of Bogotá immersed itself in the lives of its residents and created solutions to tackle the heavy congestion and lack of safety that were common on the city’s streets. They used the economics of nudge, paired with design principles, to increase public use of bicycles and buses.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Corruption 'impoverishes and kills millions'
BBC
An estimated $1tn (£600bn) a year is being taken out of poor countries and millions of lives are lost because of corruption, according to campaigners. A report by the anti-poverty organisation One says much of the progress made over the past two decades in tackling extreme poverty has been put at risk by corruption and crime. Corrupt activities include the use of phantom firms and money laundering. The report blames corruption for 3.6 million deaths every year. If action were taken to end secrecy that allows corruption to thrive - and if the recovered revenues were invested in health - the group calculates that many deaths could be prevented in low-income countries.
 
The Best and Worst Places to Build More Roads
Smithsonian
Roads are taking over the planet. By the middle of this century, so many new roadways are expected to appear that their combined length would circle Earth more than 600 times. To build critical connections while preserving biodiversity, we need a global road map, scientists argue today in the journal Nature. And as a first step, the international team has identified areas where new roads would be most useful and those where such development would likely be in conflict with nature.
 

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