Battle Royal: Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses
It was late Spring 1958 (as I best recall) in New York City when a young Eric Britton, just out of the US Army and about to dig into the Graduate Faculties of Columbia, was – as young men will do — checking out the action in Washington Square Park in the Village on a warm day. When he ran into two little kids wearing a sandwich sign saying something like “Save the Square!”. The kids handed me a pamphlet and explained that they were there to help their mother, who was just over there (they pointed).
And that was how I first met Mrs. Jane Jacobs, hard at work on an at-first very lonely effort to save this precious bit of NYC public space from the depredations of Robert Moses plan to run an urban highway extension of Fifth avenue over the concrete remains of what would once have been a beautiful and much used public park. It was clearly going to be a losing cause, but she decided to stick it out. And as she did others, unknowns and celebrities, gradually started to get behind her cause.
The Consumer Association of Penang organized a National Seminar on Changing directions from 7-10 September 2001 in Penang, subsequent to which a report was published and we now make freely available here in its entirety at https://goo.gl/kQVD0T. This is a remarkably prescient document which was largely ignored at the time despite the vigorous effort of the Consumers’ Association of Penang and others in the city’s lively civil society and NGOs. Somehow neither Penang or the national government were prepared to devote time and resources to finding the path to sustainable transport in cities. (And they were not the only ones.)
The policy of directly or indirectly encouraging the use of private motor cars and motorcycles to meet the transport needs of our people has had severe effects on the quality of life in the cities and on the economy and efficiency of urban transportation.
Eric. You didn’t mention that it is only a couple of years since Sydney’s once much-vaunted monorail was demolished. It only ever carried half the number of passengers ‘expected’ and it destroyed the streetscapes through which it passed in central Sydney – not to mention running across one facade of the heritage-listed Queen Victoria Building at an angle to the horizontal lines of the QVB. To make matters worse, the ‘rail’ was painted a very visible pale blue.
As an old friend to Penang with a couple of decades of policy experience in sustainable transport and sustainable cities field in different parts of the world, I am trying to put to rest the latest STMP proposal to build not one, not two but THREE free-standing monorails as part of the long-term master plan. To set the stage for today’s closing piece, I would draw your attention first to two pretty definitive Op-Ed pieces on monorails posted here in the last day, which you will find at http://wp.me/p3GVVk-tg (Part I) and http://wp.me/p3GVVk-tm (Part II)
Building on that – and in the hope of burying monorail mania once and for all in Penang — let me offer a closing short strategic commentary on monorails and more generally in situations where high capacity carriers are called for to take pressure off the existing transport infrastructure.
Note to the reader: This article as been cobbled together very quickly in order to complete the three part series on monorails for Penang. It will be the object of further thought, editing, and possibly new materials in the weeks ahead.
It is our position here at World Streets that the challenges of sustainable transportation are so many and so important that we need to ensure we maintain focus on concepts and policies that are going to be up to the task and the priorities at stake. The following just in from Brazil summarizes the author’s expert views on this particular mode. We have left it in his colorful language, making this a lively as well as informative read. Again, our objective here is to make sure that no one, particularly no one in the developing world, wastes any more time with approaches that are very clearly inappropriate. We need to keep focus.
We invite the reader to have a close look at the author’s views of Malaysian monorail projects and dreams, where he shares some pointed remarks which need to be borne in mind for any city having first thoughts about all the great things that monorail supporters claim they do for people, and for cities.
Now, from our archives:
Dragging monorail projects and propositions into the cold light of day Continue reading
MonorailsLet me be very clear as to my motives here just so there is no ambiguity on my position. I would like no less than to drive a sharp stake through the dark heart of this egregiously unsustainable transport concept once and for all, so that we can concentrate our limited resources on approaches that are capable of doing the job and meeting the sustainability challenge head on. Which is exactly not the case with monorails. Let’s have a look. Continue reading