What Are The Alternatives To Traveling By Car? #TEDActiveMOB

What Are The Alternatives To Traveling By Car? #TEDActiveMOB

The TEDActive Mobility Project is exploring the ways to make our world smaller, and more accessible, without traveling by car.

Timothy Ryan, PSFK Labs
  • 23 february 2011

The team at idea-sharing conference TED have been asking for folks to get involved with TEDActive Projects. The TEDActive Sustainability Project will look at best practices in community organizing, and explore radical solutions to push the sustainability movement forward. PSFK actively engaged our expert network, the PurpleList, to provide stimulus for the attendees working on this project.

The TEDActive Mobility Project will explore ways to reduce the cost, time and necessity of driving. TED will look at the barriers to mobilizing local communities, and examine new tools that can make our world more accessible. Today, we publish the answers that came in from around the world to the following question:

How can we make the world smaller, even more accessible?

Lloyd Alter is an expert in architecture and is located in Toronto

Considering that I am an architect who writes about sustainable design, I am going to make the counter-intuitive case that we have to reduce our standards, not increase them. Smaller and tighter development in walkable and cyclable cities should get a green pass simply for being walkable and cyclable; a recent Canadian study showed that people living in leaky old buildings in the old parts of town used less energy per capita than those in shiny new suburbs, where everything is bigger and everyone drives. Andres Duany recently made the same point:

“He said that high-density development in urban locations which entail less reliance on private cars should get a free pass on energy efficiency or energy generation standards. “Don’t make apartment dwellers install solar power,” he said. “They are doing their part just by living densely and driving less.”

Richard Prime is an expert in the writing and editorial industry and is located in Stockholm.

This kind of question is one I find interesting. While researching a PechaKucha presentation as part of Stockholm’s Design Festival, the notion is Urbanisation was bought up as one of the biggest ‘trends’ of this decade. While its classification as a trend is utterly laughable, it’s more of a concern and issue of potential change than anything else, it’s something of the double edged sword.

Like Lloyd, I am wondering whether the growing urban density is something which might mean we spend less time in our cars. If the right urban planning and infrastructure is in place then more of us might take advantage of public transport and indeed other transport like cycling or walking.

The other interesting thing from my side of things is a development in design (perhaps at the higher end from the smaller furniture manufacturers – one in particular called Zweed, wherein outlets and distributors for a specific brand or designer are sought regionally on the condition that they can produce items locally rather than receiving them from a factory in Asia for example. Far less shipping, transportation etc. I’m guessing that, while it might not be unique it’s a step in the right direction. This chap is well worth a gander as he’s got some very unique business concepts in addition to his design ethos.

Timothy Ryan is an expert in the writing and editorial industry and is located in Brooklyn.

The challenge may be to leverage the use of existing infrastructure while acknowledging the need for new, and more efficient technologies. Taking cars off the road will require an incentive for commuters to choose the alternative. The benefits of owning a car for long-distance travel still outweigh the costs of more efficient transportation for many commuters. The effectiveness and prevalence of high speed trains in Japan, attest to the idea that commuters, coerced with the correct incentives, will make sustainable choices.

For cities, urbanization is less a phase than an impending reality. More than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, and that percentage is on the rise. Avoiding a de-centralized sprawl could mean maximizing existing space to make room for housing. Cars are parked 90% of the time, and cities are built to carry this burden. Until cities make commitments to move away from being hospitable to cars, and creating incentives for pedestrians, commuters may continue using their cars.

But it has to be a choice, and commitment, most likely requiring funding at the Governmental level. Trust that people inherently are concerned about their environment, but limited in their viable and affordable options.

John Voelker is an expert in the Automotive industry and is located in New York.

Three threads.

First, so much of the need to drive has to do with low-density dispersed suburban and exurban sprawl. There are simple things, like allowing small commercial businesses–bodegas, if you will–into dead-end suburbs, which can be reached by foot or bike. They require zoning changes, since most residential zoning views any commercial activity as evil.

Second, have a look at some of GM’s experiments with self-guided autonomous electric urban vehicles like their EN-V project. There’s simply not enough square footage in megacities for conventional vehicles, but the demand for mobility will always be there.

Third (and perhaps easiest in the short term), encourage and incentivize car-sharing services. This is a generational shift, and it gets more challenging in less-dense suburban areas, but if some families have reasonable access to seven-seat vehicles or minivans for the few times a year they REALLY need one, they may be able to get by with a more economical compact sedan–and perhaps even get rid of the third car, or the second. This doesn’t necessarily reduce driving per se, but it increases the efficiency of vehicles on the road.

The PurpleList: How can we make the world smaller, even more accessible?

Image by loop_oh


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