Monday, September 26, 2016

Video documentary - Free Public Transport: 'Transit justice is a crucial aspect of social justice today'

Produced by Revo Raudjarv for Tallinna Television [2015]

Public transit lies at the intersection of several critical social struggles today. Affordable (or free) public transit is an important mechanism for redistribution, and particularly targets low income people.

A central component of public policies to address climate change must be mass expenditures on public transit to reduce reliance on private cars and fossil fuels. Mass transit also enables an increase in the density and livability of cities. 

And public transit that is free and available as a social right is a core demand to de-commodify everyday life in opposition to endless consumerism. Transit justice is, then, a crucial aspect of social justice today, and should be a fundamental part of the political programme of progressives and socialists. The struggle for the extension of free and accessible public transit rubs directly against neoliberal policies, and raises the vision of alternate production and provision essential to anti-capitalist politics.

This video mostly focuses on Tallinn, Estonia, and includes interviews with international activists: Roger Fowler (FareFree New Zealand), Greg Albo (Toronto Free Transit), Erik van Hal (traffic planner, Eindhoven), Michel van Hulten (scientist, Netherlands), Anna Ujma (advisor to the mayor of Zory, Poland), Dan Diaconu (deputy mayor of Timisoara, Romania), Raymond Polus (journalist Hasselt, Belgium), Mao Xiang (Chengdu Transport Department), Siim Kallas (European Commissioner for Transport), Lars Isacsson (Mayor of Avesta, Sweden), Allan Alakula (Head of Tallinn EU Office), Taavi Aas (Deputy Mayor of Tallinn).

Widening roads will not reduce congestion

By Eric Britton, World Streets:The Politics of Transport in Cities,

Dr. Pojani in her lecture at Penang Heritage  of Friday entitled “Urban Transport Crisis in Small and Medium Size Developing Cities and the Effectiveness of Countermeasures” — at one point advises us to FOLLOW THE MONEY.  Now that’s an interesting comment and really makes me wish I had been with you. Here’s an example of how I interpret this counsel from my perspective as a strategic planner.

The hard fact in the above graphic is that politicians and engineers have trouble accepting this strategic approach – precisely because they are trained to look at something else. It’s simply a matter of long-standing professional deformation (if that is English). It does not have to be that way, but in order to get around the corner on this particular problem, both the politicians and their engineers need to be presented with the OVERALL strategic situation, which is quite different from the one they are accustomed to seeing.

The trick in getting this right is that they have to alter their key decision criteria, and bring in something called EXTERNAL COSTS. (More on this at . What this gives us for decision making  is nothing less than a transformative  way of thinking about decisions in our sector. Fair-minded politicians and engineers — once they assimilate this new information and the technical procedures that go with them –will quickly come around to this different point of view . And both these important groups have taken this important step in many many cities around the world that are getting the challenges of efficient and sustainable transport right. (It’s a long list.)

Follow the money

But now on to Dr. Pojani’s point with her “follow the money” comment. In this case those actors who have direct financial interests in actually building more roads – without taking the external costs or impacts of the following acts into full account. Who are these players?

Well of course any company whose business it is to build roads, tunnel and bridges to accommodate all those additional cars. Likewise, property developers and construction firms eager to open up new territories linked by highways and cars. And of course the automotive and petrol industry and associated lobbies and suppliers. Then there are their financial partners.

It is not that there is anything bad in their pursuing their own interests. To the contrary they are pillars of the market economy and necessary to our well-being in this complex and fast-changing 21st century. But it is the job of good governance to ensure that the public interest does not suffer as a result of their activity and profits.

Which means of course that we — and they — have plenty of work ahead.