5 ideas in 5 minutes


The idea is Velib, a bicycle hire service set up in Paris in July 2007.

It’s interesting because the scale of the project means that it has created a decentralised, responsive public transport system that incorporates the individual freedom of an automotive vehicle.

The ‘stations’ where bikes can be hired are located approximately 300m from one another within the central Paris area. There are 1,451 stations and 20,600 bikes. The automated stations are open 24 hours a day and rides less than 30 minutes are free (after the purchase of a daily, weekly or yearly access card). The first 30 minutes thereafter cost a single euro. There are over 371km of dedicated cycling laneways in Paris. Noting the congestion of Paris and the cost of fuel, the rental fees are very competitive.

A year on there are some doubts as to the emission reducing credentials of such services however there are several demonstrable benefits: a less polluted, less congested and healthier urban environment, and an efficient public transport service.

They tried it in Paris, however many other cities have experimented with similar smaller scale projects, most famously Amsterdam in the 1960’s.

Read more on the colourful Velib website.


Fuel taxes used to invest in public transport

The idea is using some, or all, of the fuel excise tax revenue to purchase more public buses.

It’s interesting because of the tangible link between fuel cost and consumption and the provision of a public service. A tax that is directly linked to a particular government service is a more efficient way of using tax revenue. In this case, the sale of petrol (the use of which doesn’t seem to be abating for the moment unfortunately) is being used to promote greener transport alternatives.

This kind of policy could expedite the development of better public transport systems (in Australia at least).

The idea was put forward by the Bus Industry Confederation.

They tried it in places unknown, although several states in the US put fuel tax directly towards road maintenance.

Read more at SMH.

Dynamic kerbside pricing

The idea is dynamic kerbside pricing- in other words, parking prices that roughly reflect demand. Parking services can also be utilised through a variety of communication technologies.

It’s interesting because by responding to changes in parking needs the system is better able to target peak congestion periods thereby reducing emissions and improving traffic flow.

Parking rates are adjusted based on the time of day, day of the week and length of stay. Best of all, if the meter is about to expire a text message alert can be sent and the meter topped up remotely. There is also a website which enables drivers to check availability. Time limits are changed according to the above factors.

Greater certainty in the endless quest for parking will lead to less time (and fuel) wasted when finding a spot.

A potential future downside: automated parking fines.

They tried it in San Francisco, with New York and Washington likely to follow suit

Read more about the San Francisco trial here.

Transport Innovation Fund

The idea is the Transport Innovation Fund, used to finance transport solutions in England.

It’s interesting because it has specified key objectives: reducing congestion and improving productivity. By focusing on congestion it promotes improvements in the lifestyle of citizens. No less important is the recognition that transport is a fundamental economic driver.

It is also interesting because of the way it allocates funds. Local authorities bid for funds to address congestion problems in their jurisdiction while the Department for Transport (UK) identifies productivity-relevant projects on the national level.

Dividing transport projects into these two categories increases the likelihood that overall transport needs will be properly addressed. The transport needs of individuals and the transport needs of a developed economy often overlap but at times they are quite distinct. This type of funding acknowledges the distinction and seeks to allocate funding where it will be used in the best way possible rather than lumping problems together and hoping that each individual project will be able to solve it all.

They tried it across England.

Read more at the Department for Transport.

Insurance by the mile

The idea is insurance premiums calculated on the distance driven. The aim is to encourage less driving and therefore reduce emissions.

It’s interesting because insurance is currently a fixed expense and by calculating premiums by the distance driven it becomes a cost based on usage. This creates another cost factor to be taken into account when making the decision to drive.

Premiums would still reflect other factors such as the age of the driver and the vehicle, so the risk-based system currently in place would be preserved (including the profits made).

Linking premiums to usage ‘exposes’ the true and accurate cost of driving in much the same way that the price of carbon exposes the cost of polluting.

From a transport policy and environmental perspective any reduction in car usage and associated emissions can only be a good thing.

They tried it in Southern California through the AAA.

Read more at Harper’s and the Sightline Institute.


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