MANAGING THE MOBILITY

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 2 ene. 2012 0:30 por Carlos A. Gonzalez G.   [ actualizado el 5 feb. 2012 16:04 ]
Carlos A. González G.


'El Tiempo' Newspaper
Digital Edition, Opinon Section
Colombia, 9th September 2010


Opinion article

Original title: 'Gestionando la movilidad'

The recent interest of the Municipality of Cali in identifying several measures to reduce the chaotic traffic congestion in the city is remarkable. But, it is crucial that such initiatives, which have arisen from a “Shower of ideas” in a round-table discussion attended by the local Government and some societal stakeholders, are now well designed and rigorously evaluated, with the support of sufficient, updated and reliable data and information.

The Vehicle Restriction or the spatial and temporal restriction of car use in urban environments (called ‘Pico y placa’ in Colombia) is one of many strategies of Transport Demand Management (TDM), which aims to influence the travelers’ behavior, in order to promote a more sustainable mobility. It is, therefore, the generation of some scenarios or specific conditions that encourages travelers to make certain decisions about how and when some part of their trips should be done in order to promote a sustainable mobility pattern based on a more rational use of the private vehicle and greater participation of both optimized public transport and non-mechanized transport modes (cycling and pedestrian).

The recent proposal to change the current ‘Pico y placa’ strategy of the city of Cali, emerged in the round-table discussion organized by the newspaper ‘El País’ and the program ‘Cali, Cómo Vamos’ the past 18th August, requires to give answers at least to the following questions: Is it better to extend the restriction to full working day or continue as it is now, only during the rush-hour, but increasing the number of days of restriction for each car? Should it affect only automobiles or also taxis given the evident oversupply of the latter? Is the current public transport system able to cover the new demand created by the extension of the restriction or is it necessary to undertake actions to improve it? Should motorcycles also be included in the restriction in order to avoid a harmful increase of their demand? Until we have consistent answers to questions like these, we will continue in the field of divinatory powers.

Whether we like it or not, or whether we think it is fair or unfair, given the rapid growth of the number of vehicles, both cars and motorcycles, it is urgent to undertake actions to achieve a more rational use of private vehicles in the city. In the same way, it is essential to regulate the anarchic oversupply of both traditional public transport and taxis and, of course, to strongly promote the implementation and improvement of Bus Rapid Transit systems such as the ‘MIO’ system(1) of Cali which has not yet reached the expected results. All these actions on long journeys have to be supplemented with measures to promote non-motorized mobility (pedestrian and cycling) for short journeys.

Then, in first instance the goal to achieve is that the negative externalities per passenger, such as space and fuel consumption, pollution and accidents among others, should be the lowest possible. And this is accomplished, on the one hand, by minimizing the number of private vehicles using the road network and by maximizing their average occupancy (which currently shows low values of about 1,2 passengers per car) and, on the other hand, by increasing the participation of both optimized public transport and non motorized transport modes in the total of trips made. Both are key aspects to enjoy a better mobility in the city.

Another matter of great debate and concern is how are these measures to be implemented, knowing that at the moment, the Municipality of Cali does not have: (a) A technical report of its Urban Mobility Plan which was enacted two years ago (Municipal Decree 0615 of November 10th 2008), (b) Results from a wide survey of mobility (Origin-Destination), and (c) An integrated simulation model of urban mobility which includes all the transport modes of the city. This lack of data, information, plans and tools, which is critical for a well structured and effective decision-making in mobility, leaves us at the mercy of interpretations and speculations, or, even worse, exposed to the deliberate ‘trial and error’ which ends in despair for the citizens.

It is crucial to carry out several actions immediately. On the one hand, a greater investment in the development of Cali’s Mobility Plan. Its precarious annual budget is barely able to overcome the cost of a foot-bridge. On the other hand, to strengthen the small technical team of mobility planning in the Municipal Department of Planning, which in spite of its daunting task, could not yet bring out the necessary technical report of the Urban Mobility Plan to be used as a support for decision-making. This is obvious in such precarious conditions of both budget and number of mobility experts.

The enjoyment of a better urban mobility and, if you will, of a sustainable mobility, is not free and, therefore, it requires that all of us citizens give way in some aspects and contribute in others. But this willingness will only be possible if the Local Administration is able to build consensus on the desired city, and to design and implement effective measures and coherent projects. At the moment, the ideas fall from the sky, projects take precedence over the plans, building is first and planning latter, and so, the desired city does not seem to be just around the corner.

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This is a translation of the original version in Spanish entitled 'Gestionando la movilidad'. The opinions expressed in this article are solely responsibility of the author and they do not compromise the point of view of any related institution. (1) MIO 'Masivo Integrado de Occidente' is the Bus Rapid Transit system of the city of Cali, which was implemented in 2009.

+ Link to this article on the website of El Tiempo Newspaper