TED Conversations

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    Feb 12 2014: You need a lot of measures and initiative together.

    Mobility (bringing two things together in space and time) can be changed by asking: is this the best way? is it really needed? can it be improved.
    We want to keep our ability to reach people, objects and places as simple and as cheap as possible.
    As we need to keep the environment clean, there are some conflicts.
    And we have trafic jams, that make a lot of mobility inefficient.

    - introduce city bicycles if they are not there yet
    - improve public transport
    - introduce congestion charges
    - improve home-working and co-working in local spaces
    - increase work-time flexibility ( if half of the people who work 9/5 go to 10/6, then trafic jams are decreased)
    - implement car-sharing
    - parking lots outside the city, where you pay less and get direct access to public transport
    - shopping people: delivery of shoping bags to those parking lots
    - encourage hitch-hiking.

    To implement all this (which will gain huge economic and ecologic benefits), you need quite some people and thus create a lot of jobs.
    There are a lot of opportunities, and it would require some investments of both corporate and government.

    As for Michelin: Maybe you can try to re-think the tire/guide michelin idea and go (back) to a company that promotes both the great places and how to get there in the best way. As a service.
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      Feb 12 2014: Dear Christophe,

      I share your point of view regarding the need for multiple actions to be taken in parallel. I will add one: do we need to drive big cars all the time? Most of the year I use a small car (3,70m in length) for my private travels: lower consumption, easier to park, cheaper insurance fee… And when I go for long distance travels, I rent a bigger car. Of course this is not a solution for all. But it could help for sustainable mobility.

      More generally, there is one action you did not mention: education. I have worked in water quality management in France. We succeed to maintain or improve our water quality compared to what it was in the 60’s. Strong investments in sewage network and treatment plants were done paid by taxes and by stakeholders. This is the main reason why we succeed.
      But also thanks to an education program set up to explain the water lifecycle targeting primary and secondary schools but also well-targeted exhibitions. People realize that water in the river is the same as the one they get at their tap. They better understand why it is important to avoid to waste or to pollute water: it costs to clean it up and/or it has impacts on their environment.

      Can we do the same with transports? I am positively convinced. We can explain the impacts of our behavior: pollution, economic losses due to waste of time, health impacts due to pollution and driver stress in traffic jam (who has never been upset to be stuck in traffic jam?)… People can better understand what they are doing when they are driving only for 1km / 1 miles. And what are the consequences of such attitude. You have also to explain what they can do to lower their impact and how they can do it. That’s a way to empower people.

      But it takes time. Yes for sure. But how long it takes to change inner-city infrastructure? How long it takes to dig a new tube/subway line? From the first scheduling of the project to its end, 20 years may have passed! One generation.
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      Feb 16 2014: Great point, Christophe.

      My plan for our truly futuristic project Combining Precious Old Traditions with intelligent new designs is to start building it today.

      Breaking gigantic city infrastructures into many small sustainable towns/villages is the only sound idea but I think that the most grand obstacle we have right now is our own no-go mass-mentality regarding How the city should function and look.

      In our NT case - when we demostrate the "Nova Town" project to public or specialists - they go crazy! asking when they can move to that future place "to live there". I have no slightest doubt - Building, even outside the cities, one or two or three small towns of that nature, fully functional Living models, will spark a volcano of sound enthusiasm, attract the best talents and creative souls.

      Small innovative energy, water, heating, cooling and waste systems will support this micro-sustainability more effectively than any sickly utility giant. Commercial traffic shall be not allowed within the "town".

      This will make future denizens' lifestyle incomparably more enjoyable and meaningful. While creating new accupations and obtaining new knowledge, they can soundly exchange their experience with others.

      We have started working on our futuristic anti-Metropolis architecture and road systems, innovative energy and other systems, sustainable gardening, small unique retail-studios, small bakeries, restaurants, hotel, school, theater etc,. We are replacing those recycling for 100+ years old Modern and "robotic city" ideas, still "inspiring" architects and city-planners all over the globe. We want to invite everyone to make a first step into a new era.
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    Feb 5 2014: Vertical and rooftop gardens can greatly help a city in many ways. They reduce the amount of food needed to be shipped into the city, improve the air quality, reduce the city’s heat island effect, and reduce stress for both humans and wild life. Plus freshly picked food taste a lot better than what is picked unripen and shipped.

    Image search “one central park Sydney” for vision of what could and should the norm.
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    Feb 4 2014: the internet and connectivity have not changed the world as much as possibly one might think.

    a change in thinking is required - a revolution in the head. how many people actually need to be on-site these days, considering the connectivity that is available? that would make a start - working from home.

    reducing private vehicles and lowering the cost of public transport while improving the experience (put mirrors on buses) is step two.
    • Feb 5 2014: Of all the different jobs I've had, only one has not required me to be on-site. Product had to be physically moved, item by item. Objects had to be assembled by hand. Delicate experiments had to be carried out, by hand, because either automation would have cost 10-100 times my salary or the experiment was just designed (by me) and there was no automation available. If you step outside the "let them eat cake" world of IT, the vast majority of jobs require workers to be "on-site".
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    Feb 3 2014: A huge problem is that almost everyone works 9-5 in the US. I guess it goes along with dropping kids off at school. Perhaps there can be certain zones of a city/cities that have different starting and ending times. If there's work that can be done regardless of the time of day have numerous optional shifts to avoid 9-5 and to avoid ending (depending where you live) around 7-8 A.M. I currently work graveyards and there's almost zero traffic to and from work. If I were to change to any other shift I'd easily add 30-45 minutes to my commute. Add that up even for only a year and that's a lot of time. There also needs to be a lot more telecommuting. I'm sure there are numerous jobs that can and should be done at home. As another poster has mentioned, MOOCs are a great option for schooling. I live about 5 miles from a major university and right when I'm getting home from work the opposite traffic to the university is just absurd. Assuming half of those students in that traffic went completely to online, I'd estimate it would save everyone possibly 20-30 minutes every day. When I was young we had a freeway with two lanes. Now it has five lanes and still massive traffic at peak times. Every city should definitely think for the upcoming decades. Tough question with no easy answers.
    • Feb 5 2014: How you gonna implement that? What about people who don't live and work in the same zone? Put up barbed wire to make them stay put?
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    Feb 5 2014: Although costly or needs to be done from the cities creation Separate roadways (one for trucks and buses and a second for lite passenger vehicles) would solve a lot of traffic issues.

    The how to do this would vary per city, truck only lines and roads, underground cargo shipping system, many cities already have highways going around the city so traveler don’t need to go through the city and converting them to have separate roadways should be able to be done reasonably.

    For a place like NY an underground cargo-only subway may be best, it could even use the same tracks for both and just have separate stations and subway-cars.
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    Feb 5 2014: Internet and connectivity are starting to impact massively mobility. For example on-demand mobility is based on smartphones, peer-to-peer car sharing is made possible thanks to internet ...
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      Feb 5 2014: True for many, runs to the video store are a thing of the past and going to the movie theater also.
      Plus no more traveling store to store looking for an item and the just starting trend of “online doctors” will make a big cut in trips to the doctor. I really foresee online-doctor stations/rooms at pharmacists being the next big trend, you go there show a doctor your rash via web cam and walkout with a filled prescription for your poison ivy. No trip to a doctor or ER needed
      • Feb 16 2014: Online education is another internet provision that reduces societal traffic costs. Avoiding the commute to and from school and filling a parking space during class saves a great deal of time and resources. While the feasibility of Amazon Drone type delivery systems might be debatable, similar programs may be beneficial to the reduction of street congestion. I see 3d printers as another aspect of retail traffic reduction. The ability for families to print out plates, shoes, prosthesis, food, toys, etc. with a back stock of variable use construction materials and internet bought CAD designs and recipes should reduce both consumer traffic and industrial/warehouse/retailer shipping, transport and inventory costs.
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    Feb 4 2014: In the case of Manila Philippines, there are easy solutions at least for traffic.
    The jeepney is the most popular public transport here---and the number one cause of traffic now; the volume of these jeeps and the barbaric ways of its drivers. And there's the ironic plausible trouble the volume of these jeeps could create too. Even if just 50% of these jeeps were phased out, massive unemployment would ensue which our government will not be able to solve.
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      Feb 7 2014: The Philippines has a lot of problems, Poch. What it needs is strong, charismatic, and sensible leadership from both the government and the Catholic Church. The Filipino people are, generally, good, smart, and hard-working people. They just need good leaders!
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        Feb 7 2014: I definitely agree with that! I think we are having better leadership. But widespread corruption still persists which negates the rewards from good leadership.
        Thank you Rodrigo!
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          Feb 7 2014: Poch, weeding out "widespread corruption", to use your phrase, is an integral part of good leadership and good government. While in other parts of the world, there is a separation of chuch and state, in the Philippines religion and the churches are powerful and influential. The Filipinos are too steeped in tradition and religion. So instead of going against each other, government and religion should take the responsibility in leading the people.

          As mentioned, Filipinos are, generally good, smart, hard-working, and spiritual in many good ways. For Filipinos to reach their full-peotential, they have no choice but to work together. They have been divided and exploited far too long.
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        Feb 8 2014: Speaking of the Church, did you know that our 'Church' backs up the street vendors who block the streets causing traffic jams everywhere?
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    Feb 4 2014: When you ask what citizens might be empowered to do, I interpret that as asking what choices individuals can make, right now regardless of what the institutions around them may do or not do, and by your references to the densest cities, you are not asking, I think, about the option of simply spreading deeper and deeper into pristine places.

    Common actions often within the range of choices for individuals in urban areas are walking, taking public transportation, carpooling when a car is necessary, riding a bike, telecommuting, choosing to live close to work rather than commuting in from a distance and clogging the highways in to town. Bike and car sharing programs are, I notice becoming increasingly popular and bike lanes are sprouting all over the place, making those choices more practical and safe.

    A bit more distant, perhaps, as a strategy is embracing neighborhood schools and services. This is an example, though, of how decisions that may be beneficial if one looks only at traffic issues may not be beneficial when one considers other important objectives.
    • Feb 4 2014: There is no ideal solution.

      If I rent my home, I am at the whim of landlord price hikes or frequent moves to take advantage of market prices.

      If I buy a home near work, and then later change jobs, large transaction fees lock me in.

      Even without changing jobs, I have had employers move work locations.

      Both my spouse and I work. There is no guarantee we will be able to find ideal jobs near each other.

      Due to frequent stops and indirect routes, even with traffic, public transportation is frequently slower, less convenient and more expensive. The most common driver of public transportation usage is lack of parking at the destinations, but that requires very high density that frequently causes many other negative issues.

      Telecommuting is not offered by all employers.

      Biking can sometimes increase traffic as setting aside lanes for the slower moving bikes takes away lanes form cars.

      Carpooling can be effective depending on the situation, but is many times limited by circumstance.

      The reality is that there are no easily implemented solutions, which is why cities around the world continue to struggle with these issues.
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        Feb 4 2014: What you write is surely true. Other aspects one might add and that are often big concerns for a parent are first, the extra time one might spend walking or in public transport is time spent apart from the children, which may not be a trade-off worth making. A second is that many parents of young children keep a car near their work so that when they get that call that says "Johnny is running a fever and you need to pick him up," one of the parents wants to be able to drop everything and get there fast.

        Choosing to live near work is, of course, not a choice everyone can make. Housing in the heart of the city is expensive. In some cases the inner city is less practical as a place to raise a family.

        Life becomes a matter of making choices that are best in each situation.
        • Feb 4 2014: Agreed. I have seen many young people brag that they do not need a car, will never own a car, because their bicycle gets them everywhere they want to go.

          So easy to say when you are a 20 year-old, college student and living in Hawaii, Southern California, Florida or even Arizona.

          Try that with a spouse and children. Try it in Minnesota in winter. Try that when the new job is 20 miles from your home, you do not want to sell the house, move, make the kids change schools, and the spouse works 15 miles in the opposite direction.
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        Feb 5 2014: What families can often do, though, is have one parent driving and the other on public transportation, vanpool, or employer-arranged bus service. As an example, in Seattle both Microsoft and the University of Washington medical center both run their own employee bus services. Microsoft is not actually in Seattle but rather across a busy bridge from Seattle. A large proportion of high tech employees live in Seattle but go in daily- or when they are not telecommuting- on the private bus service. The other parent is the one on call for emergency kid-picking up.

        I don't know that such arrangements fit into the category of citizen empowerment but they are a way employers can mitigate the traffic impacts of where they locate their physical plants.
        • Feb 5 2014: Yeah, right, as soon as I get my pet flying unicorn. That's about as realistic as your idea. Some of us have to live in the real world.
        • Feb 12 2014: Fritzie, I must agree with you,

          I've had every Microsoft product since Adam and Eve were pups.
          XP forever is my motto. I'm going back to XP and dumping this stupid
          Win8.1 come next April when Microsoft leaves it alone.
          But the Spying, and Surveillances and Microsoft's non-stop selling,
          apps, selling apps, selling apps, selling apps, is just to much for me
          to accept. I detest Microsoft and Bill Gates for doing those bad things
          for the NSA. Sorry, I cannot help myself.

          I see Bryan has made his usual nasty remark. He just cannot seem
          to be forgiving of others, the same as me. lol
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        Feb 5 2014: Bryan, which is unrealistic? What Microsoft, among other large employers, already does or that one parent would commute by car while the other goes by public transport?

        By coincidence, there is an article today about the downside of one such service in This Big City. It is called "Thinking outside the bus" and is about the negative reaction of San Franciscans to the Google bus phenomenon. Apple and Facebook have the same sort of bus offering for their employees in the San Francisco area.
        • Feb 12 2014: Fritzie,
          I'm reading on my Kendal about how Business in the US took control of
          the Government. How 20 years ago there were 130 Lobbyists for each
          of the 535 congressmen and congresswomen. Now that number has
          blossomed and the congress bought and paid for.

          I am sure the Transport problems will be solved for the inner cities and
          otherwise. And who can solve those issues better than Businesses.
          Ask Newt... lol
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    Feb 2 2014: Erik, is this an unbiased conversation, because you'll have to respond more to suggestions that promote your business, right? To me the obvious answer is to promote walking more, but there's not as much business for Michelin in that as there is in bicycles or cars? I wonder how much money there is in the business of creating soles for shoes, Michelin could probably create good ones? Are you already in that business?

    I probably walk two-three miles a day almost every day of the year. I totally enjoy it. One nice thing about walking is you can accomplish things along the way easily, for instance if I start from Point A and walk to Point B a mile away, I can often do three or four errands or tasks along the way. This would be hard to do in a car or bike because to do each errand you have to find parking, turn off everything, lock the car or bike, and then do all the stuff to get it going again when you're off to the next errand.
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      Feb 4 2014: Greg has a super-point.

      In support to this thought I'm suggesting to gradually re-build infrastructures within smaller areas (both in suburbs and cities). Yes, Greg, we shall walk. We have legs, and we shall walk using them meaningfully. We treat ourselves as handicapped creatures in our cities, who are desperate to be driven around... by
      cars, elevators, trains..

      The goal is to create local sustainable living, vivid diversity of businesses and therefore offer meaningful jobs, design smaller "greener" schools in walking distances from stidents' homes, and "move" all comercial traffic away from the community to the main roads.
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        Feb 4 2014: Vera, is it more of a problem for women to walk? For instance, let's say it's winter when it gets dark earlier. So a female student stays at school with some after-school activities, and by the time she's done, it's 5 PM and the sun has gone down and it's dark. She would be afraid to walk home in the dark?
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          Feb 4 2014: "So a female student stays at school with some after-school activities, and by the time she's done, it's 5 PM and the sun has gone down and it's dark. She would be afraid to walk home in the dark?"

          I would - unless it is some emergency. A young mail student has a real chance to get into some mess in the city. But when I was a student I did not think it was My problem, I just had to deal with others - who had problems. Our cities brew sickly environment, no matter where we are walking or driving.

          Smaller communities is the only key to reduce many problems, incuding crime.
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        Feb 4 2014: vera, when you said above I had a super-point, you meant my point emphasizing walking, correct? But walking is more of a problem for women than men when it's after dark, right? If that is true, do you still think we should emphasize walking since it cuts women out of activities that are going to continue after the sun goes down?
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          Feb 4 2014: A combination of walking and public transit is a viable option for many. A person who lives close to work could walk to work and take public transit home.
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      Feb 4 2014: They are already in that business, Greg:

      http://www.michelinfootwear.com/template-7.php?page=101

      If this is part of a business strategy based on more detailed information about peak oil than the public gets to hear, or a general widening of products in their field of excellence to reduce their given, tight dependency on the automotive sector, I don't know...

      But if their shoe soles are as durable as their tyres used to be on my 'deux chevaux', you might go for it ... pun intended! ;o)

      And this is a 'deux chevaux', meaning 2CV, in case you haven't heart this expression before, as those are pretty rare in the US:

      http://www.artmajeur.com/en/art-gallery/emmanuel-mergault/227356/2cv/6817837
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        Feb 4 2014: if you did away with wheeled transportation and everybody walked everywhere, would it wreck the world economy?
        You walk much, Lejan .?
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          Feb 4 2014: World economy is well known to reliably wrack itself periodically anyway, so what difference would it make for yet another crash, but for at least sustainable gains?

          I am a convenience walker, which makes me use my car for shopping, when it is raining.
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        Feb 5 2014: I was just wondering if doing away with petroleum transportation would wreck the economy permanently, as petroleum extraction and transportation are a big part of the economy?
    • Feb 5 2014: Now, just how do I walk 40 miles to and from work? Are YOU going to pay for me to move closer and pay for the significantly higher rent?
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        Feb 5 2014: what about looking for a local job you could walk to, Bryan? And walking as you go through the process of looking for the job?

        I also like the idea of finding a job by word of mouth. Not every job gets advertised in print somewhere. Often when I've looked for a job I would just go from business to business on foot, walk in, walk up to the reception desk, and ask if there were any openings. I remember finding a job that way at a medical clinic that hadn't opened for business yet, the job was giving out fliers advertising the clinic. Perhaps a job that is beneath you? But I enjoyed it, it was outdoors and sometimes involved talking to people, and I worked with a guy who had given out fliers for a while and learned there's a little bit of an art to giving them out.

        Apart from commuting to work, do you like to walk, or walk much?
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        Feb 6 2014: As for the given market mechanics in supply and demand, does the significantly higher rents indicate for a significantly more dense area you work in 40 miles away, compared to the population density you life in?

        But usually, jobs in higher dense areas also pay more than in less dense areas, which is actually the reason why people from rural areas concentrate there.

        For your situation, this could mean the following... ?

        You benefit twice, by earning significantly more working in a dense area and save significantly on lower rents by living in less populated areas. Provided the cost for petrol doesn't eat up most of both benefits.

        or

        You earn significantly more by working in a dense area and save significantly on lower rents by living in less populated areas, but the cost for petrol neutralizes both benefits totally.

        or

        You earn comparably little for a job in a dense area which makes it necessary to save on the rent in less populated areas. Rising cost in petrol would, at a certain price, not allow for such a constellation anymore, as your earnings then could no longer cover your mobility, which is crucial for this setup.

        As you only mentioned significantly higher rents and not significantly higher wages as well, would the third example best describe your given situation?
      • Feb 12 2014: Bryan,
        40 miles sounds about right for you.
        Enjoy the walk. You deserve the exercise. lol
        And think of all the bugs you get to squish.

        Seriously, you should get additional mileage money.
        See, I've got your back man...
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    Feb 2 2014: first of all,i have to say i am sceptical about corporations and their strategies. But if you really want to empowered people, better leave it to the people.

    Decentralisation of power and decision making must lie with people and in urban areas/governance, it must lie with locality, neighbourhoods, wards etc. especially in things related to aspects of reducing pollution. we must give back to people/community etc the sense and purpose of existence (raison d'etre).
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    Feb 1 2014: better public transportation that is environmentally friendly and efficient, making cars practically unneccessary.
    • Feb 2 2014: I agree, bus systems in urban areas are under utilized with my best guess being they are operating at 40% capacity in non densely populated cites. Separating cities that have more urban sprawl from densely populated cities who have built in ridership would clarify the problem to be solved. Ridership.

      Ridership is a problem in less densely populated cities as they can't offer to put more buses on the road without more riders. Less buses means longer routes and less convenience. I firmly believe if we want to solve our ridership problem on buses the fares need to "free." Public transport companies can offset this with federal monies that would have gone to implementing new rail systems and advertising on mobile apps as schedules and up to the minute route information is now available. Public transport needs to change how it receives its revenue stream and give back to the community to get from the community. The investment that needs to be made is more buses need to converge at high employment centers and more transportation hubs need to be built in outlying areas for more route availability. As a rider once I know I can get to my destination for free in 30minutes at any time I would ride the bus 60% more often.
    • Feb 5 2014: Now, just how do I walk 40 miles to and from work? Are YOU going to pay for me to move closer and pay for the significantly higher rent?
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    Jan 31 2014: Good point Don! Maybe we could apply this to the workplace also, have people work from home for a few days a month to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
    • Feb 1 2014: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      Tell me how that works. How does somebody "work from home" when ones job is stocking shelves?
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        Feb 4 2014: What makes you expect for this to work on any job, Bryan?
        • Feb 5 2014: Because the advocates of "telecommuting" presume that the VAST MAJORITY of jobs can be done via "telecommuting", when such an assumption is obviously false to anyone who has lived outside a very insulated unicorns-and-fairies world.
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        Feb 6 2014: I've read Ruchika's comment again in regard to your latest remarks, Bryan, but can not find any reference for a 'vast majority' you seem to have.

        'Have people' indicates no specific quantity, unless equated with all people there possibly are.

        But why would anyone who has lived outside very insulated unicorns-and-fairies worlds presume apparently exaggerated generalizations over more realistic numbers?
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      Feb 4 2014: I respond here on your third level comment above:

      I absolutely agree with you, that NMT should be the choice in dense traffic areas, but the question remains, if this forms by free choice of citizen empowerment, or rather by a monetary dictate of afford-ability or laws.

      Generally, humans are inherently lazy and chose higher levels of comfort over lower ones whenever they can. Which in my view is perfectly fine for several reasons, yet on the given topic, it creates the well known conflict of 'ecological wisdom' vs. 'personal comfort'.

      As the initial question is 'How can we as citizens be empowered to reduce traffic and pollution in our densest cities?', I question, if this is a matter of 'citizen empowerment' at all. Maybe I am confused by this term in this context, but what it boils down to, to me, is nothing but to personally renounce the use of more comfortable ways of transportation in order to reduce traffic and pollution in dense cities.

      Additionally, and according to The Energy and Resources Institute you linked to, NMT is even coming at higher personal risks:

      Quote about NMT:

      'It should be noted, however, that safety (actual and perceived) can be a major barrier to walking and the use of bicycles. Indeed, non-motorized vehicle users are amongst the highest casualty groups in accidents involving motorized transport, particularly in developing countries.'

      http://www.teriin.org/pdf/TG_Jan2014.pdf

      So does 'empowering' truly matches how we as citizens could reduce traffic and pollution?

      This is why I stated, that 'I doubt that asking for change one 'would do' returns sufficient solutions to the given problem', because whoever becomes able to afford a motorized vehicle, would not only increase his/her comfort, but also their very safety, which especially in dense traffic becomes of importance. And as NMT does not reduce traffic, only changes its form, the safety issue with mixed vehicles stays the same.
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        Feb 4 2014: Hi Lejan, point very well noted! Yes, the policies need to emphasis NMT and when there is a choice people might not want to walk in view of the hazards involved. As mentioned the current levels of NMT are fairly high currently more out of 'no option and no choice'' rather than exercising a choice. However, with the a slow but rising awareness that the current state of affairs relating to congestion and pollution need to change - the recommendations to the relevant ministries for transport have been to prioritise and make NMT more a transport option of choice by creating proper walkways, pavements, bicycle lanes etc.
        Citizen empowerment would mean the choice that we as citizens might choose to exercise and this can be done in some measure through our own initiatives. For instance the cycling clubs started in various indian cities to promote cycling as a fun , healthy, activity; the bicycle sharing programs started by universities , dial- a -rickshaw facility are just some initiatives which have started out in a small way but are addressing the growing awareness of the current not so sustainable situation , amongst the citizens
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      Feb 4 2014: Allow me to corner your argument again, Ruchika, by condensing your definition of citizen empowerment stepwise to extract its very essence:

      'Citizen empowerment would mean the choice that we as citizens might choose to exercise and this can be done in some measure through our own initiatives'

      'empowerment... the choice ... as citizens might choose ... some measure through own initiatives.'

      'citizens empowerment might choose own initiatives'

      Essentially, it boils down to the very same and current market doctrine of supply and demand, by which it is assumed, that consumers choice collectively optimizes their options of products regarding price, quality, variety and availability.

      As this might be true for a highly simplified and one-sided view on basic economics, we might find enough examples in his world today, that this principle alone is insufficient to regulate and solve the problems it creates out of its very own dynamic.

      Yes, citizens / consumers are empowered / entitled to choose own initiatives, yet the overall statistics shows, that collectively this option remains over-proportional theoretically.

      Rising levels of obesity in affluent societies is proof of this collective choice and initiative, to consume more energy food-wise, than what is needed, leave alone healthy for the human body. And this despite a plenitude of educational programs, sport- and fitness clubs and the possibility to chose to walk over the car.

      In short, people chose subjective benefit and pleasure over higher necessities and better knowledge, which may well and rightly be named inconsistent behavior, yet individually we developed more than enough counter measures not to realize this for ourselves.

      'The industry' is well aware about this, our imperfections and spends billions of dollars each year to intensify this, our inconsistency in its favor, which we call advertising and which became an industry in itself.
      • Feb 5 2014: Ah, but "empowerment", according to the dogmatics of the left, only applies when one is "empowered" to do exclusively what those dogmatics insist upon. Anything else is "false empowerment", due to "ignorance" or "deception".
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          Feb 6 2014: I am not very familiar with the dogmatics of 'the left', Bryan, and have some difficulties to understand your perceptions on this in the given context.

          What I was trying to point out on empowerment here, was, that inconsistent human behavior, which is a natural attribute in my view, creates irrational individual and collective behavior in relation to better knowledge.

          For instance: As a smoker, I know that my habit increases my risks for cancer significantly. And this knowledge I consider 'better knowledge', which we have today thanks to medical science. But as I enjoy smoking, my wish to continue this pleasure conflicts with my 'better knowledge' about it. As individual, I am empowered to decide to keep smoking, as I do, but this my 'empowered decision' doesn't change the fact, that I am acting irrational about it.

          Is it this what you consider the 'dogmatics of the left'?

          To me this is a matter of logic, not of political beliefs.
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      Feb 4 2014: As the Michelin Group started this TED conversation, it might be helpful to reflect on their contribution to the overall advertising regarding individualized transportation, as it is to expect for them to get their share on the markets of developing nations as well.

      Given their latest global market campaign on car tyres, the overall massage is based on safety, and its appearance embedded within an over-simplified, highly emotional, cartoon-like and story-telling fantasy world.

      Usual for the automotive and petrol industry, the colors green & blue are dominating, besides seasonal ones (eg. white in winter), to suggest environmental harmlessness and compatibility on subconscious levels towards potential consumers.

      So thats what we are also up against, I suppose, when we as consumers have to make decisions for ourselves. Not only our given and natural inertia is to be challenged here, but also those continuous seductions had to be ignored, which constantly deliver the promise to us for our lives to become more worth living.

      And to rub it in, lets make a reality check on India and what Michelin thinks the world looks like:

      India: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/Trafficjamdelhi.jpg
      Michelin: http://b.vimeocdn.com/ts/168/126/168126583_640.jpg

      Despite the difference, that one is a photograph and the other a computer generated image, key seems to be the numbers of observable vehicles, as, besides safety, thats what any car owner is actually dreaming of.

      As being a consumer myself and a critic of advertising and the current market mechanics, I don't even expect any industry anymore to be honest about their products in relation to me and in overall context, as well as I do not expect any significant impact of the masses of anonymous consumers on their very environmental needs and necessities if it comes to sustainability .

      Certainly, we could wait for the current paradigm to shift towards optimization, initiated by growing consumer awareness, ...
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      Feb 4 2014: ... yet given the odds we are up against, this isn't likely to happen any time soon nor is it likely to happen in time as it is needed.

      So to effectively reduce traffic and pollution in our densest cities, we have to be totally radical about it, and this in and not against the interest of consumers, which we all are.

      Yet here I prefer seduction over command, and comfort over renunciation, which may look as follows:

      Make public transportation free of charge, adjust it to the local needs for transportation, in terms of destinations, timetable rhythm and make it desirable to travel this way.

      Specific needs for transportation of bulk objects by the people is covered by a sufficient motor pool, also free of charge, easy accessible and sufficiently coordinated.

      Both types of motorized transport will have reserved lanes to drive on, as well as there will be reserved and safe lanes for NMT throughout the whole city.

      Violation of other vehicles using those reserved lanes will be painfully fined, not fixed, yet percentage wise of one monthly average income, so the punishment becomes more independent of individual wealth.

      Goal is to make the use of private cars as undesirable as possible in terms of traffic jams and traffic flow, as traffic lights will always favor public transportation by any means and default programming of transponder signals.

      Additionally a toll system for private cars is partially refinancing the 'free of charge' public transport and motor pool as well as the installation of a highly dynamic, additional and local fuel taxation.

      In terms of convenience, consumers choice may then turn in favor for public transport, rather than to wish for an own car, and as transportation of whatever kind comes with a price, why not channel all needs and resources in a smart and sustainable way to gain multiple benefits of all citizens?

      This radical approach may contradict current economical philosophies, yet as those do not deliver solutions, we can't use them.
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    Feb 16 2014: Have we figured out yet if we have a problem with density, we decrease the density. Can anyone keep a straight face and say it is a great thing to stack people twenty stories high and higher.
    Spend hours each day in parking lots, 4 lanes wide and many miles long, live in apartments smaller then a horse stall. Get into subway cars so crowded, anywhere else you could be arrested for indecent assault.
    Need more proof? Place a thousand mice in a small box and they will start killing each other. Of course, that is happening in our major megalopolises and those who are not on a murderous rage are using drugs.
    Could this be any more simplified? If your city has more then 5 digits in it's population figure, take those Michelin tires and drive out of town.
  • Feb 12 2014: With us baby boomers dying off a lot of traffic problem will also, not that is a suggestion for change. We were and are a wasteful generation because everything seemed infinite in our time. In this area of Texas all trains have been put to rest for large diesel trucks as well as passenger trains. ( train wreck is just a cliche) It all comes down to money and until it cost more for alternative sources of transportation and energy will we do it. Cash for clunkers was a good start to getting fuel wasting cars off the road, for smaller cheaper vehicles, even if most people sized up quickly for prestige reasons if nothing else. Has it ever occured to anyone that perhaps we are living beyond our means on borrowed time and credit. Of course in the scheme of things most people will not see a connection.
  • Feb 12 2014: The empowered idea isn't in my dictionary.

    A wonderful Canadian TV series called "Connections" seems more likely to fit.
    It is nice to think that someone can come up with a revolutionary idea to solve
    these huge problems. But I have to think Not.

    As we change, technology changes with us, and we change the way we use it.
    Picture if you will the opening of a rose, or any flower. Sped up by technology
    we see one item form and grow and then another takes a potion of that first item
    and transforms it into something else again, and the process keeps moving along.

    Challenges seldom produce. They end up as mere gossip.
    I recommend the magazines of the 1950's-1960's and their thoughts of a future
    world we might grow into. Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and a host of
    other old publications of the same ilk.
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    Feb 11 2014: We all have smartphones. How can we use them in a novel manner to help relieve congestion and pollution? Have you seen/experienced smart apps that could be developed?
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      Feb 11 2014: Firstly in 2013 61% of people in the US have smartphones, so we ALL don’t have smartphones. I personally don’t have a cellphone of any kind and live just fine, and have to desire to text, tweet or blog.

      Anyway, I have heard some shopping malls have find-a-parking-spot apps, and I could see that being done city wide. I could see a company like Garmin helping the city, and add stuff like handicap, truck, and buss parking. there is a lot of time wasted on the road looking for parking.
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    Feb 10 2014: In the specific case of China where environmental pollution has hit record levels in tandem with rapid economic expansion, the efforts of citizens in Beijing to get carpooling schemes legal sanction is noteworthy. They feel this would ease the pollution and congestion on the streets to a good measure.
    What do you think of such citizen - led initiatives especially in countries like China?
  • Feb 10 2014: Hi Dear Erik,air and water polluted severely in my country,hardly see blue sky as much as the time when I was a kid.Two weeks ago my daughter and I cycling around the city we living,fog buried fulled of the sky,the high chimney flowing heavy industury polluted fog,heavy traffic jam,depressed our action very much.I keep thinking:what else we can do?parade to against?

    To the feet of reason:environment protection should be taught in people's early age.mankind is born greedy,only education in early age can help people to be conscious of the enviornment we live,othwerwise humanbeing adult desire is hard to halt.
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    Feb 10 2014: I would add that vertical and rooftop gardens are a very good education tool for children: they can be part of the gardeners community and experience the importance of quality and respect of nature at home!

    On top of that for fruits and vegetables grown up at the rooftop garden reduces wastes (farm to consumers efficiency is a major global challenge, figures shows that
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    Feb 10 2014: We can reduce pollution in so many ways:
    - buy only the things we really need
    - avoid plastics and other non-biodegradable "stuff"
    - take shower quickly
    - pick-up trash
    - conserve, re-use, and recycle
    - vote for candidates that work for conservation and clean environment
    - donate "old stuff" that are still good for other people to use
    - last but not least, take care of our Earth as if it's the only place where we can live
  • Feb 8 2014: "How can we as citizens be empowered to reduce traffic and pollution in our densest cities?"

    I live in Columbus Ohio. We have the worst transportation system in the country. We cannot get from one neighborhood to another. Why???? We have NO sidewalks. We have limited bicycle paths. We need Trams & Trolleys. We need to be able to get from area to another without resorting to travel by car. We need sidewalks. We need bicycle paths, not just to exercise, but to get to the grocery store without a car. We need more car rentals for those of us without cars. We need car sharing. There is no bus transport in my entire extended neighborhood. We need trains so I can visit my family in Tennessee.

    I have walked all over Europe (back in college). Europe has sidewalks and bike paths. And I love the trams & trolleys. To go longer distances we hopped on the trains. America seriously needs more Trains, Trams, Trolleys, Sidewalks, Bike paths to the grocery store, and Pedestrian Bridges over busy streets so we don't get slammed in traffic when walking or biking to the store.

    Why is this so hard??????
  • Feb 8 2014: Currently, I live 20 miles from everywhere. I work from my residence. The one thing that could make a difference, if I was still in the position of traveling and taking or picking up my child from school, would be to not idle my car. Another huge difference, across the nation would be for truck stops to offer a plug in solution rather than have them idle to keep the refrigerator's keep the content cold or to keep the drivers cab running heat and t.v..
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    Feb 8 2014: I think security on the streets is important. For example, in my country people prefer to take the bus or get a ride for near places (1 or 2 km) because they feel that some streets are no secure, so they don't want to take this risk. And this is a problem in many cities especially coast cities.
    A good idea could be teach in the schools how to ride a bike to all the students - it will be better when they are in elementary school -, so they will know all the benefits it has: exercise, no pollution, save money, and even have fun.
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    Feb 8 2014: i share your point of view on the fact that truck traffic should be reduced in city.
    The first important thing is that trucks which are not delivering anything in a city need to go around the city providing that ad hoc infrastructures exist.
    Second , innovative solutions have to found to make sure that the last mile deliveries of goods in cities is done with zéro local émission and no noise.
    Small hybrid plug in light trucks could be a solution for this but it will not arrive if cities dont take regulation to put limit on noise and emissions of vehicles entering in a city.
  • Feb 8 2014: I believe change can be brought by doing small things too, like car pooling, deleting your spam or unnecessary mails in your mail box (this can reduce the load on servers and there by coal consumption), switching off lights and other electrical equipment when not in use, disposing off / recycling waste - including electronic gadgets properly and as far possible buying agricultural produce or any other goods produced / manufactured locally and last but not the least growing at least one plant.
    I know that my answer is addressing more on, reducing pollution.But I think, reducing traffic is impossible in major cities unless, we grow our Tier 2 Tier 3 cities equipping them with all the basic necessities, generate employment opportunities and make them cheaper places to live.
  • Feb 7 2014: What would be helpful would be a personal transportation grid crisscrossing the city scape in capsules made of carbon fiber and self guided. The rider would purchase a destination card at a kiosk and make payment. A card reader keeps your card and wisks' you along to your destination. The capsules hold maybe 7 persons an doesn't stop at any stop when full. An automated voice will call out the destination card's rider code and only that passenger or passengers can enter the capsule and unidentified passenger shuts the capsule down. The capsules are elevated to about 20 foot and are strung together through neighborhoods and along freeways. They are easy to assemble and adding more to extended areas is simple. More capsules are added and removed from the system as the ridership patterns is computed. It travels at about 50mph, and travels in one direction. It's quiet and efficient and works in any metro area.
  • Feb 7 2014: I think "empowerment" is the wrong question. We all do cost/benefit analyses for things like this, whether we realize it or not. We have to change the costs, which will allow us to change the benefits.
    First, we have to make driving less convenient and more expensive, and use those benefits to subsidize NMT or public transport. So, in some places, simply close roads to autos, or only allow emergency vehicles, or permit deliveries at certain hours. Next, charge more for vehicle registration (and seize vehicles that are driven but not registered) with surcharges for gasoline versus electric engines, possibly surcharges for additional household vehicles. Add on a substantial gas tax ($2-5) and most of us will choose to not drive any time we have the option.
    Any income can subsidize public transport - safer bus stops, extended hours, more destinations, as well as safer options for bike lanes and walkers, such as barriers and street lights.

    We would all benefit from less pollution. We also benefit because with less auto traffic and more foot traffic, cars will have greater awareness of pedestrians, so hopefully fewer accidents will occur.

    We can change the paradigm, the question is, are we willing to?
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    Feb 7 2014: We can try to schedule ourselves a little less tightly so that we have time to walk to appointments or take public transportation.

    Having a private car allows us to cram a lot of activity in a few hours and sometimes we must do that. But when we don't use private transportation we have to make hard choices about what really must be done.

    Perhaps encouraging ourselves and our families to slow down a little might make more time to be easier on the environment as well. Easier said than done-- I know as a very over scheduled person. But perhaps just trying once a week would help.