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Posts tagged "Stockholm"

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Congestion Pricing Was Unpopular in Stockholm — Until People Saw It in Action

It’s natural for politicians to feel squeamish about enacting a big policy change like congestion pricing. People who’ve grown used to free driving privileges defend them loudly, while the potential benefits feel diffuse and uncertain. That may explain why Mayor de Blasio hasn’t warmed to congestion pricing despite its promise to deliver a fairer, safer, greener, and more efficient transportation system.

Stockholm transportation director Jonas Eliasson has some advice for New York officials worried about diving in: Just do it.

Eliasson steered the implementation of congestion pricing in Stockholm in 2006. From that vantage point, he watched a skeptical public quickly embrace the policy as soon as they saw it in action. Eliasson shared lessons from the city’s experience in a talk at TransitCenter last night.

When Stockholm began charging drivers to access the city center, car trips across the cordon dropped 20 percent. Travel times improved immediately, and emissions fell. Contrary to doomsday predictions from Stockholm media and political opponents of congestion pricing, the policy was an overnight success.

Before implementation, public support for congestion pricing had fallen below 40 percent. After a six-month trial period in 2006, more than 52 percent of Stockholm residents voted to make it permanent. By 2011, public support for road pricing stood at nearly 70 percent, and above 50 percent even among people who pay the fees most often.

“The closer you get to implementation, the more the drawbacks stand out,” Eliasson said. “If you survive this valley of political death, and people actually see the benefits, and also realize that, in addition to the benefits, it’s actually not as bad as you thought — it’s not so hard adapting to this — then support starts going up again.”

Pricing worked because the transportation planners who put it together prioritized systemic improvements for traffic and transit over the whims of elected officials and political parties. Getting the details of the pricing system right was too important to leave in the hands of politicians.

“Designing an efficient and effective congestion pricing scheme that actually delivers benefits is not easy,” Eliasson said. Deciding the specifics of where tolls should be placed, the price at which they should be set, and when they should be in effect is “really the job for experts.”

In Sweden, the effectiveness of road pricing helped raise public awareness of the drawbacks of other car subsidies. “It did something to the rationality of transport policy debate,” Eliasson said. “We don’t have debates anymore [about] ‘parking pricing is just philosophically wrong’ — no one says that anymore.”

StreetFilms
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Can We Get Some of These DC Protected Bike Lane Features in NYC?

A few days ago I was in Washington, D.C. for a shoot. After leaving Union Station with my gear I made a beeline to check out the newest improvements to the 1st Street bike lane that runs adjacent to the station. I'd heard it was pretty fab, and upon close inspection, it really is.

The separation on this two-way lane varies between three treatments: 1) a concrete curb, which is substantial and well done and runs about half the length of the lane; 2) A combination of green paint, plastic bollards, and armadillos, which all work extremely well in conjunction; 3) paint and plastic bollards for the long block connecting to the Metro Trail. All of the variations feel comfortable on streets where car lanes are narrow and motorized traffic tends not to exceed the 20 mph range.

I was in town to meet up with former D.C. and Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, who has a new book debuting this week called "Start-Up City" that you should read. We shot some short vignettes, the first of which is above, where Gabe talks about the genesis of the Pennsylvania Avenue two-way, center-running bike path.

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Exploring the Streets of Stockholm

In 2014, I got the chance to visit Stockholm near the end of an incredibly hot summer. It's a charming and walkable place with a downtown buzzing with people. There's an easygoing rhythm to the city. After dark the pedestrian streets fill with both residents and tourists out for a walk, even after most stores and restaurants close.

I met up with a great mix of advocates, residents, and transportation experts to discuss what's going on in Stockholm. Sweden is well-known as the birthplace of Vision Zero, the country's goal to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries by 2020. Several American cities have now made it their explicit goal to reduce traffic deaths to zero in the next 10 years..

There's much more worth taking away from Stockholm, which in the last decade has implemented congestion pricing, expanded its bike network, and adopted a plan called "The Walkable City" to create streets that work better for public life.

In tandem with the release of this film, I have great news to share: Since some Streetfilms, including this one, can get a bit long, we've decided to break them up into bite-size pieces, for those times when you want to show a great idea but may not be able to hold people's attention for 12 minutes. These shorter segments will be available on Vimeo. Below are the four slices of Stockholm video you can mix and match to reach the masses.

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Streetfilms Excerpts will help you change your community even more!

In an effort to continually help advocates, elected leaders and communities use our productions to fight for change in their neighborhoods, I am always looking for ways to manage our content better, despite only being a busy staff of one. (Yes, that's right for all those who write in weekly asking us to send Streetfilms crews places keep that in mind, it's just me!)

Over the last few years we have done some extremely popular Streetfilms, but some from other countries have been lengthy and harder for advocates to use the specific lessons contained in the middle. A few months ago I took our Zurich film and excerpted a few segments ("The Historic Compromise" & "The Zurich Traffic System") which I've gotten great feedback on. I also did one on Buenos Aires' 10km/h shared streets.

So today starts a new era at Streetfilms. If I produce a film of a long length and I think there might be value in shorter segments - you'll see them. My newest epic film from Stockholm (13 minutes) has great segments and I kept it in mind while editing that I'd break it down into shorter, more useable modules. And thus, viola! Here are four short segments with valuable lessons to use.  Including how walkable Zurich is in the downtown, how successful congestion charging has been, the current bicycling climate there and looking at how Stockholm is moving beyond their Vision Zero campaign to make streets even safer.

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Manhattan Needs a Great Network of Car-free Streets

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Copenhagen, Denmark

Yeah, this is a bit of a rant. Thanks to my job I've been fortunate to travel to many amazing cities. And unlike New York City, the greatest ones all have massive grids of car-free streets.

I'm not talking about temporary, weekly ciclovia closures. Or a few car-free blocks here or there. Or great parks or plazas where people gather or eat. I'm talking about streets where you can walk for miles and never encounter a car. And if you do, they're moving along no faster than 10 mph on shared, traffic-calmed streets where motorists drive with a high-degree of vigilance.

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Amsterdam, the Netherlands

If you travel too, I'm sure you may have favorites. Personally I love Copenhagen, Zurich, Amsterdam, Melbourne, and now Stockholm. In all these cities there are core areas where you can walk and walk and feel happiness, solace, and quiet.

When you have large grids where no one can drive, it inspires residents to dream bigger and strive for an even healthier, more car-free city. It gives businesses and restaurants proof that you don't need to accommodate driving (or at least on-street parking) to turn nice profits. It makes other communities rise up and say, "Hey, we want that!"

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Zurich, Switzerland

I love New York City. I've lived here since 1991 and it's the best place to live in the world. I love the transportation progress I've been fortunate to document over the last ten years. But it irks me that there are at least a dozen other cities I've visited where I can get a feeling NYC cannot provide on its street grid: a sense of complete freedom as a pedestrian from the perils of the auto while walking for enjoyment, shopping, or recreation.

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