[sustran] Re: Sustainable transport and the media (in India, and Bogotá, and...)

Carlosfelipe Pardo carlosfpardo at gmail.com
Tue Feb 19 10:30:08 JST 2008


Something similar happened late last year with Bogotá and its BRT/LRT/metro
discussion. Though plans are now underway for its phase 3, there were many
press articles from El Tiempo (the major national newspaper) which were
strongly lobbying building any type of rail- based solution in one of the
trunk lines of the city. It was also linked to the campaigns of the
candidates for mayors (Peñalosa and Moreno, the latter pro-rail). Some of us
who normally wrote articles there suggested the newspaper to let us publish
something to "neutralize" the very polarized debate, but no attention was
paid to us. Instead, they provided biased information about rail projects
from some places in the world (including the elevated rail from Medellín
which was a financial disaster), while manipulating numbers on costs of
trunk lines (using the highest costs of BRT vs the lowest costs of an LRT,
which were almost the same), capacity (using the lower capacity numbers of
BRT and comparing to the highest capacity numbers of metros) and other
information such as "world-class cities have subways" (which could be more
like "built, but would have rather built a BRT in some cases").

The sad thing is that readers of the newspaper (i.e.  most citizens) may now
think that BRT is a low-quality mass transit solution, while rail-based
solutions are "that which we'll never have because of ignorance of technical
people" or whatever.  Additional to that, those of us who were critical of
rail-based solutions for low-demand corridors (such as the Avenida Septima,
with 10,000 pphpd) were just told "you are with Peñalosa, so you are
biased". Politics is deeply intertwined with transport now, especially when
speaking of mass transit options.

However, as I said, plans for the next phase of TransMilenio are underway.
The city will now spend some (more) money on feasibility studies for a metro
(I think it's the 15th time in 40 years, the last one being developed in
1997 or so), since everybody wants a rail-based solution, no matter where or
at what cost (and if possible, underground or elevated, because "it won't
fit elsewhere"). The ideal would be that, if we have a metro, it should be
at a reasonable cost and in the proper corridor (most probably, Avenida
Caracas). The national government said they will support a metro only if (a)
there is no need for subsidy and (b) there is an adequate level of demand.
Let's hope that the result of the study is not a self-fulfilling prophecy...
it wouldn't be the first time. In the meantime, cars are bumper to bumper
and we still don't have the Nano here.

But I don't want to divert the discussion from the issue of the Times of
India. I just wanted to highlight the importance that the media has on these
issues and that we need to see which are good ways to solve this. In
Bangkok, we once sent an article to a newspaper with information on what 1
million USD would do in mass transit options (we showed a map with the
results for LRT, subway and BRT), plus some info on what BRT is, etc. Call
it lobbying from the other side if you like, but it was a good experience.

Best regards,

Carlosfelipe Pardo
Coordinador de Proyecto- Project Coordinator
GTZ - Proyecto de Transporte Sostenible (SUTP, SUTP-LAC)
Cl 93A # 14-17 of 708
Bogotá D.C., Colombia
Tel/fax:  +57 (1) 236 2309  Mobile: +57 (3) 15 296 0662
carlos.pardo at gtz.de        www.gtz.de
(carlos.pardo at sutp.org   www.sutp.org )

Simon Bishop wrote:

Hi Madhav,

I have been following much of the Times of India polemic over the BRT
system these last few days.  To highlight the danger of the road
configuration they have focussed on a collision involving a grade separator
and the death of a motorcyclist who had died at 3 a.m after a night without
sleep and consumption of alcohol.

Any road death is tragic.  Our thoughts rest with this young man's family.
At the same time the paper can't ignore the other 85,000 road deaths a year
in India.  Why single this death out and use it to rubbish the BRT?  Most
road deaths occur on high speed roads where pedestrians, cyclists and the
disabled have no facility be it crossing or pavement.  Some need to cross
for their livelihoods, others because they want to walk or cycle (children
especially), but all are always ignored by the traffic engineer as 'the
elephant in the room', a problem to be designed out of existence.  By
contrast the BRT will have crossings.

I propose that the Times of India, in the pursuit of balanced reporting,
should write about the absence of a speed control strategy, or rather the
presence of a speed encouragement strategy with flyovers and guard
railings, lulling the motorist into a false aspiration that his journey
will always be unencumbered.  Where do you see guardrailings?  At the
racecourse.  The lack of accessible pedestrian  and cycle crossings only
adds to the lethal cocktail and forces desperate measures.  I look forward
to the The Times of India campaign to educate drivers about the tragic
consequences of speed and careless driving.  I also look forward to the
Times persuading drivers that they must face more congestion sooner or
later and lobbying for accessible crossings that follow desire lines.
Maybe someone could work out the journey time savings for all the
beneficiaries and build an economic case for it?!

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   1. Sustainable transport and the media in India ...
      (Madhav Badami, Prof.)
   2. Re: Sustainable transport and the media in India ...
      (Madhav Badami, Prof.)
   3. Re: Sustainable transport and the media in India ...
      (Sujit Patwardhan)


Message: 1
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2008 10:57:47 -0500
From: "Madhav Badami, Prof." <madhav.g.badami at mcgill.ca>
<madhav.g.badami at mcgill.ca>
Subject: [sustran] Sustainable transport and the media in India ...
To: "Sustran Resource Centre" <sustran-discuss at jca.apc.org>
<sustran-discuss at jca.apc.org>
Cc: NewMobilityCafe at yahoogroups.com, shovan1209 at yahoo.com,
             gerardn at rhd.gov.bd

<45AEE06A4800AF4FAD8BEF09C433D85F06325684 at EXCHANGE2VS2.campus.mcgill.ca>
<45AEE06A4800AF4FAD8BEF09C433D85F06325684 at EXCHANGE2VS2.campus.mcgill.ca>

Content-Type: text/plain;            charset="iso-8859-1"

Greetings all,

I thank Yasmin Chowdhury for her ?Pricing public transit:  learning from
Bangkok?, and Saiful Alam (and Eric Britton) for posting it. Yasmin?s
piece, and Lee?s response to it, reminded me of the attack that some
newspapers in Delhi (chiefly The Pioneer and the Times of India) launched
over several days on the High Capacity Bus System (HCBS), the BRT system
being currently implemented there. The items in these newspapers not only
criticized the implementation of the system, and its appropriateness for
Delhi, but the very concept of BRT, besides personally attacking Dinesh
Mohan of IIT Delhi, who, along with his colleague Geetam Tiwari, proposed
and conceptualized it.

Two of the items, titled ?Experts Order Serial Rape of Delhi Roads:
Mindless HCBS plan derails traffic, destroys greenery, leaves city gasping?
and ?Will somebody wake up to stop this HCBS madness??, both of which
appeared as ?investigation? pieces in The Pioneer on November 6 and 7, may
be accessed at:



The Times of India, a leading English language national daily effectively
made the same claims as in the above items, in several pieces, including
one titled ?Buses Hog Space, Cars Squeezed Out? on November 16.

Feeling compelled to respond to these items (whose titles betray their
general tone and content), I wrote an article in which I attempted to rebut
them point by point, and sent it off to The Hindu, another leading English
language national daily. My article was not published as it was originally
written, because it was felt by the editor to be ?polemical?, and too long.
But he did publish (on December 5) a considerably condensed version in
which I removed specific references to the pieces in the Times of India and
the Pioneer.

In the end, I was thankful for his decision, because, although it denied me
the opportunity to directly confront various specific claims made in the
pieces (such as, for example, that the decision to implement BRT was sold
by a cabal of experts to decision makers who accepted it in a hurry ?
actually, it was approved after having been debated and scrutinized at
length in various official committees since the mid-1990s), it resulted in
what I believe is a more carefully argued and tightly focused article,
which may be accessed at:


Apart from arguing that BRT systems have the potential, when properly
designed and implemented, to be low cost mass transit solutions that are
appropriate for rapidly motorizing, low-income country cities, I placed the
issue of BRT (and more generally, mass transit) in a larger context, by
making the case that policies to appropriately price and curb personal
motor vehicle use, and provide accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists,
are important for enhancing the effectiveness of mass transit, allowing all
modes (including cars and other personal motor vehicles) to operate more
efficiently, mitigating rapidly worsening urban transport impacts, and
promoting social justice on our roads.

My purpose is not only to share my article (to which I welcome your
critical comments) but also to demonstrate what we are up against in
confronting the elite interests represented and served by the mainstream
media (with their pro-car, highway, flyovers, and metro, and
anti-pedestrian, NMT and bus transit prejudices), and arguing for more
environmentally sustainable and socially equitable alternatives. It is
little wonder that the Tata Nano has been largely applauded in the same
media as the greatest thing since sliced bread (or, if you wish, masala
dosa) ? including, as I recall, for the rural masses of this country, who
ostensibly have no unmet needs other than a 1-1.5 lakh rupee car.




"As for the future, your task is not to foresee, but to enable it."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Madhav G. Badami, PhD
School of Urban Planning and McGill School of Environment
McGill University
Macdonald-Harrington Building
815 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, QC, H3A 2K6, Canada

Phone: 514-398-3183 (Work); 514-486-2370 (Home)
Fax: 514-398-8376; 514-398-1643
URLs: www.mcgill.ca/urbanplanning
e-mail: madhav.badami at mcgill.ca

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