Climate Now

Is micromobility the future of urban transportation?

February 08, 2022 Season 1 Episode 45
Climate Now
Is micromobility the future of urban transportation?
Show Notes Transcript

There is a lot of focus within climate tech on how to decarbonize cars—whether that be via electric batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, or other emerging technologies—but what about eliminating the need for cars altogether?

How can we better design our cities and suburbs so that they are centered around humans, not cars? Cars do not need to be the primary method of urban transportation, and alternatives such as public transportation and micromobility have benefits far beyond simply reducing carbon emissions.

Listen now to our conversation with Dr. Meredith Glaser, urban mobility researcher and lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, and Dr. Kevin Krizek, professor of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

[00:00:00] James Lawler: I'm James Lawler and you are listening to Climate Now. This is another episode in our transportation series, which is co-hosted by Darren Hau, a senior charging manager at Cruise and former applications engineer at Tesla. 

[00:00:16] Darren Hau: Today, we're going to be talking about decarbonizing transport through urban design.

In other episodes, we've discussed how we can decarbonize cars, but what we didn't look at was how we can reduce car use altogether. That's what we'll be exploring with our two distinguished guests. First up we have Dr. Meredith Glaser, who is an urban mobility researcher and lecturer based in the Netherlands, which some might call the bike capital of the world.

Dr. Glaser is a professor at the University of Amsterdam and the academic director of the summer program Planning the Cycling City. Thank you for joining us. 

[00:00:49] Meredith Glaser: Yeah. Happy to be here.

[00:00:50] James Lawler: We are also joined by Dr. Kevin Krizek, who is a professor of environmental design at the University of Colorado Boulder. Through his work, both domestically and internationally, he's developed informed insights into solving one of the world's most pressing problems, which is how to reverse the automobile-focused nature of our environments.

Dr. Krizek, welcome to Climate Now. 

[00:01:10] Kevin Krizek: Thanks James. Happy to be here. 

[00:01:12] Darren Hau: Great to have both of you on. Let's start with a little bit of background and history. Maybe starting with you, Meredith, what led you to where you are today? 

[00:01:19] Meredith Glaser: I started at UC Berkeley as a graduate student in public health. And I became really interested in what the intersection was between health and the environment.

And so I added on a master's in urban planning to really tackle this, this question of our community environment, urban design, land use, how that [00:01:40] influences our health. And my last semester of school, I took a course which was called bicycle and pedestrian transportation planning, and I thought, wow, what a wonderful intersection of public health and city planning was active transport. After that, I and my partner decided to take a year abroad, and go somewhere.

And, we chose the Netherlands in search of not only, you know, a great environment for sustainability practices and active transport, but you know, an interesting place to go in Europe. And that was 10 years ago. And here I am. 

[00:02:20] Darren Hau: Such a perfect place for someone to be focused on cycling. 

[00:02:23] Meredith Glaser: Yes, it is.

It is. And so of course there was a lot of different things that happened since then, but I became very involved with a few organizations in the US and also in other places of the world that bring not only Americans, but other, other folks from other countries, to the Netherlands to learn about sustainable transport principles that the Dutch have, you know, refined over the past 50 or so years.

[00:02:51] Darren Hau: Kevin, what by yourself, 

[00:02:53] Kevin Krizek: You know, as a teenager growing up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, my very, very frugal father charged me 18 cents a mile to drive our family sedan. And so he actually made me keep a mileage chart in the glove box. And every time I would go visit a friend or whatever, you know, I'd have to keep that mileage. In that process, I really kind of was learning firsthand the costs of our transportation system. My undergraduate degree, really further reinforced this whole [00:03:20] notion of the three laws of ecology, which, you know, everything needs to go somewhere. Everything's connected to something else. There's no such thing as a free lunch.

And then you build on top of these, these interests and, you know, slowly but surely I've developed a strong, you know, passion to understand what is driving our transportation systems in society. 

[00:03:42] Darren Hau: According to Our World in Data, road transportation accounts for about 15% of all CO2 emissions globally. And, what we've done in previous episodes is we've explored technologies that can help lower vehicle emissions.

Say hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, tailpipe carbon capture, electric vehicles, obviously, autonomous electric ride sharing. But we haven't yet talked about, you know, another key approach, which is reducing permissions through alternative transport methods, like micro-mobility. Public transit, et cetera.

According to the pew research center, 85% of Americans live in urban areas. Obviously, if you live in rural areas, cars are a lot more necessary, but why have cars become so necessary in urban settings where things generally are much closer. And what's the history behind that? 

[00:04:28] Kevin Krizek: Well when we started building cities in the 1920s.

We were first aware of this new innovation that it seemed to be solving all the world's problems. Being able to get around and slowly but surely initially we, we started setting up our cities and we've started enacting new design codes and financing mechanisms. And, you know, here we are a century later and we already have the bulk of our American cities, which are designed around cars.

And so, I mean, we can unpack all of those [00:05:00] different dimensions that, all those different elements that have happened over the past really a hundred years, but we can recognize that they have, firmly embedded themselves into the cultures, into the institutions, into the financing frameworks and everything else.

And now we're at an opportunity where we can say, well, hmm, maybe there's a different way of doing things, a different way of moving forward. And I mean, to your question is that it is a, it's a really interesting phenomenon, if we continue to kind of unpack how and where, and, and the degrees to which automobility is baked into every aspect of society. 

[00:05:38] James Lawler: Meredith anything you'd add to that? 

[00:05:40] Meredith Glaser: I think it's a pretty good explanation. It's very person-based, not just per person travel emissions. That person is a part of a community, which is part of a city, which is part of a nation and a culture. So looking at it from this holistic standpoint is, is definitely required, you know, to untangle all the dynamics involved.

[00:06:01] Darren Hau: I've heard some stories of how a lot of this was actually just like very directed efforts. So for example, maybe some of the car companies and oil and gas companies actually went out to buy up a lot of the private rail car systems and kind of decommission them, to put it lightly. How much truth is there to that story and how much of an impact do you think actions like that actually had? 

[00:06:22] Kevin Krizek: There's a lot of talk about the Snell conspiracy and Firestone and them being in bed with two or three other players in the automobile industry. And there's enough to suggest that there was a lot of interplay happening between those types of industries and there continues to be.

And, and, and that's something that is [00:06:40] it's, it's real. When you think about how strong the automobile industry is. And how resistant to change they are. 

[00:06:46] Darren Hau: And you just called it a conspiracy. And generally, there's kind of a 

[00:06:50] Kevin Krizek: Oh I, I, I'm not, I'm not willing to call it a true conspiracy. 

[00:06:55] Darren Hau: Okay. Just wanted to make sure. Cause there's generally a kind of an element of skepticism when someone says conspiracy. 

[00:07:01] James Lawler: Maybe we can come back to that. Cause it's a really interesting topic of how industry shapes the design of our cities. So next question is just understanding the potential impact of reducing greenhouse gas emissions using alternate forms of transportation and how much of the vehicle vehicle emissions could these methods actually eliminate? Maybe you could give us some examples of communities in which micro mobility has really flourished and how that's impacted emissions. 

[00:07:30] Meredith Glaser: We think about, one avenue of micro mobility, which is for example, mobility as a service. One of the global success stories that comes to mind is a Paris Velib system, which is, you know, the docks of fleets of bicycles that are all over the city.

And what we see from this, this example is that Paris, was very well set up for a system like this with, you know, neighborhood commercial nodes, where, you know, you can get, you know, all of your daily needs, grocery pharmacy, schools, doctors, these are all within probably a fairly easy walking or biking distance.

And then for the longer trips, the Metro is there for [00:08:20] residents. So that sort of mixed land use component is super essential. And then you see layered on top of that is a continued political will. Mayor Hidalgo has demonstrated, especially with the latest velo plan, which is allocating, I think it was like 200 euros per person in Paris, for improvements of street safety, of a complete bicycle network, you know, these types of public space measures that really, you know, drive the economy. And we see that this is, it has fed even more success. So I think that's a really great example, that's of course, outside of the Netherlands and in a city that, you know, has been thought of also as a very car-based city.

And I don't know if you have seen these images coming from Paris recently, but it's just phenomenal. I mean, it looks like Amsterdam, you know, with hordes of cyclists and children and people of all different ages and ability. On their streets using bicycles. So when we think about what are the solutions, for American cities, you know, we can think about what are the low hanging fruits, where are those communities where those characteristics are present?

That's the community is to focus these solutions on with other forms of micro-mobility or mobility as a service, or even just, you know, bike paths in general. 

[00:09:51] James Lawler: What would some of the stumbling blocks be in American cities that are so car dependent, but may want to increase micro-mobility to, to adopt this [00:10:00] kind of system?

[00:10:01] Meredith Glaser: Yeah, I mean, there were, there were a number of logistical and operational barriers that have been also seen in other examples in other cities. You know, just like the, the trucking of bikes back and forth, because one route is more, uh, more heavily used than others, but we've seen various versions of Velib. So I think they're in like Velib 3.0 or something now where,, you know, various systems of the user cards or the app, technology certainly is a component there. But I think, you know, they started with a sort of pilot. Set of docs, of fleets, of bicycles, and then grew from there. 

[00:10:39] Darren Hau: Well, Meredith as the former New Yorker, I really love the Citi bike system.

It was incredible. And coupled with the subway system, you had a lot of mobility options. I know people like to bash on the New York subway, but it's frankly, better than anything we have in California. You know, speaking of public transit, Kevin, I wanted to ask you a question. What is the impact of public transportation and the related urban design on transportation emissions? Are there specific examples in communities where you have seen public transit or the shift to that significantly reduced? 

[00:11:12] Kevin Krizek: There's not a lot of emissions that are coming from public transport, but, you need certain density conditions. You need certain priorities along development lines.

You need pricing to, to basically provide a nudge in that direction. We don't have any of those right now in most American cities. And to build that is going to be quite expensive and it likely will not come to succeed in ways that most people would want it to succeed. I [00:11:40] think there is a third solution that could and should be more seriously considered.

And that basically is shrinking the size of our car. By two-thirds to be more along the lines of what a bicycle would be like. And if we kind of go down this path of re-conceptualizing our urban environments through the eyes of these types of vehicles, like a bike type vehicle, as opposed to like a car type vehicle.

This provides an alternative to these heavy transit options, which are very costly, but it does so in a kind of green, socially conscious and safe way.

[00:12:13] Meredith Glaser: Can I provide a rebuttal? I can understand Kevin's perspective of, you know, let's reduce the size of the car. However, I don't see it as so black and white. I, you know, the experience here I have in the Netherlands, which has a extremely efficient, reliable high-capacity public transit system, especially from city to city, and what we see from research is that car trips can be replaced by such a system, right? A city to city high speed, reliable public transit system. And so when we look at trips, it's not just a bike trip and it's not just a car trip and it's not just a train trip. What the Netherlands sort of model shows is that the combination of, of modes can replace car trips.

So, for example, I live in Amsterdam. I have access to five different inter city railway stations in Amsterdam. I bicycle to that station and then I get on a train and I go to Rotterdam or Utrecht or the Hague. I [00:13:20] don't take my bike all the way there. And I actually don't even take my bike on the train because there is a bike share bike waiting for me at Rotterdam where then for three Euros, I can ride around the city wherever, and then bring it back to the station and to get back on the train.

So, and this type of system is really what I see as an optimal system that can definitely be replicable in other cities. 

[00:13:45] Darren Hau: Yeah, it's interesting. Can I maybe try to summarize and let me know if I'm wrong. It sounds like Meredith what you're saying is, you know, this public transit option for inter city travel makes a lot of sense if you have micro-mobility options on either side. And I think Kevin, what you were saying is like maybe within a city, let's say like the Austin metropolitan area, maybe it doesn't make sense to build an inner city public transit system based on the design of that, is that a correct understanding? 

[00:14:11] Kevin Krizek: I'm not sure that I would go so far as to say it's not worth to build a public transport system. In the right environments with the right development patterns, Austin is really on that fringe. There, there is a real opportunity to get some strong gains from a networked public transport system. However, most places in most cities in the US don't have that structure. And so we need to look for an alternative way, but I totally agree with Meredith. And so far as a model like Amsterdam is one that is worth striving for, it's just a long way away from where we are in America.

[00:14:48] James Lawler: I wonder if we could get into that example and flesh that out for listeners who are not familiar with the Netherlands. And Meredith, when you and I were speaking a few weeks ago about [00:15:00] this, I thought it was really interesting how you describe just sort of describing the density. I mean, describe the Netherlands for us.

Describe like how, how many people are living in these different places. 

[00:15:10] Meredith Glaser: Yeah sure so, yeah, the Netherlands is one of the densest countries in the world, certainly in Europe. And what you can do is you can travel between these cities very easily. So from Amsterdam to Utrecht is a 20 minute train ride, right? It's a very short distance.

And so you can easily live in one place and work in another. And what that means is many of their policies around transport have to be tightly integrated. In terms of, you know, just Amsterdam, the city. There are districts. So, and then within the districts, there are neighborhood nodes. My family, we live in a, a small apartment, but everything is very, very hyper-local.

I have to register my, my children at a school within a kilometer and a half of my home. I have to register my, my daughter at a childcare within a kilometer of my home in order to get the government subsidy. I have to register with a doctor within one or two kilometers of my home. So, you know, all of these services are, are tightly interwoven into the, into the urban fabric.

Mostly on the ground floor, and also with the residential location as well. 

[00:16:23] James Lawler: So given that uniqueness and given that those particular dynamics and just that geographic sort of structure, how much is the usefulness of let's say micro-mobility tied to, or dependent on the particular features that you just described in the Netherlands?

Same way of asking that is how [00:16:40] generalizable are these things to United States, cities, which are not do not conform to those specs. 

[00:16:46] Meredith Glaser: That's an interesting question because with our summer school Planning the Cycling City, we get this question a lot and, and there is, there is no, I think, particular right or wrong answer, but, uh, but one thing that we've sort of noticed, with historical data and also land use data, it's not just that the city was set up like this.

Now it's very bicycle friendly. It's evolved together over, you know, over several decades and it's still is not fixed. Right. It still keeps evolving. 

[00:17:16] James Lawler: Kevin. So what would your view be on the translatability of micro-mobility practices to, you know, cities that are not sort of consistent with the Netherlands profile?

[00:17:28] Kevin Krizek: I mean, one element that I think Meredith highlights that deserves kind of underscoring is the fact that you can get between, you know, an origin here and a destination there, which is, you know, three or four kilometers, five kilometers, two or three miles via 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 different ways of getting there.

So these short trips have a lot of redundancy and that redundancy is kind of baked into the network that is provided, and you can get there how many different ways in a typical American city? 

[00:18:06] James Lawler: Maybe one.

[00:18:08] Kevin Krizek: Maybe one. So if, if we can kind of get beyond the idea that having all of our trips be placed into one basket, that's going to open up a [00:18:20] lot more opportunities for us.

And so the transferability of these kind of micro-mobility solutions in an urban environment holds a lot of potential, but it's likely going to have to come at the cost of an automobile oriented system. Amsterdam, they've been at this for 50 years now. We're now in America, just kind of coming into awareness of these, of these types of issues.

When, if a Boeing 737 goes down every month, in other words there's that many people dying on our streets, on our surface transportation system in the US every month, and that's kind of a wake-up call that we're probably not doing something right when it comes to surface transportation. To get to your question here, James is that yes, there holds a lot of potential for these micro-mobility, uh, devices, and we need to come up with better on-ramps than we see right now.

[00:19:15] James Lawler: And how do you see it, Meredith? Would you understand sort of the process to, to achieving more widespread use of micro-mobility in the same way? 

[00:19:24] Meredith Glaser: I see it also, not only as a transportation issue, but also a land use issue, bringing services and amenities closer to where our residents live.

And this requires, you know, flexibility in regulations within cities, on where and how to use the ground floor, for example of buildings where, you know, daycares and schools can be, and then the pathways to those destinations, right. The on-street safety improvements that are needed in order to facilitate that type of movement.

We know from lots of great academic studies from the US that you know, [00:20:00] what is it, Kevin, three quarters of all trips, in the U S are under three miles or something. 

[00:20:06] Kevin Krizek: Every other time we get in the car, we're going less than four miles. 

[00:20:09] Meredith Glaser: So this is such a, such a low hanging fruit for so many urban communities.

And that's an average, right? So that means a lot of trips are less than that. And I know from, from going back home to visiting, visiting family and friends in California, I have to get in the car and I just think, oh my gosh, If there was just a, you know, a bike path, a more direct way to go for, for people walking or biking, then that would be so great.

So many communities right now are building, you know, a bike lane here or improving across walk here, but there are many examples of course, that that are coming at it from this, this network perspective that, you know, you wouldn't just end a road you know, at a, a nondescript intersection. That's not the way highway planning and road engineering goes. So it's a whole, network.

[00:20:57] Kevin Krizek: There's another whole element of this, which I think has to do with what I refer to as the livability dimension. If we are, as a society are becoming increasingly aware of the costs that our prior decisions have, have made. But if we continue to go down that road, we're going to continue to have some of the same problems, if not worse problems.

And so consider for example, the best-selling car in America, the Ford F-150 right. Right now with an internal combustion engine, that thing weighs 5,200 pounds, which is 2.6 tons. That's a pretty heavy vehicle and you know that they're getting higher and you know that they're getting bigger and they're getting broader.

We [00:21:40] can't put gas in those anymore because gas is a bad thing. So what are we going to put in that? We're going to put batteries, we're going to put critical minerals in those things to propel them. Right. And so what that suggesting is that now the overall weight, the overall kind of force that that type of device is going to bring is going to be almost jacked up by sometimes a ton.

[00:22:02] Darren Hau: Yeah. You know, the Hummer EV is going to be what like 9,000 pounds and accelerate in around three seconds. That's a lot of, a lot of force. 

[00:22:10] Kevin Krizek: Either way. That's a lot of kinetic energy that's going wasted on our streets in the time when we were thinking that we need to think alternatively, about how much kinetic energy we're bringing into our streets.

[00:22:20] James Lawler: Yeah, the EIA report just released a study that said if best SUVs were an individual country, they would be the six world's largest emitter. 

[00:22:27] Meredith Glaser: Well, not only emissions, but the lack of safety. Transportation safety research coming out is showing that, safety is increasing for passengers, for people inside vehicles, but it's getting worse for the people outside the vehicles.

[00:22:40] Darren Hau: I'd love to transition to a systems design and policy question. So we started alluding to this already. What is holding us back from adopting these more micro-mobility vehicles? Are there specific regulations designed guidelines? Like the ones Meredith you talked about or laws that are holding back innovation?

[00:22:59] Meredith Glaser: There is resistance on various levels, you know, to move away from car-based planning, car-based living. We've been talking about livability or planning for people. You know, it's not just one policy or one regulation. And then therefore it's not just one intervention or one solution that will undo a century of [00:23:20] urban planning and policy that has, you know, for the most part, favored the car. One framework that is really helpful from public health, and it's called the socio ecological model. When we talk about you know, a subject like mobility, you know, on the individual level, we have resistance of behavior change and habits on a community level, we have resistance, for, you know, street allocation and access to goods and services. On a city level there are so many competing issues, around, you know, budgets, but also topics. The economy. Crime. You know, things like this. And then of course the federal level has its own issues. And then of course, there's this larger, you know, the meso level, which is the socio-cultural level. There is a very symbolic and effective dimension of car use.

It communicates a social status. It's a very valued personal space, you know, for relaxation, for socializing, and entire sets of habits and routines. But there are solutions at each of those levels. 

[00:24:22] Darren Hau: You talked about these different levels and I want to drill down on, do you think that most of the policies and incentives that will make this more feasible will be on the local or municipal level? I mean, obviously there needs to be some federal stuff as well, but how does each of those levels impact a change like this? You know, what can cities do? What can states do versus what can the federal government do? 

[00:24:46] Meredith Glaser: I'll give an example, one of the cities that I have been researching for the past several years is Austin, Texas. In 2020, I think about 70% of the population voted for the Austin mobility [00:25:00] bond, which would dedicate several billion dollars to a public transit system. And within around $480 million towards improving their active transport, which is primarily bicycle network, but also other micro-mobility options and sidewalk improvements.

This was a kind of general obligation bond where citizens are accepting increases in taxes, right. Putting it on themselves to make these improves. But at the same time, there was also public service campaigns produced by the city to sort of increase acceptance of not only the mobility bond, but also the changes that were being made.

It just, it does show you that a multi-pronged approach is necessary. You know, the political will, the consensus building, the public engagement efforts. 

[00:25:49] James Lawler: In terms of that example, what organization is the primary driver in Austin of that effort? 

[00:25:56] Meredith Glaser: I would say the Department of Transport, which is a relatively newly installed department.

And this is also a new concept in American, you know, local government public service, is the department of transportation. Most of these changes have come out of, Department of Public Works, which has to do more with construction and operations. Whereas, you know, a Department of Transport is becoming more of an authority on policy and mobility.

So this is also an institutional change that we're seeing in many cities, City of Oakland, is becoming a front runner, especially around equity and injustice. These changes in the organizational structure I think is also a really [00:26:40] promising way forward in thinking about, you know, the institution of automobility.

[00:26:44] James Lawler: So Kevin to you, so Meredith described kind of this multi-tiered problem, which presents as sort of pretty intractable given at least at first glance, given all of the different hurdles at each of those levels. I'm wondering what are some of the theories that you subscribe to for how to tackle problems like that?

[00:27:05] Kevin Krizek: I think you've got to go back to first principles here James. So who gets access to what services? And how are we going to provide that access? Let me give you two examples. Okay. So two different cities in which one can fulfill their daily tasks. So one, the first city has, has a lot of destinations close to their origins yet is regarded as a slow traffic city.

The second has origins and destinations, which are further spread apart, but the traffic moves really fast. So if, if one chooses to spend less time and money and transport, that can reach the same number of destinations, I'll be a with slower traffic and close destinations, then that first superior, that first scenario is superior because one can complete their chores with less time and money.

So if, if this type of thinking guides the predominant approach by which transportation services are or are not provided for, then we're approaching matters in a way that prizes accessibility. 

[00:27:59] Darren Hau: That's a really interesting framework. It seems like what you're staying is are we, are we measuring the right metrics, right?

If we're measuring, Hey, what is the average speed that we can travel? Then we might actually be designing our cities in the wrong way. 

[00:28:13] Meredith Glaser: Another way to look at travel, would be not only, you know, time and speed, but also how do we have [00:28:20] meaningful journeys? We did a sort of exploratory study on what we call exposure to diversity, and social capital.

And so by taking each mode of transportation, we assessed, you know, the degree to which, an individual would have exposure to a diversity of people, a diversity of landscapes, a diversity of services and amenities, green spaces and, and, you know, and also to just society in general. What is your exposure when you are in a vehicle or in a bus or on a bicycle?

The results showed that if you are riding in a car that is not likely to be very diverse, but on a bicycle, especially in a, in a urban area like Amsterdam, you are exposed to numerous types of diversity, not only in, in different types of people, different classes, races, gender, age, ability, but also to the services and the landscape.

You are very vulnerable. You are open to interaction and this can provide, we argue, meaning. 

[00:29:27] Darren Hau: Yeah, I'd never heard it articulated that way before, but speaking anecdotally, it really resonates to my New York example. I always felt like New York as a metropolitan area has this really strong sense of community.

You know, people say, oh, New Yorkers aren't friendly. I'm like, okay, maybe they won't go out of their way to say hello, but they actually really care about each other. If you really need help, they'll help you. And I was wondering why that was. And, one of my hypotheses is that, you know, at least before the pandemic, 99% of people would use the [00:30:00] subway - now that's not a rigorous number - regardless of socioeconomic strata or whatever. Everyone had these common experiences and had that diversity of experience. 

[00:30:09] Meredith Glaser: Yeah, it's so true here. It's, I think it is really powerful. You know, I was just taking my daughter, to a park and, you know, we passed by another friend and we ended up stopping and chatting for 15 minutes, you know, kind of sitting on our bicycles, but in opposite directions.

And if, if we were both in cars, that interaction simply wouldn't have taken place. 

[00:30:33] Darren Hau: I'd love to transition to some of these like case studies and best practices or specific challenges we might encounter. We've already talked about the Dutch transportation model, but I want to talk about the individual experience.

So, you know, while micro-mobility is often lauded as a promising solution, there might be some inconveniences involved like switching modes of transportation, right? Bike or scooter to a train, have to get a train ticket, go on the train, et cetera. Have you seen any studies indicating that these sorts of switching costs are a deterrent?

You know, something else you might consider is, you know, do you want to take micro-mobility options if it's 30 degrees out and it's snowing? 

[00:31:11] Kevin Krizek: There's no shortage of studies coming from the transit literature that suggests that people that are not moving weigh time almost twice as much as when they are.

So, for example, if they are waiting at a transit stop or a transit platform, that 60 seconds actually seems like 120 seconds. And if they don't know when that next mode of transport is going to be coming, if for some reason they don't know if the bus is [00:31:40] on their way, then it's almost three times as much.

Right. 

[00:31:43] Darren Hau: Wow. 

[00:31:43] Kevin Krizek: Okay. So what that suggests is that people want reliability in how they're going to get from point A to point B. And how can we provide that reliability other than providing a single mode at each juncture. In other words, a car. We need to invest in alternatives. Redundancy in the system is going to be okay.

This is going to be increasingly problematic as we deal with outages in networks, for example, coming from fire, floods, hurricanes, or whatnot, right. And if people can't again, get the goods and services they need when there's an outage, how are we going to get them what they need? We need to come up with alternative ways that people can serve these types of destinations.

But if we continue to think so insular and just so single-mindedly about these things, we're going to be shooting ourselves in the foot sooner or later. 

[00:32:36] James Lawler: That ecological metaphor that you used at the top of our conversation just seems to come up again and again, that you know.

[00:32:42] Kevin Krizek: Which is what?

[00:32:43] James Lawler: Well, just that you said that, you know, everything is connected to something else, and that basically we live in, in like an ecosystem and we have to stop thinking in such a reductionist way. 

[00:32:55] Kevin Krizek: But the good news here, James and Darren is that a variety of shiftings, I mean, I've been studying this stuff for 25 years and we've never been closer to being able to make meaningful change on this. Owing to COVID.

And they's shifting sands that are really suggesting that some momentum is building that could amount to more than just a quixotic effect of getting cars off the road. We're at a point where we are needing to reconceptualize the very purpose of [00:33:20] transportation systems in urban environments with video conferencing, with electric, with autonomous elements, with livability, all these things are coming to a head. 

[00:33:33] Meredith Glaser: And I think one way to go about that too, is experimentation. And we've seen this in COVID where, you know, cities have in one way or another experimented with street reallocation, these terraces, you know, for restaurants, sidewalk extensions, these types of things.

And, and that drove Kevin and I to, to do a study on such experiments in, uh, 55 us cities. What we found was. 30 of 55 cities. They were conducting some sort of street experiment and we looked at government documents, and we found that the experiments that were happening in some of these cities, these were outliers and we called them the innovators.

And these were cities that were really re-imagining streets as public spaces and this, this sort of this, the way that this was messaged really reconceptualized, what streets were and, you know, the goal, and the societal relevance of public space and streets as public space. And also that message was very palatable to city officials.

So we saw high levels of support and engagement from city officials, you know, when this type of messaging was present. And the other finding that, that we both think was very relevant was that there was a higher degree of collaboration in these innovator cities. So we saw a lot more cross departmental or inter inter governmental [00:35:00] evidence of collaboration.

And also support came from out of the woodwork with these non-traditional stakeholder groups like business and chambers of commerce, other retail associations. So this, this was also a kind of multi-pronged approach at the scale of the city and community that for some cities was highly effective. 

[00:35:20] Kevin Krizek: They finally had an opening to really make some aggressive changes to their streets and they did.

And that was really rewarding to see. Now, for the places across the country where we haven't had those conversations: the bottom line is that streets deal with a lot of travel and urban narratives. And how we use them has a lot of effects that have important implications for equity, the environment, and safety.

[00:35:45] James Lawler: You know, just for folks who are interested, this paper is entitled, Can street-focused, emergency response measures trigger a transition to two new transport systems? We will link to this on the website, but this is the collaboration between Meredith and Kevin. But really this was a wonderful conversation and thank you both so much for engaging in it.

[00:36:04] Darren Hau: I feel like we've only scratched the surface. Thanks Kevin. Thanks Meredith. 

[00:36:07] Meredith Glaser: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

[00:36:11] Kevin Krizek: Thank you guys. 

[00:36:16] James Lawler: That was Dr. Meredith Glaser and Dr. Kevin Krizek, talking to us about decarbonizing transportation through optimizing urban design and micro mobility. 

[00:36:28] Darren Hau: I feel like one of the things that struck me about this conversation is it was one where, you know, maybe it was a little more difficult to talk about concrete numbers.

Yeah. Like when I see articles about this, [00:36:40] that attempt to, you know, talk high level abstract about this problem, I'm sorta like, okay, my eyes glaze over. But, when we get, you know, where we got the most passionate and excited in this conversation was when we were talking about personal examples and anecdotes and high impact, local impacts, um, things like safety.

Right. And you know, that, that's what really makes this resonate with at least me. 

[00:37:04] James Lawler: Yeah, no, it's an experience that every person can relate to, you know, directly, because we've all said sat in traffic, we've all, you know, most of us have, have tried to ride bikes around cities. Most of us have taken some form of, you know, public transportation.

It's, it's a, it's a highly relatable space. 

[00:37:23] Darren Hau: I think one thing that I would have liked to also hear, I would have loved to have heard their take as people thinking about urban design on what companies or startups might do to help with this? Like, is it something that they can help with or is it a purely, you know, local problem?

[00:37:42] James Lawler: I think that's a great idea for another episode. Darren, thanks so much for being here today. And that is it for this episode of the Climate Now podcast. You can check out our other interviews, watch our videos, and sign up for our newsletter at climatenow.com. And if you want to get in touch, email us at contact@climatenow.com or tweet us at weareclimatenow. We hope you'll join us for our next conversation.