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Transportation Policy: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally and Walking the Talk

10/20/2009 4:00 PM 32"124
Frederick P. Salvucci, '61, SM '62, Senior Lecturer, Center for Transportation and Logistics, MIT

Description: Why do so many sustainable transportation programs turn out, like the Alice in the Wonderland parable to lead us down unexpected paths? Fred Salvucci observes that true sustainable transport requires making more than short"term fixes. A sustainable transportation program is built upon the pyramid of three "E"s: equity, environmental benefit, and economics. Maximizing on just one of these objectives imbalances the others, and leads to unintended and undesirable results.

As a case in point, Salvucci notes that improvements in sustainable transportation can be made by either "fixing the automobile", or by "fixing the system." The "fixes" have included the mandate for improvement in CAFE standards, nationwide interest in adopting a California car standard, and the Cash for Clunkers program. These are all short"term responses as car ownership, and vehicle miles traveled continue to grow.

Salvucci views public transport as a longer"term solution, and says that the government, universities, and other large employers have an important role in terms of turning the coin and incentivizing preferred modes of transport. He suggests that government policy and tax policies need to be aligned. He notes that transit resources need to be spread out widely and not benefit just a single region or provider. The early building of the National Highway System, a federal program that touched every state, received widespread support.

Building a consensus for public transit and sustainable transportation policy is possible, just as it is "possible to sail against the wind". The state of Massachusetts and Boston, in particular, have shown this political leadership as Boston has managed to grow economically despite forgoing new above"ground freeways. A new initiative now exists in Boston, over the next five to 10 years, as all of the major bridges across the Charles River" with the exception of one" must undergo safety repairs. There will be an estimated 20% reduction in vehicle capacity, and together these bridges carry more traffic than the Central Artery. Salvucci urged planners at MIT to think of the Charles River Crossing project as a "pattern break-- an opportunity to demonstrate more sustainable transport modes in the face of the vehicle reduction. Boston and the MIT community have a new opportunity to undo the deeply embedded use of automobiles, provided we really believe, and wish to follow, the objectives of sustainable transportation.

Host(s): School of Engineering, Transportation@MIT

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