Leipzig Residents Compete: Ideas for Urban Transportation

Poster for Ideas for Urban Transportation (source: City of Leipzig)

Poster for Ideas for Urban Transportation (source: City of Leipzig)

As part of the updated Urban Development Plan – Transport and Public Space due to be presented in 2013 the city of Leipzig invited public participation through a competition entitled Ideas for Urban Transportation (Ideen für den Stadtverkehr) in which city residents were able to submit their innovative ideas for developing the transportation network in Leipzig. 382 submissions (from individuals, schools, community groups etc) were received for a total of 618 ideas, and each entrant received a response regarding her or his ideas from the jury. Continue reading

Mobility Education

Back in December 2012 the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development introduced the new German National Cycling Plan 2020 (pdf – in German!). The main theme of the new Plan, which builds off the National Cycling Plan 2002-2012, is the collective advancement of bicycle transportation among all levels of government including advocacy groups on both the national and local level. One of the key areas the Plan focuses on is Continue reading

Health Line in the News

As a supplement to my comparison of journey times between Leipzig-Dresden and Cleveland’s east suburbs and Downtown I thought I’d highlight a recent, fairly comprehensive blog post from CEOs for Cities regarding public transit and transit-oriented development in Cleveland.

Cleveland RTA Health Line

photo courtesy ITDP via D.C. Streetsblog

CEOs for Cities focuses on the Health Line as a good example of bus rapid transit (BRT) and catalyst for transit-oriented development along the Euclid Avenue corridor. I have to admit to being skeptical of the Health Line in the beginning, mostly because I tend to think of bus rapid transit more as a system rather than just one line but I think the Health Line is a good start and, having ridden it, I’m a little less of a skeptic. Continue reading

Activist Profile: Fietsersbond

In the spring of 2010 I had the pleasure of interviewing Govert de With from the Fietsersbond (Cyclist’s Union) Amsterdam. The Cyclist’s Union is a nation-wide bicycle advocacy organization in the Netherlands which got its start in the mid 70’s (if I’m reading my notes from almost three years ago correctly), growing out of the car-free Sundays which were mandated during the oil crisis. According to their website there are currently about 35,000 members nation-wide and, at the time of my interview, about 4,500 in Amsterdam. Member recruiting is taken care of by the national office using Continue reading

The Art of Rational Decision-Making

Economics is generally based on the assumption that people are able to make rational decisions based on weighing all the costs and benefits of something. An individual may take into account things like fixed costs and variable costs. There are opportunity costs. For example, if I decide to go to a concert instead of study for an exam then I probably think that the benefit I get out of going to that concert outweighs the costs of getting a poor grade on the exam. But what if there are costs that I don’t factor into my decision-making? Am I still making a rational choice based on the information available to me? Or am I choosing to ignore certain costs because they’re too abstract or too difficult to quantify?

Very often this kind of problem is the result of external costs, those costs that one doesn’t consider when making decisions, as opposed to internal costs or out-of-pocket costs. Continue reading

Deabstracting Energy

I was thinking about this previous post about long-distance commuting and journey times and was reminded just how abstract a concept energy and energy use really is. I find it somewhat difficult to actually visualize the 167,656 Kilojoules (that’s over 167 million Joules) I use taking the train one way from Leipzig to Dresden. And that times two and almost every single day. It’s like trying to visualize the national debt. These staggering sums at some point just lose any sort of tangible meaning. All the more reason to cut up your credit cards and live close to where you work.

With these sums in mind I decided to take another look at my twice-daily energy consumed for transportation (which isn’t even really the total amount since it doesn’t account for the calories I burn riding my bike to the train station nor the energy used by the tram in Dresden) and see if there wasn’t a way to give it some sort of visual component. What I came up with were dark chocolate Easter bunnies. Continue reading

Does Germany Have All the Answers?

The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) has an article from the beginning of January that I’d like to highlight. The article is entitled “Cycling Solutions: Why Germany Has All The Answers” and while I think that may be a bit of an exaggeration, Germany really is an interesting case study for U.S. cycling advocates and transportation planners. Buehler, Pucher, Merom und Bauman (2011) compared active travel (pdf) in the United States and Germany. In their introduction they list off a number of reasons why the comparison is so appropriate: market economies, democratic systems of government, high rates of auto ownership, similar proportions of licensed drivers and, importantly, similar design and timing of travel surveys. The general conclusion of their research was Continue reading

Journey Times

And no, I’m not talking about the band.

I’ve been wanting to do this comparison for a while, just to highlight some differences in transportation networks between a mid-sized U.S. city and mid-sized German cities. I’m not sure to what extent this comparison is applicable to other U.S. cities, but I’ll be comparing Cleveland and Leipzig/Dresden as regards my journey from home to university in each city. From 2002-2003 I took classes at Cleveland State University (CSU) while living in Mayfield, an eastern suburb of Cleveland. I took public transportation every day to get to and from school. I currently live in Leipzig and study in Dresden and likewise take public transportation, albeit the regional express, on a daily basis.

From a spatial perspective this is an interesting comparison. Mayfield and Cleveland are obviously Continue reading

Heated Bicycle Paths

An engineering firm in the Netherlands is currently working on a method for heating bicycle paths in winter so that they remain free of snow and ridable. The municipalities of Zutphen and Utrecht, among others, are considering building such paths in the future.

The first test run of an environmentally friendly means of heating a bicycle path using ground water was Continue reading

Mobility and Transportation Planning Goals

One of the basic tenets of any transportation network is to provide mobility, yet there seems to be very little consensus as to what this (word) means. One issue in the U.S. is that historical political and planning decisions have led to a predominantly vehicular culture, favoring a uni-modal, auto-centric transportation network.  Mobility, therefore, is often used synonymously with auto-mobility, leading to a misunderstanding of a transportation system’s purpose, even among transportation professionals.

Mobility is generally defined as the potential for movement or change in location of people and goods (Handy, 2002; Litman, 2011). This definition is absent of any mention of mode, yet traditional mobility measurements include car ownership rates, vehicle miles traveled or congestion levels, all of which focus solely on the automobile.

Unfortunately, though providing a definition of mobility and simultaneously acknowledging the term’s association with auto-mobility, Litman and other experts ultimately fail to challenge this pervasive misunderstanding. Continue reading