Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Future Urban Transport Conference - Days 2 and 3

Yesterday I discussed the academic workshop held at the Future Urban Transport Conference, today I discuss the second two days which were devoted to a wider discussion of issues.

On Monday, we started with presentations from very high level business leaders at AB Volvo, Bombardier Transportation, Volvo Car Corporation and the Swedish Petroleum Institute. They described what their companies were doing in the areas of future urban transport. Next we heard from the Mayor of Goteborg, the Deputy Mayor of Changsha (China) and Kulveer Ranger (Director of Transport Policy for the Greater London Authority). They described how their cities were addressing the issue of sustainable transport and urban planning. The final session discussed 'service' business ideas: urban freight management, Veolia Transport (a major operator of public transport services) and a property developer from Stockholm who described how they redeveloped an old industrial area.

All the presentations were interesting, although I think that the discussion would have been better if the groups were mixed rather than in the "silo" based format. For example it would have been interesting to have the Bombardier's president discuss where and when rail investment is warranted with a policy maker from a developing country in Asia or Africa. Or having the Volvo Cars president discuss with London's transport policy director how to make electric cars a reality (London believes electric car technology is ready for deployment now, it would have been interesting to hear the auto industry's view on that).

On the other hand, the conference was small enough so that we could discuss many of these issues on a one-to-one basis. In fact, I discussed Shai Agassi's very interesting Better Place proposal for deploying electric cars NOW with London's Mr Ranger the evening before over a beer.

We started Tuesday with two videos of James Bond in Bremen. Then four focused discussions of specific research projects sponsored by the VREF. Professor Lisa Schweitzer (University of Southern California) talked about the need to proactively work on development around rail stations in disadvantaged areas. Professor Yves Crozet (University of Lyon) described how to improve accessibility for disadvantaged areas by focusing on slower modes of transport based on a case study of Lyon's BRT line (the case study used a very cool GIS analysis).

Next we heard from Professor Anthony May (University of Leeds) on the results of a quick analysis of transport financing in France, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. What was most surprising was the lack of detailed research in the area of comparing these systems and the high degree of variation. (This would be an excellent subject for my WIKI-based transport knowledge management system, more later.) Finally, Professor Elizabeth Deakin (UC Berkeley), another of my favorite UCB professors, talked about the US transport funding situation. Both presentations included several excellent recommendations for improving the funding process.

In the afternoon a small group of us visited the Volvo Museum and learned a bit more about the Volvo buses. More tomorrow.

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