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Transportist: August 2023
Happy TRB Submission Day, to all who celebrate.
In this issue
The Two Accessibilities
Sydney Metro West
Pedagogy: The Spring Paradox
The Two Accessibilities
When discussing the concept of accessibility, it is common to encounter ambiguity due to the differing perspectives that various groups hold on the subject. Two distinct yet overlapping viewpoints tend to surface: one rooted in the discourse of disability rights advocates and the other stemming from the realm of urban planning and transport.
The perspective of disability rights advocates primarily pertains to ensuring that individuals, regardless of their physical, intellectual, or sensory capabilities, can engage fully with their surroundings. We might ask whether a person who uses a wheelchair has unhindered access to public transportation — do train stations have lifts or ramps to facilitate their mobility? Similarly, can a visually impaired individual navigate the city streets safely — are tactile paving (paver bumps) or other tools in place to guide them? It extends to intellectual or cognitive disabilities as well. Can individuals with intellectual challenges understand and utilize the services available to them without undue strain or difficulty? The crux of this viewpoint is to ensure that the environment is adaptable and inclusive for all, irrespective of their abilities or disabilities.
On the other hand, urban planners and transport professionals approach the concept of accessibility focus more on spatial and socioeconomic factors (Levinson and Wu 2020). They raise questions such as: How many job opportunities are within easy reach for a resident, whether they choose to walk, cycle, drive or use public transit? How does this access vary depending on an individual's income level? They also consider mundane yet essential details like whether a transit user can conveniently find a restroom when needed. The overarching aim here is to ensure that the urban layout and transport infrastructure accommodate everyone's needs, irrespective of their mode of travel or socioeconomic status.
These two interpretations of accessibility are not as disparate as they might initially seem. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin, each viewing the same issue from different angles and through different lenses. They both focus on facilitating access for different subpopulations to varying destinations or for different purposes. The modes and technological capabilities employed may differ, but the underlying normative goals of these positive analyses remain the same: to ensure that all individuals can access their environment and its resources effectively and efficiently.
Sydney Metro West
NSW Labor Premier Chris Minns refuses to affirm that the already under construction [See this video, it’s very underway], but increasingly expensive, Sydney Metro West will not be cancelled. The Sydney Morning Herald and the rest of the development-industrial complex goes ballistic. Many, many stories in the SMH. Minns also won’t confirm the already under construction conversion (“metrication”) of the T3 Line to Metro will continue, but that has much less concern, since it is less valuable, and may wind up being a sacrificial lamb here — though they could have done this months ago. One assumes when he makes his decision there will be some sort of value engineering, insertion of new, at least partially developer-funded, stations on the Sydney Metro West [See also this by Bambul, though to be clear, this is hard, giving the tunnel boring machines are in the ground now], some staging, and of course delays, but it won’t be cancelled. If he cancels outright, the Liberals will run against Labor as the party of “can’t”, when they could deliver infrastructure, or he might be toppled in an internal spill. One also assumes Labor does not want to be a one-term administration.
The Sydney Metro West was/is unfortunately promoted on the claim “The Sydney Metro West project will have a target travel time of about 20 minutes between Parramatta and Sydney CBD.” This has been pernicious because it argues against additional infill stations, which add travel time (and accessibility for more people).
The actual travel time now: 26 minutes. So all this to save 6 minutes seems a bit much. Instead, all this to add accessibility, capacity, and reliability to the system may be worth doing for the right price. If you choose the wrong Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you get the wrong outcomes.
Yellow Freight Trucking shuts down regular operations (you know, the one with the orange logo)
Waymo kills off autonomous trucking program [Ars Technica framing]
Doubling Down on Waymo One [Waymo Official Blog framing]
San Francisco may soon get 24/7 driverless cabs. City leaders are fuming. [ But somehow when human drivers make these same infractions there is no call to ban human-driven cars]
Energy and Electrification
EV Suspected As Cause of Cargo Ship Fire That Burned 3,000 Cars [More asymmetric attacks in the “War on Cars”]
How to Model It: 30th Anniversary