notes from day 2 of the sustainability and public transportation conference

2 08 2007

[By Shawhin]  The second day of the conference was even more interesting than the first for me.  There was a large focus on city planning, land use, and policy.  I’m continuing the same format as the previous post here and getting straight into details by presentation.  And again, if you want more details on anything, just let me know and I can elaborate.

Panel on Sustainable Urbanism / Mobility: Linking Transit and Land Use 

First presentation – the Center of Transit-Oriented Development (non-profit organization)

  • Focus on building transit for livable communities
  • Organizers co-wrote text with guidelines for transit oriented development (TOD): i.e. walkability, mobility, connectivity, place making, etc
  • TOD ingredients include: housing choices, mixed-use developments, connectivity and mobility options (transit can’t do it alone)
  • In US, residential demand can grow from 6 million to 16 million households by 2030 with single households being the majority
  • Benefits of streetcars
  • TOD defined as places within, say, 10 minute walking distance of a transit station
  • One current dilemma with TOD’s is that because there are so few of them, and because they are so desirable, developers often make them pricy places to live (supply and demand) – but with enough TOD’s (more supply), they should be geared toward diverse income groups – as those are the people who need the transit most and use it more frequently

Second presentation – LEED-ND (using LEED ratings for neighborhood development)

  • Important to define public transit for the public – most people don’t understand what it is
  • Important that sustainability be viewed at comprehensively instead of separate silos (transit, green building, etc).  LEED-ND is an attempt at bringing these different categories together as one
  • Sustainable urbanism as “walkable and transit-served urbanism integrated with green buildings and high performance infrastructure”
  • Need paradigm shift: away from “driving cleaner vehicles and carpooling” toward “not driving at all” – we shouldn’t be using cars and highways… i.e. don’t go for the Prius, use the metro

Third presentation – Seattle’s department of city planning and development

  • Working toward shrinking streets and discouraging auto usage
  • All new public buildings within core area will be LEED rated (i.e. meet a certain green building criteria)
  • City has eliminated parking requirements in urban centers
  • Planning to make walkable areas by greening the landscape
  • Local org has been instrumental in influencing sustainability policy via tours around the world for officials and agency leaders to see sustainable communities (sounds like a great idea): International Sustainable Solutions,

Fourth presentation – Oakville, ON (Canada) department of planning

  • Planning new town in speculator-owned farm land
  • DPZ did early design through charettes with public
  • Use of “zoned bus” system, where you call from your house, and they pick you up in a small shuttle and take you where you want to go
  • Idea of combining transit stops/stations with the popular local café/donut chain

Q&A session – topics discussed

  • Does community develop transit or does transit develop community
  • There are strong political forces that want to see sprawl continue
  • Need for inter-city transit (i.e. California high speed rail); 40% of flights taken are for distances less that 200 miles
  • In terms of planning for distance for patrons to get from destination to transit stop, it important to consider “how it is” to get there (i.e. enjoyable and engaging walk) vs. only “how fast it is to get there” (i.e. how many miles radius)
  • Implementation of congestion pricing programs

Panel on Environmental Management Systems and Other Frameworks for Sustainability 

Fifth presentation – FTA

Sixth presentation – recommendation from an industry organization

  • ISO14001 as good framework that encapsulates LEED, sustainability, etc. (this was debated by the audience… “Does ISO14001 address social and economical aspects of sustainability?”)

Seventh presentation – environmental compliance at Seattle’s transit agency

  • Sustainability initiatives include: integrating sustainability practices throughout organization; establish targets and goals as part of EMS, progress monitoring and reporting
  • Important to streamline EMS program
  • Instead of EMS, say ESMS (environmental and sustainability management system)

Lunch – closeout session 

Review of day 1 breakout sessions results

  • Not only important to understand (sustainability, environmental, etc) footprint of our industry, but also other industries, in order to gauge relative importance
  • Education and training to remove administrative barriers
  • Position transit so users can get credits for being green… most people buy hybrid vehicles today because it makes a statement about them being green… we should use similar branding for transit
  • Need patience to reverse 60 years of automobile dependency
  • Branding the land-use and public transit through personalization… focus on “a day in the life” of the user
  • Importance of monthly passes in increasing ridership
  • Transit vehicles to accommodate different types of users (people with many shopping bags, baby carriages, etc)
  • Use visioning exercises with communities; tours; community info-sharing; case-studies
  • Agencies can require corporate sustainability plans when requesting qualifications and bid proposals


  • Green technology is important, but doesn’t address all issues
  • It’s not just about land use and density, but how we make those places and how they are connected
  • Explore public-private partnerships
  • Involve stakeholders in issues and may need to move away from only targeting elected officials… consider bottom-up approach
  • “if it doesn’t work for pedestrians, it doesn’t work for transit” – we can’t just add public transit to any corridor/destination… those places must be “places”
  • Transit isn’t just going from point A to point B – it is also about making neighborhoods

In the closing statements, commitments were made to set up specific task groups to tackle the prominent issues raised in the conference.  The conference will reconvene next year.

Overall, I found it very educational and engaging.  Some of the talks really made me feel the global relevance of planning and public transportation.  I’m convinced it is a really priority this day in age – especially with respect to the environment and, in many communities in the US particularly, a degrading social fabric.

While the majority of discussions were not too related to issues in Tehran and Iran, there were some topics, such as congestion management and environmental sustainability that were super relevant.  The benefit to Tehran from fully functional and comprehensive transit systems can be immense.  I also think some of the grassroots or bottom-up approaches to implementing policy might be applicable in Tehran… more on this later.




8 responses

2 01 2008

Thank you for all the details and discussions. I study sustainable design in UK and I have decided to do my project on tehran buses and design a more efficient bus interior that can be accessible by people with different needs. if you have any opinions and guidance regarding this survey,I would be thankful if you let me know.

8 01 2008

That’s very interesting and sounds like an exciting project. What type of “different needs” are you looking to study/address? Are you focusing on accessibility for persons with disabilities and seniors or different bus user groups (people with grocery bags or with luggage), etc? One of my colleagues has worked in selecting interiors for light rail vehicles in the SF Bay Area – I’m going to see if I can get him to weigh in with his thoughts.

Also, I wonder if the gender segregation rules/customs on busses in Tehran plays a part in your study.

11 01 2008

Hi, I sent an email, since I thought the details were longer than to be posted in here. thanks

14 01 2008

Dina, I got your email – thanks for sharing the info:

On the gender thing… I wonder how one could advance their agenda via design – I’m sure there are some creative solutions waiting to be dreamt up. Just thinking out loud:
 How to accommodate for conservative people who want segregation and comfort away from the opposite sex…
 while at the same time providing a middle ground for people who don’t agree with the segregation – perhaps a central “family area”
 multiple points of entry and exit (I assume you would need a “proof of payment” system or attendees at each door) to accommodate easy and comfortable (gender-mingling-wise) access
 …

I can speak of my personal experience to the importance of bus/light rail interiors:
 I used to commute between Berkeley and San Francisco by BART (subway rail cars), but after seeing the super comfortable and appealing interiors of the AC Transit bus routes, I stopped using BART altogether and switched to the bus, even though it was a longer route.
 I lived in LA (the city of cars) for a summer and almost exclusively used their BRT system because the busses were so cool: low floor, lots of windows, interesting seat configurations, comfortable chairs, flat panel TV’s!, operable windows and so on.

… so interiors have been important for me – and clearly they are even more important for people with special needs, such as those in the focus groups you listed in your email (by the way, feel free to post all that stuff here – it’s good material for discussion!). So, right on – dammet garm.

27 01 2008

well, yes I think interior of the public transport is really important for all people, and people with disabilities in iran (12% of Iran’s population) should have the right to use these facilities; maybe there is a need to set regulations.. . Regarding the “family area” I am sure it is not possible to consider such an area in the bus, unless people have their ID with them all the time!..
I am still working on it, and thank you for telling your experiences!

28 01 2008

12%… wow. Do you know how that compares with some other countries?

Regarding the family area – you’re right, I don’t think it can be enforced. Perhaps though if it were more of a soft rule, it could be left up to people to decide which zone they want to sit in.
Best of luck on the rest of your study – if you come up with stuff you would like to share online, tehranshake would be more than happy!
I’ll keep my eyes and ears open and let you know if I come across anything on interiors.

dammet garm.

29 01 2008

Well in other countries it’s 10% of the population; yeah we’ve got quite a big group of disabled people, considering the war in 1980’s that increased the number of disabled persons.
Thank you again!

16 12 2014

parviz you can tell by looking at him that he is a playboy just like his son

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