bikes on tehran’s streets

19 02 2010

Tehran’s municipality has established a bicycle venue “in one district of the city as part of an experimental program to help ease traffic congestion, improve air quality and cater to the desires of increasingly health- and fitness-oriented Iranians.” I have always admired similar programs in European cities (e.g., Paris, Barcelona, etc.), but never thought Tehran’s landscape and culture was bike friendly. I was wrong:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/02/iran-on-city-streets-another-green-movement-begins-to-roll-out.html

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tehran vs. tokyo

17 10 2008

[By Shideh]   Tehran mayor, Mr. Qalibaf, has been trying to learn from and collaborate with other big cities in the world to improve Tehran in many ways.  I find his attempts promising and in the right direction: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=180227

 

Tehran can learn a great deal from Tokyo in terms of pollution reduction and earthquake safety.  Perhaps Japan is one of the few remaining nations that has not paid much attention to the US attempts to impose international sanctions on Iran – up to debate.  This is a great start for Qalibaf to attract Japanese investment and collaborate with the mayor of Tokyo to improve Tehran’s infrastructure.  However, an important part of the problem in Tehran and Iran in general is not related to technical expertise and lack of knowledge.  The main problem seems to be deeply rooted in social awareness and culture.  It takes a great number of local experts on the social psychology of Tehranians to solve the essential problems that are unique to Tehran and do not apply to Tokyo.  Japan in particular has a culture vastly different from those of Iranians and I hope that their solutions and policies will not be blindly applied to Tehran. Iran has a history of blindly following policies of developed nations to improve its system (i.e. education, infrastructure, architecture, city planning, etc.) and my impression is that these attempts have lead to disastrous results and confusion on our own social/cultural identity.





demography, urbanism, etc

12 08 2008

[By Shawhin]   My friend just sent me a nice article on urbanism, planning, gentrification trends, etc in North American cities.  It’s a great read – but be sure to also read the comments and arguments:

http://tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=264510ca-2170-49cd-bad5-a0be122ac1a9 (Thanks, Mei!)

For good complimentary reading, check out Robert Putnam’s (Professor of Public Policy at Harvard) article on social capital:

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/DETOC/assoc/bowling.html

Or listen to an interview with Prof. Putnam, at:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1074874





tehran metro

11 04 2008

[By Shideh]   During my last years in Iran, 1998-1999, Tehran Metro seemed like a dream that would never come to reality.  We knew that the plan for its construction had begun a long time before the revolution but was stopped during the war and that the construction had finally started after all those years but there was no hope as it seemed to take a long time.  Tehran’s traffic continued to worsen, the pollution lead to numerous social/economical/health problems, and the need for metro was at its peak.  On march 7th, 1999, Tehran-Karaj express electric train finally started a limited service of 31.4 km between Azadi square in Tehran and Malard in Karaj with one intermediate stop.  The construction works of stations, tunnels, and bridges on a few subway lines were eventually finished and a great number of Tehranies use the Metro every day now to get to their destinations.  

 

Iran khodro with an annual production of over 1,000,000 vehicles continues to contribute to the congestion of cars in Tehran and other cities, while there is an ongoing parallel attempt to increase public transportation and metro lines in Tehran and complete construction of metro stations/tunnels in other major cities (i.e. Shiraz, Tabriz, Mashhad, etc.).  The limits imposed on the amount of gas available for each driver last year seemed to be successful in reducing traffic for a short time, but people have found a way around the limitations and selling gas on black market has become a common scene in Tehran.

 

 

Photo and map courtesy of TehranMetro

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subway culture

1 04 2008

[By Shideh]   When I walk to a metro station, whether it is in the Bay Area (California), New York, Tehran, or Boston, I look at the people around me and quickly plan my next move.  Is there a seat available? If so, are there older people standing? If not, who should I sit next to? If there are no available seats, where can I find a spot without getting hurt or being on the way?  Once I manage my way in and find a spot, I usually start day dreaming about the events of the day or something I am planning in the days to come, or read an article or a book.  I quickly lose count of minutes and my surrounding and only pay attention to the name of the station each time the train stops.  Recently, however, I have become more aware of the social aspect of subways.  I want to get to know the people with whom I happen to travel from a source to a destination.  After all, trains give us the opportunity to make many friends and learn about our surroundings. 

During our last trip to Tehran, when I entered a metro station I first noticed the majestic artwork on the walls and the neatness of the station as a whole.  Tehran-metro is truly one of the most beautiful and comfortable subways I have ever used.  People formed lines in an organized way, and were much more polite than other places.  In Tehran, at least in my experience, there is no need to ask people to get up when a pregnant lady or an elderly walks in.  When an older woman walked in, younger people got up and offered to help – a scene that is seldom experienced in NYC or even the Bay Area.  I was surprised to see that unlike busses, Tehran metro did not have separate sections for men and women — It turned out, however, that I had walked into the wrong section!

metro.jpg

Photo of Tehran Metro, courtesy of Bahadorjn 

Shawhin and I spent last weekend in New York City.  Taking metro in New York City is not trivial by any means.  You are surrounded by many different faces, races, cultures, ages, and economic backgrounds.  The social aspect of New York subways are fascinating.  The advertisements on the walls usually get my attention for a few minutes while I notice an excellent band playing music in the subway station.  I quickly see a homeless in the other corner begging for money and scolding those who refuse to help and an old man without teeth on the other side is asking whether I am willing to buy his metro ticket (which he seems to have stolen from someone).  I notice a frustrated mother on the other corner with 2 little boys who are being as loud as possible and are quite hard to control.  There are young girls putting on make up on the other side, laughing, singing, and joking every now and then while flirting with boys who pass them by.  Suddenly a group of rich coworkers walk in and quietly wait for the next train and look at their surrounding with disgust.  There is an artist on the other corner drawing our faces and is getting a good laugh at it while smoking something that doesn’t smell like cigarettes.  You might see anything and everything when you are waiting for the train in a New York City metro station — unexpected things. When the train arrives, all of us sit next to each other in crowded narrow halls of the train. 

In the Bay Area, seats are arranged in a way that passengers are not forced to sit next to each other or interact (rows of seats with their backs to each other, with the exception of a few in each train cabin).  In NYC and Tehran, however, the seats are on the two sides of the train and face the center.  Last Sunday, a fantastic group of break dancers were dancing in the train when we walked in to go to Soho and Café Habana from our hotel in Union Square.  I felt fortunate to be given a chance to watch the dance of a few young African Americans for no fee really while waiting in the train.  I was a part of the energy of the crowd that was traveling below the streets of New York while experiencing unexpected events, seeing new faces, hearing new music, listening to new stories, and watching new dances.  Imagine listening to young Iranian musicians playing Santour, Tonbak, Daf, and Tar in the subways of Tehran while enjoying a cup of tea and  waiting for the next train. 





viva tehran

18 10 2007

[By Shideh]  We are back in Berkeley and are in the process of organizing our photos/videos from Iran.  We’ll post short summaries with observations from our trip over the next few weeks (as it’s going to be long… and there were plenty of interesting topics for discussion that came up).  First, today, a few short thoughts and impressions from Tehran:

daaneshkadeh fani tasvieh khoon tehran metro station at iiees

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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. Read the rest of this entry »