Equity-Based Transportation Planning, Policy and Practice
(A collaborative investigation of an unusual concept in Helsinki Finland)
Draft background notes for Helsinki project
27 Feb. 2012 Page 3
Over the last decades we have incessantly been told about ("sold") many kinds of transportation strategiesor techniques which variously promise great things for mobility and well-being: sustainable transportation,green transportation, clean, smart, soft, active, low-carbon, fuel-efficient, carfree, intelligent, liveable andmore. But while there are many cities in which such concepts have been put into place as projects, withvarying degrees of success, the truth is that as things stand in 2012 we have yet to find and put to work a(a) single, (b) strong, (c) inclusive, (d) measurable central theme around which to organize policies anddecide investments that are, at once, (i) coherent, (ii) consistent and (iii)
.In most cities our transport policies and actions all too often based on ad hoc individual decisions and roughassemblages of policies, projects and services, some good, some less good, but which as a whole are notreally
. And, not surprisingly, the city and the people suffer from this. At best what we are seeingare good measures implemented here and there, with luck more or less well integrated and coordinated,but at the same time the big investments that that are being made in the sector are not consistent with asingle base strategy. This is dangerous because if we have no strong central core and test to which allactions and decisions can be disciplined, we are going to suffer a policy of bits and pieces, some better,some worse, and the whole badly lacking. This is a real problem, as we are seeing in city after city.But all that said, we need to bear in mind that it is not easy to create a coherent system -- unless we haveat the core a central indicator or metric that will allow us to align all our individual decisions and pull thewhole thing together in a coherent package in which all the individual decisions reinforce each other sothat they all move in the same direction. This project proposes to look at one central metric by which theentire program and service package can be judged. Namely that of equity, a concept which is potentially aspowerful as it is, until now, unknown.
The Helsinki project in brief
The project keys on a series of brainstorming sessions organized over the month of March 2012, with asmall core team working under the aegis of the Helsinki Department of City Planning and Transportation,meeting and exchanging ideas and proposals with a broad cross-section of individuals and groups,government, private sector and volunteer organizations, to examine together what the transportationsystem of the city and its surrounding areas might look like, if, instead of distance and speed, public sectorinvestments and actions were required to look first and above all to the concept of equity.To be sure we are clear on this: when we say
we are not talking about
in its raw sense, noreven
in the legal sense. Rather we are talking about fairness, social justice and true democracy .When Abraham Lincoln ended the Gettysburg Address during the darkest days of the American Civil Warwith the words "government of the people, by the people, for the people", he was in fact talking aboutdemocracy and equity.It needs to be said that one reason for choosing a Finnish city for this first collaborative peer investigationis directly related to their great accomplishments over the last years in building one of the most highlyrespected educational systems in the world (see the OECD PISA program results over the last decade) based
specifically on the concept of equity. Our project will also examine the strategic base of their success in theeducation sector, to see if there are lessons which can be applied to transportation systems reform.