04 May 2006

Fair Transport –Jacobs’ Rules: A Tribute

Fair Transport

A New Mobility Agenda for a Changing World

A tribute to Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006

Note to reader/friends: What follows here is intended to serve as a lasting tribute to honor the work and memory of our long time friend and colleague Mrs. Jane Jacobs from whom we have all learned so much. The day she left us, I picked up this work in progress and attacked it from a perspective that I thought would give her pleasure and a bit of hope in this dark world. But what you have here is only a first cut. This is a multi-step group think exercise for a concept which quite a few of us think is worth pursuing. I would be grateful to have your comments and suggestions, for any of what follows as well as your ideas on the concept and eventual next steps more generally.)

“Sustainable transport” is still there and still very important:

The concept as proposed here of “Fair Transport” does not by any means turn its back on the now well established concerns, priorities and solutions brought forward by the Sustainable Transport movement over the last two decades. All the precious values associated with sustainable development and social justice are incorporated within and central to the concept of Fair Transport, but which stretches beyond them in the ways indicated here.

Fair Transport targets to extend the concept and in the process to provide a number of specific sign posts and tests for investments, decisions and actions in the transport field, and in particular those that are funded through taxpayer contributions or which require public support or authorization. The shortlist that follows is our present best-stab at providing such a check list. We are convinced that no public or publicly supported projects should be carried out without these tests being applied and the results made openly and publicly available in time to make, support or eventually block or modify the go-ahead decisions that traditionally have been made more or less in isolation in central places.

Who, what body or group will carry out theses screens. That remains to be determined, but a good first sep will be to get a strong international expert consensus on the main lines of this approach

Fair Transport –Jacobs’ Rules

1. Human and social impacts: Requires as the very first priority a detailed and mature understanding of how the proposed new, improved or restructured transport investment or policy is going to impact on “we ordinary people step by step in our daily lives”.

2. Non-Transport Solutions: Recognizes that at least a good half of the solutions needed to deal with problems or insufficiencies that in a first instance are identified with ‘transport shortcomings’ must in fact involve non-transport solutions (typical examples being locational and land use changes, TDM, time management, mobility substitutes, etc.)

3. Full Access for All: Provides full, fair and safe access to people of all ages, conditions of health, economic situation and in terms of where they live and work. Convenient rural accessibility to all services and functions is critical.

4. Modal choice: Provides full and fair consideration of all forms of mobility (human-powered, public transport, intermediate/shared transport forms, motorized private transport) in the areas of planning, financing and infrastructure provision, maintenance and operation – but subjecting them to strict consideration of lowest life-cycle Co2 emissions, least polluting, most equitable, most cost effective, and most resource economical. Given the fact that the majority of people are not car owner/drivers, non “own-car” solutions should be heavily favored.

5. Cost effectiveness: (a) Represents the cheapest way to get the (full) job done to the key targeted specifications (those being human) while (b) also fully serving non-drivers and lower income groups.

6. Near term improvements: Places heavy emphasis on innovative and measurable near term improvements (say less than 2-4 years to achievement).

7. Women and children: Gives full consideration to critical (and heretofore generally neglected) gender differences and needs at all stages of the discussion, planning, and decision process. This can only be assured through full representation and participation of female leaders and active participants. Thus no project should be allowed to go ahead unless there is a strong plurality at least of female participation and leadership in the decision stage.

8. Packages of Measures: the Fair Transport paradigm will be distinguished from the old ways of planning and making investments by the fact that it will in most places be characterized by very large numbers of often quite small projects and initiatives. And by many more actors and participants. One of the main challenges of an effective Fair Transport policy will be to find ways to see these various measures as interactive synergistic and mutually supporting projects within a unified greater whole. This is a significant challenge to our planners at all levels.

9. New Actors/Entrepreneurship: The transport sector has traditionally been heavily regulated in ways in which new approaches and new actors are more or less actively discouraged or blocked. A Fair Transport policy will create a much more open attitude and support structure for innovation, from the private and public sectors and from volunteer and community groups.

10. Small project strategies and management: On the understanding that what is needed is large numbers of small projects each doing their own job, requires that at least 50% of the total investment budget be allocated to small projects (criteria?). These projects should be generated through local actions and participation.

11. Large projects: Suggests that any large project (say more than $100k) be carefully inspected to ensure that its most important human and social (this includes economic and environmental) objectives cannot be better met by one or a set of smaller projects or policies.

12. Public spaces and community: Serves to improve the quantity, quality, and social usefulness of public spaces, and thereby reinforcing human contacts, sense of community, local and regional culture

13. New Tools: The traditional toolset (and mindset) of the planners and policy makers in the sector need to be dramatically expanded and more fully integrated in all project stages. A very incomplete list would include direct involvement of behavioral psychologists gender specialists, public space experts, and new forms of pubic participation and interactive communications. (This list is incomplete and intended here only for the purposes of giving a first indication.)

14. Open public reporting: All planning and project information, technical analysis, cost information, key parameters, etc. should be publicly available in a convenient transparent form which is make available both locally and nationally and to the international community with expertise and longer term interests in these areas.


In conclusion, what is being targeted here is the creation of a more detailed and closely targeted framework of issues, parameters and procedures which in our view are necessary to guide decisions, actions and investments in the sector. In short order, we would hope that with the support of key elements of the international expert community, something along these lines – in a greatly improved version of course – will become standard practice in leading edge situations and institutions. We would hope to see the World Bank, the UN family, the European Union and leading edge bilateral, NGO and technical assistance originations both using and recommending this new approach.

Policy and practice implications:

A Fair Transport policy is going to bring about a new and at first possibly quite uncomfortable situations for the many public sector institutions and entrenched actors and interests involved in the sector. The sharpest indication of this is that the new policy is going to spawn not small numbers of very large projects– but rather will require a capacity to identify, plan, execute and support relatively large numbers of relatively small projects. This is going to require new attitudes and methods, and uncomfortable though that might be to the present generation of institutions and employees, it is the only way that we can make our way to Fair Transport.

Fair Transport Labeling

This is a proposal concerning which we would be grateful to have your comments:

Specifically, it presents a kind of eco-labeling concept that has certain similarities with Fairtrade labelling (see belw for a short defintion), but it is entirely focused on the idntication and support of concepts and programs that are able to meet or show meaningful pgress in terms of a ceratin number of specific performance and other social, economic and technical parameters.

Fairtrade labelling is a brand designed to allow consumers to identify goods which meet agreed standards. The system involves independent auditing of producers to ensure standards are met. Companies offering products that meet the standards are licensed to use the fair trade label. Standards are set by the independent NGO Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International on behalf of a number of national bodies for each type of product. Typically standards cover labor standards, environmental standards, and stable pricing.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairtrade (with some slight rearrangement)

Who/what qualifies:

  • Types of vehicles
  • Specific vehicles
  • Power and fuel sources
  • Transportation systems (such as LRT, BRT, paratransit, shared taxis, etc.)
  • Production systems
  • innovative programs (Local, regional, etc.)
  • Noteworthy individual contributions
  • Media/productions


  • Jacobs’ Rules (and that’s all!)

Organization and delivery:

So . . . here in closing is a small communications test for you.

“Fair” Characterized by honesty and justice : Free from fraud, injustice, prejudice, or favoritism : Open, frank, honest; hence equal, just, equitable, impartial., unprejudiced,” (Source: Webster’s Unabridged, 2nd edition)

Sustainability “- a systemic concept, relating to the continuity of economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human society. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society, its members and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals in a very long term. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighborhood to the entire planet (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainability)

* * *

Okay. Now let’s run a little test. Ask a sample of people what un-sustainable transport is and see what you get for an answer. Hmm.

Now ask what they think un-fair transport might be.

And while you will inevitably get some driver/owners who are loudly and righteously not very happy about getting stuck in congestion while buses and other forms of group transport whiz by in the reserved lanes (and as Enrique Peñalosa has so elegantly put it: “You don’t get it? They are SUPPOSED to scream) the answers that you will get from people waiting in the rain for a bus that may not come, someone in a wheelchair or bum knee trying to make their way to a transit stop, a guy living in the “wrong part of town”, a woman who is condemned to carry water and wood on her head as a beast of burden, someone who is fearful of exposure to a system which has proven itself to be unsafe, another who can ill afford the costs of car ownership but who today has no choice, and – surprise – someone like your suddenly aged mother or father who truly should not be behind a wheel, so ends up living a choice-poor life for those last hard years (and this long list goes on), you will get some pretty clear feedback to your question.

Sustainability is a state of mind. It is in truth a very pristine, very admirable concept. But when you want to get your message out it turns out to be extremely hard to explain to people, and even you have to be real smart and focused to figure out what it means. And no matter how desirable it may seem to be, at the end of the day it turns out to be looked on in most cases as a kind of almost ephemeral an option (and moreover one that based on past performance will only rarely be taken).

Fairness on the other hand is a necessary and I think pretty clearly recognizable condition of daily life in a well-working democratic society. Its intellectual ambiguity is close to zero. Fairness has a drum beat to it. It may have been an option in the past, but we are in the crowded 21st century, and things being what they are, it is moving toward the top of the list.

So let’s call if Fair Transport, and behind that what our best cut of Jacob’s Rule, and let’s get on with the important work at hand. I am confident that with all of us pitching in, we can make this a watertight case for new thinking and, more important yet, new practices and far better decisions. And would this not be making Mrs. Jacobs smile?