In a two-minute AITPM video news item from 2017, we quoted Brent Toderian who had been a keynote speaker at our Melbourne National Conference. He said that to plan transport you have to understand people.
This led to thinking about how engineers and people in strongly numerate professions might broaden their understanding of people’s behaviour. One way would be to look at art and literature.
Later in this newsletter we have a book review from Ray Brindle. He reviewed a novel that was set in the future when artificial intelligence had developed, and totally autonomous vehicles are now dominant. Ray is a person of significance in transport planning and management, now retired from a career of thorough researcher, deep thinker and passionate advocate for looking for an applying what can be shown to be right.
We had some correspondence about engineers and planners having some elements of a broad education. One of his emails detailed how a person and their approach had a major impact on his education:
Back in my day as an engineering under-grad at Melbourne, Prof Moorhouse introduced final year “culture” units (recorder lessons, life drawing – very popular! – art gallery tours etc.) and you may know that Jim Webber, an engineer from Melbourne, runs overseas guided tours of fine architecture and art.
“Moorhouse was a Melbourne graduate who rose through the ranks of the newly-created electrical engineering dept. in the forties and was dean during my years in the sixties. His attempts to broaden engineers dated from his early years:
“In 1954, Professor Moorhouse, who thought that engineering students should have the opportunity to study a wider range of subjects, pioneered the introduction of non-technical topics into engineering courses.
“Subjects from literature, history, geography and the arts were introduced alongside technical subjects to counteract the perception that engineering courses were too insular (from https://electrical.eng.unimelb.edu.au/about/history/ ) A man after your own heart?
New Demands on the use of footpaths
Are we getting ready for how our footpaths that will take on many more activities in the future?
At the SEC trade event (fast becoming the place that car companies show new technology rather than traditional car shows) there were a number of new developments.
Segway overpromised and underdelivered with their initial products but now they have a gyroscopically controlled chair.
The thing I like about it is that for people with a disability is that, at last, it looks elegant. Most wheelchairs have all the elegance of leg braces as shown in Forest Gump Movie.
But it is being marketed on principle of first mile/last mile usage for able bodied people.
AITPM member Brian Smith from WSP has had an on-going concern with the new demands on using our footpaths. His is his initial thoughts on what the Segway chair might mean.
I'm watching developments like this with keen interest.
New mobility developments like this, surface delivery drones (already slated to use the footpath in some US cities), share bikes and scooters; and ride-share services like Uber and Lyft are set to put increasing pressure on footpaths and the kerbside.
However, footpaths and kerbs are typically treated like leftover space and we don't really understand well the role they have in making places work; or manage them with clear functional objectives in mind. And so we fail to think about future needs and challenges.
Take Woniora Road in Hurstville NSW. Over the past decade land use along the railway line has changed from low-rise commercial development employing hundreds to high density residential adding thousands to the population. Yet the footpath built to minimum standards hasn't been widened at all, despite the likely addition of many hundreds of additional pedestrian movements.
We need to do a lot better, and to start thinking about what space devices like this balancing chair should occupy (there is talk of the need for a 'third speed' lane for devices like this, cycles and scooters) - and indeed what problems they are intended to solve.
Railways could be drone delivery corridors
In the past, some transport fundamentalists have focused on the mode of transport - The answers a tram now what is the question?
But there is an increasing understanding that we need corridors first and how we use them will evolve in the future.
One problem with drone delivery is that it could create corridors in the sky with concerns about safety, noise, and privacy.
One way to do at least a significant part of the drone journey without causing too much ruckus, is to fly the drones above a railway corridor. Although what happens at tunnels needs some thought!!