How We Learn Public Transportation and Infrastructure Lessons

"Who do you learn from?" is a question that transportation planners, particularly in the United States, should ask themselves.

March 27, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


New York Subway Stairs

Fancycrave.com / Pexels

Alon Levy argues that countries in Europe and Asia look for lessons about transportation planning from a range of places in contrast to the approach of English-speaking countries that tend to operate in a closed network.

"Rather, the shared characteristics in the Anglosphere seem to be that these countries mostly learn from each other. The idea of road pricing was introduced to the world by the Smeed Report in 1962-4, then actually implemented in Singapore in 1975, then failed to make it to Hong Kong, then got back to London in 2003, and only then became a well-known idea in the American discourse," says Levy.

Levy uses the current coronavirus epidemic as an analogy by pointing out that Asian countries learned response lessons quickly from each other, while the United States and European countries have been slow to follow. In the case of transportation planning, Anglosphere countries choose to value their experiences and knowledge over those of other countries, Levy asserts.

“Senior management in big American cities does not understand anything about how things work in other countries, nor do the managers have any social relationships with their peers abroad. Domestically, and sometimes even across the northern border, it’s different – a senior manager in New York has gone to national conferences and met peers from Los Angeles and Chicago and Boston and Seattle and probably also Toronto. A best practices effort that’s restricted to North America empowers such managers,” says Levy.

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