- Published on Thursday, 22 March 2012 12:18
- Written by IVM
Startle report (preliminary)
Andrés Borthagaray (Buenos Aires, 22/01/2012)
Paris is an emblematic case for several reasons. First, there is the role it plays, with its region, as a benchmark for the legitimacy of arguments, sometimes with the same examples illustrating opposed positions. Then as a permanent laboratory of ideas, for forward-looking projects, public power and the force of its political debate and as a generator of ideas.
For this reason, the context and case presentations are a source of surprise.
We clearly see an approach that is provocative in the right sense, strongly argued, paradoxes and critical views on a system which, seen from a distance, fails to take a sufficiently contextual perspective on what already exists. In other words, we can understand that the public transport system offers all sorts of reasons for wanting change. But this draws attention to the fact that there is insufficient awareness of its qualities. It is taken so much for granted that people forget what would happen if it didn’t exist.
From an outsider’s perspective, the public influence of institutions such as the RATP and le STIF, the advances in the guide network, the frequency of service, the coverage, the developments and even the connection between discourse and action, with its excesses, are all factors that attract attention. Especially when all this is being observed from a country where transport provision comes essentially from concessions managed by private players, where regulatory agencies generally do not have the same influence, where employees do not necessarily enjoy the same scale of welfare benefits.
The value of quality of service is relative, and from this point of view we expected, within our interpretive framework, that it would be more positive than the assessments suggest. Once again, one can understand the reasons why the inhabitants of inner Paris and their metropolitan neighbours may have objections, either to the system or to the measures taken for its future. But even though the residents of the suburbs may have been somewhat neglected with regard to restrictions on the car, they do not seem to have voted against the parties that promoted these policies. Of course, it is difficult to identify how much of a role mobility policies play in the election, but the connections between measures and principles in the political sphere do not necessarily lead us to the same conclusions.
True, car restriction policies have been characterised, in Paris as elsewhere, by a shift in priority from vehicle traffic flows to the landscape and non-motorised forms of travel. But also to transverse traffic flows. And the inability to find a parking space or driving space is partly explained by the Urban Transport Plans, but we would have made more of the impact of the self-restriction of car use in response to density. It seems to be slightly more a general feature of dense city centres than in itself the outcome of restrictive policy in Paris.
As regards the debate on a plan that is somewhat sparse in communication terms, compared with one that is more comprehensible, we would have thought that within the context of advanced development, the second would not necessarily come out a winner, even in the short term. Ultimately, the critiques directed by stakeholders at the system of governance are closer to those of other cities than the differences in context would lead us to believe.