Informal Public Transport in Practice

New book published September 18, 2015: Informal Public Transport in Practice

Transport discourse often concentrates on what is missing from transport policy and practice in developing countries vis-à-vis high-income countries rather than articulating local creativity in responding to transport needs as revealed in informal public transport modes such as matatu, motorcycle, bicycle and animal transport. This book helps to correct some of the tendency of inadequate contextualization of knowledge, technology and practice learning and transfer from one setting to another in transport and other development programmes. While countries such as Kenya have ambitions to develop their transport systems to fit into the globalized transport system, they also need to plan transport for ordinary life in both urban and rural areas.

The matatu service, provided by privately-owned transport carriers, can be seen as a mirror of the life of Kenya, revealing how indigenous African entrepreneurship and capitalism straddles various economic, political and social systems. This book offers a phenomenological and situated analysis of the matatu entrepreneurship in the political economy of Kenya and its embeddedness in society. By adopting a social science approach, this book highlights a number of political, social and practical issues to demonstrate the matatu is not a decontextualized, disembodied and lifeless piece of moving metal carrying people and goods but rather part of a self-organizing industry, with its own logic of practice.

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Paris Is Sharing Electric Cars by the Thousand. Will It Play in Indianapolis?

By Carol Matlack, BloombergBusiness

An electric car share called Autolib’ has been a hit in Paris, with more than 3,300 of its distinctive silver hatchbacks cruising the streets or recharging at curbside stands. Users can pick up a car at any of nearly 1,000 stands, then drop it off at a stand near their destination, for as little as 20¢ a minute. No surprise, then, that London and other cities outside France have looked at replicating the four-year-old program.

What may be more surprising is that the first city to take the plunge  is Indianapolis.

Its BlueIndy car share, backed by the same French company that runs Autolib’, was launched on Sept. 2 with an initial fleet of 52 cars, which will expand to 500, with 200 recharging stations planned. BlueIndy’s general manager, Scott Prince, says demand has “exceeded our expectations,” with more than 500 people signing up in the first two weeks. BlueIndy users register on its website, then can opt for a one-time rental costing $8 for the first 8 minutes and 40¢ a minute after that, or a weekly, monthly, or annual membership offering per-minute costs as low as 20¢.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has said he’s “delighted to welcome BlueIndy as a clean, affordable transit option” for residents and visitors to Indiana’s capital, which like many midsize U.S. cities doesn’t have much mass transit. Ballard ponied up $6 million in city funds to top off the $41 million being spent on the program by Groupe Bolloré, the French manufacturer of the four-seat, battery-powered cars, which have a range of 150 miles between recharges.

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‘Let’s Have Some Music’: Sound, Gender and Car Mobility

‘Let’s Have Some Music’: Sound, Gender and Car Mobility by Gordon Waitt, Theresa Harada, and Michelle Duffy is available at


This paper draws on a visceral approach to explore the role of sound/music for people who drive cars. We examine the ways in which gendered subjectivities emerge from the pleasures associated with listening to sound/music during short car trips. The first part of the paper reviews the recent literature on ‘feelings for cars’. We highlight why gender is often absent from the literature before offering a conceptual lens drawing on geographical feminist thinking to consider sound/music, feelings, gender and mobility. We draw on driving ethnographies to explore the role of sound/music in how gender is assembled with the flow of connections between bodies, spaces and affects/emotions. Considering the contextual pleasures of listening to sound/music on these trips and emergent gender subjectivities we provide a more nuanced interpretation of why people choose to drive cars. To conclude, we point to the implications for applied research for new context-specific transport and climate change policy.


UN Secretary-General appoints Head of ITF as Advisor on Sustainable Transport

ITF Secretary-General José Viegas has been appointed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport.

The High-Level Advisory Group was established in 2014 to provide the UN Secretary-General with actionable policy recommendations on sustainable transport on national, local and sectoral levels, and to promote the integration of sustainable transport both in development strategies and climate action. The group has a three-year mandate. It will next convene during the COP21 climate change negotiations in Paris, France, in December of this year

Said José Viegas:

“This appointment is a reflection of the growing relevance of ITF’s analyses for the global transport policy debate. Being represented in the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Group is cause for pride for ITF as much as a reason to reinforce our efforts.”

“This is a pivotal year for integrating transport policy into the wider debate on the future of our planet. The UN Sustainable Development Summit in September and the COP21 climate change conference in Paris in December will lay the tracks for future policy direction. ITF will bring relevant, evidence-based insights to the table and support in every way it can Secretary-General Ban’s holistic approach that includes the transport dimension in shaping responses to issues such as climate change and human development.”

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The road less traveled: Americans cutting down on daily trips

Americans spend 10 percent less time making trips for daily activities than they did a decade ago, says a University of Michigan researcher.

In another in a series of reports that examines recent motorization trends in the U.S., Michael Sivak of the U-M Transportation Research Institute says that the average time spent traveling per day for all activities dropped from 1.23 hours in 2004 to 1.11 hours in 2014.

In an earlier report, Sivak found that 2004 was the peak year in terms of distance driven per person, which has been on the decline since then. In the current study, Sivak looks at total travel time for persons 15 and older, using all modes of travel—not just driving a vehicle. The data came from the American Time Use Survey, a representative nationwide survey.

Activities for which average travel time has decreased since 2004 include dining out (eating and drinking), shopping (purchasing goods and services), caring for and helping non-household members, work, education, and leisure and sports.

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Pocket-sized personal transporters could soon be seen on the streets of Tokyo