New roads are not always the solution


A set of two conferences took place this week under the title “Towards a Roadmap for Sustainable cities in the MENA Region”. At AUB, a panel of experts debated “Which sustainable transportation or smart mobility concepts for the MENa countries?

Composed of Johnny Ojeil, from ARUP, Tarek Rakha, PhD candidate at MIT and Hans-Ulrich Fuhrke, consultant and project director for sustainable urban transport, the panel discussed (among other things) the necessity of public transport V/S new roads and highways.

Some interesting observations were :

  • A 1% increase in the effectiveness of the infrastructure would have 7 times larger impacts on the economic growth than 1% investment in the [construction of new] infrastructure
  • Wider economic benefits can be achieved by shifting users more efficiently between existing infrastructures
  • Investing in alternative modes of transport results in more benefits than expending highways to reduce congestion

What more must be said for the Municipality of Beirut and the CDR to understand they need to change their all-car policies? What more must be done for them to understand that the tens of millions of dollars of public money that would be spent on the Foud Boutros highway, would be much more useful and benefitial for the city if they were spent on the optimisation of the existing infrastructure and on public transport systems?

A summary of the conferences can be found here (in french) :
Repenser sa ville pour réinventer son avenir

« Ces leaders doivent avoir le courage d’aller au-delà des problèmes quotidiens pour initier une véritable révolution, sans se laisser intimider par les groupes d’intérêts. Il faut s’assurer que l’approche envisagée est globale, ajoute-t-il. Si on se limite à une approche sectorielle, les solutions resteront lacunaires. Cette approche intégrée est plus efficace qu’une série de solutions qui peuvent se révéler contradictoires.”
Nicola Da Schio, Specialiste en environnement urbain, Science Po Paris

« Il faut tout d’abord un transport public décent, efficace, ponctuel et peu polluant. Il serait utile de rendre l’entrée des voitures individuelles dans la ville plus difficile. Beaucoup de zones seraient favorisées si elles devenaient piétonnes, notamment les centres-villes.”
Nadim Farjallah, directeur de recherche, Institut Issam Fares

It would have been great to hear Dr. Bilal Hamad, mayor of Beirut, teacher at AUB, or Elie Helou, project manager at the CDR, defend in front of such a panel an obsolete highway cutting right through the existing fabric of central Beirut…


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