Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Building Sustainable Cities and The New York Times Energy Conference

I am very excited about being a speaker at The New York Times EnergyForTomorrow Conference with the theme Building Sustainable Cities that will take place next month, April 25, 2013.

I will be speaking in the session on Transportation and Traffic.

The agenda is thrilling as are the speakers that will be taking part.  I will certainly be in great company!

I hope to bring an international perspective to the discussions on transportation and traffic given my experiences as an academic and as a globe trotter.

For  the past three weeks I have been back in Europe -- working as a Visiting Professor at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg and  living again in glorious Sweden, with a 4 day diversion in Vienna, Austria, where I lectured on perishable product supply chains in healthcare and also instructed an intensive short course Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare.

The Nordic countries, and even Austria, are advancing their focus on sustainability and have implemented transportation policies that are working.

For example, Stockholm's congestion pricing scheme, which originated in January 2006,  has been deemed a success, as my colleagues at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm have shown rigorously in their published research.

Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, just this past January instituted a congestion tax or toll and having been here in October and now,  I can see a concrete difference in term,s of the traffic reduction. My colleagues tell me how thousands of citizens who own cars were mailed coupons for free public transport for two weeks and have altered their travel behavior. More are coming into the center city to shop on weekends since there is free parking offered in certain parking garages and in the evenings.

Since I teach transportation and logistics (among other network-based courses) at the Isenberg School of Management,  tolls are a topic that I am very familiar with, especially since my dissertation advisor at Brown University, Professor Stella Dafermos, had contributed to the literature on this topic even back in the 1970s!
What a brilliant mind she had and the operations research community lost a female genius when she died at age 49.

While in Vienna,  I was impressed by the red and black trams/trolleys snaking through the city! Also, the parking charges there are so steep (and one can park on streets for only two hours) that many elect to take public transport instead -- using, typically, a combination of modes for commuting.

In fact, none of the students in my class in Vienna had driven a car that morning-- all had taken public transport, or had bicycled, or had walked to the university.

The photos below were taken in Gothenburg and demonstrate the different modes of transport that I (and many others) avail ourselves of. Without transportation there is no mobility and no logistics (just imagine  supply chains without transportation -- a topic of my previous post) -- it's not just about the network topologies but how our critical infrastructure is utilized!

The top photo was provided by one of my wonderful hosts, Professor Jonas Floden, who has also driven me in the above golf cart on the island where he lives and where cars are banned!