The New E’s of Transportation
It’s time to break down silos and build a values-based approach to creating 21st century streets.
The transportation industry has spent 100 years planning, designing, and building streets that favor one form of travel – the automobile – above all others.
The result is streets that are unsafe and uncomfortable for people walking, biking, and taking the bus; cities that are clogged with traffic; and air pollution that is contributing to climate change.
It’s time to change the way we do business.
This is a dynamic time to be working in transportation. Technology is transforming travel options almost daily, and demographic trends are fundamentally altering people’s travel needs and expectations.
The transportation profession is struggling to manage the challenges created by these momentous changes, and we are not delivering improvements for the safety or comfort of the most vulnerable road users. The number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed each year on our roadways is increasing despite the availability of proven safety countermeasures and the growing popularity of Vision Zero policies.
We are locked into an approach to problem-solving that is defined by siloed professional disciplines that have been with us for almost a century.
The conventional Three E’s approach of engineering, education, and enforcement, first introduced in 1925, doesn’t provide the guidance or moral compass we need to plan, design, and build a transportation system for the 21st century. We must look beyond traditional professional disciplines and across conventional boundaries to make our streets safe and comfortable for everyone.
It’s time for a new approach to transportation that is centered on the values we want to see reflected in our communities. We need to view transportation as the vital means of attaining health, happiness and fulfillment, not as an end in itself.
It’s time for a new set of E’s.
THE NEW E’s OF TRANSPORTATION
We need to center our work on values that create a more equitable society where everyone has safe and efficient access to jobs, services, shops, schools, and family and friends.
We cannot be content to follow warrants, models, and outdated formulas that maintain the status quo.
We cannot justify adding vehicle capacity and designing for speed with one hand while promising to deliver Vision Zero with the other.
The conventional approach of relying on engineering, education, and enforcement is no longer enough to ensure that our streets meet the needs of the 21st century.
A FOCUS ON VALUES
Ultimately, the new E’s we have chosen to guide us reflect core values that break down the barriers between planning, design, and engineering. They align our work with public safety officials, policy makers, and the communities we serve.
Looking to the new E’s is helping us confront the limitations of a century-old approach to transportation planning and design that is no longer fit for our society’s needs. Internal discussions have focused us on values and a human-centered approach to building community; this is what inspires our staff, better serves our clients, and it’s what will move our profession forward.
The values inherent in ethics, equity, and empathy should guide every planner, every urban designer, and every engineer involved in shaping our cities, regardless of where they work. We must embrace these values if we are to change the status quo and create transportation systems that are safe, efficient, equitable, and sustainable for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.
Toole Design is committed to being a part of that transformation. Below, you’ll find commentary from my colleagues about the values that will guide our profession into the future.
I hope you will join us in this important conversation.
President, Toole Design
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The New E’s Podcast
Where did the Three E’s come from? How has this paradigm shaped the world of transportation planning, design, and engineering? What will it take to change the systems we have in place to make decisions about the future of our streets?
In the first episode of the New E’s of Transportation podcast, Jennifer Toole sat down with Andy Clarke, Director of Strategy for Toole Design, and Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the Vision Zero Network, to talk about how to break free of professional silos and change the way that transportation professionals think about their work. The discussion centers on how the conventional approach cannot deliver safe transportation systems, and why an approach grounded in a people-focused, multidisciplinary approach is necessary to create 21st century solutions to mobility challenges.
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For a long time, its been very professionalized, and everyone has their own world – you’ve got your engineers, police, and policy makers, and we’ve unwittingly become very siloed.
Leah Shahum, Executive Director – Vision Zero Network
Where did the Three E’s come from?
The transportation profession has been using the Three E’s of engineering, education, and enforcement since the early days of the National Safety Council in 1925, when it was adopted from industrial engineering practices to manage the rise of the automobile in city planning and infrastructure investment.
The transportation profession must accept increased personal responsibility for the outcomes of our work. It will be challenging, but it is our ethical duty to hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public while we solve mobility challenges for all users.
– Bill Schultheiss, P.E., Vice President, Director of Sustainable Safety on why Ethics should be a New E of Transportation
The beauty of our profession is that we have the tools to help people connect and move freely. Yet we often fail to acknowledge that this profession—and those same tools—have been used to keep people apart and stifle mobility. To make transportation equitable, we must commit to addressing historical and present-day inequities as we move together towards mobility justice.
– Tamika Butler, Esq, Director of Planning, California | Director of Diversity and Inclusion on why Equity should be a New E of Transportation.
Empathy—listening to others openly and with compassion— allows us to truly understand people’s needs and set aside our own biases. Empathy is essential to accomplish our work in a way that’s centered on the people who use our transportation systems each day.
– Kristen Lohse, ASLA, Senior Urban Designer on why Empathy should be a New E of Transportation
Why These E’s?
These E words are a reflection of the values that must underpin the work we do in the transportation world. But while we believe that ethics, equity, and empathy are essential to changing the status quo, they are not the only E’s that could serve this purpose.
To achieve a transportation network based on human-centered design, we must be moved by emotion to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can joyfully experience places built for them. Our concept for the future must start with people’s vision of their own community, not what’s left over after we’ve accommodated the needs of motor vehicle traffic.
There are other words that fit with the “E” theme. Tackling environmental challenges of climate change, energy supply, and pollution is an ethical imperative. The promise of accessing economic opportunities is an essential part of broader equity conversations. And a commitment to engagement is integral to bringing genuine empathy to our professional duties.
Ultimately, the words we use here must reflect the human values that we wish to see in our transportation network. Only then will we be able to plan, design, and engineer change for 21st century streets that serve everyone.