‘Getting a Quart into a Pint Pot’: Challenges facing Transport for London by Olivia Milne-Day

Urban transport networksBen Plowden, Director of Strategy and Planning at Transport for London (TfL) Surface Transport, gave a thought-provoking talk to our students on the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development. The talk focused on how TfL need to optimise urban transport networks for maximum social, economic and environmental benefits and how they plan to achieve this.

Ben set the scene by highlighting the enormity of the task with almost 2.4 billion passengers using London’s bus network every year, the equivalent to a third of the world’s population. As the number of road users continues to grow, TfL have to control congestion Continue reading

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‘Sustainability: A New Paradigm of Understanding?’ by Derek Wilson

(c) dr_zoidberg, on Flickr

(c) dr_zoidberg, on Flickr

Maintaining a balance between natural, economic, and social capital has already shown itself to be one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century. For hundreds of years, economic and social capital has grown by transforming environmental resources into more ‘useful’ forms. Given that natural capital is finite, this growth is unsustainable by definition, and we are now beginning to observe the limits of this growth as our global environment comes under mounting pressure. Continue reading

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Unlocking Urban Political Economies through the Sharing Economy by Nihan Akyelken

(c) Simon Cockell, on Flickr

(c) Simon Cockell, on Flickr

The sharing economy broadly refers to access-based consumption or people renting their unused goods with others mainly through the use of information technologies (IT). The newly emerging practices are particularly favoured on environmental grounds due to their role in the utilisation of unused sources. The examples of such practices are most evident in transport and hospitality sectors. AirBnB, car clubs, cycle hire schemes, ‘Uber’-like taxi-hire, are clear everyday life examples in cities. As with all emerging forms of consumption, there is no consensus on what sharing or collaborative consumption implies for the economy. In his book The Zero Marginal Cost, Jeremy Rifkin argues that the marginal cost of producing an extra unit of input becomes (close to) zero through IT-based consumption practices. This in turn makes profit-making cease to exist, which might create another crisis for capitalism. While the argument has led to a broad range of negative and positive responses and is therefore not conclusive, it is still crucial to extrapolate the future implications of this current move towards services. Even a massive industry with a long-term vision such as car manufacturing has openly recognised this trend, and they provide alternatives to car ownership through several sharing services. It is clearly an appropriate question to ask what could be the long-term impact of replacing buying goods by buying services or exchanging goods through the use of IT. Continue reading

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‘Report on Workshop “African Dreams”, University of Oxford, 8 June 2015’ by Idalina Baptista

(c) Arne Hoel / World Bank via Flickr

(c) Arne Hoel / World Bank via Flickr

Last June we had the pleasure of hosting here in Oxford the research workshop African Dreams: Imaginations of urban life and infrastructure in the African metropolis. The event was organized with the support of Oxford’s John Fell Fund, the African Studies Centre, the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities, our own Sustainable Urban Development programme, and the generosity of Mozambican photographer Mauro Pinto, who lent his work to illustrate our event.

The main purpose of the workshop was to take infrastructure as a focal point for discussing the future of urbanization in the African continent, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 2010 report by the World Bank Continue reading

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‘Dubai: Between Smartness and Identity’ by Jameel Karaki, MSc student

(c) Paolo Margarl via Flickr

(c) Paolo Margarl via Flickr

From a small undeveloped region on the shores of the Arabian Gulf in 1950, Dubai became a fast-growing modern city, a popular destination for tourism and a major economic centre. After years of implementing development plans and policies, Dubai aims to become a ‘Smart City’ ahead of hosting of the 2020 World Expo.

Consequently in April 2013, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) announced the transfer Continue reading

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‘Experiences of urban energy in an African city’ by Dr Idalina Baptista, Short Courses Director

(c) bittegitteAwareness of climate change has raised a collective sense of urgency in recent years about the need to transform energy consumption patterns in order to reduce oil dependency. For some commentators, urban livelihoods in advanced economies of the global ‘North’ will probably have to adopt strategies that Continue reading

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‘Boris’s New Cycle Super Highways’ by Dr Matthew Hardy, MSc lecturer

https://www.flickr.com/photos/krystenn/5209035633/in/photostream/

(c) Krysten Newby

The proposal by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, for North-South and East-West protected cycle tracks has drawn attention to cycle danger reduction in the UK, an area in which the country lags behind best practice. Cycling in London has doubled in the last 10 years, but research by Transport for London (TfL) suggests that this is merely existing cyclists making more trips. The same report identifies the Continue reading

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‘Critical Thinking Beyond the Bubble and Bonfires’ by Dr David Howard

Beyond.the.BubbleThe new cohort for our MSc Sustainable Urban Development have completed their first  teaching week on ‘Concepts of the City and the Environment’, and are just revving up to submit their initial class paper. Research proposals for the current second-year are being reviewed by supervisors, and the dissertations of the outgoing cohort, ranging from analyses of public space in the Bronx to affordable cooking stoves in Port-au-Prince, are currently being assessed by the Examiners. It’s all go!

More welcome advances in this fifth year of ‘SUD’ at Oxford are the launch of the DPhil programme; the creation of a short course on Financing Sustainability; equal numbers of women and men balancing out the MSc arrivals and the launch of a new annual public lecture in London.

This year for the inaugural lecture, hosted at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, we’re delighted to invite Alex Hilton, Director of Generation Rent, to deliver his talk on ‘Beyond the Bubble’. Alex and his colleagues have been active in voicing and campaigning for affordable housing, and it will be a pleasure to hear his views. Alex will outline his concerns about how Britain’s economy is being damaged by a housing market that is out of control. He will draw the connections between Continue reading

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‘News from Nowhere? Sustainable urban development, resilience and utopia’ by Drs Idalina Baptista, David Howard and Johanna Waters

Morris_Snakeshead_printed_textile_1876_v_2

Snakeshead printed cotton designed by William Morris (1876) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William Morris’s fantasy utopian novel, News from Nowhere, set at the turn of the 22nd century, has been heralded as a ‘manual’ for sustainable living, community building and societal progress. Irrespective of locality or region, Morris sets out the development goals for a socialist society in a revolutionary millennium that places the individual as central to the collective good. The significance and influence of News from Nowhere (1891) is thus not bounded by the Thames Valley in which his socialist vision evolves, but reflects more substantively on globalisation and urban development.

The text forms the starting point for a forthcoming panel at the Continue reading

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‘Questioning forms of governance in Kingston, Jamaica’ by Dr David Howard MSc course director and lecturer

Kingston - Jamaica (c)  Nicolas OrenStereotypes of Caribbean societies tend to focus more towards beach and weather matters, and cultural skills in the recording studio or on sports fields. Caribbean societies, however, are among the most urbanised, and arguably violent, places on earth. United Nations and World Bank reports over the last five years have systematically revealed urban violence to be the major Continue reading

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