Why we need to reframe the rules of transportation design - Curbed

In 100 years, we haven’t been able to solve the safe streets problem. If we’re going to move the needle, the team at the transportation consulting firm Toole Design argues that we need to rethink the strategy behind street safety.

Since 1925, the transportation industry has been using a concept called the Three E’s—engineering, education, and enforcement—to guide decisions. Last week, Toole Design released a manifesto called “The New E’s of Transportation,” arguing that, instead, ethics, equity, and empathy should be the driving factors for all transportation decision making.

The conventional Three E’s approach, Toole’s manifesto states, “doesn’t provide the guidance or moral compass we need to plan, design, and build a transportation system for the 21st century.”

“Our job as transportation experts is to minimize travel, reduce the impact of travel, and improve the safety and efficiency of transportation infrastructure,” says Andrew Clarke, Toole Design’s director of strategy. “But the experts in engineering, education, and enforcement have lost track of that... When police see crashes as enforcement issues, when engineers see crashes as engineering issues, when planners see them as human behavior issues, they miss the bigger picture.”

Under the conventional approach, the Three E’s might look like redesigning intersections for the engineering component; “stop, look, and listen” public awareness campaigns for education; and ticketing drivers who speed (and pedestrians who jaywalk) for enforcement.

The problem with approaching safe streets from this siloed perspective is it doesn’t offer opportunities to think beyond prescribed solutions from each area of expertise. This leaves gaps in policy, conflicting priorities, and overlooked opportunities. For example, while many cities have policies for complete streets—streets that accommodate people of all abilities and modes of transportation—they often don’t build many of them. And many cities are widening highways and building new roads without investing as much in public transportation, perpetuating the cycle of congestion, car dependency, and traffic fatalities.

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