My Dinner with Corrado

Last week, I had the delightful opportunity join a small group for dinner with Corrado Poli (warning, it’s in Italian). Poli is a professor of “Economics and Environmental Ethics” in Padua. He is in the U.S. on a fellowship at Johns Hopkins to do an English translation of his book “Rivoluzione Traffica” (Traffic Revolution).

Poli also spoke at a brown bag session at Metro. Some of the highlights of his ideas:

  • The most livable cities in Europe are in the range of 50-500K in population (everything is bigger in the U.S., so he says Portland at 550K is not too big yet).
  • Vancouver, BC is an example of what North American cities should be like. Portland is not a North American city (i.e., it’s more like a European city).
  • We don’t live in a mass society, why do we build transportation systems that assume everyone has the same travel behavior?
  • Traffic Inflation (what we would call induced demand)

He is also the founder of an interesting ridesharing system called “Poli Cars” (not from his name – or so he says – but from the Greek root “polis”). The system uses a central registration system and communication via SMS to provide a sort of “hitchhiking with trust”. When you give or accept a ride from another system member, this gets registered to create accountability. Interesting…

8 responses to “My Dinner with Corrado”

  1. Can someone please define livable?

    I particularly liked Vancouver’s average house price of 12 times annual income. (Portland is around six and the normal multiple is average is around three.) Un-affaordable to any but the rich. see

    Is this a good place to copy? Well, I guess it is if you want to devastate the middle class.


  2. Chris Smith Jim, can you imagine that we might find good things to emulate that aren’t related to housing costs?
    JK: You never know, one should always be on the lookout for good ides, but I would choose to look first where the housing is affordable, jobs plentiful, schools good and streets uncongested.

    My limited understanding of Vancouver BC is that:

    * They have lost housing affordability.
    * They have worse traffic congestion than we do.
    * Now Randal O’Toole tells me that “British Columbia is 40 percent larger than Texas and has one tenth the population, so you can see why they adopted a smart-growth plan: they are worried about running out of open space.” Also see his blog at – yesterday was about Vancouver.
    * The good news is that, apparently, the don’t shovel money to developers like we do here.


  3. In fact, the way they negotiate amenities with developers is very much something I think Portland should adopt.

    But I also like the way they protect the agricultural land surround their city.

  4. Was Poli saying that mass transit is a bad idea because the masses don’t all have the same transport patterns?

    How does he explain transit overcrowding, then?

    Or, is he making reference to the masses who don’t ride transit because it doesn’t work for *them*?

  5. jim: except that most of British Columbia is not flat like Texas is. British Columbia is mostly mountainous and hilly and therefore not suitable for paving over as is advocated by freeway fundamentalists.

  6. Chris Smith writes: “I think he was saying we need a variety of approaches (including things like his Poli Cars).”

    That makes lots of sense. Some of us have been saying that here for years in one way or another. Now lets open the market to get there.

    Buses, jitneys, ride sharing taxis, shuttle services. What else can we think of?

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