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Vale Paul Mees

Public transport thinker, researcher, educator and advocate Paul Mees died yesterday from cancer, aged 52. He made a major contribution to international understanding of transport.

Paul Mees in 1995

Paul Mees was best known publicly for his high-profile and tireless advocacy of public transport as president of the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) in Melbourne from 1993 to 2001. He was also familiar to many as a teacher and researcher at Melbourne University and subsequently at RMIT.

Less well known is his role as one of the world’s leading transport intellectuals and policy thinkers. He made his mark through numerous papers and presentations and two internationally influential books, A Very Public Solution: Transport in the Dispersed City (2000) and Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age (2010).

Here’s a fulsome profile of Paul written by Farah Farouque and published in The Age in 2008, Public provocateur. One of his successors as President of the PTUA, Daniel Bowen, posted a heart-felt tribute today on his blog. Update: more recent tributes at bottom.

There’ll be time later for a discussion about the immense contribution Paul made to the international discussion of transport and cities generally. For now, here’re some of the tributes posted on Twitter (latest first) that were in my feed. I think they convey the high esteem in which Paul was held and his valuable role in public life:

Taras Grescoe RIP Paul Mees, Melbourne transportation authority, and straight-talking transit guru, after a battle with cancer

Paula Gerber ‏Vale Paul Mees, Australia’s leading public transport & land use researcher. We have lost a brilliant mind.

Metro Trains Our condolences to family and friends of Paul Mees, former President PTUA, who died yesterday. A fierce advocate for public transport.

Lindy Burns RIP Paul Mees. Articulate, informed, unafraid. Grateful for all our conversations.

Paul Barter: ‏Paul Mees, Melbourne’s feistiest public transport advocate and academic died yesterday. Will be sorely missed.

Yarra Trams: ‏Condolences to the family of Dr Paul Mees. Thank you for being a strong advocate for public transport in Melbourne.

Andrew Lund: Sad to hear about Paul Mees’ death. A champion for public transport in Melbourne.

MaribTruckActionGrp: ‏Vale Paul Mees, a huge loss: A sane voice in a culture of hopeless myopia around transport policy in this city.

Greg Barber: ‏Paul Mees: a crusader who followed where the facts led & wouldn’t stop speaking the truth once he found it.

Scott Martin: I saw both sides of Paul Mees: the combatative side holding Spring St to account, but also the generous educator w/ rapier wit.

Leslie Cannold: ‏RIP Transport activist and RMIT academic Paul Mees. Dead from cancer at age 52.

MatthewGuyMP: ‏Sad news about the passing of Paul Mees. A warrior for public transport issues in Victoria for many years.

Yarra Council: ‏Vale Paul Mees, PTUA Secretary 1987-91, and President 1993-2001. You will be greatly missed.

MsKatieKatieKay: ‏Gutted to hear of Paul Mees’ passing. On transport, he was the voice of reason in an often crazy world. Vale.

Saint Star: ‏Farewell Dr Paul Mees. Uncompromising public transport advocate & Melbourne legend. Let’s win this one for Paul.

Geoff Barbaro: ‏Sometimes he ripped apart my crafted media releases, sometimes he was a colleague, always he was passionate & generous RIP Paul Mees.

Brian Wilson: sad to hear – I often copped his wrath in getting Eastlink up -but his logic, passion and commitment always commanded respect.

Rose Iser: ‏I’ll always remember the passion with which he spoke about train lines. He could have built a great city.

Kathleen Maltzahn: So so sad to hear that Paul Mees has died. An important, funny, visionary and fiercely intelligent man. Too young.

The Myki User: ‏Wow. Never met Paul Mees but as a fellow traveller I’m sure he’s standing under some clocks somewhere. Too young.

Julius Flywheel: ‏Vale Paul Mees, a great Melburnian. He Rode Chariots with Fire With respect from RMIT TRC alums.

Tony Morton: ‏Vale, Prof Paul Mees. An inspiration to a generation of sustainable transport advocates and a downright decent bloke. RIP.

Vaughan Williams: ‏Vale Dr Paul Andrew Mees 1961 – 2013. An intellectual powerhouse who taught me a lot & championed the cause to the last. RIP, Comrade.

Daniel Bowen: ‏Vale Paul Mees. RIP, comrade :-(

Dr Matthew Burke: ‏We just lost one of the greats. Paul Mees was imperious. Terribly sad day.

Jago Dodson: Vale Paul Mees, a dear friend & co-author. Australian urban planning has lost one of its most provocative and critical thinkers.

Chris Loader: ‏Vale Paul Mees, a fearless and passionate campaigner who inspired and challenged many.

PTUA: Word has reached us tonight of the passing of Paul Mees, PTUA Secretary 1987-91, President 1993-2001. A big loss. Paul you will be missed.

Update: Tributes to Paul Mees: Auckland Transport Blog; Matthew Burke; Jana at (Urban) Guerilla SemioticsClay LucasObituary in The Age; Editorial in The Age; CathNews: The socialist with rosary beads (with details of funeral); Jarrett Walker, Human Transit; Adjournment Speech by Senator Penny Wright

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  • 1
    luokehao
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I was taught by him in class a little.

    He was instructive, though I will admit that there is no way the high-density cities of Eurasia and the Americas will sustain themselves. They simply create a culture that is such a net consumer of resources and lowest-low fertility is the result.

    The very fact that Australia’s dreadfully polluting cities have much higher fertility than the compact cities of the Enriched World shows a lot is mismatched – primarily land conservation priorities which affect the supply of land.

    One recent study suggests that public conservation reserves in the low-diversity and (geologically) hypereutrophic European Union actually makes species and land conservation on a global scale much worse by encouraging clearing in Australia and Africa, whose soils are about four to five orders of magnitude older than all European soils.

    Thomas Berry suggests that fertility in net consumer nations (Eurasia, the Americas, New Zealand) will likely remain indefinitely at lowest-low levels no matter how large the population losses become, whilst fertility in the net producer nations of Australia and sub-Saharan Africa remains high.

  • 2
    Dudley Horscroft
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I met Paul when he came to Canberra many years ago to address the Sustainable Transport Group. Indeed a sad loss to the cause of good and sensible transport operations. RIP indeed.

    My condolences to his family, and the friends who knew him well.

  • 3
    Iain L
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    A substantial loss. Paul pursued the facts behind the rhetoric to bring clarity to often murky and misinformed debates. His writing was always clear, accurate and peppered with wit. He was a highly inspiring lecturer and sometime mentor. Thoughts and condolences to his family.

  • 4
    Stephen
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    A great advocate for the social values of trams and trains, tried his heart out to prevent Melbourne from becoming a city divided. Who can ever replace him?

  • 5
    Last name First name
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Parker alan OAM.
    Paul Mees knew that, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the UK had innovative public transport systems which could prevent road congestion and clean up Melbourne’s air. These seven countries with bicycle friendly road networks are safer for all road users because they integrate health, active transport and planning and intermodal bicycle/public transport planning practices.

    These proven European policy innovations work but Melbourne is years behind them and not catching up with these seven EU leaders. More trains and intermodal transport capital city planning is the only ways to reduce road deaths in Australia by around 600 road deaths a year. With more freeways road deaths will go up not down.

    Watching Paul on this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mvb2_s0oOhU his intellectual commitment and passion for sustainable transportation is still their during his last few day days. RIP Paul
     

  • 6
    Socrates
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Vale Paul Mees, a sad loss to our profession while so young.

    Paul’s intellect and creativity was considerable, but I will best remember him for his courage and determination in fighting for cities that better met the needs of their residents. Paul spoke his mind, and it was worth hearing.

    I can think of few people who have worked harder to make Australia a better place to live.

  • 7
    IkaInk
    Posted June 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Very sad to hear about Paul’s passing a few days later than most. He was a mentor, an excellent professor and I’d like to have hoped he would have become a friend had we had more opportunity to discuss our academic insights.

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