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Approaching transformative futures: Discourse and practice in Swedish national transport policy and planning
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies. VTI Swedish Road and Transport Research Institute.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6846-2381
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis concerns the need to transform the transport system to meet climate mitigation objectives. It provides insights into how specific approaches and practices in transport policy and planning affect prospects for transformation. It focuses on specific practices and knowledge perspectives in policy and planning, exploration of future uncertainty, and the scope and agency attributed to planning for influencing the future development of the transport system. The empirical interest is directed towards contemporary Swedish national transport policy and planning, analyzed in four articles: organization and procurement of physical planning of road and rail investments (Article 1), an emerging discursive framing of digitalized, 'smart' accessibility (Article 2), the approach to future uncertainty in the national investment plan for transport infrastructure 2018-2029 (Article 3), and an inter-agency collaboration on a plan for a fossil-free transformation of the transport system (Article 4).

The thesis follows a qualitative research approach based on a social constructivist and poststructuralist understanding of knowledge as socially constructed and sustained. To highlight the influence of practice and knowledge perspectives on understandings of the future development of the transport system and conditions for transformation, a Foucauldian discursive approach is applied. This approach emphasizes reciprocal dependency between discourse and practice.

Results make evident that Swedish national transport planning and policy is largely characterized by a ‘conventional’ approach with dominant quantitative practices and knowledge perspectives, through which the future is mainly portrayed as a continuation of the historical development. The studies show that this approach strongly influence how the transport system and prospects for transformation are understood and described. The thesis illustrates tendencies to avoid issues of future uncertainty, and how this is taken as an argument for not exploring alternative development directions. Consequently, opportunities to influence future development are portrayed as limited. This has a restrictive effect on the conditions for transformation. However, the thesis also shows contexts where future uncertainty is considered as a basic planning condition, which justifies exploration of opportunities for transformation by broader practices and knowledge perspectives.

Overall, the thesis makes visible ways in which specific practices and knowledge perspectives exert significant influence over which choices regarding future pathways that are presented to the public and decision makers. A central conclusion regards a need for a more politically oriented discussion on what knowledge and practices in transport policy and practice that are relevant and fit for purpose in the light of the climate mitigation challenge as well as other societal objectives.

Abstract [sv]

Denna avhandling tar sin utgångspunkt i behovet av omställning av transportsystemet för att möta politiskt uppställda klimatmål. Den bidrar med insikter om hur specifika förhållningssätt och praktiker i policy och planering inom transportområdet påverkar förutsättningar för omställning. Fokus riktas mot specifika praktiker och kunskapsperspektiv, hur aspekter av framtida osäkerhet i utvecklingen hanteras, och vilken roll som planering antas kunna spela i den framtida utvecklingen av transportsystemet. Avhandlingens empiriska intresse riktas mot samtida svensk nationell transportpolicy och -planering, som analyseras genom fyra delstudier: organisering och upphandling av fysisk planering av väg och järnväg (artikel 1), en framväxande diskursiv förståelse av digitaliserad, ’smart’ tillgänglighet (artikel 2), förhållningssätt till framtida osäkerhet i Nationell plan för transportsystemet 2018-2029 (artikel 3), samt ett myndighetsgemensamt utarbetande av en plan för omställning av transportsystemet till fossilfrihet, populärt benämnt SOFT (artikel 4).

Avhandlingen följer en kvalitativ forskningsansats grundad i en socialkonstruktivistisk och poststrukturalistisk syn på kunskap som socialt konstruerad och upprätthållen. För att belysa praktikers och kunskapsperspektivs inflytande över förståelser av transportsystemets framtida utveckling och förutsättningar för omställning tillämpas en Foucauldiansk diskursiv ansats. Denna ansats betonar ett ömsesidigt beroende mellan diskurs och praktik.

Resultaten visar att svensk nationell transportplanering och policy i hög grad präglas av ett så kallat ’konventionellt’ förhållningssätt till transportsystemet, med dominerande kvantitativa praktiker och kunskapsperspektiv genom vilka framtiden i huvudsak framställs som en fortsättning på den historiska utvecklingen. Studierna i avhandlingen visar att detta förhållningssätt får stort inflytande över hur transportsystemet och förutsättningar för omställning förstås och beskrivs. Avhandlingen visar på tendenser att undvika osäkerhet om framtiden, och hur detta tas som argument för att inte utforska alternativa utvecklingsriktningar och anspråk på framtiden. En konsekvens är att möjligheter att påverka utvecklingen framställs som begränsade. Avhandlingen visar dock också på sammanhang där framtida osäkerhet beaktas som en grundläggande planeringsförutsättning, vilket motiverar utforskande av möjligheter till omställning utifrån bredare praktiker och kunskapsperspektiv.

Sammantaget synliggör avhandlingen att specifika praktiker och kunskapsperspektiv har betydande inflytande över vilka vägval kring transportsystemets framtid som presenteras för allmänheten och beslutsfattare. En slutsats är att detta inflytande, i kombination med de kontrasterande praktiker och kunskapsperspektiv som präglar olika planeringssammanhang, motiverar en tydligare politiskt orienterad diskussion om vilken kunskap som är relevant i ljuset av uppställda samhällsmål, och vad som utgör relevant praktik i relation till det.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2021. , p. 72
Series
TRITA-ABE-DLT ; 2048
Keywords [en]
transport planning, transport infrastructure, climate mitigation, transformation, planning practice, uncertainty, assessment
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-288092ISBN: 978-91-7873-754-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-288092DiVA, id: diva2:1512322
Public defence
2021-01-29, För videolänk registrera er hos / For videolink register at https://kth-se.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eghJol1zToaRI-2HiP4d7w, Du som saknar dator/datorvana kan kontakta kis@kth.se / Use the e-mail address if you need technical assistance,, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20210107

Available from: 2021-01-07 Created: 2020-12-22 Last updated: 2022-06-25Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Physical planning in an era of marketization: conflicting governance perspectives in the Swedish Transport Administration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Physical planning in an era of marketization: conflicting governance perspectives in the Swedish Transport Administration
2019 (English)In: European Planning Studies, ISSN 0965-4313, E-ISSN 1469-5944, Vol. 27, no 7, p. 1413-1431Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Planning of transport infrastructure in Sweden has undergone successive legislative changes as well as neoliberal corporatization and marketization reforms in recent years, with a general aim to increase efficiency and effectiveness. This paper presents planning practitioners’ experiences of far-reaching marketization of physical planning practice in line with a strategy within the Swedish Transport Administration (STA) to become a ‘Pure Purchaser’. The strategy implies that all practical planning work should be carried out by procured consultants. The paper follows a qualitative, explorative approach based on document studies and interviews with practitioners actively involved in carrying out physical planning of road and rail investments. The concept of ‘modes of governance’ is applied to highlight and analytically interpret differences in perspectives on efficient and effective governance as expressed in the planning legislation, and the STA marketization strategy, respectively. The empirical results make evident that the recent marketization reforms are generally perceived as strongly and negatively affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of planning practices while also circumscribing professional discretion. The study highlights the importance of specific organization and management perspectives as explanatory factors in studying efficiency and effectiveness of planning practices.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2019
Keywords
physical planning, procurement, organization, marketization, modes of governance, fysisk planering, marknadisering, upphandling, organisation, styrning
National Category
Public Administration Studies Other Civil Engineering
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-246916 (URN)10.1080/09654313.2019.1588853 (DOI)000477084800009 ()2-s2.0-85063029742 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Transport Administration, 2014/86614
Note

QC 20190403

Available from: 2019-03-19 Created: 2019-03-19 Last updated: 2022-06-26Bibliographically approved
2. All Change or Business as Usual?: the Discursive Framing of Digitalized Smart Accessibility in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>All Change or Business as Usual?: the Discursive Framing of Digitalized Smart Accessibility in Sweden
2019 (English)In: Transportation Research Procedia, Elsevier BV , 2019, Vol. 41, p. 625-636Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent years, ideas related to digitalization have gained significance on the contemporary transport policy agenda. Based on discourse analysis of the digitalization agenda in Swedish transport policy, this paper investigates the ongoing formative phase of the emerging policy and planning area of digitalization and smart mobility. It examines and critically discusses the current discursive framing of digitalization in current transport policy and planning, and considers perspectives and meanings related to "smart" mobility and accessibility that are being established in strategic plans and policies for the Swedish transport sector. The empirical focus is on transport strategies and official reports developed at national level. The main findings indicate that digitalization is being framed as a rapid, unstoppable transformation process, which will lead to a range of positive outcomes such as reduced climate emissions, less congestion, improved accessibility, and a smoother and more resource-efficient transport system. According to the ideas and assumptions promoted in the current discourse, this transformation can only occur through stronger involvement of business enterprises. This governing strategy, or lack of governing strategy, makes it unclear how transport policy objectives are balanced against market and innovation interests. It also risks delegating the transition to sustainable mobility to less formalized and less transparent policy arenas that operate in parallel to, and partly outside, established planning and strategy-making processes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier BV, 2019
Keywords
digitalization, discourse, smart accessibility, smart mobility, sustainable transport, transition, transport policy
National Category
Other Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-274899 (URN)10.1016/j.trpro.2019.09.112 (DOI)000579834300102 ()2-s2.0-85080934198 (Scopus ID)
Conference
International Scientific Conference on Mobility and Transport Urban Mobility ? Shaping the Future Together mobil.TUM 2018, 13 June 2018 through 14 June 2018
Note

QC 20200609

Available from: 2020-06-09 Created: 2020-06-09 Last updated: 2022-06-26Bibliographically approved
3. Assessment tensions: How climate mitigation futures are marginalized in long-term transport planning
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Assessment tensions: How climate mitigation futures are marginalized in long-term transport planning
2020 (English)In: Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, ISSN 1361-9209, E-ISSN 1879-2340, Vol. 87, article id 102503Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Deep uncertainties in planning and policy-making related to climate mitigation pathways actualises the need for transport planning practices that embrace exploration and assessments of alternative future development directions. While conventional, forecast-based assessment practices are acknowledged to be of limited relevance in assessing potential trend-breaking developments, those practices have become strongly institutionalised and proven difficult to challenge. Applying a discourse perspective, this paper contributes with a practice-oriented analysis of how knowledge perspectives and established assessment practices influenced the consideration of alternative development directions and policy measures in the Swedish 12-year National Investment Plan for road and rail infrastructure 2018–2029. More specifically, the analysis regards how alternative futures and measures aimed at supporting a more ’transport efficient society’ were addressed and assessed. The analysis illuminates a strong influence of established practices over the definition of what is considered relevant knowledge, in constructing an understanding of transport infrastructure investments as insignificant to climate mitigation, and in legitimizing the marginalization of alternative development directions. In effect, the study shows how established practices may result in significant democratic consequences, when public and political discussion over transport futures and climate mitigation pathways is constrained by a narrow span of possible futures presented.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier BV, 2020
Keywords
Transport planning, Climate mitigation, Discursive practice, Foresight, Forecasting, Scenarios
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Transport Science; Planning and Decision Analysis; Planning and Decision Analysis, Strategies for sustainable development
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-279106 (URN)10.1016/j.trd.2020.102503 (DOI)000581017900022 ()2-s2.0-85089349861 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Mistra Sustainable Accessibility and Mobility Services (SAMS)
Funder
Mistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, SAMS
Note

QC 20201113

Available from: 2020-08-14 Created: 2020-08-14 Last updated: 2024-03-18Bibliographically approved
4. Transformative capacity for climate mitigation in strategic transport planning: Principles and practices in cross-sectoral collaboration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Transformative capacity for climate mitigation in strategic transport planning: Principles and practices in cross-sectoral collaboration
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This article presents findings from a qualitative in-depth analysis of a four-year Swedish national policy initiative where six public agencies got the task to produce a strategic plan for a transformation towards a fossil-free transport sector. The specific aim of the article is to provide empirically grounded insights on principles and practices of importance for building transformative capacity in strategic, long term transport planning. In the analysis, we have applied the concepts stewarding, unlocking, transforming and orchestrating to explore and discuss transformative features of the policy initiative. Altogether, we found that several elements of transformative capacity were developed through the process. Of specific importance was the open and explorative approach to the task, and the ways in which the organizations involved challenged existing routines, perspectives and ways of working in conventional transport planning. New joint principles for assessment of policy measures for climate mitigation were developed, as well as ways to accommodate uncertainties. However, as the initiative was detached from more established planning settings, the question is whether the new principles and practices will lead to a more substantial transformation of the transport system.

Keywords
transport planning, climate mitigation, transformation, transformative capacity, path-dependency
National Category
Public Administration Studies Environmental Analysis and Construction Information Technology
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-288091 (URN)
Projects
Mistra Sustainable Accessibility and Mobility Services
Funder
Mistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, SAMS
Note

QC 20201224

Available from: 2020-12-22 Created: 2020-12-22 Last updated: 2022-06-25Bibliographically approved

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