Multiscalar Deliberative Transportation Planning: “Empowerment Without Autonomy” and Bus Priority in London

Problem, research strategy, and findings: At what scale should we plan transportation to shift to more sustainable modes? In this study the author explores the multiscalar effort by London’s (UK) boroughs and the traffic director for London to expand bus priority in London, viewing it as a real-world case of Iris Marion Young’s “empowerment without autonomy” regional governance model. Using archival data, media analysis, and interviews, the author found that the boroughs acted as a source of policy alternatives to reshape the problem–solution nexus around congestion, a forum for diverse interests to discuss this transition to more sustainable transport, and a deliberative partner for the new regional actor with sufficient capacity and expertise to reshape the policy to better meet community needs. The establishment of the position of traffic director for London in 1991 created the empowered but not autonomous structure, giving the traffic director veto power over some borough roads but empowering them to manage parking. Working together, the traffic director and the boroughs installed 524 bus lanes between 1991 and 2000, more than doubling the total number of lanes and demonstrating that a deliberative process need not sacrifice speed. Because this is a single case, more research is needed to confirm the mechanisms of the empowerment without autonomy model and how those mechanisms are most easily replicated in other contexts. Takeaway for practice: Transit planning is best done at both the local and regional levels, in an empowered but not autonomous structure that forces regional and local actors to deliberate with each other on how best to achieve the goals of each scale.


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  • Accession Number: 01853504
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 29 2022 4:55PM