Transport and Sustainable Urban Development

Ranhagen, U. (2021) Transport and Sustainable Urban Development: a comparative project in collaboration between Cape Town, Kisumu and Gothenburg. Mistra Urban Futures Report 2021:1

Gothenburg Cape Town Global
Publication type
Report/Paper/Working paper/Brief
Transport and Sustainable Urban Development Urban station communities
Ulf Ranhagen Sean Cooke
Published year
sustainable urban transport
Transport public urban transport urban justice



The Transport and Sustainable Urban Development project represents one of eleven similar projects conducted under the Mistra Urban Futures research strategy: Realising Just Cities. The aim of this project was to develop the collaboration between three of the platforms: GOLIP, KLIP and CTLIP. The three cities involved in the project, Gothenburg, Cape Town, and Kisumu, are all subject to rapid urbanisation and face similar local challenges, such as growing inequalities, degrading infrastructure, insufficient housing, among others, while trying to cope with global challenges such as climate change. The project explored the role that transport plays in creating inequity and injustice, in three very different urban contexts, and the value in taking a ‘transport justice’ approach to analysing transport systems.

A collaborative, co-creative R&D process was developed continuously from the first discussion of the project ideas at the Realising Just Cities (RJC) conference in Gothenburg, in 2016. Important milestones in the implementation of the project were the RJC conferences in Kenya, in 2017, in Cape Town, in 2018, and in Sheffield, in 2019. The methods and tools for co-creation that have been introduced and tested by the representatives from the three platforms—and also by wider groups in their
respective cities—have proven themselves valuable in grappling with an exceptionally daunting challenge that permeates across extremely different contexts. Transdisciplinary co-creation and co-production methods have a bright future as the boundaries between disciplines blur and the complexity of the challenges continues to grow. These tools and approaches are particularly relevant to the transport planning discipline, where there is a growing acknowledgement among scholars that the traditional, mobility-focused approach has created futures with undesired, unintended characteristics. A paradigm shift regarding the fundamental premise of transport planning is being proposed. Accessibility-based planning involves shifting the focus from speed to access, from the system to the user, and from efficiency to equity. In order to examine the potential transition to a transport justice, or accessibility-based, approach to transport planning, this project applies the Multi-Level Perspective—a method from the sustainability transitions field—to the accessibility systems of the three cities. Furthermore, to provide insight into the functioning of these accessibility systems, initiative-based learning was conducted through an examination of planned rail projects in each city in collaboration with practitioners, decision-makers, and stakeholders. In Gothenburg, the policymakers have an advanced understanding of transport justice and accessequity, but the consumers continue to demand suburban housing and car-based mobility opportunities. In Kisumu, the paratransit (informal public transport) system is well-attuned to the differential accessibility needs of the communities that it serves, but it still relies on the infrastructure provided by government entities with very narrow perspectives on mobility. In Cape Town, the disparity in the transition seems to be between policy and implementation. Many of the actors within the transport system are calling for a more equitable distribution of access in the city. However, the budget allocation still favours road infrastructure and BRT (Bus Rapit Transit Systems) expansion over salvaging the rapidly deteriorating rail system and supporting the burgeoning paratransit industry. The differential pace of change by different actors within the accessibility system of each city could
create as much disruption as the landscape challenges like climate change. This study has shown some of the  value of bringing together the fields of urban planning, engineering, and socio-technical transitions to better understand complex urban systems and their related governance challenges.

Some of the key takeaways for using transport to contribute to realizing just cities are:
• A ‘transport justice’ approach starts with accessibility as the primary premise for transport planning and infrastructure investment. A central tenet of this perspective is that there is a minimum level of accessibility that a transport system should provide every user, irrespective of their income, gender, age, spatial location, or any other characteristic. Through this approach, accessibility acts as a proxy for poverty and other forms of injustice.
• Transport interventions that serve those with the lowest access should be prioritised and subsidised in order to raise their accessibility to the minimum level. Similarly, improvements to the transport system that largely benefit people with high levels of accessibility—usually wealthy car owners—should be optional and self-financing.
• The upgrading of the existing and new transportation systems should be planned and implemented in parallel with mixed-use and accessible urban developments, close to transportation nodes, including a multitude of commercial, social, and cultural services.
• The real estate markets should be sufficiently incentivised and regulated to facilitate more equitable access provision, through the facilitation of affordable housing and entrepreneurship around new or existing public transport stations.
• A rail system, with its important capacity to restructure cities, is a key tool in counteracting inequality and access inequity in the long term.

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