To meet climate goals, people need to travel less by car. There are some cities that have successfully reduced car use, where more people travel around by bike, or on foot, or by public transport. Without exception, these successful cities have made cycling, walking and public transport nicer – but they have also made driving a car a bit more difficult, by charging for road use (boompengar) or taking road space away from cars to give it to cyclists and walkers, or making it a bit trickier to park. These “contentious transport measures” are the focus of the project, because if we want to meet climate goals, and cut other pollution, improve road safety and make our cities nicer places to be, then more of these measures need to be put in place in more towns and cities.
Of course these “contentious” measures are not always very popular, and so politicians often do not like them. The project will research in detail some cases where such measures have been implemented, and not implemented, or are planned to be implemented. However, it will also survey politicians and analyse media coverage to find out what, and who, really shapes politicians’ views of these measures. We want to see how different forms of public participation (involving people in planning and decision making about such measures) and also public protest affect politicians’ willingness to approve “contentious” measures. We will also look to see how public participation can be improved and made more in-depth and include people who maybe don’t take part at the moment. Finally, the project will produce advice to planners and politicians on how to better involve the public in decision-making about parking pricing, or boompengar, or removing parking spaces, to – hopefully – increase the chances that more such things will be implemented, in more cities, in future. The project is a collaboration between partners in Norway, Sweden and Spain and will also work in Denmark, and iwill run from 2021 to 2024.
The project is about politicians’ views and citizens reactions’ to contentious urban transport measures (parking management, roadspace transformation, car-free zones, congestion charging schemes). These are measures that are necessary to reduce reliance on the private car, increase the use of more sustainable modes of transport, and thus meet both the national zero-growth goal for person transport and climate goals. However, while effective, these measures typically also cause disagreement between technicians, politicians and some members of the public, which in Norway has particularly been visible by movement protesting against congestion charging and road tolls in general prior to local elections in 2019.
TRANSPOL will explore how political views are shaped by the interaction with the public (including protest movements); and whether different forms of public participation might make it easier to gain political support for these types of measures. Ultimately, it aims to provide advice to municipal planners and politicians on how to engage with contentious policy measures and public protest, and to design and manage public participation, in order to reduce the political barriers to these contentious transport measures. The main methods are (i) in-depth studies of cases where contentious measures have been implemented; (ii) case studies of participatory practices, protests and experiments, (iii) broader survey of political attitudes as well as (iv) extensive user involvement during the research process. It is a bold and novel piece of transport research in that it seeks to directly address the motivations of politicians as decision makers; and because it encourages organisations to take new risks and innovative steps in the way in which they involve and engage with the public in decision making.