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Transnational Niches: the global mushrooming of Bus Rapid Transit Frans Sengers (Eindhoven University of Technology)

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Presentation on theme: "Transnational Niches: the global mushrooming of Bus Rapid Transit Frans Sengers (Eindhoven University of Technology)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Transnational Niches: the global mushrooming of Bus Rapid Transit Frans Sengers (Eindhoven University of Technology)

2 Presentation Outline 1: Research question and approach (questions, methods, contribution) 2: What is BRT? (characteristics, representations) 3: The global mushrooming of BRT (a mapped history of materialized systems and social actors, global -> local) 4: Examples on the ground (Thailand) (the Thai case: alternative storylines with space for friction, resistance and failure, local -> global) 5: Interpretations and implications (niches, spaces, geographies)

3 1: Research Question (1)How did BRT diffuse globally? (2) Who / what kind of actors facilitated this process and how are their ideas re-worked in practice on the ground? (3) … from this study on BRT as a global niche, what are the broader implications arise for research on the geography of sustainability transitions? from a few operational systems in one region … … to a multitude of operational systems world- wide …to the where of BRT knowledge production and advocacy From transition theory as a lens applied to the BRT case … … to the BRT case as a lens applied to transition theory from the where of operational systems … from a global niche and its network of actors/advocates … transition B R T … to what happens when this knowledge lands and BRT really comes to town

4 1: Mixed Methods Interrogating codified knowledge: a systemic analysis of the most important articles, planning guides, reports and databases with the help of software. Conducting interviews: interviewing globally recognized BRT experts / advocates about the global mushrooming of BRT Immersed in fieldwork: observations and engagements on the ground in Thailand (4 cities) to see how BRT ideas land / materialize

5 Definition 1: a flexible, rubber-tired form of rapid transit that combines stations, vehicles, services, running ways and information technologies into an integrated system with strong identity (Levinson et al. 2003) Definition 2: a high-quality bus based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective urban mobility through the provision of segregated right-of-way infrastructure, rapid and frequent operations, and excellence in marketing and customer service. BRT essentially emulates the performance and amenity characteristics of a modern rail-based transit system but at a fraction of the cost. A BRT system will typically cost four to 20 times less than a light rail transit (LRT) system and 10 to 100 times less than a metro system (Wright & Hook 2007) Interviewed advocates present BRT as: a modernized hybrid sociotechnical configuration that combines elements from traditional bus systems as well as urban rail systems (a surface metro or metronized bus), which provides direct on the road competition to the private car so as to foster a transition towards a more livable city 2: What is Bus Rapid Transit ?

6 Q: How is BRT expert advocacy discourse structured? A: If we look at a representative sample of scientific articles on BRT with the help of software, the following thematic clusters / discourses emerge: modelling, BRTvsCar, Global-South-projects 2: What is Bus Rapid Transit ?

7 Q: Which BRT cities are most important / most often mentioned to in expert discourse? A: Bogota is referred to most often, it is also in the heart of the semantic co-occurrence network and this means that it is often mentioned in relation to other BRT systems/cities city nameoccurrence BOGOTA2293 CURITIBA1735 LOS-ANGELES1399 QUITO1241 PITTSBURGH1209 BRISBANE1123 2: What is Bus Rapid Transit ?

8 Q: Where are these BRT systems located? A: 169 BRT systems all over the world: Africa (3), Asia (39), Europe (43), Latin America (55), Northern America (22), Oceania (7) 3: The global mushrooming of BRT

9 Q: where is BRT really re-shaping everyday urban travel practices? A: cities of the global south (BRT systems in Europe, the US and Australia are insignificantly small). Mainly in Latin America (e.g. Brazil and Colombia) and Asia (especially in China, but also in Tehran and Istanbul). (Node Size proportional to nr. of passengers / day transported by each system) 3: The global mushrooming of BRT


11 emergence (1972 - 1976) explosive growth (2001 - 2010) consolidation (2011 - 2013) 3: The global mushrooming of BRT

12 1: Emergence (1972-1976) BRT emerges within Latin America and remains confined to this region. This period starts with important BRT precursors within Latin America and the construction the incredibly relevant BRT system in Curitiba. It ends when BRT / BHLS systems become operational in Europe and the US as well 2: Growth (1977-2000) It remains mainly a Latin American phenomenon, but Europe (through BHLS) and the US are also constructing comprehensive bus systems. This period starts when BRT / BHLS systems become operational outside of Latin America. It ends with the world's most comprehensive BRT system in Bogota becoming operational. 3: Explosive growth (2001-2010) Systems are adopted all over the world and the number of systems grows very rapidly. This period starts when the system in Bogota becomes operational and consequently big systems are being adopted, now throughout Asia as well. This period ends in 2010 when a highly comprehensive BRT system becomes operational in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, which rivals the Latin American systems in scope and quality. 4: Consolidation (2011-2013) It seems past its peak of growth, but keeps spreading. Efforts in the West seem to have stagnated, but growth continues in cities in the developing world. The emphasis shifts to institutional work to consolidate earlier gains. Efforts to classify system types and disseminate lessons are becoming ever more important.

13 Q: where does the production of codified BRT knowledge take place? A: respresentation of the cities where highly performative BRT knowledge production/transfer agencies are located. The codified expert knowledge they produce is packaged in the form of planning guides, consultancy reports and journal articles; it travels and is picked up by cities throughout the world. 3: The global mushrooming of BRT

14 Note the disparity between the sites of BRT systems and the sites of knowledge transfer organizations. This means that something else is going on, besides just learning directly from best practice sites... operational system sites vs. codified knowledge production sites 3: The global mushrooming of BRT

15 A strong transnational advocacy network of experts: they drive the production and dissemination of codified knowledge and actively push for the global mushrooming of BRT actor categoryexampleadvocacy / knowledge exchange mechanisms local implementary agencies the city administrative and political layer, the transport operators, ministries of transport in a specific country, the transport engineers cities and transport authorities elsewhere will help their counterparts help other cities. They view it as their mission for visiting BRT systems [it is key] to spend time with whoever you counterpart one on one. So in study tours we organize, we make sure that bus operators have the opportunity to speak with other bus operators without anybody else in the room… If the guys youre visiting have done something and youre going do that thing, it is good to have a few friends you can contact at various points during your own implementation knowledge transfer programs for example the UE COST initiative, TRB in the USA, the World Bank setting up programs, conferences and things like that development partners the likes of the World Bank, ADB, AFD, IDB are supporting projects around the world even though they are not strictly speaking advocates of the BRT technology, it is when they get involved in a project that they bring with them quite a lot of knowledge … and capacity building activities international NGOs in the domain of BRT we see EMBARQ, ITDP and SUTP very much in the front one of the biggest instigators are NGOs like ITDP and EMBARQ … I can guarantee you that 75% of the projects out there probably owe their existence of those organizations (1) making knowledge available in terms of technical data … (2) case studies in how things were done to try to get under skin of the project to understand the implementation conditions, the critical success factors, what things to be mobilized so that it could proceed, overcoming challenges … (3) [with] an office there [on site] giving real hands-on support core consultants a core group of consultants who work on BRT and have been very influential - the Brazilian firm Logit, the British firm Steer Davis Gleave, a couple of Spanish firms. Its just a handful only a handful of firms have been influential in shaping good practice design university researchers classic examples are the university of Capetown, the university in Santiago de Chile doing a lot of BRT specific research and disseminate this through conferences implementation partners the university or research institute sometimes becomes a technical partner to the implemenatries effectively assembles the international knowledge and makes it available, either through their own people or sometimes they bring foreigners in. So they become the conduit for international knowledge into the city agency that is implementing preachers individuals like Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, and Jamey Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba they are the ones that go out there and really spread the message. Theyve been there from the beginning and they are the pioneers 3: The global mushrooming of BRT

16 Actors and storylines are transformed by the processes of up-scaling and diffusion 1985 vs. 2012 3: The global mushrooming of BRT The nature of BRT and its best practices are objects of interpretation and contestation. It is a highly flexible niche-configuration - what BRT represents changes from time to time and from place to place and best practices can become bad examples and adoption can hamper further diffusion. As BRT principles and their advocates travel the world, they are themselves transformed in the process.

17 4: Examples on the ground (Thailand) (2) Korat: lack of success in Bangkok and certain associations has tainted the term BRT in Thailand, therefore planners chose to drop the term. Going head to head with a politically powerful car-owing middle class can be avoided through an elevated sky bus system (1) Bangkok: from big visionary ideas of foreign advocates to a small watered-down system. The eventual material system is embedded in a web of transnational linkages. It was also and arena for broader struggle. We will not calling it BRT, well call it Sky Bus (head consultancy 2013) The BRT network planned for Bangkok … may be even more successful than the Bogota project (Enrique Penalosa 2004)

18 4: Examples on the ground (Thailand) (4) Chiang Mai: the efforts of planners are sometimes thwarted, when incumbent informal operators mount a serious resistance campaign. New alternative pathways to modernize bus transit arise. International NGOs step in to mediate (3) Khon Kaen: sometimes BRT is viewed as the central element of much broader plans for liveable streets. Besides notions of BRT, public awareness campaign strategies are also transferred across the globe. Ideas of local identity and place making are also part of this plan

19 5: Interpretations and implications 1: Towards transnational niches The notion of a global niche is highly elusive in the context of a geography of sustainability transitions (e.a. global as an aggregated socio-cognitive dimension, the misunderstanding of this as MLP levels as conflated with geographical scales). Therefore niches like BRT might better be classified as transnational in order to highlight (1) cross-border linkages and flows, (2) the agency of globally active non-state organizations such as experts, NGOs and businesses, (3) breaking out of the national (though keep in mind that national governments are still crucially important as actors in this transnational arena) 2: Re-thinking classic SNM insights on niche internal processes Classic SNM insights suggest that successful niche building occurs when (1) networks should be broad and inclusive, (2) expectations should be shared and specic, (3) second-order learning should enable changes in cognitive frames. But the highly successful BRT global niche shows that (1) networks can be narrow, expert-driven and exclusive, (2) expectations are on what BRT is/does are marked by interpretative flexibility and differ from actor to actor and from place to place, (3) second-order learning does not seem to unfold for the advocates as BRT spreads, but a change in mindset is assumed always BRT implies as a starting point 3: Different wheres of niche-levels The where of codified knowledge production and dissemination (e.a. aggregate level / global niche) is very different from the where of system adoption (e.a. level of tangible local projects)

20 5: Interpretations and implications 4: Towards a more subtle view of how a variety of alternatives interact When a niche-configuration like BRT comes to town (e.a. when knowledge lands and seeks to materialize) it has to contend with a locally specific transport ecosystem, which is in no two cities the same. BRT is not pitted against one clearly delineated monolithic regime; but its relationships to other sociotechnical configurations are far more complex. One BRT-system-to-be might be locked into combat with incumbent systems (an automobility regime or incumbent informal transport system) and with alternative options (a metro or an upgraded informal transport system), another one might be very complementary with all of these. 5: A spatial perspective on transitions entails an intertwining of stories told from multiple perspectives It should allow us to bring the politics back in and it should include friction, resistance and failure. An all alleged success story of global diffusion/up-scaling should also be approached from specific local contexts and from below … So in the context of BRT, space can be viewed as: protective space: a socially constructed environment, emphasizing institutional work, for shielding, nurturing and empowering of a global niche. physical space: (1) a scarce resource in the battle for road space; (2) the objective re-shaping land-use in the city as part of transit oriented development & place-making and as part of the livable city paradigm; (3) a surface area or a void-to-be-crossed when talking world-wide diffusion a simulaneity of stories-so-far: according to Doreen Massey space is (1) the product of inter-relations between actors, between scales as part of relational economic geography; (2) multiplicit in the sense of a sphere where multiple trajectories coexist; (3) always becoming since it is, embedded in material practices, fundamentally open- ended and rife with politics

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