Applying a multi-level perspective to examine the potential transition to an accessibility-based approach to transport planning: Insights from cities in Sweden, Kenya and South Africa
Sean Cooke, Elma Durakovic, George Mark Onyango, David Simon, Kapil Singh, Anna Gustafsson, Ulf Ranhagen, Maria Lejdebro, Craig Davies
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There is a growing acknowledgement among transport planning 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 an accessibility-based approach to transport planning, this paper applies the Multi-Level Perspective to three cities: Cape Town, South Africa; Gothenburg, Sweden and Kisumu, Kenya. The paper builds on the perspective that conceptualises changes in large-scale, interdependent urban systems as a gradual system reconfiguration, rather than a sudden disruption by a niche-innovation. The paper proposes that, due to the concept of accessibility being a common language between transport planning, spatial planning and public finance, a nested regime structure is valuable. The whole system reconfiguration approach provides the ability to address the multiple landscape dynamics, multiple niche-innovations and multiple interdependent regimes of an accessibility system. To provide insight into the functioning of these accessibility regimes, 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 access equity, but the consumers continue to demand suburban housing and carbased mobility opportunities. In Kisumu, the paratransit (informal public transport) regime 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 regime are calling for a more equitable distribution of access in the city. However, the budget allocation still favours road infrastructure and BRT expansion over salvaging the rapidly deteriorating rail system and supporting the burgeoning paratransit industry. The differential pace of transition by different actors within the accessibility regime of each city could create as much tension within the regime as the landscape challenges, opening up ‘windows of opportunity’ for the laggard actors to be disrupted. This paper shows 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.