Thesis: Get the transport right - for what? What transport policy can tell us about the construction of sustainability
Subject: Environmental Science
Research Area: The Environmental Studies Research Area, the Baltic and East European Graduate School (BEEGS)
Faculty examiner: Dalia Mukhtar Landgren, PhD, Lund University
This thesis studies transport as a governing tool that shapes the physical environment and human society, as well as having environmental impacts. The aim is to learn what policy for transport can say about what sustainability means and does. My focus is Stockholm municipal policy from 2007--2017, a period of sustainability concerns and large transport project agreements. Using the What’s the problem represented to be? approach (Bacchi 2009), I look at measures proposed for the ‘right’ transport of people and ask: what kind of ‘tool’ is transport produced to be, and how is sustainability constructed?
The transport system is one of the most visible parts of the built environment and recognized for its negative impact on environmental and human health. As co-constitutive of social practices, transport is far from a mere technical issue. Despite this, transport policy studies are often technical in approach. Since policy is not a neutral response to pre-existing ‘problems’, I consider transport policy to be part of a creative process for the whole of society. A main contribution to the field of sustainable transport is a view of transport as a tool for governing and inherently political.
Stockholm is frequently hailed as a ‘green’ city. I was interested to explore this ‘best case’ scenario and see what might consolidate the two seemingly opposing aims of greener transport and more car use. I find that Stockholm policy for transport is permeated with technological optimism, reliance on individual choices, and concern for economic growth. Policy measures construct transport as a tool to affirm the commuter paradigm and promote urban expansion. Attention to the sustainability of transport concentrates on emissions from transport work, which is to be addressed by individual consumption choices. Sustainability is associated with efficiency, technological innovation, and above all urbanity. The proposals paradoxically construct the subject as both co-responsible for problem and solution (the conscious or irresponsible consumer), and as a cog in the wheel for economic growth (the commuting worker). This disregards both the homo ludens and the citizen: play and the political. These aspects become subordinated while policy enhances the role of work.