Since the 1970s, we can identify a coincidence of four societal evolutions in cities throughout Europe: the emergence of new social movements (1), new forms of direct deliberative democracy (2), new emphasis for urban space and culture (3) and the renaissance of the urban tram (4).
The research project focused on the analysis of the mutual relations between tram revival and the other three societal developments, with special emphasis on the emergence of participative democracy and passenger involvement in public transport.
Aim of the project was to achieve the research targets as well as to enhance the researcher's profile, adding competencies on user involvement and public participation theory in the urban arena to his previous political and historical experience, guaranteeing him a professional maturity. This tuition and research path strongly presented elements of European comparative analysis, on a highly topical theme, having relevant implications for EC policies, culture, economy, and investments.
The empirical research of the project was carried out in a comparative way, focusing on six European cities and consequently six case studies, to understand how basically similar problems and tasks were identified and solved in very different ways. This 24-month training-through-research project used methods from historiography and political theory in a comparative approach and in combination with participation theory, governance issues, the idea of Large Technical Systems and town planning. The starting concept was that mobility research had landed in a cul-de-sac due to engineering, economic and planning approaches to transport studies. The results of the study, providing comparative European insights, would not only be valuable for historical and political sciences, but could also be highly relevant for future planning of citizen and passenger involvement in urban transport forecast, governance, and decision making.
The PUBLIC PUT IN MOTION research project contributed to the search for more sustainable forms of urban mobility through:
- Analysing the tramway renaissance in the European area, in particular focussing on the role played by users and citizens in the planning process, the implementation programme, and the everyday improvement of the service.
- Focusing on six case studies in six European cities where tramways have been reintroduced in the past decades (Barcelona, Dublin, Florence, Brno, Karlsruhe and Nantes).
- The investigation was conducted through the analysis of archive sources, reports, grey material, and scientific literature.
- The main case study surveys were also explored through a considerable number of interviews with experts, stakeholders, passengers, activists and official representatives, and utilising participant observation.
While tramways can cause dramatic changes in urban landscape, the cities involved in the investigation were often very reluctant to change their infrastructure. The Barcelona, Dublin and Florence case in particular, showed how reintroduction of the tram was forced to compromise with the city's previous use of urban space, due to consolidated mobility attitudes and infrastructural and urban path dependencies.
The actual involvement of users and public was, in the case studies here analysed, not ample, which inevitably led to hostility from large sectors of public opinion, opening unnecessary and often unjustified clashes between different visions of mobility. The expected projects were developed regardless of tensions, resulting in final implementations of the new tramway systems with unsatisfactory outcomes, due to inadequate compromises.
In order to contribute to an enhancement of understandings among the actors concerned, the dissemination strategy was threefold:
- amongst peers,
- to policy makers and
- to urban space users' lobbies and advocates.
The relevant topics were extensively discussed with policy makers, urban advocates, academic peers and other colleagues, both in the host institution and in the numerous conferences presented at by the researcher. Numerous essays, articles, papers and other texts were the result of this first analyses and the dialogue with colleagues, the eventual aim being the publication of a book based on this issue.
Although public participation is often seen and claimed as a fruitful tool, it is rarely related to and ut
An efficient and integrated mobility system.