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How do ‘alternative’ transport policies travel over time? Exploring the circulation of fare-free public transport.

Authors: Wojciech Keblowski*, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Topics: Transportation Geography, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: transportation, mobility, urban policy, critical geography
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

I argue that to fully understand the political economy of a measure that allegedly challenges the techno-managerial logic behind the production of urban infrastructure, it is relevant to study how this measure “travels” across space and time. In the particular field of urban transport and mobility, inquiries into transfer and mobility of infrastructural “fixes” and “policy solutions” usually focus on instances of urban entrepre-neurialism, looking at “best practices” that form part of the political “mainstream”. Much less attention has been paid to the mobility of transport policies allegedly “alternative” to the techno-managerial hegemony. To address this gap, I look at the mobility of fare-free public transport (FFPT). Applied in over 100 cities worldwide, FFPT allegedly challenges transport orthodoxy and highlights the political dimension of mobility by providing access to public transport infrastructure. I build on long-term research began in 2014 to explore diverse temporalities, places, actors, practices, and narratives employed in the mobility of FFPT, observed in six sites of fare abolition in Estonia, France, Poland and China. I identify two international circuits through which the knowledge about FFPT has been mobilised over time. While formal urban actors meet within the “official” circuit geared towards the promotion of “success stories”, the “militant” circuit gathering activist groups and NGO representatives focuses on mutual learning, and understanding how its dependence on the local context may hinder policy transfer, indicating that a given transport measure may circulate in contradictory and divergent ways, at different speeds, over different time periods.

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