Equity Challenges in Major Transport Plans

Equity Challenges in Major Transport Plans


Angel Aparicio, Technical University Madrid (UPM)


This paper revisits the various visions of justice in transport planning, with a focus on major schemes, and the role played by transport planners. It takes TEN-T as a case study.


The paper elaborates on the merits and limitations for transport of the distributional, participatory and social/recognition dimensions of justice, and their disappointing limited influence in decision making at these planning levels. It reviews the case study of the Trans-European Transport Network, defining its decision-making environment, the prevailing justice concept, and the legitimation process for the planning concept. The review suggests that justice concepts are used opportunistically be the various stakeholders to push forward their respective agendas. More decisively, the lack of a shared understanding of justice facilitates the consolidation of a transport bubble within which plans, projects and their related investment needs are discussed without framing the conversation in the wider context of competing public policies for scarce public funds. The high costs of reaching justice (whatever the concept of justice considered) through transport improvements is hardly compared with alternative options within the social, spatial or environmental realms (to cite a few alternatives). Furthermore, criticism to transport concepts are frequently limited to the economic front, rather than to broader justice-based considerations.
The results of the case-study revision challenges the prevailing self-understanding of planners and professionals at large in the transport sector as experts in search of optimal solutions and the need to further develop the mission of planners as facilitators of public debate. It also questions the attempts from the economy to expand their assessment methods to cover environmental, social and equity concerns. Rather than defining boundaries for the “sphere of justice” in transport policy, the debate would focus on ways to remove the boundaries of transport policies, so that strategic transport options are fairly compared with alternative, or complementary, public policies. Bridging barriers among these policies requires further interdisciplinary collaboration and alternative formal frameworks for decision making in public policies.


Association for European Transport