Webinar: Social and political implications of brt as a neoliberal contradiction


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2014-02-28 webinar by Laurel Paget-Seekins

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Webinar: Social and political implications of brt as a neoliberal contradiction

  1. 1. Social and Political Implications of BRT as a Neoliberal Contradiction Laurel Paget-Seekins February 28, 2014 BRT Centre Webinar Series
  2. 2. Agenda 1. Background i. Bus formalization in developing cities ii. Case study examples iii. Defining neoliberal 2. Dominant BRT model i. Creating markets ii. Entrepreneurial urban governance 3. Contradictions i. Increasing publicness/role of the state ii. Increasing potential for collective action iii. Challenging automobility 4. Implications and remaining questions 2
  3. 3. Transit Formalization • Goal to reduce externalities of ‘informal’ mass transport model – congestion caused by buses – unsafe driving and bus conditions – pollution • Competition for the market, not in the market – massive consolidation of bus operators – area contracting/public system – larger/new buses requires investment • Often switch to trunk and feeder system, ideally includes fare integration (free transfers) 3
  4. 4. BRT as Formalization Tool • Requires large buses/significant investment, elimination of on the street competition • Governments must operate service or create a formal market from which to purchase bus service • Not just a secondary impact of BRT, formalization can be part of the primary motivation 4
  5. 5. Delhi Ahmedabad Johannesburg Santiago Quito Bogota Set of Examples Mexico City 5
  6. 6. Neoliberalism (re)Defined • Market-based governance, doesn’t have to imply deregulation or small role of the state, state is needed to enforce and protect markets • A transformed state and market relationship around a set of interests and elites, increase or maintain inequality • The need for the state is a contradiction between the theory and practice • Creates the possibility, especially in the Global South, neoliberal tools can be used to reach progressive or redistributive ends 6
  7. 7. Entrepreneurial Urban Governance • Urban investment as a negotiation between international finance and local powers to maximize attractiveness of a city for capitalist development. • Takes the form of public-private partnership, speculative in nature, public takes the risk and private gets the profits (David Harvey, From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism: The Transformation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism, 1989) 7
  8. 8. Dominant BRT Model • Public-private partnerships- government oversight agency with private operators • Government creates market to contract bus operations from large companies • Not ‘free market’-nature of the companies depends on relationship between state and existing operators, creates winners and losers • Risk taken on by government, but goal to minimize government subsidies 8
  9. 9. BRT as Entrepreneurial Urban Governance • BRT not only about creating accessibility or improving existing transportation system • How service designed impacts whose transportation needs are met by it • Can be to improve the image and ability of the city to attract other investment, part of urban redevelopment plans • Branding is often identified as key BRT component 9
  10. 10. The Bogotá Model Started BRT network in 2000, now implementing integrated system with remaining bus service International BRT model, not just for network design but operations and organization Special Purpose Vehicle- government agency to oversee contracted service, 5 consortiums control over 70% of contracts Designed to not need operating subsidies, created two-tier fare The tendering process is designed to deliver this lucrative business to the same seven families who monopolize most of Bogotá’s transport… -Jaime Caidedo, councillor for the Polo Democrático Alternativo (Public World) 10
  11. 11. The Santiago Risk In 2007 Chile created formalized integrated Transantiago. Government took on the risk to attract international capital, and ended up spending millions of public funds. In part because initially the companies took advantage of their limited risk contracts and didn’t operate the service as needed. The argument for private sector operations is innovation. But innovation can be negative - how to fulfill the letter but not the spirit of contracts. Contracts renegotiated 17 times in 6 years. … the investors and the banks said “we need a guarantee from the state” because this is a change of system and if there is no guarantee from the state there is no operation… - Transantiago official, now working for a bus company 11
  12. 12. The Quito Exception Opened their first corridor in 1995 and created a public company to operate it. In 2010 all 5 BRT corridors consolidated in a public company. Fare is still 25 US cents. To be the best Company in management, development, innovation, and integration of sustainable urban transportation, contributing to improve the quality of life of the citizens of the Quito Metropolitan area using human and technological resources at the highest level. - Empresa Pública Metropolitana de Transporte de Pasajeros de Quito 12
  13. 13. Political Context • Chile and Colombia have a history of neoliberal economic and political reforms that originally took place under the threat of violence • Neoliberal model for BRT encouraged by international development banks and NGOs • Model is transferred to countries with different political economic context 13
  14. 14. The Entrepreneurial Ahmedabad Used Bogotá model and set up Special Purpose Vehicle despite having an existing public bus company Regular (lower fare) service cut as BRT corridors open to protect the BRT from competition, hurts accessibility for the poor, and hurts already financially struggling public bus company BRT part of larger redevelopment effort in Ahmedabad to promote image of ‘world class’ city, for example service goes to newly redeveloped lake attraction We used to sell vegetables near circle at Khodiyarnagar… But due to road widening we were displaced to the highway on BRTS route… Where will we go? How will we earn?- Champaben Fatabhai, vendor 14
  15. 15. The Mexico City Gentrification Line 4 on narrow streets connecting historic downtown to airport Opposed by merchants, street vendors, neighbors for taking parking, access to stores, vending space, they questioned the reason for Line 4 since area served by metro Sense by neighbors and street vendors the project was part of a larger effort to clean-up the historic center and make it more tourist and investment friendly It should be for not only the street to look pretty but for the neighbors to improve their quality of life, ... little by little they are taking us out of the historic center, they are looking to eliminate the lower and poorer classes to bring people with higher incomes to create a beautiful city with beautiful people. – Historic Center Neighborhood Leader 15
  16. 16. The Delhi Counter-Example Pilot of 6.8 km with cycle tracks and sidewalks opened in 2008 Rejected the Bogotá model, used an open corridor didn’t create a new operating company or two-tier fare system. Designed system to serve the lowest income residents in opposition to the Delhi metro which BRT advocates thought was being built to serve middle-class riders as part of an attempt to sell Delhi as a ‘world class’ city. “There has to be a forum through which pedestrians, cyclists, and bus users can express their views, because they constitute the majority of users on the road, but there is no forum, they have no way of articulating their ideas, their experiences … As long as this forum does not emerge the politics of road use is not going to change.” Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre 16
  17. 17. The Contradictions • Admits that public transit is a public service/good that requires market intervention • Introduces public funding and increases ‘publicness’ • Creates the possibility for more public involvement and accountability by urban residents • Increases the power of collective action for workers by switching from individual competition to salary employees • Premise is allocating public space to bus riders (and nonmotorized mode users) which is a direct challenge to automobility and car ownership • Represents a technology transfer between countries in the Global South, it is possible to create own development models without copying failed models from the North 17
  18. 18. Public Good and Investment • Impetus for BRT/formalization is to address market failures • New regulatory regime recognizes transit as a public good with state interest to regulate • Introduces public funding – for capital costs and in some cases for operations • Public ownership of infrastructure 18
  19. 19. Political Publicness • Transport always an issue of public debate, but formalization/BRT projects places it firmly in public discourse • Increases the legitimacy for public input and participation in transport decision-making • The public is different than the government- the role of the civic realm is still undefined 19
  20. 20. Triangle of Publicness Private Sector Operating Companies Public Sector Government Agencies Civic Sector Riders, citizens, community organizations Operating Contracts Public Good Public Funding Public Space Public Politics 20
  21. 21. Opening for Public Participation • Public participation requires some sense of public ownership; people have to believe they have a right to participate • How does the mix of public-private ownership complicate the understanding? • What is the method of accountability for public funds and public (monopoly) contracts? 21
  22. 22. Collective Action • Changes the incentives for drivers from individual competition to collective action • Drivers (and other bus company employees) are now in the formal economy • Overall working conditions have improved, although the possibility to own your own bus no longer exists • The role of unions depends on the political context; however, workers have generally played very little role in the transition or design of projects 22
  23. 23. The Johannesburg Context Has a very strong existing informal minibus taxi sector with a violent history. New BRT service is operated by company made up of taxi owners. Consultants from a Bogotá company were brought in to help the company, but parted ways in part due to different experience with unions. Transport union organizing BRT workers with more success than taxi workers and workers report much better conditions. “With proper investment, workers and passengers can enjoy a well-functioning public transport system. SATAWU’s strong leadership has correctly focused on organizing informal workers, while campaigning strongly for a better system.” Eddie Dickson, union leader 23
  24. 24. Automobility • Automobility- the use of automobiles as the major means of transportation • Pervasive organizing principle for urban time and space, with widespread impacts • Is a consumptive, individualistic, ‘private’ means of transportation • Exacerbates inequality of access • Urban space designed for auto use, cars prioritized other modes (Merriam-Webster, Sheller & Urry) 24
  25. 25. Conflicts over Space • Urban mobility space is not allocated democratically • A premise of BRT is more equitable allocation, dedicating space for bus and non-motorized mode users • But this requires political conflict and governments respond differently to conflict, and who loses space differs 25
  26. 26. Principled Delhi • Pilot on a busy corridor created dedicated bus lanes, cycle tracks, sidewalks and space for vendors • “Took” space from cars, minority of vehicle users vocally protested • Lawsuit filed, but Supreme Court upheld project after research on the corridor • Lack of enforcement keeping drivers out of bus and cycle lanes and sidewalks • Government stalled implementation of the rest of the network due to the conflict 26
  27. 27. Pragmatic Ahmedabad • “Connect Busy Places, Avoid Busy Roads,” added capacity, over 75km of a closed network • Government had pragmatic approach and changed route when conflicts arose, now building lines through old denser center • Vendors and slum residents displaced due to widening roads • Cycle and sidewalk network not complete, sacrificed when not enough space 27
  28. 28. Santiago Compromise • Initial plans for Transantiago included network of exclusive bus corridors • Majority not built, priority on corridors where road could be widened and for metro • Instead put in non- segregated curb lanes, but enforcement lacking • Neighbors oppose plans for new corridors because based on widening roads Planned Exclusive Bus Corridors in 2000 What it does is reduce the public space suitable for use by the community. It decreases the distance between the houses and the road lanes. It is, definitely, a project that deteriorates the quality of life for the people who live here. – Mayor of Pudahuel 28
  29. 29. Conflict Observations • Adding capacity or “taking space” from cars • Adding capacity takes space from other (less powerful) urban residents • Creating conflicts between different modes or between residents and travelers • Different levels of dedication to including pedestrian and cycle infrastructure • Enforcement necessary to keep car users from “taking space” back 29
  30. 30. Implications • How much challenge to automobility depends on implementation • Not enough discussion on the role workers and unions can play in BRT implementation • Need to examine the relationship between the public and governments/operators • How operating contacts are allocated shapes state/elite control of bus sector 30
  31. 31. Conclusions • Neoliberal implementation model dominant, not inherent • BRT can increase or decrease social inequality – accessibility (whose trips does the system serve, fares) – allocation of urban space – decision-making (involvement of public) – control over economic resources (bus companies) – working conditions in transport industry • If BRT is a tool for a more neoliberal city or a challenge to it depends on both government implementation and how workers, riders, and urban residents respond to the contradictions it creates 31
  32. 32. Four Papers In Process • Revisiting Regulatory Reform for Bus Operations in Latin America with Onesimo Flores and Juan Carlos Muñoz • The Publicness of Public Transport: The changing nature of public transport in Latin American cities with Manuel Tironi • Contested Space for Mobility: Conflicts over busway projects in India and Latin America with Juan Carlos Muñoz • Bus Rapid Transit as a Neoliberal Contradiction 32
  33. 33. Questions? 33 Feel free to email me at lpaget@uc.cl if you want to discuss any of these ideas in more detail