TSU Seminar Series - Hilary Term 2011

Future Research in Transport

Seminars were delivered during Hilary Term (January - March) 2011 in the Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford.

Convenved by Dr Moshe Givoni. For more information on this seminar series, please contact

Professor David Banister
Week 1: 5pm, 19 January 2011, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Distance, Speed and Time: The fundamentals of transport geography

Professor David Banister, Transport Studies Unit, Oxford.

Mobility has grown dramatically over the recent past, and all activities depend on travel and movement to get people and goods to where they are needed. Present lifestyles depend on travel and there are huge benefits from this increased mobility. Transport geography is concerned about the volumes and patterns of movement of people and goods, the price of transport, and the role of transport in economic, political, and social development. But this is a rather narrow view of the role that it could play, as there is a newer more modern literature about distance, speed and time, and the role that transport geographers can and should play in strengthening the theoretical and conceptual basis of transport.

In this presentation the changing patterns of mobility over time are outlined, together with explanations of the reasons behind the enormous growth in mobility over the last 100 years. This provides the context against which several important geographical research themes need to be placed to emphasise the importance of distance and the need to examine the means by which the growth in travel distance can be moderated or even reduced. This is a key area where transport geographers should have a strong and instrumental role to play in generating new thinking on sustainable transport.

Professor David Banister is Professor of Transport Studies at the School of Geography and the Environment (SoGE), University of Oxford. Since 2009 he has also been the Acting Director of the Environmental Change Institute at SoGE. Before he joined SoGE, he was Professor of Transport Planning at University College London. He has also been Research Fellow at the Warren Centre in the University of Sydney (2001-2002) on the Sustainable Transport for a Sustainable City project. Over the past 20 years he has built up an international reputation as one of the leading UK researchers in transport and planning analysis. His research interests include: transport investment decisions and economic development, policy scenarios for sustainable mobility, transport and sustainable development - reducing the need to travel, transport planning methods and their application to policy decisions, and modelling of energy and emissions from transport modes in urban areas and regions. He is editor of Transport Reviews and Built Environment and on the editorial board of a further 6 key international transport journals. He has authored and edited 19 books that summarise his own research and some of the international projects that he has been involved with. He has also authored (or co-authored) more than 150 papers in international refereed journals, together with a similar number of other papers in journals or as contributions to books.


The "Future Research in Transport" seminar series kicked off last Wednesday with an intriguing lecture by Prof. David Banister at the Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University.

Although Prof. Banister focused mainly on the issues of speed, distance and time, the opening seminar of the series was more like a transport lecture touching on different aspects of transport research and discussing the future challenges of the discipline while putting forward important arguments on the main seminar topic. In that sense, the seminar was very fulfilling. The main issues covered in the seminar, which lasted about an hour followed by questions from the audience, were related to distance, space and place, accessibility, mobility, the use of technology, speed and time in the context of social, environmental, economic and spatial processes within cities.

Among the three aspects of transport that the lecture was based on, Prof. Banister mainly focused on the distance measure. During the presentation, dramatic figures were shown demonstrating for example how travel distances doubled in 40 years in the UK within the period of transformation from the industrial to the post-industrial city whereas number of trips remained still, showing that we are travelling more than before to reach similar activities. Longer distances play an important role in the generation of environmental issues as well as uneven use of space. Prof. Banister discussed the role of transport in maintaining a viable, vibrant and vital city vision and mentioned that the ownership of space should be discussed in transport research and flexible uses of public space should be available. Besides, he mentioned the vitality of promoting shorter journeys and active travelling with social modes of transport.

Moreover, the need for reducing the number of trips, reorganising activities within cities in order to increase accessibility, and use of technology for overcoming environmental issues have been discussed as the conditions of the sustainable mobility paradigm. Prof. Banister mentioned that strengthening the focus on the distance element and exploring the ways in which travel distances can be reduced may result in reductions in travel time and travel speed in a city where mixed use approach is proposed. This may in turn be beneficial in terms of time saving and the reductions on the use of energy and carbon as well as creating social benefits by providing high quality public transport and a full range of local services. As a consequence, major contributions to sustainable transport may be achieved.

Another important point that was brought up in the seminar was the role of technology within the debate. Recent technological developments on electric vehicles (EVs)are opening up new areas to explore concerning transport planning. The current EVs technology allows the use of EVs for a certain time and speed. This creates opportunities for maintaining sustainability within cities as vehicles support slower and shorter trips as well as contributing to reducing carbon emissions, traffic accidents, increasing health benefits and enhancing the environment. In terms of the use of electric cars for private transport, specific policy measures should be taken. Prof Banister discussed the idea that vehicle ownership should change. For example, cars can be shared and used for specific purposes by hiring them for each journey. That would reduce the ownership and allow reallocation of space, not for cars but for people. Referring to Jan Gehl's formula of improving the quality of life by first establishing the type of desired public life, then designing public space and buildings, Banister added transport as the fourth element.

Travel time and speed have been discussed in terms of the need for a fundamental behaviour change as well as technological change. In order to achieve this, the number of trips should be reduced as well as the length of trips and cleaner modes of transport should be preferred. Banister also mentioned the importance of exploring new ways to understand the activity time, and looking at time in a much more creative way by making linkages to the mobility research which proposes a deeper understanding of travelling. Social dimension of travel examines time as a means for face to face contact and as a place where people can encounter and interact with other people. Thus, as the quality of travel time increases it enhances social experiences of travel. Banister suggests that "time practices must change and time practices do change" also referring to next week's seminar by Professor John Urry.

Overall, the seminar put forward important and timely debates on distance, speed and time, three crucial aspects of transport. Banister discussed that "travel is no longer seen as a derived demand with no positive value as an activity, it in fact has a substantial and increasing value. Transport geographers should leave the narrow economic concerns over time and speed and explore the richer issues of travel distance that can be firmly embedded in an understanding of behaviour and culture". Being an interdisciplinary subject, transport research needs to engage with other disciplines such as sociology, geography, environmental sciences as well as spatial planning, economy and engineering. In that sense, this comprehensive lecture by Professor David Banister revealed important challenges for both transport geographers and researchers from other related disciplines.

Eda Beyazit
DPhil Candidate, TSU

Professor John Urry
Week 2: 5pm, 26 January 2011, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Does Mobility have a Future?

Professor John Urry, University of Lancaster.

This talk considers whether the twentieth century was in fact the high point of #39;mobility' and that various processes now mean that 'mobile lives' will not continue increasing into the foreseeable future. The complex intersections of increasing population and urbanisation especially in the BRICs, of global climate change, and of the peaking of oil (and gas) mean that the resources that made possible the mobile century will not continue in anything like the same way for the coming century. A number of future scenarios are assessed which suggest some bleak futures for the middle years of the coming century. The author will draw upon his role as one of the 'scientists' in the Foresight Programme on Intelligent Infrastructure Systems (2005-6), as well as recent books on After the Car, Mobile Lives and the forthcoming Climate Change and Society. The author will suggest some future lines of researching such futures that this analysis would urgently suggest.

John Urry is Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Lancaster University; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; Founding Academician, UK Academy of Social Sciences; Chair RAE Panels (1996, 2001); Honorary Doctorate, Roskilde University. He has published c40 books and special issues, c70 refereed articles and c80 chapters. He is currently Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research. Recent books include Sociology beyond Societies (2000), The Tourist Gaze (2002, 2011), Performing Tourist Places (2004), Automobilities (2005), Mobilities, Networks, Geographies (2006), Mobilities (2007), After the Car (2009), Mobile Lives (2010), Mobile Methods (2011) and Climate Change and Society (2011).


The second speaker of the "Future Research in Transport" seminar series was Professor John Urry, and he gave a perspective regarding the future of mobility.

Urry argued that societies require a high amount of carbon to currently function. He touched upon previous historical developments, and noted that the 20th century was a lifestyle based on an extraordinary and exceptional resource, oil. Urry claimed that oil, not money, makes "the world go round" and was the key of western modernity. Urry commented that the use of oil has implications towards other sectors, like food, where it is very dependent on food production, and that according to McNeill: "We have deployed more energy since 1900 than all of human history before 1900."

Urry alluded to the historical reference that transportation did not have to be petroleum based, but could have been steam powered or electric powered in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The development of suburbs, he noted, changed travel patterns.

Urry then illustrated his points by using Dubai as a case study. He noted that its rapid development conveys its dependence on oil and the importance of oil in development. He then discussed the implications this may have in other places that strive to grow.

Urry then noted that in the future, oil will be expensive, there will be shortages due to its fall in availability per person, and in order to keep the mobile world moving, increases in the supply of oil are required. He illustrated that a post oil society is currently very challenging and there is great difficulty in the future. The more a country is dependent on oil, he argued, the more insecure it is.

He concluded by stating that not only is there peak oil and peak gas, but also the possibility of peak water and a more generalized peaking in the global north. He stated that societies may be living at a turning point or tipping point and perhaps we have never had it so 'good' and may never have it so 'good' again.

When he was asked about electric vehicles and the role that it can play in the future, he argued that for a successful transportation transition, system change, and not partial change, is integral. He noted the importance of dominating the entire transportation system, rather than portions of it.

Malek Al-Chalabi
DPhil Candidate, TSU

Professor Anthony Perl
Week 3: 5pm, 2 February 2011, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE *

Understanding the Paths to Post-Carbon Mobility: Research needs for anticipating transport revolutions

Professor Anthony Perl, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.

In the transition to a post-carbon future, global transportation systems are likely change more during the next ten years than they have over the past 40 years. The mode of change will depart from the incremental adaptation that current planning and policy frameworks were designed to facilitate. Moving beyond the oil fueled internal combustion engine will require expanding, and in some cases introducing, new types of transport infrastructure such as high-speed rail lines and roads that can support grid-connected vehicles. It will also call for either down-scaling or redesigning the infrastructure that was designed to serve exclusively oil fueled transportation, such as most airports and conventional motorways.

This presentation will introduce an anticipatory planning framework that could facilitate such a transition and consider the research needs that could advance the performance of such a framework. Since there is no single substitute that can replace oil's ubiquitous role as a transport fuel, electric mobility will be shown to present the best option for blending energy sources and accommodating an incremental shift from non-renewable to renewable energy sources. If the United Kingdom and other European nations are to adapt successfully, there will be a critical need for effective energy-first transportation planning, along with policy instruments that can support implementation of the shifts called for in such plans.

Anthony Perl is Professor of Urban Studies and Director of the Urban Studies Program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Before joining SFU, Anthony worked at universities in New York, Calgary and Lyon, France. He received an undergraduate honours degree in Government from Harvard University, an MA and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Toronto. Anthony has published over three dozen articles and book chapters as well as five books dealing with transport, cities the environment and public policy. He has received prizes for outstanding papers presented at the World Conference on Transport Research and the Canadian Transportation Research Forum. He is a member of the Board of VIA Rail, Canada's national passenger railway. He also chairs the Committee on Intercity Passenger Rail of the Transportation Research Board, a division of the U.S. National Research Council. Anthony is also a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute, based in Santa Rosa, California.


The third session in the TSU seminar series, entitled 'Understanding the paths to post-carbon mobility: research needs for anticipating transport revolutions' was held by Professor Anthony Perl from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.

The first international speaker in the series began by stating that it is going to be "an interesting decade when it comes to transport and change". Prof. Perl stated that revolutionary change has not been the norm apart from perhaps in transport logistics. Thus the knowledge and experiences gained within logistics will have to lead us more confidently through this change as the rest of the sector needs to "improve our game". A very apt introduction to this session.

Prof. Perl's seminar began by providing a history of the "Oil Story" discussing the implications of a post carbon mobility shift beginning with the end of conventional oil and a move towards "Extreme oil". This overview of our oil dependency provided a broad introduction to the topic. It touched upon the future global challenges to come due to supply issues and possible geopolitical constraints. His opening dialogue lead onto the main area under discussion; the dynamics and conceptual approaches to transport revolutions and how they fit in with future energy readjustments.

Prof. Perl stated that statistics show that more than half (56%) of the world's oil consumption is used by the transportation sector. From this he advised we need to "start thinking about planning our future energy adjustments" and discussed two modes of change; incremental and revolutionary disruptive change. He mentioned that this second mode of change in particular needs to be applied to our mobility systems to allow us to perform with less/no oil. Perl also suggested three paths to a post carbon future: 1) a change from internal combustion to electric motors; 2) using inherently more efficient mobility modes such as rail and conventionally slower modes such as marine and 3) trying to use more collectively managed transport (filling up vehicles to capacity). The essence of these key points was then developed within the presentation. In particular Perl suggested that by combining energy sources and eventually moving away from non-renewables we can incrementally change the entire system over to renewable energy. Additionally electric vehicles, rail/high speed rail, marine mobility (plus "Skysails") and even the introduction of dirigibles for freight can help to ease our reliance on conventional road and air transport and mitigate the impacts of higher energy prices. This discussion highlighted for the audience the steps needed to move towards post carbon mobility and also brought to the forefront how we can (re)introduce slightly more unconventional modes.

From this Prof. Perl moved from what might happen to energy and the key implications for transport options and continued on to discuss the how. The discussion on the cancellation of Heathrow's third runway and the fact that this infrastructure would (soon) one day be obsolete allowed Perl to focus and identify the gaps now apparent in transportation planning and engineering. Examples included the need to move to infrastructure that supports electric mobility and a call for a new balance of know-how through planning human capital requirements i.e. electrical engineers to work on mobility applications. The issues under discussion here were covered in a concise way introducing scenarios using 40% less oil that would maintain comparable levels of passenger and freight mobility, with room for population growth. These scenarios included expanding existing electric corridors with multi-electric vehicle tracks and enhancing the use of "stranded assets". This stranded assets discussion was an interesting point, highlighting how we can overcome the lack of future traffic in our airports due to a decline in cheap flights. Perl agreed that future travel ports; consisting of a co-located and interconnected mix of rail, high speed rail and air terminals, similar to Paris, Lyon, Amsterdam and Frankfurt could be a future solution to air traffic reduction.

In conclusion Professor Anthony Perl's seminar was well positioned for an audience with a varying spectrum of knowledge and awareness of transportation and other related disciplines. His ability to optimistically address issues on how to ease the economic and societal dependence on oil and on unsustainable transportation, were refreshing in an increasingly pessimistic worldview on mobility. He covered a vast array of pertinent issues and offered strategies and scenarios for overcoming the problems faced now and in the future.

Lucy Mahoney
DPhil Candidate, TSU

Professor Kay Axhausen
Week 4: 5pm, 9 February 2011, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE *

Translating Daily Life into Simulation: MATSim and its possibilities

Professor Kay Axhausen, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH), Zürich.

The task of transport modelling is currently to transform daily life into a mathematical abstraction whose properties are known and whose results can be compared for policy and business decisions: a mathematically defined equilibrium of the desired type. The activity-based analysis pioneered at TSU, Oxford in the 70's changed the course of transport modelling by directing it towards the complexities of daily life, at that time not amenable to equilibrium analysis. Agent-based modelling has now opened up the chance to cope with those complexities within an equilibrium framework.

The talk will present the multi-agent transport simulation (MATSim), a Java-written GNU public license toolkit to implement activity-based models. MATSim has been developed since 2003 at ETH Zürich and TU Berlin, but now also by other groups around the world. The development always stressed both speed and scale in application. The system can currently solves in reasonable time problems with 107 agents, 106 destinations; 106 links, including public transport timetables.

Within a co-evoluationary learning scheme, the system searches for a stochastic equilibrium for the whole daily schedule of activities. The available modules are able to shift the search mechanism from a choice-based view to an optimisation-based view. The talk will present the modules and highlight the possibilities inherent in this flexibility.

After presenting results from an application of MATSim to Switzerland, the talk will end by asking the question, if the questions raised by the TSU team in the 1970's have been fully answered, and if not, what needs to be done next.

Dr K.W. Axhausen is Professor of Transport Planning at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich. Before he worked at the Leopold-Franzens Universität, Innsbruck, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford. He has been involved in the measurement and modelling of travel behaviour for the last 25 years contributing especially to the literature on stated preferences, micro-simulation of travel behaviour, valuation of travel time and its components, parking behaviour, activity scheduling and travel diary data collection. Current work focuses on the agent-based micro-simulation toolkit MATSim


The presentation began with an historical overview of transport modelling, and narrowed in on the emergence of activity-based analysis pioneered in the 1970's at Oxford. This served as a critique of the equilibrium approaches prevalent at the time most importantly 1) travel is a derived demand, 2) travel is constrained therefore requiring a much better description of the social situation of the traveller, 3) travellers are not in equilibrium, which was often assumed for mathematical tractability, 4) people do not know all travel alternatives, and 5) people do not necessarily plan in advance. By addressing some of these assumptions, activity based analysis accounted for many of the complexities of daily life which at the time was not amenable to conventional equilibrium analysis.

Although this represented an important evolution to travel analysis, the program of research did not quickly result in transport models that were widely accessible. This is the key gap that MATsim (Multi-agent Transport Simulation Toolkit) aims to fill, by using an agent based micro-simulation modelling approach that accounts for some of the key aspects that activity based analysis originally critiqued. Importantly, a caveat was given that all findings reported were stylized facts, that is agents in the model had their own 'ground hog' day which allows them to fully explore and understand their environment in order to eventually choose the best travel option. Although this does not reflect reality it is nonetheless useful for policy analysis that requires evaluation of alternatives.

A discussion was than given on how to conceptualize the ideal decision making process which would include a 1) mental map, which is a person's understanding of the relative distances between two points in space, how to get from one point to the other and the costs involved, and an 2) activity repertoire, which stresses what the traveller does upon arrival at the destination. These are coupled with the long-term dynamics of a decision-maker, such as personal projects, and the whole range of daily activities that are grouped together to achieve long-term goals. These factors taken together would represent the best approximation to an ideal decision-making model. This discussion was used to contrast against what the state of the art equilibrium models are currently capable of. At the core, equilibrium models find a self consistent description of a system, that is, users expect those costs that they experience when they execute their activities. This equilibrium can be calculated analytically but more preferably through iteration, which is the process used by MATsim. This technique starts with a solution to the daily plans of a traveller which is translated into an activity schedule accounting for travel mode, cost, distance, time, etc. This activity schedule is iterated through the model to determine where and when the activity schedule may come in conflict or competition with the actual transport network. It was stressed that competition does not just take place on the road network but at all levels of activity, which has not been well researched, but where MATsim is beginning to be applied.

It was than discussed that one of the key issues in this approach is how to account for the tastes of the traveller across all observed choices along with all unobserved non-chosen alternatives. In principle this would require iteration across all alternatives but is most often constrained by researcher time and resources. To make the modelling tractable, it is therefore necessary to begin with some best approximate description of the alternatives and begin the iteration process from there.

The discussion closed with future research needs including understanding the spatial distribution of social networks, which addresses questions of whom travellers are travelling with. This is important because leisure activity typically accounts for 40% of total travel. A brief overview was than given of preliminary research undertaken by the group describing the spatial distribution of social networks across Switzerland. Other key issues raised included how cities will change in the future which calls for introducing time dynamics in spatial analysis, long-term urban sustainability, resource impacts and the need to combine these with land-use, network and traffic flow modelling.

Martino Tran
Research Fellow, TSU

Professor Ole B. Jensen
Week 5: 5pm, 16 February 2011, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE *

More than A to B - Transport and Mobility Research as Cultural Explorations

Professor Ole B. Jensen, Aalborg University, Denmark.

This talk puts emphasis on the 'softer' dimensions of identity formation, social interaction and cultural production as important but neglected areas of transport research. The future of transport research would benefit from 'turning to mobility studies' as it were in order to understand the important repercussions transportation has to issues of culture, identity and social interaction. By looking into case studies of transit spaces this talk claims that what takes place in everyday life mobility is much more than getting from point A to point B. Furthermore, the ethnographic and qualitative dimension of this research will be an important additional dimension to the future of transport research. The talk draws on the micro-sociology of Erving Goffman to show how we produce and re-produce norms, cultures and identities in such mundane activities as moving about in the city. Furthermore, the architecture and urban design of these spaces may hold the potential for more interesting and socially enriching experiences whilst they become understood in the light of the 'more' that is in focus of this talk.

Ole B. Jensen (BA Political Science, MA Sociology, PhD Planning) is Professor of Urban Theory in the Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology at Aalborg University, Denmark. His key research interests are urban mobilities, the network city and networked technologies. His is the co-founder and board member of the Center for Mobility and Urban Studies (C-MUS) at Aalborg University and the author of Making European Space. Mobility, Power and Territorial Identity (with Tim Richardson), Routledge, 2004 and author of a number of Mobility research papers in journals such as Mobilities, Space and Culture, Urban Studies and International Planning Studies.


Whether masterminded by the series organisers or simply incidental, the juxtaposition between last week's seminar from Kay Axhausen and this week's from Ole Jensen could hardly have been greater. Beyond the fact that both speakers share a professional interest in the complexity of contemporary transport practices, one would be hard-pressed to find much in the way of shared ontological, epistemological or methodological convictions.

After briefly discussing his academic background and current professional activities, Jensen began the seminar by reviewing the theoretical foundations of 'mobilities' scholarship. Given the diverse disciplinary backgrounds of the seminar attendees, this was to be expected. However, pondering the seminar series theme of 'future research in transport', one might reasonably wonder when scholars from the mobilities tradition will be able to comfortably address a generic transport audience without feeling the need to justify their work from first principles. Arguably, it ought to pose some searching questions to the discipline as a whole that speakers are still compelled to reaffirm the fact that 'mobility' corresponds to more than the empirical realities of movement.

Jensen's tone in this early discussion-and, indeed, throughout the entire seminar-was pleasantly upbeat. Clearly well-read in sociological theory, he spoke confidently on the need to conceptualise transport in a holistic manner, sensitive to the myriad cultural logics at play in contemporary mobility practices. A number of classic contributions were cited in support of his argument, including the work of John Urry, Marc Augé's notion of non-place and Kevin Lynch's normative theory of urban form. However, judging by some of the questions that followed his lecture, Jensen's thesis could have gained further credibility had he reflected more deeply upon a number of concepts that seemed central to his thought-such as Latour's notion of 'blackboxing', 'relational' conceptions of place, and, in the context of Gibson's affordance theory, notions of 'potential' and 'interaction'.

Although policy relevance in transport research is still largely held to be synonymous with quantification and extensive methods, the mobilities approach is certainly 'prompting new questions, if not garnering new practices' within policy circles (Shaw and Hesse, 2010, p. 309). In this context, Jensen's personal reflections on the contribution of the mobilities approach to the practicalities of transport governance were both timely and considered. Specifically, he charted his involvement in the "messy realities" of seven policy-orientated research projects, ranging from small-scale urban ethnography in Aalborg (à la William H. Whyte) to in-depth critique of infrastructure-led territorial reconfiguration and resultant European 'monotopia'. This emphasis on policy engagement was refreshing, as was his positive experience of inter-disciplinary project working.

Whereas many of the previous speakers in the seminar series implicitly addressed the overarching theme of 'future research in transport', Jensen explicitly attended to it in his final remarks. In essence, his conclusions were twofold. The first strand related to transport researchers' conceptualisation of their subject matter. Echoing Tim Cresswell and others, Jensen stressed that a holistic appreciation of mobility as a cultural phenomenon is vital if transport research is to make genuine intellectual progress in the coming decades. The importance of identity, interaction and aesthetics must not be overlooked, nor should the motivations behind contemporary mobility practices simply be viewed as instrumental in nature. Moreover, Jensen called for a deeper, critical engagement with the agency of modern transport infrastructure. The second strand of Jensen's conclusions related to the practice of transport research per se. He argued for a greater dialogue between mobilities and 'mainstream' transport studies, where each tradition ought to be capable of incorporating new insights, theories and techniques from the other.

If proof were needed that the mobilities approach still finds a hostile reception amongst the ranks of transport academics, then one need only to listen to the Q&A session at the close of the seminar. This review is not the place to discuss the various arguments that the mobilities approach raises; suffice to say there are many. However, for those interested in the issues, an emerging body of literature offers some substantive insights (see, for example, Shaw and Hesse, 2010; Cresswell, 2010; Vannini, 2010; Goetz et al., 2009).

Overall, this was a very enjoyable seminar from an engaging and thoughtful scholar.

James Macmillen
Research Fellow, TSU


Professor Roger Vickerman
Week 6: 5pm, 23 February 2011, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Myth and Reality in the Search for the Wider Benefits of Transport

Professor Roger Vickerman, University of Kent.

Whether and how transport affects economic development has been the subject of much controversy. These wider economic impacts (WEIs) continue to provide difficulties on both theoretical and empirical grounds and hence there is no clear guidance for their use in appraisal. Recent research has improved our understanding of the way in which accessibility affects the performance of firms, the public sector and labour markets. However, whilst the conceptual and theoretical arguments have advanced, the empirical evidence remains problematic with conflicting results from different methodologies. This seminar reviews the theoretical advances and the empirical evidence and establishes priorities in the future research agenda, but also makes some tentative suggestions for improvements to appraisal.

Professor Roger W Vickerman MA DPhil Dr h.c. AcSS FRSA FCILT is Dean of the University of Kent's, Brussels Campus. Educated at the Universities of Cambridge and Sussex, and holder of an Honorary Doctorate from the Philipps-Universität, Marburg, he is an Academician of Academy of Social Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. His research focuses on the relationship between transport (especially infrastructure), regional development and integration in the European Union. He is particularly known for his studies on major infrastructure projects, particularly the EU's Trans-European Networks. He is currently working on questions relating to public-private partnerships, regulation in transport and the ex-post analysis of ERDF and Cohesion Fund expenditure on transport. He is a member of the Analytical Challenge Panel to HS2 Ltd which advises the UK Government on the development of high-speed rail. He has served as a member of SACTRA (Standing Committee on Trunk Road Assessment), as an advisor to Committees of both the House of Commons and House of Lords in the UK Parliament and acted as a consultant to the European Commission, various UK government departments and regional and local government authorities. He is the author of 6 books (including the textbook Principles of Transport Economics, with Emile Quinet) and over 150 chapters, journal articles and reports. He sits on the editorial boards of several journals in both transport and regional science and is Editor in Chief of Transport Policy.


So much has been said on the wider benefits of transport. Vickerman did an excellent job in condensing and illuminating a more than three-decade-old research area and giving indications of potential research that could add more to the existing evidence or correct the evidence offered so far.

The seminar was highly constructive in two ways. First, concrete research advice was given while criticising the work that he thinks has been misleading. He started by criticising Aschauer-style econometric work, which he thinks has overemphasized aggregate level trends and left us with various problems, including endogeneity and causality resulting in misleading transport policies. His advice was clear: future research should focus on more micro-level analysis of the impacts of transport; post-studies focused on large infrastructure projects should be encouraged; and the econometric evidence should be advanced in the vein of works which he esteems highly, such as that by Dan Graham on distance decay. Second, he managed to offer real-life examples of everything he said, which definitely made the talk more interesting. The Channel Tunnel case clearly exemplified the importance of post-studies, as does his assessment of the impact of TEN-T on Lisbon. Two case-studies on Cross Rail and HS2 were also quite illustrative in terms of assessing the direct and indirect benefits of transport, i.e. the justification of the Cross Rail by the existence of agglomeration economies.

In a further example of the illustrative tone of the talk, it should be pointed out that, in addition to the real-life examples of the theory, the timely events he referred to during his talk in a humorous tone did not make the seminar only more enjoyable, but also more informative. Obama's promise to ensure that 80% of the population would be within reach of the proposed high-speed rail network or the question of the people who adhered to the idea that infrastructure always brings economic development like "Why do we build the Channel Tunnel? The region is already well-developed!" gave hints of his argument on the "contextuality" and "conditionality" of transport. One could easily see the underlying arguments regarding the necessity of certain conditions for transport to come with its wider benefits, as well as the fact that the benefits of transport should be examined within the local economy.

On the policy transferability of the arguments for transport, the theoretical contribution of the talk was also very useful. He clearly simplified the existing arguments while noting the difficulties in applying best practice everywhere by questioning the inevitability and universality of New Economic Geography models' emphasis of the agglomeration effect. For appraisal reasons, he strongly warned about the potentially misleading results that may come about by using the same parameters between modes and cities as a criticism of modelling. The basic model on the agglomeration benefits he presented is simple enough to ensure one was able to grasp the conceptual framework of the mechanism. His subsequent illustration of the relationship between accessibility and GDP was illustrative, as was his explanation of the outliers. He gave practical tips for assessing the economic growth impacts of accessibility, pointing to geographical scale, unit of analysis and determination of the ceteris paribus condition. In terms of suggesting a framework for measuring transport benefits, he strongly argued for the significance of the degree of imperfect competition in the economy.

As can be seen so far, Vickerman's talk was very clear in terms of its messages and contributions from both empirical and theoretical perspectives. The basis of such clarity was founded on his starting the talk by exploring the nature of transport - as a derived demand, as a substitute, and as an engine of growth. In a way, this reminded me of a brief dialogue from the previous week's seminar. Bent Flyvbjerg from the audience had asked the speaker Ole Jensen, "Could you give me an example of infrastructure as an art?" Jensen answered, "...hard to define art in this context." To me, this brief conversation had important socio-cultural and political implications, and Vickerman stayed away from this. Rather than arguing for one concept for transport, he avoided overstating certain aspects of it by outlining a wider concept, and such an approach clearly helps us to explore its wider impacts.

It could be argued that Vickerman does not say much different to what has already been said - and actually this is what he himself states at the beginning of the talk. However, the way he aggregates the existing frameworks and evidence to offer a pathway for future research is an additional input to the current discussion, as the importance of bringing different perspective together to have a standardized understanding of the mechanism is understated. Moreover, unlike with the well-known debate on transport and the local economy, Vickerman draws a parallel with the discussions surrounding transport governance, asking what is expected from transport policy. Is the impact supposed to be a response to a need? Do we expect too much from transport? This overreliance, as Vickerman rightly argues, may deflect attention from other significant aspects of the economy.

This was an inspiring talk, particularly for economic geographers and transport researchers, a fact confirmed in his closing sentence implying that there is still a lot of work to do.

Nihan Akyelken
Research Fellow, TSU

Professor Robert Cervero
Week 7: 5pm, 2 March 2011, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE *

Mobility, Place-Making, and Economic Competitiveness

Professor Robert Cervero, University of California, Berkeley.

This talk focuses on the importance of striking a balance between building transportation infrastructure and advancing sustainable urbanism as an economic development strategy. Sustainability and economic competitiveness are often cast as trade-offs however some transportation programs successfully embrace both elements. International case experiences are examined with respect to freeway-to-boulevard conversions, joint development, green TODs, and ped-access bus rapid transit wherein shifts in labor markets, land prices, and quality-of-life indicators reveal that progressive transport programs and positive economic outcomes can be mutually reinforcing.

Robert Cervero (Professor of City & Regional Planning; Director, University of California Transportation Center; Director, Institute of Urban & Regional Development University of California, Berkeley) works in the area of sustainable transport policy and planning. His current research is on the economic benefits of balancing infrastructure investments with place-making. He is a frequent advisor and consultant on transport projects, both in the U.S. and abroad. In 2004, Professor Cervero was the first-ever recipient of the Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban Planning Research. Presently, he is Chairman of the International Association of Urban Environments and the National Advisory Board of the Active Living Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He was recently appointed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, responsible for the spatial development chapter of the 5th IPCC assessment. He is also the lead author of the forthcoming 2013 Global Report on Sustainable Transportation for the UN-Habitat. Professor Cervero currently serves on the editorial boards of 9 scholarly journals.


Professor Robert Cervero came to Oxford for the seventh session in the TSU seminar series and presented us with a very interesting and engaging lecture entitled "Mobility, place making and economic competitiveness", where he explored the intersections between building transport infrastructure and implementing sustainable urbanism as an economic development strategy. Several examples of projects around the globe illustrated his communication and provided a better understanding of this challenging topic.

Cervero started by mentioning how cities are, nowadays, so dependent on cars, and how this equals to so many negative impacts as traffic congestion, air pollution and global warming or dependence on fossil fuel and inequalities of access. This massive car dependence is consequence of spending the last 40-50 years designing cities for automobiles. The challenge is how to invert this reliance on car usage. To do this, cities need to be redesigned in a way that alternative forms of transport are promoted, as use of public transport, walking or cycling. This is the subject that Cervero explores: how to invert, redesign and regenerate these car dependent cities?

Cervero argued that part of the solution is to bring together not only the active promotion of alternative ways of transport but also transform our cities, by defining livable perimeters and creating urban places that are logistic and functionally competitive and attractive to walk, cycle or to use public transport, places where it is really a pleasure to work, live and do business and places that promote high quality of life. Based in one of his studies, Cervero demonstrated how the benefits from technological advances and enhancements in fuel economy will not be enough for a reduction in carbon emissions in the future, if it is taken into account the fact that cities will be continuing to spread out. So, advances in both fronts are needed: sustainable technologies (vehicles) again low carbon fuel supplies and sustainable urbanism, which would help reducing the demand for travel in terms of vehicle trips and the distance of these trips. Unfortunately these strategies are usually considered bifurcated strategies, one or the other, being almost competitive in terms of financial resources, instead of being mutual reinforcing and both promoters of prosperity.

Cervero move then forward by exploring how this concept of Transit Orientated Development (TOD) can answer to the necessity of promoting alternative ways of transport and reducing reliance on cars. This urban design strategy suggests a heavy investment in public transport systems (point to point rail or bus systems) and, at the same time, promotes functional densities and compact mixed uses around the public transport stations. These places, inspired by New Urbanism principles, should be high quality living environments, designed with a focus on human scale, amenity, pedestrian and bicycle friendly, allowing a multiplicity of uses and still being attractive for consumers, residents and employers. These areas, based on public transport and activities along nodes, could be seen as focal points to reorganize urban growth.

Land Use compact mix, shape of the city, corridors and functional densities are crucial to make these systems work. What happen in many situations is that the geometry of the technology doesn't line up with the geography of travelling required in this spread out cities, which is many origins to many destination. Cervero illustrated this very well, by comparing Los Angeles to Stockholm. On the other hand, if there is a mixed balance of land uses and activities spread along corridors, this will generate a mix balance of flows (bidirectional) and this is essential for an efficient use of the transport infrastructure.

How can these systems and urban strategies be financed and implemented or what are the economic benefits of these was the next topic of discussion. International projects were examined and discussed. From America's most successful Transit Oriented Corridor (TOC) system in Arlington County or the unbeaten Curitiba Bus Based Transit Oriented Development system (TOD); to Frutivale station (BART) redevelopment in Oakland (US), Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR), Seoul's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or Seoul's urban regeneration schemes as Cheong Gye Cheon Freeway Removal and Stream Restoration. In theory, the value recaptures of these investments can be quite high. In almost all the examples, these areas along the corridors became very attractive and popular as places to live, to work, for shopping or to do business. Land price and properties cost rise, more jobs are generated and all this create revenues and local taxes that can help the districts to pay for the redevelopments. An example of this sustainable finance and value capture approach is the MTR in Hong Kong, where a right Institution formula of Rail + Property coordinates together Railway and land use, making both investments more efficient. Functional densities, mixed use and enhancements on aesthetics and place making prove to substantially increase profits and ridership (MRT, Hong Kong) and contribute to a overall carbon reduction and energy savings (San Francisco Area study or Metrorail Extension to Tysons Corner, Virginia, US).

Cervero concluded by reinforcing how investment in sustainable mobility and in sustainable urbanism could help to deal with environmental problems and climate change. There is, although, many distortions in the system (perverse petrol prices, free parking or the currently dysfunctional forms of the cities) that strongly influence travel behavior and create difficulties on the implementation and success of this TOD model. A curious fact is that this approach, TOD, is not a new invention; in fact, it tries to return the design of neighborhoods around transit stations, something that existed 100 years ago, in a pre automobile era.

Andre Neves
DPhil Candidate, TSU

Professor Andrew Goetz
Week 8: 5pm, 9 March 2011, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE *

Investment in Transport Infrastructure and Economic Development: Recent debates in the United States

Professor Andrew Goetz, University of Denver.

The ongoing global economic crisis has severely crippled economies throughout the world, prompting national governments to take radical actions to stabilize financial systems and stimulate economic growth. One strategy that several governments, including the United States, have chosen involves increasing investment in transport infrastructure as a way to stimulate short-term employment growth and long-term economic development. This strategy was one of the central pillars in the $787 billion economic stimulus package known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. In the period prior to the signing of this legislation, considerable debate focused on the efficacy of transport infrastructure investment to stimulate economic growth. Whereas some experts favored significant investment in transport infrastructure, others questioned the viability of this approach citing especially the case of Japan in the 1990s where significant transport investment did not lead to strong economic growth. It is useful, then, to revisit the theoretical and empirical literature on the linkages between transport investment and related economic impacts in the context of the current economic crisis. Accordingly, this paper provides a survey of the literature on this topic, paying particular attention to the importance of context dependency in interpreting results. Current debates in the US concerning budget deficits and the national debt are affecting political attitudes toward public investment in large transportation projects. Several recent examples, including the proposed high-speed rail program and a proposed tunnel project in New Jersey, are highlighted. Future research challenges include the development of more effective measures to gauge the short- and long-term economic impacts of transportation, as well as the integration of social and environmental costs and benefits as part of a sustainable development approach to evaluate the effects of transport infrastructure investment in a more holistic manner.

Andrew R. Goetz is Professor and Chair in the Department of Geography at the University of Denver, a faculty member in the Intermodal Transportation Institute and the Urban Studies Program at the University of Denver, and a research associate in the National Center for Intermodal Transportation. He has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on topics including transportation and urban/economic growth, air transportation, transport geography, intermodal transportation, transportation planning, globalization, and sustainability. He has co-authored two books, Denver International Airport: Lessons Learned (McGraw Hill, 1997) and Airline Deregulation and Laissez-Faire Mythology (Greenwood Press, 1992). He is an associate editor of the Journal of Transport Geography, a member of the Statewide Freight Advisory Council at the Colorado Department of Transportation, and has served on the Denver International Airport (DIA) Community Focus Group, on the Transportation Advisory Committee for the City and County of Denver's Strategic Transportation Plan, and on the Transportation Advisory Committee for the Denver Regional Council of Governments [DRCOG]. He recently received the 2010 Edward L. Ullman Award from the Association of American Geographers for Significant Contributions to Transportation Geography. Professor Goetz received a BA from Northwestern University, MA from Kent State University, and PhD from Ohio State University.


How do transport infrastructure investments relate to economic development? How can we maximize the efficacy of our public investments in transport infrastructure? Will the current United States' federal stimulus package for transport infrastructure be able to achieve the employment growth and economic development it seeks? In this week's seminar, Andrew Goetz gave us an overview of previous research and the latest debate on these issues.

Professor Goetz, from the University of Denver, has long been involved in transport studies, where his research has covered transport economics, transport policy and infrastructure, urban planning and sustainable development. In this seminar, he presented arguments for and against public investment in transport infrastructure - focusing mainly on American and Japanese case studies. In recent decades, US transport infrastructure has suffered significant aging and capacity inadequacy. Increasingly, infrastructure investment has been widely regarded as an effective method to promote economic growth, particularly during the current crisis. Therefore, it was expected that transport infrastructure investment would play an important role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) published in 2009.

The lessons from Japan tell a different story, indicating that transport investments do not always generate significant economic returns. Because transport infrastructure projects always involve a large public investment accounting for a substantial government budget, potential links between transport provision and economic development should be fully investigated. It appears that Japan's vast infrastructure investments of $6.3 trillion since the 1990s have not effectively stimulated the nation's economy to the degree expected. Some large infrastructure projects have been inappropriately allocated in remote rural areas where the actual demand is fairly low, such as the Hamada Marine Bridge ($70 million) which connects the city to a sparsely populated island.

Goetz then elaborated upon the interrelationships between transport infrastructure investment, economic impacts and accessibility before reviewing empirical literature concerning attitudes to public investment in transport infrastructure. Here, a series of recent studies were examined, including those highlighting the necessity of transport investment for economic development and those examining the decoupling of economic growth and transport growth. By summarizing different viewpoints from previous studies, Goetz concluded that public investments in transport have provided benefits for economic development in general, yet can suffer from low efficiency, misallocation of resources and negative impacts on adjacent regions.

The presentation ultimately concluded that in order to better identify and understand the role of transport infrastructure in fostering economic development, progress is required in two key areas: (1) improved evaluation methods are needed that can accurately estimate the externalities associated with transport infrastructure investments; and (2) the economic impacts of diverse transport modes should somehow be differentiated. Finally, Goetz noted the discrepancies that often exist between the actual and projected results from infrastructure investment, as well as the methodological importance of case studies for gaining an appreciation of the geographical and historical influences on infrastructure development and effectiveness.

Jian Liu
DPhil Candidate, TSU

* These seminars are partially funded by the UKTRC.