Making better choices — an investigation of collaborative stakeholder dialogue as catalyst for consensus building and learning in the transport policy process

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This research investigates strategies to achieve a broader focus in urban transport development that better integrates environmental, social and economic considerations. In the past, the primary objective of urban transport policy was to facilitate economic growth by expanding capacities for motorised road transport (MRT). However, recent decades have made it apparent that a preoccupation with growth has negative impacts on sustainable urban development. This awareness produced new stakeholder groups who are demanding that social and environmental priorities be included in urban development by promoting active and public transport (APT) policies. Efforts by local governments to implement APT policies are a source of major conflict between the advocates of change and stakeholders who want to maintain the focus on MRT expansion. This is because APT and MRT policies compete for limited public space and funding and so implementing APT policies often compromises the transport-related interests of MRT groups and vice versa. If MRT stakeholders have more resources to influence policy development — more money, more access to people in power, and more know-how in advocacy and mobilising public support — they can create barriers to the implementation of APT policies. This research builds on an empirical case study conducted in Munich, using data from interviews with government and non-government stakeholders. It reveals that a process of collaborative stakeholder dialogue (CSD) was a catalyst for policy solutions which better balance active, public and motorised transport. The collaboration created shifts in the way stakeholders interacted, resulting in cooperation rather than confrontation. It resulted in the adoption of consensus views rather than extreme positions, and in learning based on an integration of stakeholder value and knowledge systems. To demonstrate the practical and theoretical advantages of CSD for facilitating better policy choices, the research systematically compares CSD to the traditional adversarial style of stakeholder interaction in the transport policy process. To improve the process and application of CSD in the transport policy process, the research investigates whether CSD can coexist with procedures for lay citizen engagement. Finally, it discusses under what conditions CSD can be transferred to other cities, using Sydney as case study. The research concludes with suggesting CSD as a pragmatic strategy to counterbalance the difference in influence competing stakeholder groups have in the urban transport policy process, and to so facilitate better policy choices. This strategy is most appropriate in problem situations with high levels of conflict between competing stakeholder groups that all have influence.
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