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What Culture does to Regional Governance : Collaboration and Negotiation in Public Transport Planning in Two Swedish Regions

Paulsson, Alexander; Portinson Hylander, Jens LU and Hrelja, Robert (2016) In Transportation Research Procedia 19. p.147-150
Abstract

Introduction In the context of public transportation, just as in many parts of society, the level of organizational complexity has increased over the last twenty years. Due to structural reforms and policy adjustments, responsibilities for the public transportation system in Sweden have become increasingly divided between a variety of public and private actors, thus fragmenting the organizational landscape. This development has led to an increased awareness of the need to coordinate efforts in the public transport system. Not only does this involve coordination between private and public actors, it also involves coordination between public actors located at different vertical and horizontal scales in the government structure. The... (More)

Introduction In the context of public transportation, just as in many parts of society, the level of organizational complexity has increased over the last twenty years. Due to structural reforms and policy adjustments, responsibilities for the public transportation system in Sweden have become increasingly divided between a variety of public and private actors, thus fragmenting the organizational landscape. This development has led to an increased awareness of the need to coordinate efforts in the public transport system. Not only does this involve coordination between private and public actors, it also involves coordination between public actors located at different vertical and horizontal scales in the government structure. The literature on governance has developed as a means to theorize these shifts and changes. In particular, governance theories analyze changing relations between public and private actors in providing common means and ends of societal development (Baanddie;ckstrand, 2010; Treib, Baanddie;hr, and Falkner. 2007). Research objectives The objective with this paper is to compare two regional governance cultures in the context of regional public transportation planning. As Vigar et al. (in Booth, 2009:677) contends, andquot;most comparative studies of planning systems focus on the tools of the system (plans and regulatory powers) and on competencies (which level does what).andquot; Complementing this, our study contributes to what Reimer and Blotevogel (2012) call a andquot;cultural sensitizationandquot; of planning by zooming in on how the need to handle fragmented planning processes is expressed in, and translated into, practice in Sweden's two largest metropolitan areas: the capital region of Stockholm and the Vaanddie;stra Goanddie;taland Region, where Gothenburg is the major urban center. Theoretically, we seek to explore the potential of the concept of culture for understanding regional governance. Theoretical framework Theoretically, in this paper we understand andquot;governanceandquot; not as a qualitatively distinct phenomenon, but as an analytical framework, useful to analyze the constantly changing interplay between actors, institutions and instruments, which together work in complex and interrelated ways to steer specific areas of societal interest. Inspired by Treib et al. (2007), we apply governance as an analytical framework to investigate the interplay between the (1) politics (actors in a governance setting), (2) polity (institutional frameworks) and (3) policy (instruments) aspects of a given area of public concern. To study and explore local alterations and evolutions in institutional arrangements and policy instruments, as well as the changing roles of key actors in a field, is important due to the fragmented organizational landscape characterizing public transport systems. For this purpose we adopt the term "governance cultures". With this term we seek to contrast the abstract and generalized framework that constitutes much of the governance literature with an account of how governance is enacted and shaped locally by individuals and organizations. The word "culture", is here understood as the "meanings and values implicit and explicit in a particular way of life" (Williams 1961:57). "Governance culture", thus, becomes the empirical and lived practice of meanings and values mediated through institutional structures and norms of governance. As Soanddie;pper (2014) notes, analyses of governance and culture tend to focus on different things: governance is typically applied to study general modes and reasons for coordination (or conflict), whereas cultural dimension can be used to understand underlying motives and particularities of coordination between actors. Combining the two frameworks thus allows us to paint a fuller picture of the field as it is enacted by individuals and organizations in a specific setting. While the role of the state in contemporary governance issues should not be neglected nor overly diminished (Hysing, 2015), in this study we seek instead to compare regional governance cultures. Although all regional public transport planning processes in Sweden are subject to the same formal requirements as stipulated by law they still exhibit significant differences in how public transport planning and management is carried out. These differences, we argue, can in part be derived from processes whereby official governance structures and discourses evolve and adjust according to local practices and processes (Coaffee and Healey, 2003). By adding culture to the framework developed by Treib et al. (2007) we seek to study, on a regional level, how governance cultures are expressed as; (1) politics, by examining which actors and constellations set agendas and define problems; (2) polity, by investigating how actors ascribe meaning and significance to institutional frameworks, e.g. whether or not rules and administrative boundaries may be circumvented; and (3) policy, by studying how policy instruments are interpreted and employed by various actors. Method Management and planning praxis is always contingent on context-dependent judgment (Flyvbjerg, 2004). In order to discern and highlight similarities and differences in governance cultures, we conduct a comparative case-study of metropolitan regions in Sweden. The regional context, with different political circumstances, objectives, relations between officials and politicians, planning traditions, etc., has a crucial bearing on the outcomes of public transport management and planning. We therefore need empirically grounded descriptions, and a practice-based methodology to ground our analysis. The case study can be seen as a pedagogical tool that produces the type of context-dependent knowledge and experience that is important to learning processes and expertise (Flyvbjerg, 2007). Stockholm and the Vaanddie;stra Goanddie;taland Region thus offer context-dependent stories about public transport governance which hopefully can elicit critical thinking and action among practitioners, and provide novel perspectives on public transport coordination. For analytical purposes we present the cases as ideal types representing specific cultures of governance (Hrelja, 2015). Based on interviews we conduct a comparative analysis of how governance cultures in public transport planning are enacted in the studied regions. Methodologically, comparative studies concerning governance are often analyzed and categorized on national levels. While a deep understanding of culture requires extensive ethnographic fieldwork (Geertz, 1972), interviews can serve as entry-points to the meanings and practices that constitute culture in a given context. Each region and its organizational structure is presented briefly, after which the interview material is brought into the text to discern and highlight certain qualities of culture of governance in each region. In the data collection, we interviewed officers with different affiliations in each region (Regional public transport authorities, local authorities, region associations of local authorities, the Swedish transport administration, traffic companies). 7 interviews were conducted in Stockholm and 6 in the Vaanddie;stra Goanddie;taland Region. Case descriptions The Swedish organisation of public transport entails municipal authorities and county councils in each county sharing the financial and political responsibility for public transport. The current legislation (SFS, 2010) requires counties to establish a Regional Public Transport Authority (RPTA), which is responsible for the strategic planning of public transport. County councils and municipal authorities have had the option of deciding whether the county council alone, or the municipal authorities alone without the county council, should bear the responsibility for public transport. The RPTA is responsible for making decisions on public service obligations, but it also owns and maintains much of the public transportation infrastructure, including tracks, stations and depots. Through public procurement procedures, the RPTA contracts operators who then run the traffic. At the level of the state, the Swedish Transport Administration is responsible for roads, road infrastructures and the railway network. Locally, municipalities make decisions on land-use planning and this makes them responsible for auxiliary infrastructures in the public transportation network. It is solely a municipal responsibility to plan land use. In Sweden, this responsibility is usually referred to as a "planning monopoly", which indicates the strength of municipalities" sole control of this issue. Stockholm is a growing city and region that covers 26 municipalities and 1 county. The City of Stockholm alone has an ambitious plan to build 140,000 new housing units by 2030, yet traffic congestion and competition for space is continuing to increase. Public transport is important for the city as well as for the greater urban region of Stockholm, according to several of the informants we interviewed. There is also a common agreement among local politicians and planners that public transport has an important role to play in the development of the city, making it an attractive region to live in and to visit. The Västra Götaland Region covers 49 municipalities, 1 county, and is Sweden"s second largest region in terms of population, with the region"s economic and population epicenter in Gothenburg. Following continuous trends of urbanization, the city and region is growing steadily, making land-use planning and public transport policy increasingly important to meet the political and public demand of mobility and access to services.

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coordination, culture, governance, passenger transport, public transit, public transport
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Transportation Research Procedia
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19
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4 pages
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Elsevier
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  • scopus:85019068065
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2352-1457
DOI
10.1016/j.trpro.2016.12.075
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@article{a5e9c2e9-7909-43ce-a697-0b98a7620aca,
  abstract     = {<p>Introduction In the context of public transportation, just as in many parts of society, the level of organizational complexity has increased over the last twenty years. Due to structural reforms and policy adjustments, responsibilities for the public transportation system in Sweden have become increasingly divided between a variety of public and private actors, thus fragmenting the organizational landscape. This development has led to an increased awareness of the need to coordinate efforts in the public transport system. Not only does this involve coordination between private and public actors, it also involves coordination between public actors located at different vertical and horizontal scales in the government structure. The literature on governance has developed as a means to theorize these shifts and changes. In particular, governance theories analyze changing relations between public and private actors in providing common means and ends of societal development (Baanddie;ckstrand, 2010; Treib, Baanddie;hr, and Falkner. 2007). Research objectives The objective with this paper is to compare two regional governance cultures in the context of regional public transportation planning. As Vigar et al. (in Booth, 2009:677) contends, andquot;most comparative studies of planning systems focus on the tools of the system (plans and regulatory powers) and on competencies (which level does what).andquot; Complementing this, our study contributes to what Reimer and Blotevogel (2012) call a andquot;cultural sensitizationandquot; of planning by zooming in on how the need to handle fragmented planning processes is expressed in, and translated into, practice in Sweden's two largest metropolitan areas: the capital region of Stockholm and the Vaanddie;stra Goanddie;taland Region, where Gothenburg is the major urban center. Theoretically, we seek to explore the potential of the concept of culture for understanding regional governance. Theoretical framework Theoretically, in this paper we understand andquot;governanceandquot; not as a qualitatively distinct phenomenon, but as an analytical framework, useful to analyze the constantly changing interplay between actors, institutions and instruments, which together work in complex and interrelated ways to steer specific areas of societal interest. Inspired by Treib et al. (2007), we apply governance as an analytical framework to investigate the interplay between the (1) politics (actors in a governance setting), (2) polity (institutional frameworks) and (3) policy (instruments) aspects of a given area of public concern. To study and explore local alterations and evolutions in institutional arrangements and policy instruments, as well as the changing roles of key actors in a field, is important due to the fragmented organizational landscape characterizing public transport systems. For this purpose we adopt the term "governance cultures". With this term we seek to contrast the abstract and generalized framework that constitutes much of the governance literature with an account of how governance is enacted and shaped locally by individuals and organizations. The word "culture", is here understood as the "meanings and values implicit and explicit in a particular way of life" (Williams 1961:57). "Governance culture", thus, becomes the empirical and lived practice of meanings and values mediated through institutional structures and norms of governance. As Soanddie;pper (2014) notes, analyses of governance and culture tend to focus on different things: governance is typically applied to study general modes and reasons for coordination (or conflict), whereas cultural dimension can be used to understand underlying motives and particularities of coordination between actors. Combining the two frameworks thus allows us to paint a fuller picture of the field as it is enacted by individuals and organizations in a specific setting. While the role of the state in contemporary governance issues should not be neglected nor overly diminished (Hysing, 2015), in this study we seek instead to compare regional governance cultures. Although all regional public transport planning processes in Sweden are subject to the same formal requirements as stipulated by law they still exhibit significant differences in how public transport planning and management is carried out. These differences, we argue, can in part be derived from processes whereby official governance structures and discourses evolve and adjust according to local practices and processes (Coaffee and Healey, 2003). By adding culture to the framework developed by Treib et al. (2007) we seek to study, on a regional level, how governance cultures are expressed as; (1) politics, by examining which actors and constellations set agendas and define problems; (2) polity, by investigating how actors ascribe meaning and significance to institutional frameworks, e.g. whether or not rules and administrative boundaries may be circumvented; and (3) policy, by studying how policy instruments are interpreted and employed by various actors. Method Management and planning praxis is always contingent on context-dependent judgment (Flyvbjerg, 2004). In order to discern and highlight similarities and differences in governance cultures, we conduct a comparative case-study of metropolitan regions in Sweden. The regional context, with different political circumstances, objectives, relations between officials and politicians, planning traditions, etc., has a crucial bearing on the outcomes of public transport management and planning. We therefore need empirically grounded descriptions, and a practice-based methodology to ground our analysis. The case study can be seen as a pedagogical tool that produces the type of context-dependent knowledge and experience that is important to learning processes and expertise (Flyvbjerg, 2007). Stockholm and the Vaanddie;stra Goanddie;taland Region thus offer context-dependent stories about public transport governance which hopefully can elicit critical thinking and action among practitioners, and provide novel perspectives on public transport coordination. For analytical purposes we present the cases as ideal types representing specific cultures of governance (Hrelja, 2015). Based on interviews we conduct a comparative analysis of how governance cultures in public transport planning are enacted in the studied regions. Methodologically, comparative studies concerning governance are often analyzed and categorized on national levels. While a deep understanding of culture requires extensive ethnographic fieldwork (Geertz, 1972), interviews can serve as entry-points to the meanings and practices that constitute culture in a given context. Each region and its organizational structure is presented briefly, after which the interview material is brought into the text to discern and highlight certain qualities of culture of governance in each region. In the data collection, we interviewed officers with different affiliations in each region (Regional public transport authorities, local authorities, region associations of local authorities, the Swedish transport administration, traffic companies). 7 interviews were conducted in Stockholm and 6 in the Vaanddie;stra Goanddie;taland Region. Case descriptions The Swedish organisation of public transport entails municipal authorities and county councils in each county sharing the financial and political responsibility for public transport. The current legislation (SFS, 2010) requires counties to establish a Regional Public Transport Authority (RPTA), which is responsible for the strategic planning of public transport. County councils and municipal authorities have had the option of deciding whether the county council alone, or the municipal authorities alone without the county council, should bear the responsibility for public transport. The RPTA is responsible for making decisions on public service obligations, but it also owns and maintains much of the public transportation infrastructure, including tracks, stations and depots. Through public procurement procedures, the RPTA contracts operators who then run the traffic. At the level of the state, the Swedish Transport Administration is responsible for roads, road infrastructures and the railway network. Locally, municipalities make decisions on land-use planning and this makes them responsible for auxiliary infrastructures in the public transportation network. It is solely a municipal responsibility to plan land use. In Sweden, this responsibility is usually referred to as a "planning monopoly", which indicates the strength of municipalities" sole control of this issue. Stockholm is a growing city and region that covers 26 municipalities and 1 county. The City of Stockholm alone has an ambitious plan to build 140,000 new housing units by 2030, yet traffic congestion and competition for space is continuing to increase. Public transport is important for the city as well as for the greater urban region of Stockholm, according to several of the informants we interviewed. There is also a common agreement among local politicians and planners that public transport has an important role to play in the development of the city, making it an attractive region to live in and to visit. The Västra Götaland Region covers 49 municipalities, 1 county, and is Sweden"s second largest region in terms of population, with the region"s economic and population epicenter in Gothenburg. Following continuous trends of urbanization, the city and region is growing steadily, making land-use planning and public transport policy increasingly important to meet the political and public demand of mobility and access to services.</p>},
  author       = {Paulsson, Alexander and Portinson Hylander, Jens and Hrelja, Robert},
  issn         = {2352-1457},
  keyword      = {coordination,culture,governance,passenger transport,public transit,public transport},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {12},
  pages        = {147--150},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Transportation Research Procedia},
  title        = {What Culture does to Regional Governance : Collaboration and Negotiation in Public Transport Planning in Two Swedish Regions},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.trpro.2016.12.075},
  volume       = {19},
  year         = {2016},
}