Governance Failures in Integrated Transport Policy - on the Mismatch of 'Co-Opetition' in Multi-Level Systems

By Sack, Detlef | German Policy Studies, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview
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Governance Failures in Integrated Transport Policy - on the Mismatch of 'Co-Opetition' in Multi-Level Systems


Sack, Detlef, German Policy Studies


1 Introduction

The puzzle to be dealt with in transport policy is a perennial issue well-known since the post-materialist environmental turn. It is the discrepancy between the repeated call for an integrated transport policy (ITP) and the actual persistence of an automobile oriented transport policy (Jouve 2002: 24; Scholler 2007: 17). The program of substantial traffic reduction advocated for since the 1970ies did not achieve being a dominant "logic of appropriateness" (March/Olsen 1989). This was due to both a strong wide-ranging automobile advocacy coalition and the discursive power of mobility as the outstanding characteristic of postmodern times (Urry 2007). However, local, national, supranational, and international developments have put the negative effects of traffic, let it be land-use, noise, security, or greenhouse gas emissions, on the political agenda. Henceforth, transport policy cannot be pursued without assessing and reducing the environmental impacts of traffic. In the face of the contradictory call for rising mobility and less negative externalities the idea of sustainable transport which brings together economic, ecological, and societal needs has become the 'discursive broker'. ITP substantiates sustainability by pushing forward projects combining truck, car, ship, train, bus and bicycle use in passenger transportation as well as in freight traffic. ITP is aimed at linking the specific engine performances of transport modes deliberately and reducing their respective detriments therewith. Scholler traced back the discourse on ITP to the 1920ies, illustrated the renaissances of this idea, and pointed to the explicit formulation of ITP in the "Bundesverkehrswegeplan" (Federal Transport Network Plan) 1992 (2006: 16-27). Official documents and public budgets show the importance of ITP. It has become a forceful idea within transport policy over the decades. Taking ITP as an important issue of transport policy that is earnestly, but not exclusively pursued is the vantage point of the following argument.

Against this background, the puzzle is to be specified. Why did expensive and vigorous initiatives for ITP fail to impact substantively on the modal split by strengthening more environment-friendly transport? Which explanation can be given for the obvious gap between a policy striven for and its poor success and outcome performance? It is argued in this article that the pitfall of ITP is governance failure (Jessop 2002: 45-48). ITP programs lacked a sophisticated mix of governance modes although "coopetition" (Beckmann/Baum 2002) as a combination of cooperation and competition had been promoted for ITP. Program implementation was allocated to public-private networks on the regional level in which a significant number of actors with very different rationalities were involved. Thus, ITP realization faced time consuming and costly coordination. This resource allocation for cooperation restricted activities for a distinguished contest on the best solutions between experimental ITP projects. Apart from regulated interaction on one jurisdictional level of policy, ITP is allocated within the multilevel governance framework of the European and German transport policy. This is characterized by the vertical interplay of different governance modes. While local cooperation is costly and time consuming the European liberalization in road freight traffic and national privatization in railroad, i.e. more competition, required not only immediate adjustment of the single firm but of the rather inertial local networks as well. Different governance modes generally show different temporalities. In addition, the market shaping policy in the European transport policy has had some specific detrimental side effects on the regional coordination since it repeatedly altered contextual parameters. Therefore, cooperation in ITP programs had to cope with both their own (overambitious?) procedures of arguing and bargaining on the one hand as well as with external turbulences on the other.

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