Theses Doctoral

The Transport Planning Process: A Political and Institutional Analysis

Fischer, Lauren Ames

The governance of urban transport involves a complex amalgam of intergovernmental actors, revenue sources and normative justifications. In recent decades, there has been a clear shift toward decentralized approaches to urban transport investment. This devolution of responsibility supports the development and deployment of new governance strategies that rely heavily on sub-regional implementation strategies and that justify urban transport in terms of economic development, not mobility impacts. This dissertation provides a grounded view of the devolution of urban transport planning through an in-depth case study of the implementation of a modern streetcar investment in Kansas City, Missouri. Using a combination of institutional analysis and phronesis, it illuminates the antecedents of local governance strategies, like value capture and non-profit governance, and shows how local conditions and history are shaping transport policy in unanticipated ways. While new governance strategies support enhanced investment, they also shape who benefits from new investments. In the Kansas City case, policies in the streetcar’s proximity emphasized the importance of lifestyle diversity and nurturing the development of an emerging arts community but eschewed notions of race and income diversity in ways that reflect and exacerbate the city’s dismal history of segregation. Devolution is facilitating new governance arrangements that reflect local conditions but, as this case shows, these new strategies may also be setting urban transport on a troubling institutional trajectory that – without intervention – will only lead us away from equitable and inclusive cities.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Fischer_columbia_0054D_15107.pdf Fischer_columbia_0054D_15107.pdf application/pdf 2.69 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
King, David Andrew
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 22, 2019