Seminar: Constructing and deconstructing the transport infrastructure policy paradigm

The established transportation policy paradigm in industrial and post-industrial nations embeds the goal of incremental, yet perpetual, growth into infrastructure development using policy instruments to “predict and provide” for successive increases in future mobility.  This presentation explores the infrastructure assessment goals and planning principles that could support an alternative mobility paradigm. Such alternatives seek to look beyond providing a binary answer to the question of whether or not to expand and upgrade existing infrastructure. It considers what forces could trigger the formulation of policy alternatives and thus enhance the capacity for resilience and adaptation in infrastructure development.

We hypothesize that exogenous forces will create increasingly disruptive policy anomalies that erode the legitimacy of established means of, and goals for, developing transport infrastructure. Potential triggers of change could include mounting risks posed by the climate and energy vulnerability of established transport technology. Change could also be catalysed by the social discontinuity and economic redistribution generated by shared and autonomous vehicles expanding into the mobility mainstream.  If these forces do materialise, policy will likely need to consider a wider range of mobility goals in order to enable infrastructure planning to address an uncertain future.

We hypothesize that such a policy paradigm will require more room for conceptualising the form and function of infrastructure which we label the “4R Framework.” Here, the mobility paradigm expands to consider both alternatives in growth, and alternatives to growth, through the assessment and potential implementation of four policy goals: Renewal; Redesign; Repurposing; and Removal.  This paper will consider the planning and policy implications of each goal, drawing upon examples from past infrastructure redevelopment.


Prof Anthony Perl, Urban Studies Program, Simon Fraser University (

Anthony Perl is Professor of Urban Studies and Political Science at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  Before joining SFU, Anthony worked at the University of Calgary, the City University of New York, and Universite Lumiere in Lyon, France.  He received his undergraduate honours degree in Government from Harvard University, followed by an MA and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Toronto. His research crosses disciplinary and national boundaries to explore policy decisions made about transportation, cities and the environment.  He has published in dozens of scholarly journals including Energy Policy, Transportation Research, Journal of Transport Geography, World Transport Policy and Practice, Journal of Air Transport Management, Transportation Research Record, Journal of Public Policy, Canadian Public Policy, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Urban Technology, Canadian Journal of Political Science and Scientific American.   His work has been awarded prizes for outstanding papers presented at the World Conference on Transport Research and the Canadian Transportation Research Forum. He has also produced five books.  The Politics of Improving Urban Air Quality, which he co-edited and co-authored was published in 1999 by Edward Elgar, U.K.  New Departures: Rethinking Rail Passenger Policy in the Twenty-First Century was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2002.  In 2003, the University of British Columbia Press released The Integrity Gap: Canada’s Environmental Policy and Institutions, co-authored and co-edited by Perl. His co-authored book, Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil, was first published by Earthscan. A second edition of Transport Revolutions has been published by New Society Publishers. Anthony is also co-author of the Oxford University Press textbook Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems, Third Edition. Perl has advised governments in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, and the United States on transportation and environmental research and policy development.  He served on the Board of VIA Rail, Canada’s national passenger railway for more than four years. He has served on the Selection Committee of Transport Canada’s Urban Transportation Showcase Program.  He has led the Rail Group of the U.S. Transportation Research Board (TRB), a division of the National Research Council.   He has also chaired TRB’s Committee on Intercity Passenger Rail.  Perl is a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute and Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. He is also a member of the Vancouver City Planning Commission.

  • When: Monday 5 March, 1-2 pm
  • Where: Room W349, Forgan Smith building