News / Research and Publications

Congratulations, Dr Fahimeh Khalaj!

Congratulations to Fahimeh Khalaj who just completed her PhD in Planning at UQ. The title of her thesis is ‘Are cities still building highways? A comparison of Australia and Iran‘.

A scientific consensus has emerged that the dominant 20th century paradigm of solving transportation congestion problems by building more highways has failed. The legacy of the highway construction era is visible in polluted and congested cities worldwide. To battle these ills, planning academics have been promoting more sustainable built forms aligned with dedicated public and active transport modes. Partly as a result of the push from academia, a number of cities have sought to remove their highways and replace the freed-up space with more sustainable transport alternatives and public space. To determine if transportation planning is undergoing a ‘paradigm shift’ or whether highway removal is merely a passing fad, Fahimeh’s thesis examines the following question: Are cities continuing to construct highways despite their obvious adverse effects? To answer this question the thesis takes two approaches: a systematic literature review and a case study analysis of two cities: Brisbane, Australia and Shiraz, Iran. First, the systematic literature review was conducted on cities with removed highways to determine: why highways were removed and whether there is a ‘paradigm shift’ in transport planning at international level. Providing adequate background knowledge on the topic, second, the case study analysis was conducted on cities which have not removed any highways and instead continue building highways and underground tunnels. Case study was conducted to determine: why some outdated transport policies persist despite some obvious adverse effects; what are the motives and barriers to highway removal; and whether highway removal process has (or will) constitute a ‘paradigm shift’ in transportation planning of these cities. To collect data semi-structured interviews of transport professionals and decision makers were used in Brisbane and Shiraz. Results suggest that a paradigm shift has not occurred in transportation planning at international level and neither will occur in Brisbane and Shiraz in near future. While many cities are creating human-scale and active transport spaces, these spaces tend to coexist alongside highways. This study concludes that for a paradigm shift to take place a number of prerequisites are required in terms of the governing system, the transportation planning process and the social context.

Supervisors: Dr Dorina Pojani and Prof Neil Sipe