Drawing lines on maps: Evidence and decision-making in urban transport planning in Toronto and Melbourne

When and Where

Tuesday, November 05, 2019 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
MY 853 Boardroom
School of Cities, Myhal Centre
55 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 0C9


Nathan Pittman, PhD Candidate in Urban Planning, Melbourne School of Design, The University of Melbourne


The observation at the heart of this seminar is that urban transport planning is seemingly conducted by politicians drawing lines on maps, despite the wealth of evidence produced by an extensive rationalist planning apparatus. In this session, I seek to explore these boundaries between the technical and the political in urban transport planning. Should transport planning be based solely on technical definitions of problems and solutions? What space, if any, should there be for political involvement in urban transport plan-making?

My research focuses on transport planning between 2000 and 2015 in the Melbourne (Australia) and Toronto (Canada) urban regions, using a framework developed from the post-Foucauldian governmentalities literature, drawing on transport planning documents, and semi-structured interviews with key planning actors.

The findings suggest that in both Melbourne and Toronto, the technical shapes the political and the political shapes the technical. The realm of decision-making is structured by the available technical evidence, even though specific decisions might not relate as clearly to the evidence as we would always like. Conversely, technical evidence is oftentimes produced following the decision, sometimes with overtly political tones. Through understanding the technical and political dimensions of urban transport planning as recursively influential, I hope to create the space for new ways of critiquing and informing contemporary urban transport planning practice and scholarship.