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Towards Transport Justice in the Global South

Towards transport justice in the Global South: Using PAR to define, evaluate and monitor progress in Chile By Ignacio Tiznado-Aitken and Lake Sagaris The following piece is part of Progressive City's Planning for Just Transport series. Transport is fundamental to our existence – including access to key sources of livelihood, ranging from work to healthcare to educational institutions to childcare to stores. Yet, the right to accessible, safe and affordable transport – as a public good – is continuously denied on the basis of ability, race, gender, sexuality and class. With this in mind, authors have highlighted initiatives, strategies or actions that aim to secure more just forms of transit.

Municipalidad de Rancagua. CEDEUS Webinar, July 2020.

What do we mean by transport justice? In the Global North, the concept is usually linked to benefits and costs of transport systems and how their distribution across population groups affects equity and social inclusion. In Chile, one of the world’s most unequal societies, we started from current academic conceptualizations to test and adapt key concepts to our context. We used a participatory action research (PAR) framework, which is based on horizontal, democratic principles of power sharing, learning through action and research with rather than on people. We applied two surveys, qualitative workshops with community leaders and academics, and feedback workshops. This allowed us to generate a “transport justice balance sheet”, Balance de Transporte Justo (BTJ) (2018-2020), using an open-ended definition of transport justice.

Led by the university-community collaboration, the Laboratorio de Cambio Social (Laboratory for Social Change), we explored the dimensions that transport justice should consider and how the mobility system could contribute to more just cities in Chile’s highly segregated urban areas. We found that planning for transport justice should consider elements of universal access, walkability, cycle inclusion, and public transport, as might be expected. However, partners also underlined gender violence, democratization of governance, provisions for seniors and children, neighborhood heritage, and ecological services as central dimensions.

In 2020-2021 we again used PAR to produce a tool to rank transport justice in diverse cities. The main tool was a survey of experts, developed with intensive participation from leading citizen groups and academics. The survey focused on five areas key to transport justice: universal access, gender, walkability, cycle inclusion, and public transport. Over 100 experts from citizen, technical and academic backgrounds responded, evaluating different facets of each topic, prioritizing possible solutions, and identifying challenges and opportunities for each location. This allowed us to generate a ranking for 12 cities in six of Chile’s 13 regions, leaving us with a well-tested instrument to evaluate and, in 2021-2022, monitor progress towards transport justice.

Cities in the initial ranking posted results ranging from 33% to 58% of transport justice achieved. Rancagua, the best city in the ranking, has advanced significantly in walkability and cycle inclusion, but has been weak on citizen participation (Figure 1). To further complement and contextualize these results, we created a companion City Profile with qualitative and qualitative indicators, including city size, density, spatial aspects, planning with or without citizen participation, and road fatalities broken down by gender, rural/urban, and transport modes. This last indicator was based on a national database that holds significant data but has failed to make it available in an easily understood, policy-relevant format.

The ranking avoids any pretense at universality and, by presenting itself as a baseline rather than an absolute evaluation, avoids stigmatization when generating an overview for each city highlighting strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. The ranking also generated flexible quantitative and qualitative tools to monitor progress at a time when major pro-democracy changes have swept municipal elections countrywide and regional governors have been elected for the first time in Chile’s history. This socio-political context, the result of massive protest movements throughout 2019 and well into the pandemic, offers significant opportunities for the BTJ and our ranking to serve as a roadmap for more inclusive transport, making it particularly useful to advocacy groups and visionary politicians.

Ignacio Tiznado-Aitken is Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Coordinator at Suburban Mobilities Cluster, Department of Human Geography at University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). During 2018-2019 he was a postgraduate researcher at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds. During 2020-2021, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CEDEUS). His research interests encompass qualitative and quantitative methods to address transport justice issues. His work focuses on sustainable transport, public transport, equity, gender, accessibility, and affordability. More info at

Lake Sagaris is an internationally recognized expert on cycle-inclusive urban planning, civil society development, and participatory planning theory and practice as they relate to urban-regional governance. She has increasingly used a gender perspective to highly aspects of transport and mobility justice and intersectionality in both her research and her teaching, pioneering studies on women, safety and public transport (Santiago case study, Ella se mueve segura, CAF/FIA Foundation) and action-research partnerships to create gender, civil and social justice programs as part of Cool routes to schools programs in vulnerable neighborhoods in cities large and small. In 2019, the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative, of the German Development Agency, ITDP and others, included her in their list of Remarkable Women in Transport.




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