PhD project: Light Rail in a Mobility Perspective - experience, effects and rationality

  • Olesen, Mette, (Project Participant)

Project Details


Through my PhD project I study light rail systems as a phenomenon which is emerging as a trend within public transport and urban transportation in general, especially in many middle-sized European cities. Through the project I will explore the concept of light rails with a theoretical basis in the new mobilities paradigm (Urry, 2007; Creswell, 2006). As opposed to addressing light rail systems solely from the conventional transport planning approach and technical perspective, this ‘mobility approach’ implies exploring light rails as a part of the mobility system and not as an independent technology. Hereby the social and cultural embedment of light rails in the city becomes essential and the theoretical and methodological approach involves looking at the mobility system as a whole: context, history, policies, culture, impacts etc (Beckmann, 2000). This approach creates basis for improved understanding of the significance that contextual elements have in relation to the actual impacts of light rail systems. Moreover, the aim with the project is to develop methods that ensure that the knowledge developed through this project can be integrated into the decision making and planning processes for future public transport projects.

The key research questions of this project are: Why has there been an increased focus on light rail systems in many European cities, and which rationalities and patterns of meaning are behind the decision‐making and implementation process of light rail systems? How can a mobile theoretical and methodological framework be developed to address the impact of light rail systems in middle‐sized European cities? How can the mobility system of light rails systems be understood in relation to the context that they are a part of? How can mobile methods be developed to evaluate and understand the impacts of future European light rail systems? These research question frames a holistic approach to explore light rail systems potentials and barriers in the urban mobility system. Moreover, the approach entails a focus on all phases from policymaking and planning to implementation and the actual impacts of the systems.

The methodology in this project is rooted in a qualitative case-study methodology. Five middle-sized European cities are selected as cases to gain insight to the experiences around light rail systems that can be found in these cities. For this purpose the case study methodology is valuable because of its focus on the holistic, in-depth and actor oriented approach (Flyvbjerg, 1991). The case studies have been conducted through document analysis, field trips to the case cities and explorative interviews with key stakeholders.

Effective start/end date01/02/201101/02/2014