Infrastructure imaginaries: the politics of light rail projects in the age of neoliberalism

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

In the last decade light rail transit systems have become a popular mode of public transport in many cities around the world to upgrade the existing public transportation network, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to support neoliberal urban development strategies. The paper takes its starting point in the growing critical literature discussing the politics of light rail and related transport infrastructure projects in the context of neoliberalism. The paper uses the case of Aalborg, Denmark to demonstrate how light rail projects are embedded in particular infrastructure imaginaries, which reflect wider political agendas of promoting urban development and economic growth. In the case of Aalborg, the city’s spatial strategies have played an important role in constructing an imaginary of the city as the region’s ‘growth dynamo’, which in turn have led to a growth-fixated conceptualisation of the city’s spatiality, and contributed to rationalise the need for investments in light rail. The paper argues that light rail projects are first and foremost politically rationalised as important investments for facilitating urban development and supporting entrepreneurial city strategies of urban and economic growth, whilst their social objectives of providing affordable public transportation play a less prominent role in the contemporary imaginary of the city.
Original languageEnglish
JournalUrban Studies
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
ISSN0042-0980
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019

Cite this

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title = "Infrastructure imaginaries: the politics of light rail projects in the age of neoliberalism",
abstract = "In the last decade light rail transit systems have become a popular mode of public transport in many cities around the world to upgrade the existing public transportation network, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to support neoliberal urban development strategies. The paper takes its starting point in the growing critical literature discussing the politics of light rail and related transport infrastructure projects in the context of neoliberalism. The paper uses the case of Aalborg, Denmark to demonstrate how light rail projects are embedded in particular infrastructure imaginaries, which reflect wider political agendas of promoting urban development and economic growth. In the case of Aalborg, the city’s spatial strategies have played an important role in constructing an imaginary of the city as the region’s ‘growth dynamo’, which in turn have led to a growth-fixated conceptualisation of the city’s spatiality, and contributed to rationalise the need for investments in light rail. The paper argues that light rail projects are first and foremost politically rationalised as important investments for facilitating urban development and supporting entrepreneurial city strategies of urban and economic growth, whilst their social objectives of providing affordable public transportation play a less prominent role in the contemporary imaginary of the city.",
keywords = "light rail, neoliberalism, politics, spatial imaginary, strategic spatial planning",
author = "Kristian Olesen",
year = "2019",
doi = "10.1177/0042098019853502",
language = "English",
pages = "1--22",
journal = "Urban Studies",
issn = "0042-0980",
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Infrastructure imaginaries: the politics of light rail projects in the age of neoliberalism. / Olesen, Kristian.

In: Urban Studies, 2019, p. 1-22.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Infrastructure imaginaries: the politics of light rail projects in the age of neoliberalism

AU - Olesen, Kristian

PY - 2019

Y1 - 2019

N2 - In the last decade light rail transit systems have become a popular mode of public transport in many cities around the world to upgrade the existing public transportation network, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to support neoliberal urban development strategies. The paper takes its starting point in the growing critical literature discussing the politics of light rail and related transport infrastructure projects in the context of neoliberalism. The paper uses the case of Aalborg, Denmark to demonstrate how light rail projects are embedded in particular infrastructure imaginaries, which reflect wider political agendas of promoting urban development and economic growth. In the case of Aalborg, the city’s spatial strategies have played an important role in constructing an imaginary of the city as the region’s ‘growth dynamo’, which in turn have led to a growth-fixated conceptualisation of the city’s spatiality, and contributed to rationalise the need for investments in light rail. The paper argues that light rail projects are first and foremost politically rationalised as important investments for facilitating urban development and supporting entrepreneurial city strategies of urban and economic growth, whilst their social objectives of providing affordable public transportation play a less prominent role in the contemporary imaginary of the city.

AB - In the last decade light rail transit systems have become a popular mode of public transport in many cities around the world to upgrade the existing public transportation network, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to support neoliberal urban development strategies. The paper takes its starting point in the growing critical literature discussing the politics of light rail and related transport infrastructure projects in the context of neoliberalism. The paper uses the case of Aalborg, Denmark to demonstrate how light rail projects are embedded in particular infrastructure imaginaries, which reflect wider political agendas of promoting urban development and economic growth. In the case of Aalborg, the city’s spatial strategies have played an important role in constructing an imaginary of the city as the region’s ‘growth dynamo’, which in turn have led to a growth-fixated conceptualisation of the city’s spatiality, and contributed to rationalise the need for investments in light rail. The paper argues that light rail projects are first and foremost politically rationalised as important investments for facilitating urban development and supporting entrepreneurial city strategies of urban and economic growth, whilst their social objectives of providing affordable public transportation play a less prominent role in the contemporary imaginary of the city.

KW - light rail

KW - neoliberalism

KW - politics

KW - spatial imaginary

KW - strategic spatial planning

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DO - 10.1177/0042098019853502

M3 - Journal article

SP - 1

EP - 22

JO - Urban Studies

JF - Urban Studies

SN - 0042-0980

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