Governance failures in integrated transport policy - on the mismatch of 'co-opetition' in multi-level systems.

Author:Sack, Detlef

1 Introduction

The puzzle to be dealt with in transport policy is a perennial issue well-known since the post-materialist environmental turn. It is the discrepancy between the repeated call for an integrated transport policy (ITP) and the actual persistence of an automobile oriented transport policy (Jouve 2002: 24; Scholler 2007: 17). The program of substantial traffic reduction advocated for since the 1970ies did not achieve being a dominant "logic of appropriateness" (March/Olsen 1989). This was due to both a strong wide-ranging automobile advocacy coalition and the discursive power of mobility as the outstanding characteristic of postmodern times (Urry 2007). However, local, national, supranational, and international developments have put the negative effects of traffic, let it be land-use, noise, security, or greenhouse gas emissions, on the political agenda. Henceforth, transport policy cannot be pursued without assessing and reducing the environmental impacts of traffic. In the face of the contradictory call for rising mobility and less negative externalities the idea of sustainable transport which brings together economic, ecological, and societal needs has become the 'discursive broker'. ITP substantiates sustainability by pushing forward projects combining truck, car, ship, train, bus and bicycle use in passenger transportation as well as in freight traffic. ITP is aimed at linking the specific engine performances of transport modes deliberately and reducing their respective detriments therewith. Scholler traced back the discourse on ITP to the 1920ies, illustrated the renaissances of this idea, and pointed to the explicit formulation of ITP in the "Bundesverkehrswegeplan" (Federal Transport Network Plan) 1992 (2006: 16-27). Official documents and public budgets show the importance of ITP. It has become a forceful idea within transport policy over the decades. Taking ITP as an important issue of transport policy that is earnestly, but not exclusively pursued is the vantage point of the following argument.

Against this background, the puzzle is to be specified. Why did expensive and vigorous initiatives for ITP fail to impact substantively on the modal split by strengthening more environment-friendly transport? Which explanation can be given for the obvious gap between a policy striven for and its poor success and outcome performance? It is argued in this article that the pitfall of ITP is governance failure (Jessop 2002: 45-48). ITP programs lacked a sophisticated mix of governance modes although "coopetition" (Beckmann/Baum 2002) as a combination of cooperation and competition had been promoted for ITP. Program implementation was allocated to public-private networks on the regional level in which a significant number of actors with very different rationalities were involved. Thus, ITP realization faced time consuming and costly coordination. This resource allocation for cooperation restricted activities for a distinguished contest on the best solutions between experimental ITP projects. Apart from regulated interaction on one jurisdictional level of policy, ITP is allocated within the multilevel governance framework of the European and German transport policy. This is characterized by the vertical interplay of different governance modes. While local cooperation is costly and time consuming the European liberalization in road freight traffic and national privatization in railroad, i.e. more competition, required not only immediate adjustment of the single firm but of the rather inertial local networks as well. Different governance modes generally show different temporalities. In addition, the market shaping policy in the European transport policy has had some specific detrimental side effects on the regional coordination since it repeatedly altered contextual parameters. Therefore, cooperation in ITP programs had to cope with both their own (overambitious?) procedures of arguing and bargaining on the one hand as well as with external turbulences on the other. The latter triggered a need for internal coordination anew. In a nutshell, having assigned the challenge of traffic modes' combination to local public private partnerships made it a laggard to competitive individual automobile transport.

The paper starts with a political science perspective on transport in which comparative public policy research is combined with a governance approach. The empirical part of the paper which presents the evidence for the argument deals with two salient initiatives of German ITP. The first is a research fund for "Mobility in Agglomerations" which was launched in 1998. The second is the national program for the building of integrated freight villages (FV) which started in the late 1980ies. These two initiatives were chosen since both show similarities in the vigorous political support from above as well as in their shortcomings due to the internal complexity of coordination. The conclusion reflects implications for the further research on transport policy as well as for the future design ITP.

2 Comparative public policy research and the governance approach

In preparing the next white book on transport by the European Commission, a focus group has identified seven drivers of transport activity, i.e. ageing, migration, urbanization, globalization, regional integration, climate change and technology (Focus Groups report 2009: 19). Each "driver" is stretchy in itself but the list shows the complexity of the policy field. Technical, economic, geographic, societal, and ecologic issues are interwoven. Therefore, fluid and complex policy intersections with labor market, economic, environmental, etc. policies are rather the rule than the exception. In a socially selective way, transport problems do affect both the individual mobility and the society as a whole (Heinelt 2007; see Sager/Kaufmann 2002; Stevens 2004; Scholler 2007).

Furthermore, transport policy is shaped by a certain materiality, i.e. a infrastructure (water, road, and railroad networks) and its links, for instance cargo terminals, which requires the respective planning and funding. Regarding the modal split, the policy arena typically shows a landscape of actors which is not only corrugated by interests and norms of market, state, and civil society but also by advocates for car, train, ship, and plane. In addition, transport policy became increasingly a multilevel policy which takes place on the international, European, national and federal state, regional, as well as on the local level (Plehwe 1997; Giorgi/Schmidt 2002; Lehmkuhl 2002/2008; Sack 2007). In this context, Europeanization with its change from market-shaping, negative integration to the coordination of market regulating policies including social and environmental concerns is the most prominent change within the field of transport policy (Stevens 2004; Lehmkuhl 2008). It is indicated by a substantive rise of hard and soft law in European transport policy (Plehwe 2009). All in all, the field shows a rather high number of competing interests, of policy core believes, and of regulating as well as coordinating levels.

One might deem that a certain lack of public policy research on transport is due to its broad, fluid, and corrugated character. Positively taken, the field offers a broad scope of application of scientific concepts, especially in comparative perspective. In their seminal research project Heritier et al. have explored the impacts of European regulation on national transport policy in Germany, Italy, Britain, The Netherlands, and France by adapting a rather integrative comparative research concept (2001). Explanatory factors have been the status quo before European regulation came into being, the ideology/belief systems of advocacy coalitions, their programs and the spread of knowledge, the factual leadership, interests, and politics as well as the number of veto-points (Heritier et al 2001).

With regard to the governance debate in social science (Stoker 1998; Pierre 2000; Kooiman 2003), one dimension is missing. This is the dimension of regulating the relations of interdependent actors, not their policies. Conceptually, governance is not on content but on regulated interaction. Against the background of the particular corrugated landscape of actors, interests, and believes, a "capability to act" (Pierre/Peters 2000) of 'the state' is needed which exceeds immediate hierarchical steering. Instead, at arm's-length coordination, arbitration, furthering self-regulation and spontaneous order, to name just a few, will be found within the policy field. There are different governance modes to which problem-solving capacities are assigned. Having put 'the state' in quotation marks also hints to the phenomenon of vertical rescaling of regulating, i.e. transport policy within the German context is subject to regulations, distribution, planning, and implementation on the European, national, federal, regional, and local level. The governance approach with all its limits (Rhodes 2000) highlights vertical differentialization and horizontal deconcentration of interactions within a policy field. It offers both a terminology for the vertical and for the horizontal dimension.

To start with the latter, different proposals were made to characterize different modes of governance (Kooiman 2003; Benz et al. 2007). In a rather parsimonious taxonomy it is suggested to distinguish between hierarchy as top-down interaction, competition as evolutionary selection, cooperation as horizontal interaction based on arguing as well as bargaining and community as exclusive solidarity (Sack 2009: 46). These governance modes show not only different characteristics but also different temporalities and failures respectively (Jessop 2002: 45-48).

The vertical differentialization is categorized into two types: The multilevel governance type I consists of a layered order of few mutually exclusive, permanent, and...

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