MTPs are ‘organic’ phenomena (rather than static engineering artefacts) that often need ‘time to breathe’. This time for reflection can present special opportunities that should be seized and exploited by key decision-makers.
Against the background of the OMEGA case study projects, it is clear that most MTPs are subject to an ‘organic’, evolutionary process that often produces fundamental change in the raison d’etre or scope/scale of the project and/or the thinking behind plans for the areas they impact upon. This organic process is frequently necessary to enable MTPs to respond to changing contexts, ideas, political agendas and visions of future possibilities.
Given the organic characteristics of MTP developments, whereby such projects cease to be seen as essentially static engineering artefacts, and given the period of reflection (‘time to breathe’) they often require in decision-making (particularly for larger and more complex projects), the long gestation period that is commonly experienced need not necessarily be considered ineffective.
Aspects of this lesson about the organic nature of infrastructure networks are reflected in the writing of Mitchell and Rapkin (1954), Meier (1962), Graham and Marvin (2001), Alexander (2001) and Batty (2005). In certain cases, fast tracking of projects can indeed prove lethal if insufficient time has been allowed to absorb/deal with the numerous issues they need to address. Contrasting examples of the use of a time to breathe period can be illustrated by three of the OMEGA case studies, as follows: An illustration of the good use of the time to breathe was the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway which, during a period of national economic difficulties during the 1990s that resulted in a more protracted implementation programme, saw the introduction of more efficient and highly successful technical innovations that effectively reduced costs, and opposition (on environmental grounds) by local communities.
Conversely, examples of when a period such as this was not well managed are highlighted by both: the Big Dig in Boston where, after four years of disagreement over the design for the crossing of the Charles River, the Transportation Secretary had to intervene, and; the Jubilee Line Extension, where the project was put on hold for 18 months following the collapse of private sector funding while the government sought a contribution to the overall (project) costs from the private sector.
Mega Transport Project Considerations
MTP planning, appraisal and delivery agents need to acknowledge the evolutionary nature of many/most such projects (especially those with clear ‘agent of change’ roles), and in so doing:
Consequently, notwithstanding the significance of this lesson, it is important to note that this time for reflection should be well managed so as to ensure a genuine re-examination of past decisions and future direction involving key MTP stakeholders.
As a corollary, we suggest that there is a need for those involved in MTP developments to positively embrace the possibilities/opportunities associated with evolutionary (emergent) change(s), rather than insisting that original project visions, concepts and objectives must necessarily remain firmly fixed in all cases. This calls for action from key actors, as shown above.
References (Cited Authors)
Mitchell, R. B. and C. Rapkin, C. (1954), Urban Traffic: A Function of Land Use, Columbia University Press, New York.
Meier, R. (1962), A Communications Theory of Urban Growth. M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Graham, S. and S. Marvin (2001), Splintering Urbanism, Routledge, London.
Alexander, C. (2001), The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, The Centre for Environmental Structure, Berkeley, California.
Batty, M. (2005), Cities and Complexity: Understanding cities with cellular automata, agent- based models and fractals, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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