Transforming Urban Transport- The Role of Political Leadership

Case Studies

Case Study Cities


Case Studies

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Los Angeles

Passage of "Measure R," a ballot measure imposing a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation in 2008, with approval from more than 2/3 of LA County voters. 

This is a story of strong leadership emanating from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), which combined strategic planning and public relations campaigns with broad-based coalition building across key sectors of civil society. By joining forces with a transportation-oriented coalition of labor unions, environmental groups, and business organizations who united under the rubric of a single organization (Move LA), Metro leaders and their allies in elected office mobilized enough electoral support to pass Measure R and thus enhance a longer-term regional capacity for urban transport governance even in the face of temporary set-backs.

Written by David Luberoff
(bio below)

Mexico City

Replacement of independent bus and jitney system with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network on key roadways between 2005-2014.

This is a story of mayorally-led efforts to slowly but steadily discipline private sector transport providers through carrots, sticks, and ongoing negotiations, thus creating room for new transit services while also expanding the public sector's role in transportation planning through BRT implementation and expansion.

Written by Onesimo Flores Dewey
(bio below)

New York City

Remaking of streets and sidewalks as mixed-use urban public spaces for greater use by pedestrians and cyclists since 2007.

This is a story of how and why a public agency expanded and changed its institutional mandate and operations from a narrower preoccupation with traffic management to a wider range of transit concerns, thus allowing for new arenas of intervention and policy action that ultimately transformed city streets. Although the newly reconfigured DOT's initial concern was to prioritize pedestrian and cyclist uses of repurposed city streets, these small-scale changes served as the first steps towards implementing a comprehensive, long-range plan to promote the city's urban growth and economic development.

Written by David Luberoff
(bio below)


Urban transport improvements (i.e. metro urban tramway, Vélib', bikeway network) emanating from the city proper through the region since 2001.

This is a story of political conflict and competition as well as negotiation and partnership in which the introduction of a series of flagship transport initiatives in combination with incremental changes on existing public transit systems altered mobility patterns, while also encouraging new forms of stakeholder engagement across municipal boundaries. These policy advances and the political relationships that enabled them have enhanced the institutional capacities of Paris and Ile-de-France public authorities to territorially expand sustainable urban transport, producing a new spatial vision for the metropolitan area and re-scaling future mobility challenges through a linking of transport priorities at both the urban and regional scale.

Written by Charlotte Halpern and Patrick Le Galès
(bio below)
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San Francisco

Transformation of regulatory structures to legalize and enable expansion of Uber and other ridesourcing services starting in 2013.

This is a story of private sector firms engaging public sector actors in a shared effort to challenge and eventually alter a series of longstanding regulatory frameworks governing personal transportation services, an outcome facilitated by the rescaling of key decision making authority about transit regulations from the local to the state level, where opposition forces had less traction and where tech firms held more sway.

Written by Onesimo Flores Dewey and Lisa Rayle
(bio below)


A 2003 downtown expressway demolition followed by bus system overhaul, multi-modal transport system integration, and urban regeneration.

This is a story of a strong-willed mayor, whom many associated with the country's authoritarian past, strategically managing collaboration between different agencies and personnel within government structures to implement a wide-ranging set of interrelated transport reforms and urban transformations. Building on skillful leveraging of stakeholder conflict and public engagement with constituencies more historically aligned with the democratic movement than with his own Conservative Party, Mayer Lee introduced fundamental transportation changes that ultimately helped catapult him to the national presidency.

Written by Onesimo Flores Dewey
(bio below)


Adoption of congestion pricing on results of a voter referendum following a full-scale trial in 2007.

This is a story of ongoing discussion, conflict, and compromise unfolding over several decades involving different political parties and in a key watershed moment, the professional career of a controversial mayor, whose astute policy management and leveraging of support from several levels of government laid the political and institutional groundwork for others to permanently connect congestion charge revenues to local and regional investments in transport infrastructure and housing.

Written by Diane E. Davis and Amy Rader Olsson
(bio below)


Transformational mode share shifts through reinforcement of complementary measures including public transit improvements and parking and traffic management since the 1990s.

This is a story of tightening transport-land use linkages through continued commitment to mass rapid transit expansion in combination with parking management mandates, two distinct measures involving a range of governing authorities and planning institutions. Despite a highly fragmented political structure comprised of 16 districts governed by Social Democrats, Greens, and Conservatives alike, critical transport measures like parking management have succeeded because of ongoing consultation, policy revision, and negotiations between district governments, residents, and businesses. These processes and the transport policy measures they have produced served to reinforce each other over time in ways that helped achieve the aims of urban compactness while also producing unparalleled progress in shifting mode shares away from automobiles.

Written by Ralph Buehler and John Pucher
(bio below)

Case Study Writers


Ralph Buehler

Associate Professor in Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech


Ralph Buehler, PhD, is Associate Professor in Urban Affairs & Planning and a Faculty Fellow with the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria Center. Most of his research has an international comparative perspective, contrasting transport and land-use policies, transport systems, and travel behavior in Western Europe and North America. His research interests include: the influence of transport policy, land use, socio-demographics on travel behavior; active travel and public health; and public transport demand, supply, regional coordination, and financial efficiency.




Onesimo Flores Dewey

VP of Business Development, Grupo Prodi



Onesimo Flores Dewey is VP of Business Development at Grupo Prodi, a private developer and operator of multimodal transit stations. Grupo Prodi manages close to 800,000 bus to subway transfers every day in Mexico City. Onesimo holds a law degree from Universidad Iberoamericana, a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a PhD in Urban Planning from MIT. While at Harvard, Onesimo taught a course on Transportation Planning and Development. Onesimo has also been a Visiting Scholar at MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism, where he taught a course on Transit Oriented Development in Mexico City. He has consulted for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and INFONAVIT, and runs Ciudad Posible, a blog (in Spanish) hosted at Animal Politico.


Patrick Le Galès

CNRS Research Professor of Sociology and Politics, Sciences Po Paris


Patrick Le Galès, is CNRS Research Professor of Sociology and Politics, at Sciences Po Paris, Centre d’études européennes and he chairs the “Cities are back in town” and “restructuring the state” research groups. He is a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, a former editor of the International Journal of Urban and regional Research, a past president of SASE (Society for Advanced Socio economics), a trustee of theFoundation for Urban and Regional Research. He was educated at Sciences Po Paris, Nuffield College Oxford (M.litt.) and the University of Paris X Nanterre. He was a visiting professor or researcher in particular at UCLA, King’s College London, Nuffield College University of Oxford,, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Society in Cologne, the Universities of Milan Bicocca, Venise and the University of Sao Paolo (spring 2014).


Charlotte Halpern

Associate Research Professor, Sciences Po Paris


Dr. Charlotte Halpern holds a PhD in political science and is an Associate Research Professor at the Centre d’Etudes Européennes de Sciences Po in Paris.  Her main research interest is state restructuring and policy change in Europe. She has done extensive research on transport and environmental policies across the EU. As part of the CREATE project (Congestion reduction in Europe, EU funded, Horizon 2020), she is leading on the qualitative analysis of historical transport policy developments in 5 large European capital-cities. She teaches comparative public policies and is the Scientific Director of the Sciences Po Urban and Regional Management Master Programme, a dual degree urban policy program between LSE-Sciences Po. She is a member of the Sciences Po Research Programme Cities are back in Town and co-editor of its working paper series.


David Luberoff

Deputy Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University

AUTHOR FOR: New york City, Los angeles

David Luberoff is Deputy Director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. He also is a Lecturer on Sociology at Harvard.  He has been Senior Project Advisor to the Boston Area Research Initiative at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; a Visiting Professor of Practice at Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs; Executive Director of Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); and Associate Director of HKS’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. He is the co-author (with Alan Altshuler) of Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment, which was published by the Brooking Institution Press in 2003.  He also was Governing magazine’s columnist on infrastructure from 1995 to 2001 and was the author of several HKS teaching cases on transportation. He received an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government and a BA from Wesleyan University.


Amy Rader Olsson

Program Manager, SIO Smart Built Environment

CO-AUTHOR FOR: stockholm

Amy Rader Olsson is a researcher in planning institutions for sustainable development and theme leader for policy and institutions at the KTH  (Royal Institute of Technology) Transport Platform in Stockholm. Dr. Amy Rader Olsson has over twenty years of academic and professional experience in planning issues related to cooperation between public and private actors, local, national and international authorities, and urban and rural settings. She has worked with infrastructure and planning issues related to housing, energy, transportation and social welfare, including several international commissions. Her current research focuses on institutions for cooperation and partnership in infrastructure planning and regional innovation systems. Dr. Olsson has supported KTH’s strategic partnership with the City of Stockholm and serves on the Architecture Advisory Board for the Swedish National Transportation Administration, Trafikverket and the Energy Development Board for the Swedish Energy Agency.


John Pucher

Professor Emeritus at the Bloustein School, Rutgers University


John Pucher is Professor Emeritus at Rutger University’s Bloustein School. He was a professor at Rutgers University from 1978 to 2014, conducting research on urban transportation in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Over the past 15 years, John’s research has focused on walking and bicycling, and how to improve their safety and convenience for all age groups, for women as well as men, and for all levels of physical ability. John has published three books and over 100 articles in academic and professional journals. His most recent book is entitled “City Cycling,” published by MIT Press in 2012.


Lisa Rayle

PhD Student in City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley

CO-AUTHOR FOR: san francisco

Lisa Rayle is a PhD student in City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. She graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with joint Master’s degrees in City Planning and Transportation. While at MIT, through partnerships with universities in Portugal, she conducted research on metropolitan governance issues and on urban form in Portuguese cities. She has recently worked with the EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transport in Mumbai, India, where she studied the impact of India’s urban travel trends on carbon emissions. Lisa is interested in how urban infrastructure and transportation networks influence socio-spatial patterns, informality in transportation, urban development, and has worked on research and planning projects in many cities around the world.