Moving beyond techno-rationalism: new models of transit priority implementation

James Reynolds, Graham Currie, Geoff Rose, Alistair Cumming

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

2 Citations (Scopus)


There is wide agreement that prioritising on-road public transport services is beneficial, but considerable uncertainty about how best to implement priority measures in practice. As yet it is unclear why some transit priority schemes receive political, institutional and public support while others are blocked, cancelled or compromised, often for non-technical reasons. This paper explores how public policy analysis concepts can be adapted to describe and potentially improve transit priority implementation. Previous evaluation approaches have focused on the traffic, mobility and economic impacts of transit priority measures. What has been missing is a consideration of how politics, institutional arrangements and other non-rational factors influence priority implementation. This paper describes the major forms of policy analysis (rationalism, institutionalism, incrementalism, political approaches and the ‘garbage can’ model) and uses each to develop new conceptual models of priority implementation. Institutional and top-down models emphasise the government’s control over the road and transit system. They suggest that better policies and centralisation of decision-making might improve priority implementation. In contrast, bottom-up implementation theories and what is termed the ‘garbage can’ model emphasise the influence of street-level actors and project team members. These suggest that understanding the drivers of individuals’ opinions, strategies and decision-making is necessary to improve implementation and outcomes. Incrementalism based models, on the other hand, suggest using a series of small changes to gradually increase the level of transit priority over time instead of a large, and potentially controversial, single step. This paper provides an initial move beyond the prevailing ‘techno-rationalist’ approaches to transit priority implementation. It concludes with a description of opportunities for future research to test these new models and to explore the political, institutional and other factors influencing transit priority implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAustralasian Transport Research Forum 2017 - University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 27 Nov 201729 Nov 2017
Conference number: 39th (Proceedings)


ConferenceAustralasian Transport Research Forum 2017
Abbreviated titleATRF 2017
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
Internet address

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