Using PAR to frame sustainable transport and social justice on policy agendas. A pilot experience in two contrasting Chilean cities

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - south america, place - urban, land use - impacts, land use - planning, planning - surveys, planning - methods, policy - sustainable, policy - environment, policy - equity


Sustainability, Gender, Transport justice, Walkability, Cycle-inclusion, PAR, Developing countries


If sustainable transport is defined by emissions and energy, urban passenger transport in Chile could be considered “sustainable”, with two-thirds of trips made by walking, cycling or public transit. Recent studies, however, reveal that gender and equity issues are highly problematic, pointing to tensions between environmental and social sustainability.

Given these tensions, a university-community collaboration, the Laboratory for Social Change, developed a pilot methodology to define and evaluate Transport Justice. We sought a relatively simple instrument, a Transport Justice report (Balance de Transporte Justo, BTJ) that could combine experiential and academic knowledge and thereby influence policy and decision-making more effectively.

We used a participatory action research (PAR) approach to bring together community leaders and university researchers, and consider experiential and research data, through this “transport justice” lens. To start, we introduced the idea of “transport justice” with researchers in different disciplines and citizen organizations involved in relatively specific battles: fighting a highway, for better cycling facilities, or for reduced road speeds, for example.

We focused on established issues, such as universal access, walkability, cycle-inclusion, but added children's freedom and autonomy, the wise city (older adults, heritage, identity), care and land use, and transport impacts on ecological services. Building on this collaboration, we also applied a transport justice survey in two contrasting Chilean cities, Santiago and Temuco.

Our analysis reveals that, despite a planning system that favours high-income households whose members rely mainly on cars, the majority of pedestrians, cyclists, public transit and even car users would prefer a redistribution of road space and investment in favour of active transport. During the next phase of research (2020–2021), we will test how well these results are taken up by citizen organizations, politicians and senior government staff from all parties. This will allow us to evaluate its effectiveness as a policy and power distributing instrument.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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