Is academia researching the urban issues that matter?

A starter list of practical and pressing issues facing cities that don’t seem to get nearly enough attention from Australian university researchers

Is academia researching the urban issues that matter?

2 Comments on “Is academia researching the urban issues that matter?”

  1. Ian Woodcock says:

    That’s a lot of questions, Alan. Your article appears to be a challenge to academia, but it’s also a declaration of a view that there are some who are better placed than others to judge what matters, and the ways that questions about it should be tackled. Who fits the bill, and whose methods are the best? And who is to judge?

    Some of your questions are far too singular in their conception and create a false hope of easy answers. They may look like the sorts of questions that have an answer if only someone did the research, but they’re not.

    Let’s just take this one: “What level of road-user/parking charges would be necessary in cities to reduce traffic congestion to tolerable levels?” The framing of the question assumes that the complex issue of urban transportation is purely a matter of the cost of driving alone. It ignores the actual choices or lack of them about the other means of commuting that drivers may have. And then, it’s a massive assumption that people would change their travel behaviour if pricing signals were different – what research is there that proves that pricing is what governs how people choose to travel? Perhaps there are other factors at work, the kind that may confound concepts of rationality, whether economic, convenience or time based? Here’s one version of some excellent academic research that illustrates the limitations of relying on market rationality for transportation planning. This is just a short outtake from a much deeper study:

  2. Alan Davies says:

    Ian, a rather good illustration of the disconnect between policy requirements and the academic view of the world.

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