Handling User Needs: Methods for Knowledge Creation in Swedish Transport Planning

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Hans Antonson

Transport planning faces new demands for a dialogue with users. Transport planners no longer just build roads; nowadays they also must listen to users, whose wishes are meant to have an impact on the design and maintenance of the road transport system. Yet how can we know what users really want? This article sets out to analyze the methods with which transport planners gather information about users and their needs; to do so, it uses a case-study of how transport planners at the National Swedish Road Authority handle these questions on a day-to-day basis.

The results show that the planners’ practices can be analytically understood as something that produces knowledge, representativity, and the identities and needs of the users. The planners base their analyses of user need largely on personal experience. The descriptive, interpretative, and evaluating elements in their knowledge production tend to be hidden in central policy documents and theworkings of operational planning systems. If the goals with respect to user influence are to be attained, transport planning must be pursued with a greater understanding of how it conceives of its users as specific categories with particular needs and identities.

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