Human ecologist and historian sees opportunities at VTI

Portrait of man who is sailing.

Jens Portinson Hylander. Photo: Private

His interest in transition issues led him to ‘fall into the field of transport’, as he expresses it. Jens Portinson Hylander, a researcher at VTI, has studied history at Lund University, where he also acquired a Master’s degree in human ecology.

What sparks his interest is the development of contemporary history in Sweden, ecology, sustainability, justice, and power issues.

“Transport research was not my starting point, but I was primarily motivated to do a PhD, and I then discovered the great opportunities offered by the role of researcher at VTI,” he says.

Jens Portinson Hylander has a PhD in Environment and Energy Systems from 2022 with a focus on regional public transport policy. He specialises in qualitative research using methodologies such as interviews, focus groups, and archival and document studies.

After defending his thesis, he divided his time as a researcher between VTI and the Department of Human Geography at Lund University. Prior to his PhD research, he worked as a project coordinator and communicator at one of the university’s innovation departments.

What led to his employment at VTI was the Graduate School in Energy Systems started by the Swedish Energy Agency. There he came into contact with Professor Jane Summerton and Senior Lecturer Robert Hrelja, both employed at VTI at the time.

Jens Portinson Hylander’s workplace is located in Lund at K2, the National Knowledge Centre for Public Transport. His field of research has three pillars. Above all, it is about governance and planning for the transformation of transport systems.

“One project is about the Germany ticket and how state support for public transport travel may be relevant in a Swedish context. There may be other ways to support public transport instead,” he says.

Secondly, he has begun to explore the links between climate change adaptation and transport systems. A number of projects are underway that deal with processes and tools within various policy labs together with several municipalities.

Thirdly, he teaches at Lund University where he supervises bachelor’s and master’s theses.

Transport policy could be helped by in-depth studies, he says. The mainstream focus is first and foremost on increased travel, how it is possible to create and plan for the societal challenge increased travel will bring. At the same time, it is possible to meet many needs without travel. Together with many of his colleagues, he is working on the issue of moving away from more infrastructure, and instead reducing travel in certain ways.

“The Germany ticket, the pandemic, and inflation. Following the aforementioned, new light has been thrown on public transport, both nationally and internally, and new questions and answers have arisen."

Public transport is at a crossroads. Either it will become a more resilient part of the transition, or it will be too expensive and scaled down. There are a few different choices and opportunities,” he says.

“The challenge is about what is technically or economically most efficient, but also about political will and courage, to understand the politics of the transition. This is something that VTI can address, perhaps even by removing the word “road” from the name of the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute to move away from a traditional focus on heavy infrastructure.”

The transport policy objectives are a challenge. He thinks a lot about what the different aspects mean, i.e. of an efficient transport system that is accessible and sustainable. “The goals pull transport policy in different directions and require an active approach,” he says.

The role of a researcher at VTI is developing. He would like the research institute to encourage those who want to teach. It provides more opportunities for networking and can open the eyes of more students to transport research. VTI offers excellent research environments and a good working environment, he believes, which also benefits his private life.

“At home, within the family, we work actively for gender equality. Working at VTI on various research projects gives you the freedom to organise your time and be able to find time for things like doctor’s appointments and activities with your children. VTI’s organisation is clear, there is confidence that we are doing the job we are supposed to. In terms of work, it’s fantastic to be able to do research, to have stimulating discussions with colleagues where we challenge each other to think in new ways.

The excellent collegiality means that he doesn’t work much at home. He wants to go to work because his discussions with his colleagues are important. In addition to family life, he prioritises three things in his spare time: Cultivation, the family has a communal garden area that has recently been enlarged. Football, he is a committed Malmö FF fan. And music, he both plays and writes songs as a hobby.

Footnote. This is the first in a new series of portraits – meet VTI employees who are conducting research and working with the transport of the future.


Jens Portinson Hylander

Age: 38 years.

Job title: Researcher

Workplace: Lund

Research: Planning, governance, and transition – how do local, regional, and national decisions and planning processes affect the transport system as a whole and the transition towards reduced emissions? Much of the research concerns public transport, but also how transport planning affects different groups.

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