The Making(s) of an Alternative Urban Policy: What Happens When Free Fares Come to Town?

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While many urban policies and practices claim to offer an “alternative” to the “mainstream” of urban entrepreneurialism, they remain under-theorised and prone to alignment with entrepreneurial agendas. In this paper I examine fare-free public transport (FFPT) as a salient example of an alternative urban policy. Looking at Aubagne (France) and Tallinn (Estonia), I explore what happens when an alternative policy “comes to town”. I detect how FFPT enters local urban regimes, and study the (non-)participation of public transport passengers and workers in the decision-making process about whether and how to abolish public transport fares. My analysis reveals that albeit alternative policies such as FFPT seem to oppose entrepreneurialism, they may hinge on urban regimes that span across institutions, leave the local configurations of power unchallenged, and strenghten local elites. The adaptability of alternatives to diverse political and intellectual positions explains their resilience. Consequently, their radical character cannot be taken for granted and remains an object of political struggle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-199
Number of pages20
Issue number1
Early online date12 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper has benefitted from critical conversations with a great deal of fellow researchers and friends—none of whom, needless to say, bears any responsibility for the arguments presented above. I want to thank Mathieu Van Criekingen, David Bassens, Frédéric Dobruszkes and Kobe Boussauw for their relentless trust in my ability, and interest in my work. I am indebted to Anna Plyushteva, Stijn Oosterlynck, Tim Schwanen and Merlin Gillard for the attention they gave to my work, and their generous comments and critiques. I am further grateful to my interviewees in diverse sites of fare abolition, for opening their doors to a young and over-inquisitive scholar.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author. Antipode published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Antipode Foundation Ltd.

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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