Searching for a Public Transit 'Fix': A Multi-Scalar Study of Public Transit Policy in Ottawa and Waterloo Region

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Steinberg, Jesse




In recent years, Canadian governments have embraced transit-led planning strategies as a solution to problems of unsustainable urbanism. With this shift, investments in public transit systems have increased dramatically. This thesis explores the development of public transit policy agendas in two urban contexts, the City of Ottawa and Waterloo Region. It evaluates the priorities underlying particular visions of transit-oriented reform and points to the challenge of equitable transit planning under conditions of growth-first governance. The emergence of transit-oriented reform agendas has taken place as part of a broader project of sustainable city-building. Despite post-political appeals to holistic or triple-bottom-line policymaking, sustainable urbanism is a contested process that seeks to renegotiate ongoing tensions between the perceived exigencies of growth-first neoliberalism and the conditions of collective reproduction in the city. This negotiation has been characterized as a search for a 'sustainability fix' (While et al. 2004). In this thesis, I examine how public transit policymaking helps to constitute this search for a stable political and institutional 'fix'. In this thesis, urban policymaking is analyzed as a multi-scalar process. Transit policy is constituted across federal, provincial, regional, and municipal scales of governance. The thesis explores this multi-scalar process using an ideational-institutional approach. It analyzes the ways in which actors interpret and represent institutional contexts, as well as the ways in which institutional contexts filter and structure political demands. Transit policy agendas are negotiated across scales, but are also shaped by Canada's distinctive institutional form of urban governance.


Urban and Regional Planning
Public Administration




Carleton University

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Public Policy

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Theses and Dissertations

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