With the privilege of teaching a 3rd year module, I’ve decided to apply a case based approach to the last month of contact sessions. Candidates are exposed to two core thematic areas: first the case of electronic hailing and second the road accident market problem. Without getting into too much detail as they are currently busy with the work (some might draw too much from my notes), I shall provide a broad summary of what these introductory case studies reveal about the state of transport policy making in SA.
Transport Policy Making
I’ve come to a realization that transport economists are very closely related to economists found in regulators such as the Competition Commission. They are also very related to the traffic engineers found in transport projects, industry and municipalities. I suspect the fundamental difference is that they are responsible for the formulating economies related to the pecuniary, spatial, temporal and emotive elements within and interacting with the modalities of movement and access.
My view is that in Africa the field can be so lost and dominated by engineering markets focused on operations and evaluations; or in regulatory sectors overpowered by legal and commissioned economists. The true challenge is actually related to something much deeper: how transport economists convert technical policy issues into policy outputs that have measurable instruments attached to their manifestation. No other field is better suited for this type of abstraction, creativity, criticality and empirical ambition.
In this sense our offering in this module focuses on techniques to sniff through the public fabric and develop a sensory awareness of critical skills necessary to construct tools that search, detect and explore policy issues for practical purposes of building policies. These case studies are the applied side of the theoretical components for this final year group. Generally I’m an early career, so these ideas may change over time–I hope they do.
National Land Transport Amendment Bill
The first case study focuses on the pathetic ride hailing regulatory developments in SA. Not only are the new clauses blatantly out of date, but highlight the sublimely rushed nature of transport policy making (which may be good in the short term but catastrophic in the long term resulting in many unintended consequences).
Technology in transport already plays a role that transcends the market specifications outlined in the Bill in its current form. Nevertheless, candidates are required to explore this issue through a number of techniques, tools and conceptual instruments shared with them in the curriculum. While candidates do find the activity fundamentally steep, it’s rather clear that the techniques are very important. Specifically because we are not immediately exposed to the complex nature of making policy in SA. Secondly, the role of technology and forecasting its developments requires a balanced approach to what regulatory institutions should do for a competitive market.
Road Accident Beneficiary Scheme
As a result of a number of our students being assaulted by private vehicles in the past few years, the topic around road traffic conflict points is key. The second case relayed the most recent policy developments but requires candidates to explore the Road Accident Benefit Scheme on the surface. They are only floating over the policy case because of the magnitude of its complexity for the available time. What is of interest to me, however is enabling them to demonstrate a systematic approach to SA policy issues and formulating effective techniques to critically unearth the neglected complexities embedded transport economies. While this is not an outright case topic, we’ve hinted it throughout the curriculum: from our first examples about valuing human life to how inner city freight traffic interfaces with bike lanes.
At the end of their work with me, I hope they enquire independently and with some degree of depth fully aware of tensions between ideals and reality.