The “Local policies of the mobility transition” project conducted by researchers at the Technology University of Belfort-Montbéliard investigated how public authorities in the Belfort-Montbéliard area created (or failed to create) policies for sustainable mobility in the last 50 years. This interdisciplinary project evaluates in particular the emergence of new forms of governance capable of supporting mobility transition processes.
A History Professor at the UTBM, Robert Belot’s work centers around two themes: the history of the social and the political perception of technology and institutional, cultural and political changes. In the area of transportation, he has co-written two books - one about Alsthom and another about Peugeot - and designed an exhibition and catalogue on speed and mobility. He is currently director of a collective work on the history of the Rhine-Rhone high-speed rail lines.
A lecturer in economics at the UTBM, Fabienne Picard is assistant director and a researcher at the IRTES-RECITS laboratory. Her work looks at systems of innovation and analyzes how new energy and transportation technologies are emerging and developing as part of the transition towards lowering carbon usage in society.
A lecturer in contemporary history at the University of Haute-Alsace, Régis Boulat is currently working on mobility governance in medium-sized cities, from the 70s to the present day. He has also explored the role of economic elites in the Glorious 30s, as well as sports and mountain leisure companies.
A lecturer in sociology at the UTBM, Bénédicte Rey’s doctoral thesis questions privacy in the era of digital information. She is pursuing research on practices and perceptions of mobility in medium-sized cities and new energy technologies at the IRTES-RECITS laboratory.
The project looks at how public authorities create sustainable mobility policies in medium-sized cities. The core hypothesis of the research is that the mobility transition in a given area is highly dependent on how public authorities conceive of mobility, as well as on the behaviors they support and the discourse surrounding these behaviors. Therefore, by understanding how mobility options are created through public policies, we can question the emergence of new forms of governance capable of supporting transition processes, including mobility transitions.
Medium-sized cities (those with a city center of 20.000 to 100.000 inhabitants) are a fascinating field of study. While they are largely excluded from the scope of mobility-related studies, they present significant challenges with regards to the transition towards a more sustainable mobility system (insofar as they display intense car use, captive customers of public transport, etc.). The study focused more specifically on the textbook case of the urban area of Belfort-Montbéliard-Héricourt-Delle. This is a territory of more than 300.000 inhabitants, located in the North of the Franche-Comté region, with a strong tradition in the transport and energy industries. As the birthplace of Peugeot, it has been shaped by the automobile industry. What also makes it interesting is that it is organized around two similarly-sized cities: Belfort and Montbéliard, which are only 15 km apart.
Today, the rise of sustainable development issues has challenged public authorities to adapt. So far, elected officials, administrators, technicians and experts reasoned mainly in terms of managing flows and facilitating multimodality. But what is the situation today? How do local officials in an area such as Belfort-Montbéliard consider mobility? Is there a consensus, a homogeneous vision? More concretely, have the policies implemented in the area evolved since the 1970s? What challenges does the dual administrative organization of the area pose in terms of governance?
How are elected officials envisioning the future of this particular area at a time when sustainable development issues are establishing themselves as public policy priorities?
To answer these questions, a team of four researchers from the Research Institute on Transport, Energy and Society (IRTES) attached to the Technology University of Belfort-Montbéliard, developed an interdisciplinary methodology combining the tools of sociology, institutionalist economics and history. The research was mainly based on the study of archives pertaining to local mobility policies implemented since the 1970s and on personal interviews with both elected officials from Belfort and Montbéliard and a focus group comprised of members of the civil society.