The Imaginary of the City versus Messy Realities

Posted: 16 Dec 2019

See all articles by Anne Stafford

Anne Stafford

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School

Pamela Stapleton

University of Manchester - Division of Accounting and Finance

Karel Williams

University of Manchester - Division of Accounting and Finance

Hua Wei

University of Manchester

Date Written: November 28, 2019

Abstract

Accounting research on transport has been narrowly focused on cost recovery and the consequences of privatization and restructuring. Accounting researchers have not engaged with the now dominant orthodoxy about cities as agglomeration argued by urbanists like Glaeser or championed earlier critical understandings of the limits of urban planning argued by Jane Jacobs. Working within that critical tradition, this paper innovates by presenting an exploratory and interdisciplinary case study of public transport in the city of Greater Manchester which draws on accounting and other evidence. Policy makers have represented the construction of Manchester’s new tram system as a major success but we argue that the system represents an ill-judged investment priority which had unintended consequences for the whole public transport system. Part of the problem is classic top down failure to engage local specifics because the tram network has added a radial system to a city with untidy orbital movement patterns and diverse mobility requirements. This awkward gap between the imaginary of the policy makers and messy realities has financial consequences because the capital costs of tram increasingly squeeze the ability of the public transport authority to subsidies the bus services which carry ten times as many passengers as tram. The political question is whether and how this kind of argument and evidence can inform popular politics and shift what is taken for granted by experts and the political classes in Manchester.

Keywords: Agglomeration, Greater Manchester, Trams, Transport Accounting, Urban Studies

JEL Classification: M4

Suggested Citation

Stafford, Anne and Stapleton, Pam and Williams, Karel and Wei, Hua, The Imaginary of the City versus Messy Realities (November 28, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3495189

Anne Stafford (Contact Author)

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School ( email )

Booth Street West
Manchester, M15 6PB
United Kingdom

Pam Stapleton

University of Manchester - Division of Accounting and Finance ( email )

Crawford House
Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Karel Williams

University of Manchester - Division of Accounting and Finance ( email )

Manchester
United Kingdom
0161 275 4016 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://les1.man.ac.uk/accounting/Staff/Academic/K_Williams.htm

Hua Wei

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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