Transition through subsystem innovation? The case of traffic management
This article analyzes traffic management as an example of infrastructure operation and assesses to what extent the transition approach as developed by Rotmans, Geels, and others is helpful in providing insight and contributes to the transition of the mobility system. Based on a conceptual framework which draws on the work of Luhmann and Critical Systems Thinking (CST), two cases of traffic management innovation in the Netherlands are analyzed. From this it becomes clear that traffic management is more than the optimization of the current mobility system. Rather than being a technical exercise, traffic management has to deal with substantial uncertainty which results from political dynamics and interactions between traffic management and other parts of the larger mobility system. The cases show that, in dealing with these uncertainties, actors may start to explore broader system definitions. Thus, a transition of the car-dependent mobility system is shown to be strongly emergent, which questions overly linear projections formulated by transition researchers as well as practitioners.