Peripatetic Planning: Tracing the Mobility of Bus Rapid Transit through South African Cities

comparative urbanism, critical urban theory, development, the Global South, governance, inclusive cities, mobilities, policy mobilities, postcolonial studies, South(ern) Africa, sustainability, transport and urban studies

In 2006, bus rapid transit (BRT) swept through South Africa with six cities in various stages of planning and implementation. These BRT systems are modelled after Bogotá’s Transmilenio, whose accomplishments have been touted as a low-cost, high-capacity transport solution. The seemingly rapid and orderly process through which South African cities adopted BRT raises questions regarding the mobility of knowledge, specifically how and why cities adopt circulated policies.

Peripatetic Planning interrogates the process of BRT adoption to understand the way in which connections between people, places and products influence local decision-making. It contributes to the scholarship on policy mobilities, which considers how and why cities are increasingly constituted through relational connections with distantiated sites, by focusing on the range of urban practices taking place in order to localize a particular case of best practice at the site of adoption. This thesis also advances South African urban studies by investigating the way in which localities are introducing transport solutions from elsewhere to transform the post-apartheid city. It similarly extends the literature on transport geography by examining the reproduction of BRT and the emergence of a South African form of BRT.

The thesis traces the mobility of BRT across South African cities first by focusing on the materiality of the model and the process by which it mutates across divergent socio-political and spatial contexts. The second argument considers the role of the individuals and networks promoting the adoption of BRT. This leads to the third finding exploring the involvement of municipal politics in the determination to adopt mobile policies. Lastly, the thesis examines the multiple temporalities through which policy flows considering the gradual, repetitive and at times delayed adoption of BRT. Each of these arguments gathers support for the overarching undertaking to expose the critical role of localities in influencing peripatetic planning.

The AAG’s Annual Awards were presented on 25 April 2015 in Chicago
by AAG President Mona Domosh at a celebratory luncheon. Astrid Wood won two Specialty Group awards: the Transportation Geography Specialty Group's outstanding dissertation award and the Urban Geography Specialty Group's dissertation award, both recognizing her PhD on "Peripatetic Planning: Tracing the mobility of bus rapid transit through South African Cities".

For more information: Email - astrid.wood(at)

Also see: Newcastle University, Google Scholar Citations; Imagining Urban Futures: Researching Policy Mobilities and Urban Politics; UCL Department of Geography; LinkedIn Profile