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Modelling plans and planning models: the cybernetic vision of a Swiss Integral Concept for Transport (1972-1977)

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Abstract:

In order to match the Swiss transport policies with the changing demands of modern transport, the Swiss Federal Council decided in January 1972 to implement an expert commission. The commission was to analyse the Swiss transport system and to elaborate a comprehensive Swiss Integral Concept for Transport (SICT). The SICT was to coordinate the technical, economic, financial, environmental, social and political aspects of transport, thus providing the foundations of a transport policy for the next 25 years. To achieve their goal, the experts chose the cybernetic approach of Systems Analysis. It allowed them to model transportation networks and their spatial, environmental, economical, political and social effects and constraints as interacting elements of a cybernetic system. Furthermore, it provided a conceptual and methodological framework serving also as a model of the task and of the targeted workflow. Actual transport models and plans could be integrated in this model. Although a report with 40 policy suggestions was delivered, the SICT was bound to fail: the political implications of System Analysis turned out to be incompatible with the processes of decision-making in Switzerland. The SICT's models and plans were too far from the political and societal realities. Its 'top-down' character failed in the context of Switzerland's highly federalist and consensus-oriented political system.

Keywords: Cybernetics; Swiss Integral Concept for Transport; Switzerland; Systems Analysis; modelling; policy advice; spatial planning; transport planning; transport policy

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02665433.2011.527545

Affiliations: Historisches Seminar der Universitat Basel, Basel CH-4051, Switzerland

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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