8 December 2016

Call for Abstracts – Second seminar on “Paratransit in the World” – Marseille, France

Seminar on Paratransit

“Paratransit in the World: Between informality and institutionalization”

2nd March 2017, in Marseille (France)

In several urban areas, inhabitants lack formal public transport options for their daily travel needs. This lack of options, or the inefficiencies of existing options, explains the emergence of transport solutions coming from private and often individual entrepreneurs. The result is the so-called “paratransit” sector. Paratransit services rely on independent operators and/or micro-companies. Operations are characterised by the autonomy entrusted in drivers and other persons in charge of daily operations. The need to encourage more sustainable transport solutions might benefit from focusing on these flexible and collective transport solutions.

This second call for contributions follows-up the initial one-day seminar conducted on 10 March 2016. In the latter, approximately ten presentations, divided into three workshops, were accepted. The place of paratransit services in public transport systems -be it in terms of demand or in relation to incumbent formal services- and the organisational structures of the paratransit sector were analysed through several international examples.

During the initial one-day seminar, it was concluded that the emergence of the paratransit sector is the result its inherent flexibility and adaptability. Through discussions with transport professionals, we proposed questions that remain open. It is in this manner that the below three new themes and questions were selected to guide presentations for the second one-day seminar.


  • Paratransit beyond “Souths”: towards a global perspective? Paratransit, as a concept, (or its French version, “transport artisanal”) was proposed in studies and analyses that consider Global South cities as a geographical entity lacking clear boundary definitions and that engulfed developing and emerging countries with different degrees of western countries’ influence. How can we draw insights from this context to analyze analogous dynamics in cities outside the Global South – the latter characterized by their post-industrial economies and an entrenched tradition of institutional and centralized planning practices? Can technical, economical and organizational techniques of the paratransit sector help rethinking elements of developed world cities as analyses that started in the 1970s (Cervero, 1997) and more recent works on on-demand transport (Le Breton, 2001; Lammoglia et al., 2012) seem to suggest? In an historical perspective, what type of relationship can be established between current paratransit services and non-centralized transport options, such as collective taxis, that existed in European cities until mid- 20th century (Flonneau, 2000, Passalacqua, 2010)?
  • Challenges brought by new technologies. How does paratransit react to the emergence of smartphones? What are the new socioeconomic challenges of new habits? Are we witnessing a type of quality-improvement of paratransit services? It is possible to identify globally new forms of supply, are there new typologies? Do these new technologies help in developing complementary models between formal and paratransit services and can new solutions be adapted to different cities? How to avoid copy-pasting developing world models on to Global South cities? What are the most pertinent examples from the Global South? How to encourage paratransit services – formal service integration without hampering paratransit advantages?
  • Paratransit and informality. “Paratransit” and “informality” concepts have often been meshed into what is referred to as “informal transport”, mainly in studies conducted by institutional and centralized networks. Yet, in academic terms, it seems to be more interesting scientifically to clearly distinguish the two concepts to analyze and to understand how they interact. Indeed, informality does not solely refer to those categories of illegal or difficult-to-account-for activities, but also to production and governance practices in cities (Jacquot et al., 2016): the notion shifted from the economic domain to the political domain. Hence, it is possible to ask ourselves how paratransit can put in question the informal element in planning and regulatory practices pertaining to urban transport. How does paratransit play a role in informally producing the city?

Submission instructions

A one-page abstract (approximately 550 to 600 words), written in French or in English, must be sent via e-mail to Léa WESTER (lea.wester@laposte.net) and Rémi DESMOULIERE (remi.desmouliere@inalco.fr) no later than December 18 2016. These documents must include the general topic and the main points that will be presented during the intervention. Interventions take the form of 10 to 15 minute presentations and do not require a written document.


CERVERO R., 1997, Paratransit in America. Redefining Mass Transportation, Westport, Praeger, 320 p.

FLONNEAU M., 2000, “Infrastructures et citadins : réflexions sur l’acceptation et l’impact de l’automobile à Paris au XXe siècle”, Le Mouvement Social, n°192, p. 99-120

JACQUOT S., SIERRA A., TADIÉ J., 2016, “Informalité politique, pouvoirs et envers des espaces urbains”, L’Espace politique, n°29, 2016-2

LAMMOGLIA A., FAYE R.M. & JOSSELIN D., 2012 : « Les taxis clandos à Dakar : Quel avenir pour ces transports à la demande (TAD) urbain ? » Conférence CODATU XV. Addis Abeba, Ethiopie, 22-25 Octobre.

LE BRETON E., 2001, “Le transport à la demande comme innovation institutionnelle”, Flux, 2001/1, n°43, p. 58-69

PASSALACQUA A., 2010, « Les taxis collectifs aux marges de la mobilité parisienne des années 1930 », Transports urbains, n°117, p. 28-32.