The Tragedy of Ordinarity Culture Constraints on Sustainable Development Based on Public Transport

University dissertation from Karlstad : Karlstad University

Abstract: This licentiate thesis consists of two free-standing papers and a linking essay that links the papers by articulating an overall research aim and common theoretical background. The research aim is kept general and focuses on the role public transport can play in sustainable development. The work aims to contribute to a better understanding of why people do or do not choose to use public transport, to grasp the ideas/attitudes underlying the decisions made regarding the future of public transport, and to make suggestions for solving problems that may arise in public transport.The thesis has three theoretical bases: transport research, cultural theory, and sustainable development. Transport research is the starting point of the work, and I outline a gap in it that needs to be filled. This gap is filled by drawing on cultural theory connected to geographic terms. Sustainability discourses, on one hand, legitimate the work’s importance but also further stimulate the linking essay. Methodologically, the thesis can be placed in the hermeneutic tradition. Due to the work’s particular alignment with cultural theory, cultural relativism is supported. In addition, the interdisciplinary and multi-methodical approach can be explained by the work’s cultural focus.Against this background, the research concluded that, as a business, public transport has difficulties achieving the vaguely formulated ideological goals set for it at the national political level. As well, citizens have been marginalised in the goal-setting process. Citizen empowerment and a clearer formulation of the ideological goals are needed. Furthermore, public transport seems to be poorly rooted in society, and the present research found subregional differences that might be culturally based or explainable. The fact that public transport is poorly rooted in society can partially be explained by the marginalisation of citizens from decision making. Cultural differences in and between subregions should thus be taken into account by a farther-reaching customer perspective that acknowledges the importance of subregions. In conclusion, one should be sceptical as to public transport’s role in sustainable development. This pessimism arises from the technological step backward people would have to take in changing their main mode of transportation. Therefore, more all-embracing technical innovations are needed in the transport sector.