"Geography is the study of the patterns and processes of human (built) and environmental (natural) landscapes, where landscapes comprise real (objective) and perceived (subjective) space." - Gregg Wassmansdorf Without question, transportation research is on the rise in North American and the world. Given the daunting implications of global climatic change, governments at all levelsmunicipal, regional and national have developed a renewed interest in revitalizing their transportation systems. These systems may include public transit, highways, roads, airports, and other infrastructure. In geography, a lot of this research is occurring in a subdiscipline called Transportation Geography or Transport Geography. Transport Geography has been around for over a century and gained tremendous momentum during Geography’s quantitative revolution of the 1950s (Goetz et al., 2007). It is a field of study that endeavours to understand the movements of freight, people and information and how they correlate with transport infrastructures, terminals, equipment and networks that occupy an important place in space (Rodrigue, 2010). Furthermore, most of the research conducted in transport geography asks questions around the accessibility and mobility of transportation systems. The challenge for transportation geographers is to define a set of theories and concepts about the spatial relationships between people and places that situate accessibility and mobility at the nucleus of human interaction (Keeling, 2007). Indeed, transport geography is only becoming more relevant to the discipline today because of its great potential to integrate both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, concepts and theories to help explain the world around us. Progress in transportation geography has been fuelled by the uncertainties and complexities surrounding global climate change (Hall, 2010). Across the world, as cities become even more urbanized, traffic congestion is forecasted to get worse. With growing

purchasing power parity, the Chinese and Indians are buying more automobiles to enjoy the materialistic lifestyles that Western Civilization has been accustomed to for so long (Hall, 2010). Fortunately, transportation research is evolving with this global phenomenon. The focus of this progress paper is to capture the evolution of transport geography and how it has risen as an interdisciplinary and inter-methodological field. Some scholars still think that transport geography’s interdisciplinary linkages to civil engineering, statistics and economics are merely a detriment to its development (Goetz et al., 2007). By contrast however, some believe that the multidisciplinary approach to geography and transportation has led transportation research to be spread among a larger number of journals in geography, transportation and the larger academic world (Goetz et al., 2007). This paper will stick with the latter argument and illustrate examples from the literature where transport geography has become more relevant due to its strong quantitative orientation and interest in post-positivism and humanistic approaches. This Progress in Human Geography paper will highlight the importance of access and mobility to transport geography, and how these concepts draw upon a multidisciplinary framework. But before we embark on this journey; the paper will begin with a history and overview of transport geography and its relationship to the broader field.

History of the sub-discipline
The Quantitative Revolution of the 1950s was a time of radical transformation of spirit and purpose, which Anglo American geography experienced in the 1950s and 1960s (Barnes, 2001). This new way of thinking was premised on inferential statistics, abstract models and theories. Transportation geography was among many sub-disciplines during this time that engaged with such methods and theories. There were two prominent geographers who influenced the sub-discipline during the 1950s; they were Edward L. Ullman and Harold M Mayer (Barnes, 2000). Both Ullman and Mayer were influential in stressing the spatial nature of transport and in demonstrating its centrality to geographic study (Goetz et al., 2007). Ullman’s work at the

University of Washington influenced scholars like William Garrison and a group of graduate students including Brian Berry, William Bunge and Michael Dacey to name a few (Goetz et al., 2007). In particular, transport geography had a strong quantitative focus because of its relationship with civil engineering and economics. Indeed, it had an emphasis on spatial interaction and network analysis which included topics such as transportation, spatial structure and processes, the gravity model, structural analysis of transportation networks flows, optimalities and allocation models (Goetz et al., 2007). The Gravity model, adapted from Isaac Newton’s law of gravity, used mathematics to illustrates the relationships between places (such as Toronto and Montreal). The model explains how the spatial interaction between two locations declines with increasing distance, time, and cost between them (Hay, 2000). However, there is a positive association with the amount of activity at each location. People like Elliot Hurst argued that transport geography’s quantitative orientation was analytically thorough however; the entire socioeconomic and political realms within which transport systems operate had been neglected in the “positivist-scientistic” studies of the time (Goetz et al., 2007). With the academic excitement of the quantitative revolution, transport geography completely deviated away from human geography and had virtually no studies that were qualitative in orientation (Goetz et al., 2007). Studying transport networks and the provision of scheduled services were mathematically-based drawing on positivism (Hay, 2000). Network studies conducted by geographers explored the geographical pattern of transport networks (roads, railways, canals, highways) and explained these patterns either at the level of the whole network to individual links, including an account of how these patterns have changed over time by the growth and decay of networks (Hay, 2000). This required data collection and rigorous quantitative approaches to examine things like frequency and demand of transport networks. After examination, optimization models would be developed to illustrate how the system can be more efficient and cost-effective.


Even the provision of scheduled transport services was primarily an exercise involving collaboration between civil engineers and geographers. Indeed, scheduling transport services involved optimization of cost and efficiency based on travel demand and travel forecasting (Goetz et al., 2007). For example, to determine the suitability of a transport service in a city, studies would show cost-benefit analysis to determine how the city could economize based on the current demand of the service and its scheduling i.e. whether it should be increased or decreased. Above all, statistical techniques were applied to networks and to frequency of scheduled services in time and their spatial pattern. Amid these quantitative transport studies, some argued that it was critical to pay attention to the “mobility problems of those (in both rural and urban areas) who are dependent upon scheduled services and the inequities between them and those who have access to private transport” (Hay 2000, p. 855). Thus, these studies were informative and comprehensive from a quantitative perspective, but did not necessarily capture the experiences and mobility issues around scheduled transport services. This kind of research would require more of a qualitative approach and thus geographers criticized such studies because they missed out on what could have been significant findings capable of influencing public policy. Nonetheless, we cannot understate the significant contributions that transport geography made to the field of geography during the 1950s-1970s. It strengthened its analytical framework by combining with fields such as planning, civil engineering and economics (Keeling, 2007). As the years progressed, there was a growing inertia in transportation geography. Geographers cited the dominance of quantitative thinking as a major cause, and called for a qualitative approach to intra-urban travel to help us learn more about people’s everyday travel choices and experiences (Hall, 2010). During this time, perhaps the greatest challenge was with defining a set of theories and concepts about the spatial relationships between people and places that situate accessibility and mobility at the nucleus of human interaction (Keeling, 2007). Transport geography had been criticized by some for being a

quiet corner of the discipline that has lost its centrality largely because it remained within the analytical framework of the 1960s (Goetz et al., 2009). As a result of its primarily quantitative focus, it was not properly aligned with how geography was changing. Positivism was no longer the dominant philosophy in the discipline, post-positivism was becoming more important. Sub-disciplines such as urban geography, feminist geography, cultural geography, critical geography and Marxist geography started to receive more scholarly attention and influence in the wider discipline. What is more, these sub-disciplines provided insightful critique and analysis of positivist geography and discussed the value in embracing qualitative research (Barnes, 2000). Transport geography had its own conundrum in that it was a sub-discipline with great potential to employ qualitative research but this was not widely supported. Transport geography had no relationship with these topics and thus some called it “a quiet and moribund corner of the discipline” (Goetz et al., 2007, p. 327). Thus, the sub-discipline was looking for ways to re-integrate and demonstrate its relevance to geographical research. Examples of transport geography’s re-emergence will be illustrated in the next section.

An Evolving sub-discipline
In geography, the post-1970s was an era of pluralism where sub-disciplines like transport geography moved beyond just model building, analytical-empirical methods and quantification (Goetz et al., 2007). This era was one of post-positivism with the rise of studies focusing on behaviour, humanistic-cultural and even Marxist social theory. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, there was a rise in transport-oriented journals (Goetz et al., 2007). These journals would include Progress in Human Geography, The Professional Geographer, Environment & Planning A and Economic Geography. These journals started to address questions around accessibility and mobility which are arguably the two fundamental dimensions of transport geography research. Bigger questions started to come to the fore regarding sustainable transport, people’s access to public transportation, the effects of commuting on quality of life, and the growing

importance of understanding transportation’s link to global climate change. Goetz et al. (2007) provide evidence showing how transport geography reinvigorated its importance in the wider discipline. Figure 1. Transport-oriented research in top geography journals (1996-2006). Journal
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Progress in Human Geography Transaction, IBG Environment and Planning D Political Geography Annals of the Association of American Geographers 6. Antipode 7. Economic Geography 8. Environment and Planning A 9. Area 10.The Professional Geographer 11.Geoforum 12.Urban Geography

No. of transport geography articles
7 5 6 5 13 4 14 91 13 30 18 9 225 (4.5% of journal capacity)


As shown in the figure, in the ten-year study period, a total of 5,040 articles were published by the twelve journals. Of these 5,040 articles, 225 were on transport-related topics. 102 of the studies were qualitative in their orientation, 123 used a more quantitative methodology (Goetz et al., 2007). Thus, the evidence suggests that transport geography has begun to incorporate a more critical qualitative approach in geographical endeavour. This inclusion of the critical qualitative approach was timely as other geographies such as feminist, urban, economic, political and cultural started to attract the academic spotlight for the discipline (Painter, 2000). Indeed, critical transport geography started to investigate topics such as commuting behaviour and mobility looking at the roles of gender, race and ethnicity (Goetz et al., 2007). During this time period, topics like environmental justice, accessibility to public transit and equity around transportation came to the fore. More critical was the increased research interest in the concept of mobilities. This concept encompasses both the large-scale

movements of people, objects, capital and information across the world, as well as the more local processes of daily transportation, movement through public space and the travel of material things within everyday life (Goetz et al., 2007). These topics were very new to the sub-discipline and would be influential in shaping public policy. The sophisticated analytical and computing capabilities such as GIS have facilitated broader, deeper and more interrelated approaches to transportation research (Keeling, 2007). GIS has been used for topics such as travel and commuting behaviour, environmental justice, alternative fuels, access and equity to transportation networks. Thus the confluence of both quantitative and qualitative methods has allowed transportation to make massive strides in geographical research. The next section of the paper will provide examples from the literature of topics that are currently being studied in transport geography. I make reference to these studies because many are qualitative in orientation exploring people’s experiences, behaviours and feelings. These geographical studies contrast sharply from the ones of the quantitative revolution. The methods used in these studies are increasingly being used to develop sustainable transport systems in an era where climate change is becoming a more heated topic.

The Rise of Critical Transport Geography
Understanding travel behaviour has been a focal point of critical transport geography research. A study by Line et al (2010) looked at the factors influencing the future travel behaviour intentions of young people between 11 and 18 and how climate change considerations affect these. Their sample was a group of youth in the United Kingdom. Questionnaires, interviews and photography were the main methods used in this qualitative study. Photography was used to compare photos between things like traffic congestion, a motorist who looked happy while driving and pictures of the natural environment. These photos were used as a trigger for discussion about the environmental impacts of transport (Line et al., 2010). Researchers explained how the camera can provide young research participants with a sense of empowerment and forging a good relationship (trust) between the participant and the researcher.

Results show how these young participants are enthusiastic to drive if provided the opportunity because of the speed, cost-savings, convenience, flexibility and freedom (Line et al., 2010). Another finding was that youth mentioned how walking and cycling is good for health, but it is an inconvenience. Using a car saves their energy; they think that exercising should be separate from travelling. Another significant finding was that the sample group identified the importance of the environment and climate change, but said that it would still not deter them from their willingness to drive. Indeed, this was identified as the social dilemma where their own efforts to tackle climate change may be rendered worthless by the inaction of others (Line et al., 2010). The transport policy implications of this study are intriguing. Policymakers need to promote cycling as a signal of success and promoting it as cool instead of just the obvious environmental and health benefits. Researchers suggest that society must empower young people in relation to their knowledge of climate change and how to tackle this issue as well as their ability to communicate effectively this knowledge to others (Line et al., 2010). Also, there would be merit in gathering more youth together and providing them with different transport choices, seeing what their choices are and their reasoning. Or, introducing “covered” cycle paths and walkways to protect people from the weather. Researchers suggest that these recommendations might help with changing youth’s perceptions regarding driving and climate change. Also, if there were regulations to enforce travel behaviour change towards more environmentally friendly options, then it could help remove the social dilemma identified by the youth. The study by Line et al. (2010) is a good example of a qualitative study trying to uncover facts about travel behaviour. As mentioned, climate change has become an overarching issue in the transportation research agenda (Hall, 2010). A study like this one explored the personal feelings and experiences of youth 11-18 and their thoughts towards driving, climate change and the use of alternative modes of travel. By developing a better understanding of travel behaviour, particularly for youth, policymakers will be able to

implement measurements that promote a more environmentally friendly transportation system while concomitantly addressing the critical issue of climate change.

Transport Geography and Sustainable Transport Systems
“Sustainable transportation systems” is an emerging area of transport geography research. Environmental justice and equity are at the core of such research. The relatively new interest in sustainable transport systems is mainly driven by the issue of climate change. As argued in this paper, the link between transportation and climate change is becoming a more important research area in transport geography and in the wider discipline because of environmental and social justice issues (Hall, 2010). Ultimately, the goal of sustainable transportation is to ensure that environmental, social and economic considerations are factored into decisions affecting transportation activity (Loo, 2006). A number of places throughout the world including Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore are striving to bring about sustainable transport systems (Han, 2010). However, the success of a sustainable transport system is contingent on access and mobility of the system i.e. the two key concepts of transport geography. Both mobility and access will be discussed in this section to illustrate why they are integral to the sub-discipline and how they relate to the broader discipline of geography. In a Transport Geography paper by Sun Sheng Han (2010), the author explains how Singapore has been successful in promoting motorization with sustainable transport planning. This paper discusses the close link between mobility and wealth. As Asian nations like Singapore see greater wealth accumulation and higher purchasing power parity per capita, there will be even more automobile consumption and production (Han, 2010). A general trend in Asian countries like India and China is that increased wealth means more production and subsequent purchasing of automobiles. This is an inherently unequal process as more vehicles are being purchased and used by the wealthy which exposes the poor to even more emissions and pollutants, “mobility for some will be at the expense of

immobility and disease of others” (Han, 2010, p. 314). It is difficult for the government to discourage automobility when mobility is perceived to be better and public transit might be unpopular because it is uncomfortable, dirty, inconvenient and less enjoyable. The critical challenge is to balance motorization with public transit. Singapore has been successful with such an endeavour. Their system fosters mobility because it allows users to choose their mode of transportation subject to a range of well-coordinated policies to control car population and usage, and at the same time to provide high quality public transport facilities (Han, 2010). Roads have received substantial public investment; from 1986 to 1996 the road surface area increased 27%. Between 1996-2000 $3 billion was invested to construct another 300 lane-km road and from 2001-2005, another $570 million was used to further road expansions (Han, 2010). Public investment in the public transit network has occurred simultaneously through the mass rapid transit (MRT) and the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) networks. Promoting motorization and public transit has involved a set of innovative management policies to achieve a sustainable transport system. There are a number of tools used but I will only discuss two for the purposes of this paper. The first is a vehicle quota system (VQS) which combines state planning and market mechanisms to allocate vehicles to users and so manage the vehicle population (Han, 2010). This management tool is effective in controlling the vehicle population in Singapore as it limits car ownership. Ownership requires a certificate of entitlement and the quota system is based on categories of vehicles differentiated by engine size (Han, 2010). The VQS has reduced the annual growth rate of vehicles to three percent. The other innovative policy is road pricing. The country uses electronic road pricing (ERP) which is a sophisticated combination of radio-frequency, optical-detection, imaging and smart-card technologies (Han, 2010). ERP is a method of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) which has gained popularity in places such as North American, Europe and SouthEast nations like Singapore. These technologies have been championed by civil engineers but have required input from transport geographers and planners in terms of situating

them in transportation networks. With ERP, the share of private cars over total commuters declined from 48% to 29% (Jerram, 2007). Public transportation has received many benefits from the ERP scheme. Indeed, buses have become faster, more efficient and have seen ridership rates go up (Jerram, 2007). Mobility has been advanced in Singapore because policies have promoted public transit. Policies have made the quality, frequency and diversity of the public transit system and its services a viable alternative to the car for a wide array of the population (Han, 2010). One progressive and emerging idea is to install intelligent traffic lights to detect approaching buses so the lights turn green automatically, this will also come with more bus lanes. This is meant to increase efficiency and mobility as a bus carries more passengers than an automobile. These policies and ideas are not only indicative of a sustainable transport system, but demonstrate ideas of environmental and social justice which relate to the wider discipline of geography. Indeed, critical human geography as a sub-discipline has fostered an intense academic environment where issues such as unequal relations of class, race, ethnicity and gender became more commonplace (Painter, 2000). Social geography and urban geography have also focussed on issues concerning justice and the environment. Low fares in Singapore’s rapid transit system ensure that ordinary people can access public transport (Han, 2010). Low-income commuters are assisted by the “many helping hands” approach, with the government, local communities and the public transport operators all extending their help in various ways such as government income redistribution schemes and transport vouchers (Han, 2010). The rapid bus transit system provides low fares in general and continuously seeks input from the public about quality of service, price level, waiting and walking time in a trip. Last, road pricing has been effective because it controls usage of cars i.e. making automobility less attractive because it is more expensive and rapid bus transit more popular because it is cheaper and highly efficient (Han, 2010).


To conclude discussion on this study, it is critical to understand Singapore’s success with developing a sustainable transportation system. They have balanced motorization with public transit usage which is a rational way of changing the system. Expecting everyone in society to precipitously switch from driving to public transit and alternative transit (walking, cycling) is not realistic. This process takes time. Access and mobility have been crucial to the Singaporean experience. People get around their cities comfortably and efficiently and public transit is priced at an affordable rate. This study is an example of how transport geography research is moving beyond just optimization models based on transport network efficiency. As mentioned, transport geography is beginning to recognize the importance of sustainable transportation as it relates to environmental protection and social justice. ERP, VQS and public transport expansion have mitigated greenhouse gas emissions while allowing the country’s poorest to enjoy the transport options available to them.

Building on Access in Transport Geography
This core idea of access in transport geography needs some elaboration. Elaboration is needed to distinguish “access” from “accessibility”, two fundamentally different concepts. Rodrigue et al (2009) provide a comprehensive explanation of this: many transport systems have universal access since no specific user can have a competitive advantage over others; access is the same for everyone. For example, a public highway system can be accessed by anyone insofar as they have a vehicle and the will to use this method of transport. Thus, it can be accessed by trucking fleets and its competitors and individuals or families with smaller or larger cars. The authors explain how access is thus uniform wherever one is located in regard to the transport system as long as there is a possibility to enter or exit it. This contrasts with accessibility because accessibility can vary according to one’s location within the transport system. Accessibility is not uniform but is a relative concept based on space, place and income status to name a few (Rodrigue et al., 2009). For example, to conceptualize this distinction, let’s think about the public highway system which everyone can access in theory. A public highway system is usually extensive with numerous entry

and exit points throughout a city, province or even nation. You can access the system if you have a car and get from point A to point B. However, the minute the government implements a highway tax or a toll, the question of accessibility arises. A highway toll could raise revenue to finance the expansion and maintenance of the public highway system. This might be justified because it is not receiving enough tax revenue for transportation renewal and thus has to resort to such economic measures. The flipside to this argument is that revenue made from the highway toll or tax could be used for public transit expansion. With more funding, transit can be expanded to all areas of a city and could be priced at an affordable rate thereby making it accessible to all members of society. This distinction between access and accessibility is indeed an important one because it relates to social equality and justice which are crucial in critical human geography and social geography research. Access can be correlated with sustainable transportation systems. Also, access can explain how transport geography has influenced professional fields like planning. Curitiba, Brazil provides compelling evidence of access through its Bus Rapid Transit system. The citizens of Curitiba feel more compelled to spend disposable income on transit services because the bus rapid transit is safe, reliable, efficient and speedy thereby minimizing the need to use an automobile (Levinson et al., 2002). For Curitiba, poor air quality and traffic congestion have been the main impetuses to bring about a more sustainable transit system (Levinson et al. 2002). Some urban scholars attribute poor air quality, traffic congestion and low levels of urban liveability to a lack of transit-oriented development (Hodge & Gordon, 2008). Moreover, smart growth and transit-oriented development usually begin when a city recognizes that automobile dependency is rampant along with a decreased sense of community Public transportation systems will never gain popular support if citizens do not have a sense of culture, place and community where they are engaged. The citizens of Curitiba have recognized that by neglecting the city’s natural environment, the impact of pollution and other harmful pollutants would exacerbate the liveability of the city. To foster a

conservation ethic, instil environmental values and bring about social equity for citizens of Curitiba, the city has implemented progressive waste management programs. In short, 70 percent of the city’s waste is recycled by citizens (Cunningham et al. 2005). Food and bus coupons are handed out to low-income citizens in exchange for recyclables, providing an alternative to welfare while also protecting the environment (Cunningham et al 2005). In addition, money raised from selling materials goes into social programs and the city employs the homeless and recovering alcoholics in its garbage separation plant (Cunningham et al. 2005). Incentives from the municipality have also brought about social equity; people can carry their trash to biweekly collection sites and trade four pounds of garbage for one pound of vegetables (Lubow, 2007). In sum, these planning initiatives have collectively created a better sense of community and citizenry and demonstrate how its sustainable transit system is accessible to all citizens irrespective of class. In Curitiba, the urban environment and public transportation are valued in the education system of the city. Children are taught at a very young age to appreciate conservation of waste and why reducing automobile dependency is important (Cunningham et al 2005). For instance, there is a municipal program for children where they can exchange recyclable garbage for school supplies, chocolate, toys and tickets for shows (Cunningham et al. 2005). At a young age, they are introduced to how cars and vehicles pollute and how using buses are more environmentally friendly. These use and success of these initiatives are contrasted by the findings from the Line et al (2010) study. Last, the BRT has been highly successful in Curitiba because of its physical and financial accessibility. The feeder buses pass through neighbourhoods on the urban fringe and make the system easily accessible to lower density areas (Levinson et al. 2002). The city’s express system then utilizes these dedicated bus lanes and transports large numbers of passengers to various locations along these structural corridors. Transport Geography can be effective at highlighting spatial disparities and inaccessibility issues. When professional planners study the work of transport geographers, they become

intrigued by the spatial inequalities of transportation systems and conduct work to minimize such inequalities. This has been evidenced in Curitiba and Singapore making transportation not only more sustainable, but accessible for all citizens. Also, both places have been interested in peoples’ experiences and attitudes while using transportation. It is the experiences and attitudes that have helped create a more effective and efficient system.

Transport Geography in Modern Geographical Thought
The growth of urban centres has spurred transportation geographers to develop new theories and methods to help explain the changing dynamics of accessibility and mobility (Keeling, 2009). Much of the literature on access and mobility focuses mainly on urban areas. Urban areas have significant population sizes, a high concentration of human capital and technology, transportation networks and various economic markets. Thus, urban transport issues have dominated the discourse, in part because of the sheer size and complexity or urban growth and change. However, this does not justify any reason to neglect rural areas. Rural communities have become completely dependent on the automobile, as the frequency and coverage of public transit services continues to decline (Keeling, 2009). Access to basic public transport infrastructure typically is the major challenge for rural communities in non-Western societies, where private automobile ownership is rare but population densities are higher (Keeling, 2009). These issues of spatial inequality, poverty, gender and race have become only more important to modern geographical thought. These topics are studied in sub-disciplines including social geography, urban geography, cultural geography and critical human geography. Thus, there appears to be a trend in modern geographical thought where issues of justice and equality are studied. This is a major shift from the 1950s where the quantitative revolution did not account for things like social justice or poverty, but instead focused on research that would drive the MilitaryIndustrial-Academic complex. Many of the human geography sub-disciplines are focused on addressing inequality and social justice. For example, the analysis of contemporary public transport systems from the

perspective of spatial inequalities and social exclusion is an intriguing topic not exclusive to transport geography, but might attract social and feminist geographers. These issues are indeed complex and inherently multidisciplinary in nature. A seminal study by Law (1999) called for new geographies of gender and daily mobility, arguing that transport geography was neither engaging with mobilities research nor embedding gender-aware frameworks of analysis other than of the ‘women-do-this, men do- that’ variety. A more systematic treatment of gender as a theoretical concept was required (Hall, 2010). Gender shapes access to resources, time, money skills and technology. “Access to each of these resources will influence travel behaviour (how often trips are made, where and when they are made, and the mode of transport used) as well as the experience and social meaning of mobility” (Law, 1999, p. 578). Gender norms of domestic responsibility relate to transport research. Childcare and domestic work, and on spatial patterns of segregated land-uses, and combined with inflexible service hours and minimal public transport, generate time-space constraints that “restrict the mobility of those responsible for this work, usually mothers or wives (Law, 1999, p. 578). What about single mothers who have less disposable income? Less income usually means no access to an automobile which ultimately restricts mobility. The poor family might be spatially segregated from public transit or unable to pay the fare because of their financial situation. Or, if both parents are working full-time and commute over 60 minutes everyday, these commuting impacts can be detrimental to their health and to their family and social welfare. The difficulty that commuters have in seeing their kids before they go to bed, or the difficulties in having family sit down meals in the evenings, all because people cannot get about easily. As families spread out, it is harder and harder for them to keep in touch and see each other. This affects rich families more than poor, as they spread out more (Cass et al., 2005). People spend about 90 minutes each day travelling on average (84 minutes is the average for Toronto) – more time than they spend on childcare, sports, outdoor activities,


shopping, social life and eating. (Jerram, 2007). If this time could be cut, we could hugely improve our social lives, families and leisure opportunities. A study by the University of Paris and Nottingham Trent University explains how public transport relates to spatial inequality. Their study finds that when communities or areas become isolated due to low quality/expensive public transport, it heightens poverty, conflict, racism, alienation and crime. This leads to unhappiness and huge ‘knock on’ costs in terms of prisons, mental health, unemployment benefit, lost income, etc (Jerram, 2007). This illustrates the centrality of good public transport because everyone in society is connected to it. Congestion from transportation is another growing phenomenon in terms of the policy tools utilized to control and alleviate traffic and congestion. Jerram (2007) highlights a number of advantages associated with London, England’s Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ):
• •

• •

Raising the financial price of car travel induces some shifting to public transport Reduced congestion makes on-street public transport faster and cheaper to operate, irrespective of whether more people use it or not Increased public transport route coverage and/or frequency to handle demand further Enhances the service quality as perceived by the user Savings on parking charges Decrease amount of accidents every year

The key results from London’s CCZ are summarized below: • • • • Traffic in the Congestion Zone dropped by about 16%. This had huge benefits for people using buses and taxis and for people who needed to drive. Reliability benefits to car, taxi and commercial vehicle occupants (such as not being late due to unexpected congestion) were £10m; and to bus passengers, £10m. Vehicle fuel savings: £10m (based on 2004 prices). Accident savings: £15m

Source: Jerram, 2007 While the data collected and analyzed provides compelling evidence that the CCZ has been successful, there lacks discussion around peoples’ personal experiences with it how they are coping with the transition to public transit; or, if they feel safer due to less congestion. With

congestion charging, there is still a large percentage of people who use their automobiles for a number of reasons that we still do not completely understand. Congestion charging, in multiple jurisdictions (Singapore, London, Stockholm, Olso) is receiving more attention from human geographers in terms of the behavioural aspects associated with it. For example, why people still choose more expensive travel options (driving) when more efficient and cheaper travel modes are available to them. An interdisciplinary research team from Sussex University interviewed 18 middle-class car commuters to understand people’s transport attitudes and choices. The results were broken down into four themes which dominated people’s thinking. These themes are represented in figure 2 on page 18.


Figure 2. Summary of Transport Attitude and Choices (Jerram, 2007) Theme Explanation of theme
Journey-Based Affect (JBA) JBA is all about how people feel during the journey If public transport is crowded, noisy, smelly, hot, has uncomfortable seating, or perceived as unsafe, people will not take it. Cars, on the other hand, can be perceived as entertaining places, even though you can’t read, gaze out of the window, etc. This was a dominating aspect of JBA. People liked being alone to some extent, but a greater priority was not being pushed up against others. It would make sense to highlight the improvements of public transport if it is to be appealing. Public transport was seen as unreliable and inflexible. Bus timetables were unpredictable and have complex timetables. The investigators concluded that ‘removing the unknown may help to address these issues’. Lack of autonomy could also produce negative affect around car use – having to arrive at a certain time to get a parking space or having to leave at a certain time to avoid rush hour. Thus, very often car use can constrain our freedom, but good public transport can enhance it. Policymakers have not addressed these issues. Public transport can be liberating, but is not presented as such in Britain. Many car owners considered their car ownership to be an essential element of themselves. Most car owners remember car acquisition as a moment of liberation, coming of age, or achieving social status. Policymakers and people promoting public transport alternatives have not addressed these issues, yet they are the central ones for car commuters

Personal Space



These themes need to be further explored in other geographical studies, particularly to determine the variation in attitudes and choices between income groups. These kinds of studies would influence modern geographical thought especially considering the importance of qualitative research in human geography. All four themes could be placed in a behavioural geography study cross cutting transport geography. The themes might be able to reveal even more groundbreaking research when applied to various groups in society. Using quantitative methods to illustrate the cost-benefit savings and efficiency gains from a CCZ can reveal important findings. However, it is equally as important to explore peoples’ experiences and attitudes regarding commuting and public transit. Indeed, this is the research that can influence policymakers to make decisions that allow for environmental and social justice.


In summary, these studies illustrate the interdisciplinarity of emerging transport research. Such interdisciplinarity has been crucial to human geography since the 1970s. However, there is the need for a confluence of quantitative and qualitative methodology to influence public policy and to strengthen the vitality of the discipline. GIS techniques have hitherto revolutionized transportation analysis (Keeling, 2007). It has been a very useful technique, however, some human geography scholars have cautioned about overusing such methods as was done in the 1960s. In the 1960s, there was a “narrow emphasis on network analysis and mechanistic models which led to research becoming disembodied from its social and political implications (Keeling, 2007, p. 223). This made transport geography less relevant to how the discipline was changing. As Keeling (2007) writes:
“those embracing GIS technologies need to focus on the policy-making, problem-solving, and forecasting capabilities of GIS from social and political viewpoints rather than allowing the flashy technical capabilities of the software dominate the discourse” (Keeling, 2007, p. 223).

Despite some of the fair critiques from human geographers, this is an exciting time to be a transport geographer. New ideas are being drawn from human geography, planning, GIS and sustainable development to make this sub-discipline more appealing to the wider discipline. With access and mobility becoming so central to transport geographers, their studies are beginning to contextualize the human condition in terms of movement and interaction (Keeling, 2009). As shown in this paper, transport geography is still quantitative in orientation but has used a number of qualitative methods since the 1970s. More qualitative studies are needed, however, we should note the significant progress made thus far. From 1996-2006 a total of 5,040 articles were published by the twelve geography journals. Of these 5,040 articles, 225 were on transport-related topics. 102 of the studies were qualitative in their orientation, 123 used a more quantitative methodology These advances have helped other geographers, as well as those affiliated disciplines (civil engineering, economics, planning) to “better

explain the inner workings and inter-connections of people and places from the global to the local (Keeling, 2007, p. 522). If transport geography continues to publish articles that are both quantitative and qualitative in orientation, not only will the sub-discipline become even more relevant, but it will be instrumental in influencing public policy. With 50% of the world’s population now living in urban centres, the need for establishing sustainable transportation systems has become more salient than ever before. As shown in this Progress in Human Geography paper, global climatic change in combination with population growth and urban migration are driving the transportation research agenda. The alleviation of greenhouse gas emissions will only occur if cities aggressively invest in public transit systems. Singapore and London have been successful with achieving sustainable transport systems because of broad social and political support along with smart technologies such as ERP. The future of transportation research and transport geography is going to require the integration of technology and understanding the human condition.
“Although fluctuating oil prices, economic downturns, and other interruptions to the pace of global development may cause transport demand and supply contractions over short time-frames, the human need for increased accessibility and mobility at all scales suggest that transportation geographers have much to analyze over the coming years and decades” (Keeling, 2009, p. 522)

An opportunity is presented in transport geography. Research in this sub-discipline can significantly influence the way we design our transportation networks and public transit systems. Transport geographers are beginning to study the human condition as it relates to transportation, however, this will be an ongoing test as human geography evolves over the next century. With a history of a strong quantitative orientation, due largely to its academic connections with civil engineering and economics, it has become more pluralistic overtime. The quantitative tradition is very strong and the sub-discipline is presented with an opportunity to integrate with qualitative research. Together, such integration can play a role shaping the future and relevancy of transport geography.


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