Societal resistance in transportation developments
Job loss resistance, affordability of technology, technophobia and habits
By Eleni Chalkia
The first phase of Mobility4EU project was focused primarily on the identification of societal trends shaping the demand of mobility and logistics. Moreover, an analysis of the societal resistance to new transport solutions was conducted. The following post introduces the main barriers and societal resistance to the development of new transport solutions identified by the project.
Since the publication of the ‘Brundtland report’ in 1987, there is a consensus that sustainable development is built around 3 axes: environment, economy and society. In transport developments, the environmental and economic aspects have been broadly viewed and been researched. In contrast, the social impacts of sustainable transport are often neglected and remain under-examined in comparison to economic and environmental impacts. Thus, the social ramifications of transport developments are unclear and the social/psychological factors supporting unsustainable instead of sustainable transport are often forgotten.
Since the social impacts of transport have been vigorously neglected, or only been poorly taken into account, the knowledge about the reaction of society to the transport solutions that are proposed and implemented is vague. Thus, sometimes the implemented solutions might merge with the social norms and some other times they might be rejected, since the society cannot incorporate them and resists to its use.
In our view, this societal resistance to the changes in transport is built upon four specific pillars: job loss resistance, affordability of technology, technophobia and habits.
Job loss resistance
New transportation trends are emerging and new innovative models are implemented to meet the needs of the society. Acceleration, flexibility and personalisation are seen as important trends in societal developments shaping transport demand. These transport models always affect in a way the life of the people that live in the area where they are implemented. The bigger the change, the greater the resistance; especially in the beginnings of the implementation. One of the biggest challenges of all occurs if fear exists that this new transport solution threatens job and especially the own job in any manner.
Affordability of technology
The accessibility features do not only restrain to the physical accessibility, but also expand to accessibility of the design. When referring to accessibility, we do not restrict ourselves only to people with disability or the elderly, but also those with limited economic resources available.
New transportation technologies are emerging, to meet the transportation challenges of our times, including connected and autonomous vehicles, keyless fleet management, local zoning, new technology for on-road communications, real-time traffic management, etc. It is clear now that ITS is poised to transform transportation but as Adams said in 1999 “even if the harmful environmental consequences of current and projected levels of mobility could be eliminated by technological advances, significant social problems would remain”. And this problem is twofold. On the one hand there are people who are do not know how to use technology (they are afraid to use it — technophobia) and on the other hand there are people who don’t want to use it because despite its impact at the quality of life, it also creates all kinds of problems, including distress, confusion, pathology, and conflict.
Habit is one of the most persistent human characteristics; the force of habit, also called routines, explains a large part of social patterns. It is unlikely that someone who has a strongly developed pattern of car-driving for example, will change behaviour, even if presented with alternatives which are more appealing in terms of cost and more friendly to the environment. This explains heavily the resistance of some people to change, in relation to transportation mode use.