Mapping Values in the Transport and Mobility Debate

Mapping Values in the Transport and Mobility Debate


Danielle Snellen, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Willem Buunk, Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Frans Bekhuis, CROW


A wide array of values underly views in the mobility debate. A systematic map of values helps to understand the diversity of opinions and shows potential blind spots, thus broadening the horizon of policy makers, researchers and decision makers.


People have very diverse views on issues regarding transport and mobility. These are based on underlying values. Whereas some people think transport should, above all, provide accessibility to work and amenities for all, others are more concerned with solving congestion or with the freedom to drive where-ever, whenever and as fast as possible. This diversity leads to very different opinions in the transport policy debate. Viewing transport as the lubricant that keeps the economy going will lead to different preferences than seeing transport as a necessary evil that should be minimised to save the planet. And even if people hold the same opinion, this might be based on completely different motivations: some prefer cycling because it is fun or good for their health, other see it as a necessary step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In our study we have looked at a wide array of opinions on transport issues, focussing on transport for people (not goods). It covers the whole spectrum of attitudes towards public transport services and infrastructure to private transport modes, from walking and cycling to motorised transport such as cars and motorcycles. We have dug into the deeper layers of these opinions, studying the arguments given for these opinions, both in documents and through focus groups. This way we descended to the values underlying these opinions. Values are deeply felt preferences, ideals, dreams and principles that people strive for. In our study of the field of transport and mobility, we found 18 values forming the basis of the array of opinions. These 18 values are grouped, following the six moral foundations from the theory of Jonathan Haidt (see figure 1). According to Haidt, moral foundations are the basic intuitions present in every human being and include concepts such as caring for others, fairness and liberty.

Figure 1 Six moral foundations and their values in the transport and mobility debate

We mapped the six foundations and their values on a map, illustrating each value with at least two examples of opinions. For example: the value identity reflects that transport choices are a form of self-expression. This value can be found in the opinion that an electric car fits a sustainable lifestyle or that a retro Vespa is a mode of transport that fits the personality of certain people. This value is often also underlying the opinion that a larger city should have a substantial metro or tram network.

The map of values is an instrument for analysis. It helps to understand and interpret the diversity of opinions and values in the transport and mobility debate. It is relevant to everyone in the transport field: researchers, policy makers, consultants and decision makers. Using the map will not only clarify the discussion and help to understand other opinions, but it will also show the blind spots. By broadening the horizon of views on transport and mobility, it allows for substantiated decisions and incorporation of a wider variety of views in transport policy and projects.

In the paper we will discuss the concepts of moral foundations and values, explain the process that led to the map of values, discuss the full map and show some illustrative examples of how to use it.


Association for European Transport