Nominated for The Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport Award


Tanu Priya Uteng, 1. Senior Researcher, Department of Mobility and Organisation, Institute of Transport Economics (TOI), Gaustadalléen 21, NO 0349 Oslo, Norway, Torstein S. Throndsen, 2. Masters Candidate, Department of Sociology and Human Geograph


We discuss how societal trends and policy-making may influence future urban daily mobility in a Norwegian context. Prognoses on economy, demography and urban development combined with a literature review are used to study the topic.


We review the major societal drivers and their possible impact on future mobility trends in this paper. While many aspects of this future-telling scenario can be described, at best, as obfuscated, certain trends can be filtered out and reflected upon for discussing the future travel behaviour. This discussion is, to a great extent, context specific and is bounded by the socio-technical, cultural, demographic, political and institutional domains. We present the case of Norway, specifically the case of Oslo urban region.
Travel behaviour trends, prognoses on economy, demography and urban development – filtered through a retrospect on the last 30-40 years and a literature review are used to study how societal trends will affect daily mobility in a Norwegian context. Though the trends pull daily mobility in different directions and the total sum is difficult to evaluate, it is important to discuss these societal drivers in order to orient the field towards designing and developing sustainable daily mobility solutions in the future.
Increasing urbanisation, i.e. the relative increase of population in the urban areas combined with a government-driven focus on increasing public transport, cycling and walking can be interpreted as leading to a possible reduction in car-use and increase in use of other, more sustainable transport modes. In urban Norway, this trend is also seen to be reinforced by young adults’ low interest in obtaining a driving license and owning a car.
Though ageing of the population can indicate more car-use, it also indicates less travelling on average due to fewer people working. A majority of Norwegian women are in paid work, but there is still a difference in employment between men and women and more particularly, their commuting patterns. And though increased equality in the labour market means increased commuting prima facie, but it does not necessarily longer commuting distances. The effect of immigration on daily mobility is ambiguous because of the demographic and cultural composition of immigrants. The lower income level in immigrant groups than the majority of the population suggest less access to private transport resources. But research has also shown a preference for public transport among non-western immigrant women, due to restricted access to acquiring a driving license. Acquiring a driving license in Norway is expensive (can cost in the range of 2000-6000 euros) and easily reserved in favour of men in the non-western communities.
Children’s increased participation in organized leisure activities, as a part of the ‘modernity project’ to develop the abilities, potential and individuality of the child at early age, results in increased car usage, as parents chauffeur their children to various activities. Sharing economies (shared cars or bicycles) may reduce car ownership, but few studies have been made on whether sharing economies will result in more or less travel. There is no unambiguous answer to how e-activies, such as e-commerce, may influence mobility trends.
In a reciprocal relationship, transport policies also have a vital role in how societal trends interact with and influence mobility trends. Reduction in GHG emissions is one of the main objectives in both national, regional and local transport planning, but concurrently, there exists an objective to maintain the current level of mobility. Plans of regional expansions, through the means of railroad infrastructure, might provide support the zero-growth objective in urban regions, but at the same time, national transport policies support road expansion in the regional regions along with expansion of the Oslo airport.
These inherent contradictions – a continued emphasize on compact city and transit-oriented development in local and regional planning combined with an emphasis on road and airport expansion in national planning, is likely to reinforce one of the great paradoxes/challenges in contemporary transport research – that people in dense (and grey) cities will travel less frequently, shorter, and less with car in everyday life, while they might carry out long leisure trips with car and air plane in the weekends and vacations.


Association for European Transport