Destination unknown: Pursuing sustainable mobility in the face of rival societal aspirations

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A growing volume of scholarship and policy practice focuses on developing societal capacity to guide transitions of socio-technical systems toward more sustainable alternatives. Because several prominent modes of transportation are widely regarded as systemically problematic, the notion of sustainable mobility has received considerable attention from the standpoint of system innovation. Sustainability though constitutes only one of many contemporary political objectives and public commitment to goals consistent with such a future is highly equivocal. A related challenge arises from the ambivalence that sustainability champions often harbor on an individual level. It is probable that efforts to facilitate sustainable mobility will need to be reconciled with rival societal aspirations such as the pursuit of faster and more convenient forms of travel. Drawing on insights from the multi-level perspective, this article contrasts the relatively static automobility system with its more dynamic aeromobility counterpart and explores why evidence of an incipient transition is more apparent within the realm of aviation. In particular, the diffusion of "personal aeromobility" involving the use of small airplanes for on-demand, point-to-point air travel raises perplexing questions for the governance of sustainable mobility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-470
Number of pages12
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • Future of mobility
  • Hyper-suburbanization
  • Private aviation
  • Small aircraft transportation system
  • Sustainable systems innovation
  • Transition management


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