Curbing The Consumption of Distance? A practice-theoretical investigation of an employer-based mobility management initiative to promote more sustainable commuting
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A central feature of modern life is the desire and the need to be mobile. The increasing availability of cars during the twentieth century facilitated the rise in individualised, motorised travel in many countries, including Ireland. While car-based mobility bestows many benefits on society, its resource-intensity causes serious social and environmental problems that require urgent attention from researchers and policy-makers. The transport sector represents a prime target for sustainable development initiatives worldwide. This thesis makes an original contribution to current debates on sustainable transport by re-conceptualising corporeal mobility as "consumption of distance". It thereby adopts a practice-theoretical perspective which recognises the social and material embeddedness of (un)sustainable travel practices. By doing so, it challenges individualistic explanations of human travel behaviour that have dominated transport research and policy in the past. At the same time, it expands upon contemporary practice theories by explicating the material and adding an empirically-grounded conceptualisation of change. In addition, the author offers a unique scheme for operationalising and researching the consumption of distance. Reducing people's over-reliance on the car remains a major policy challenge in Ireland and globally. Based on an in-depth investigation of current travel patterns and their social, infrastructural and institutional contexts, this study offers baseline data for Ireland and a suite of policy-relevant propositions for the promotion of less resource-intensive alternatives to car-based commuting. Combining innovative conceptual work with multi-method empirical research, the study develops an original typology of commuting practices and assesses the effectiveness of mobility management initiatives designed specifically for a large employer in the West of Ireland. Here, the study reveals the potential of meso-level organisations to champion sustainable commuting practices locally. Overall, the practice-theoretical focus of this study elucidates the need for integrated, cross-sectoral policies that challenge the dominance of the car and account for the interconnectedness of social practices.
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