Car dependence, equity and the transport policy stalemate

Giulio Mattioli

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The car is among the most important high-carbon systems locked-in during the twentieth century, that fuel climate change and thus threaten to impact disproportionately on future generations. In this paper, I argue that the very nature of car dependence – conceived as a dynamic, macro-social process consisting of constantly increasing levels of car ownership and use that resists any attempt to induce change – urges scholars to focus on the trade-offs between intra- and inter-generational equity. In fact, every increase in the level of car dependence in a given society widens the disadvantage gap between those who are part of the car system and those who are left out of it, but at the same time reduces the number of the latter. For this reason, its implications for intra-generational equity are very equivocal. On the other hand, most of the policies envisaged to fight car dependence (especially economic instruments) are likely to have negative impacts on intra-generational equity, and thus often meet strong resistance. This is likely to bring to a 'transport policy stalemate', where no serious attempt is made to reduce car use and all hopes are concentrated on a 'technological fix' to eventually solve all problems. In this context, calls from social scholars to focus on the (intra-generational) social equity dimension of transport may inadvertently concur to deepen the paralysis. At the end of the day, the complexity of the situation may turn out to be perfectly convenient for the current generation, but disastrous for posterity
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference 2011, Open Stream on "Climate Change Politics" - London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Apr 20118 Apr 2011


ConferenceBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference 2011, Open Stream on "Climate Change Politics"
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • car dependence
  • intergenerational equity
  • transport policy
  • sustainability
  • climate change policies
  • sustainable transport
  • equity
  • transport and social exclusion


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