Research and Publications

New article on public transport symbolism in Journal of Transport Geography, co-authored by Dorina Pojani

The use of different forms of public transport connotes different symbolic meanings across national cultures. This has relevance when encouraging the uptake of public transport in Asia’s megacities such as Beijing or Chennai, where rapid deterioration in air quality has been partly attributed to a rapid increase in private motorised transport ownership and usage. Yet the social connotations of using public transport might not always be positive. Whilst metro systems may be seen as progressive and uniting, bus-based transit is still often seen as a ‘poor cousin’. This may present a significant impediment when encouraging a shift from private to public transport in cities where the national culture mandates visible differentiation between those of differing social status. This study uses deductive thematic analysis based upon symbolic permutations, to explore these concepts across two meta cultural clusters, each consisting of two sub clusters segmented by means of the Hofstede national culture indices: low power differential/individualistic (Anglo, Nordic), and high power differential/collectivist (Confucian, and South Asian). Using horizontal purposive sampling, sufficient differences are observed, as to the symbolism of the public transport modes across the groups, to justify an expansion of theory to the population of interest. The findings of the work should assist the promotion of sustainable transport in rapidly industrialising cities in the Global South, and international policy transfer across different geographies.

Title: Gauging differences in public transport symbolism across national cultures: implications for policy development and transfer


  • David Ashmore
  • Dorina Pojani
  • RoselleThoreau
  • NicolaChristie
  • Nicholas Tyler


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