Understanding user needs and institutional conditions as key aspects for implementation and further developments

This work package will explore how the range of new accessibility services fit
specific user groups in different geographical contexts, e.g. the Stockholm region and Malmö. Focus will be on understanding the needs and preferences of the users. This knowledge is important in order to understand which services (and combinations thereof) that have a potential for wider implementation. Another research area concerns institutional preconditions that affect development and the spread of services supporting sustainability.

Aim and research questions

A transition towards smart and sustainable accessibility will require fundamental changes of both individual mobilities and the logistics and delivery services of goods. A key point of departure for this work package is the ongoing rapid development of new accessibility service innovations (ASIs), which means that a broad range of “new” services (and new combinations of them) are currently being developed. However, even though many of these innovations are framed as “smart” and “sustainable”, too little is known about the actual potential of these new services – and combinations of services – to actually contribute to overall ambitions of a sustainable and accessible urban transport system ( Börjesson Rivera et al 2014 ). Existing research and development has a bias towards technical dimensions and theoretical optimization on the micro-level, while user perspectives, institutional dimensions and consequences for the overall transport system are seldom explored in depth.

The aims of this work package are (1) to provide in-depth knowledge of users’ needs, restrictions and preferences in relation to specific accessibility service innovations (and combinations of these innovations), (2) to provide new insights about institutional conditions that influence the design and implementation of emerging ASIs (and combinations of these), and (3) to generate knowledge of relevance for further exploring the potential of the ASIs to contribute to a sustainable development in urban regions.

Research questions addressed:

  • For which groups and in which socio-spatial context can the most promising ASIs and combinations of ASIs be of strategic importance for enhancing sustainable accessibility? (Task WP4.1)
  • How do specific user groups perceive specific ASIs (and combinations of ASIs)? How do the ASIs (and new combinations) meet their restrictions, needs and preferences? (Task WP4.2)
  • What are the key institutional conditions (i.e. regulations, norms, practices etc) that influence the development and implementation of the ASIs (and combinations of these)? What type of institutional capacity is needed to support a rapid proliferation of ASIs for sustainable accessibility? (Task WP4.3)

Context of this work package

The focus of this work package will be directed towards the types of ASIs that have been identified as promising for sustainable accessibility in urban regions. Specific emphasis will be put on in-depth explorations of how specific services (and combinations of them) can actually provide sustainable accessibility for specific user groups (identified in Task 4.1). Other important issues that will be explored is how existing institutional conditions (both formal and informal) affect the development and implementation of ASIs, and what institutional capacity that would be needed to support a more rapid implementation and proliferation of promising ASIs.

The work in work package 4 is carried out by a team of researchers from behavioral and social sciences (psychology, sociology, gender studies, policy analysis/institutional analysis and sustainability science etc). The researchers work in close collaboration with users, practitioners and other stakeholders in a transdisciplinary research process. The knowledge that will be developed is of key importance for the further development of ASIs ( in work package 5 ) and the development of policy recommendations ( in work package 7 )

The ability to perform successful research in a complex area such as that in this work package requires a coherent and integrative approach. We argue that it is important to avoid setting up a priori, fixed assumptions about user groups and their perspectives in relation to various ASIs – or conversely to depart from fixed configurations of these ASIs.

Instead, this will be specified in the early stages of the research. The design of this work package is the result of an ambition to carry out strategically focused research and work with distinct research tasks within an integrative framework that is developing throughout a stepwise process in which all researchers in the work package are involved. In practice, there are joint research meetings and thematic workshops throughout the whole process to strengthen the integrative approach in practice.

This work package builds on results from work package 2 and 3 and will provide key input to Mistra SAMS. The deep user insights identified through this work package will be used as input to the design process that will be carried out in work package 5. The in-depth insights on users and institutional conditions built up in work package 4 also form an important basis for the work that will be carried out in work packages 6 and 7.

Work package leader

Affiliate professor Karolina Isaksson , VTI and KTH.


Task 4.1 Mapping user groups

The aim of this task is to identify user groups for whom the ASIs or combinations of ASIs can make a difference in terms of sustainable accessibility, with a specific focus on the potential in terms of resource efficiency and just distribution of accessibility services.

The following research questions will be addressed:

  • What groups of users are of specific relevance for a wider application of the ASIs?
  • By what grouping of users could we reach dimensions of both overall improved resource efficiency and accessibility for all?
  • What grouping can secure that marginalized users will be included when configuring mobility services?

The work in Task 4.1 builds on existing research about travel habits/mobility, as well as research on social inclusion and exclusion, all from the perspective of: 1) transport planning in general, 2) planning for public and active modes of transport in particular, and 3) the role of digitization and use of ICTs. The work also includes an analysis of statistics, data and qualitative research on travel patterns and accessibility, in order to define particularly relevant groups. Overall a systems perspective on travel, accessibility, resources and demand/needs is pursued.

An important point of departure for the work in this task is thus existing research on travel patterns and travel surveys. On this basis we will identify user groups for which the emerging ASIs could be relevant. We will particularly consider criteria such as socioeconomic and geographic/spatial factors as well as phase of life, which are important explanatory factors for travel behavior, needs, restrictions, preferences and actual travel behavior. These criteria will provide a basis for identifying A) groups of users who could play more crucial roles than others (e.g. as early adopters) in a shift to a more resource-efficient mobility system. B) groups of users whose needs and restrictions are important to consider from a just accessibility point of view (with a focus on e.g. socioeconomic differences, gender equality, the mobility of children, elderly and groups with functional limitations).

Another important point of departure is that B) (cf. above) marginalized groups tend to be forgotten in design processes and when making policy recommendations. The demand for mobility services, as well as the ability to adapt to them, differ radically among users. While the user groups identified in line with B) above might be well integrated in the labor market, highly mobile, and already have adopted high-tech solutions as a mean to facilitate everyday life, other groups are less mobile, less integrated and less used to technological devices. A focus on both these types of users is important if the results of the programme shall have the chance to support an urban (and rural) integration as a result of emerging accessibility services, rather than urban fragmentation (c.f. Luque-Ayala and Marvin 2014 ). Within the work package we will problematize and analyze concepts such as accessibility demand and accessibility services.

To make the grouping we aim at more concrete here in the application, provisional classification criteria of user groups is briefly outlined below. It should be seen as a matrix of potentially useful dimensions for mapping user groups:

  • High vs. Low access to (and with need for more) mobility and ICT:s.
    Grouping based on income, place of residence, age, functional limitations, type of household etc. Including grouping based on assessed level of needs for improved (fairly distributed) accessibility.
  • Mixed mode use vs. Car use. Grouping based on whether mixed modes or private car use is dominant or not for individuals/households on a daily basis.

An important contribution of Task 4.1 is to link the knowledge of user groups to the types of ASIs explored in WP3. A synthesizing description and analysis of needs, restrictions and preferences and the “match” between these and the potential performance of the emerging ASIs, will provide a basis for the in-depth empirical analyses that will follow in Task 4.2.

User value and users participating

A user-centered perspective will be applied throughout this task. There is, however, not much of direct involvement of end-users, since the work is focused on mapping these based on existing research. There is ongoing collaboration with Service providers and municipalities like Malmö, Stockholm and Botkyrka throughout the process, to make sure that we will not miss any user group that they might know of, but which is not visible in existing research.

International cooperation

The work in this task is informed by knowledge about travel patterns, norms, restrictions and preferences also from other national contexts.

Task leader and participants: The Task is carried out jointly by docent Greger Henriksson, KTH and PhD Gunilla Björklund, VTI.

Task 4.2 Generating deep user insights

The aim of this task is to generate deep insights of how various groups of users (as identified in Task 4.1) and other stakeholders perceive specific accessibility services.

The following research questions will be addressed:

  • How do different types of users and stakeholders perceive, and use, emerging accessibility services?
  • How can specific accessibility services meet restrictions, needs and preferences of specific types of users?
  • What are the most important adaptions/developments for making specific accessibility services more suitable for the identified user groups on an everyday life basis?

In this task, we will carry out in-depth explorations of specific applications of the ASIs (the ones that have been identified as relevant and “promising” in work package 3, Strategic Outlook) from a user perspective. The work is informed by existing knowledge about the various types of ASIs and their practical applications (identified in work package 3).

The work will also benefit from the existing knowledge about different types of accessibility service innovations (e.g. new light electric vehicles, new public transport solutions, travel planners, etc.) and how they ideally can work for different types of users, alongside existing research about attitudes to these types of services (see e.g. Shaheen 2011).

In general, existing research on smart and sustainable accessibility and mobility is still mainly technically oriented. No one has yet, to our knowledge, taken a comprehensive approach to emerging new accessibility services given their disruptive potential, and analyzed them in depth, from a user perspective. The work in Task 4.2 will use the existing knowledge in the area and work with deep analyzes from the perspectives of specific user groups. One important contribution is that we bring a more socially conscious perspective, focusing also on justice issues and groups that are often are forgotten or marginalized in the mainstream research.

Of key importance for the work is the development and application of methods and research approaches that can provide us with valid information about the perceptions of specific user groups. Inspired by the mixed methods approach ( Johnson et al 2007 ), this task uses a combination of methods to explore the user-perceptions. In practice, this means that researchers use both quantitative approaches (for instance questionnaires) and qualitative approaches (individual and focus group-interviews, participant observations etc) in the empirical explorations. Analytical generalizations is possible by linking experiences from different in-depth explorations to each other.

User value and users participating

The work in this task will be of direct relevance for the user groups in focus of the research, since it is clearly related to – and based on – their needs, restrictions and preferences when it comes to how to get sustainable access on an everyday life basis. Users and service providers will be involved in the research process - in line with the interactive research approach applied throughout the whole program.

Task leader and participants: This task is led by professor Jan Andersson, VTI. Other participants include docent Greger Henriksson, KTH, PhD Malin Henriksson, VTI, doctoral candidate Katrin Lättman, Samot/KaU, professor Margareta Friman, Samot/KAU, docent Lars Olsson, Samot/KAU, and PhD Gunilla Björklund, VTI.

Task 4.3 Institutional capacity for a rapid implementation and proliferation of ASIs

The aim of this task is to identify and critically analyse institutional conditions (i.e. regulations, norms, practices etc) that determine the development and implementation of ASIs (and combinations of ASIs) that have been identified as relevant and “promising” in work package 3. In the work, we explore what type of institutional capacity that is needed to support a rapid proliferation of ASIs for sustainable accessibility in
urban regions. The empirical focus will be directed towards public and private organisations that have formal roles and mandates for providing accessibility in urban regions today, or are identified as change drivers.

The following research questions will be addressed:

  • What are the key organisations/actors and how do they perceive and envision the potential of ASIs (and combinations of ASIs) in relation to long term goals of sustainable accessibility? What problems do they think that ASIs could solve, for whom and under what circumstances? How do these perceptions materialize in policies, steering documents and strategies?
  • What are the most important formal goals, strategies and rules/instructions that influence these organizations’ priorities and actions for specific ASIs?
  • What are the most important informal institutional conditions (referring, for instance, to implicit norms and mindsets within the organization, ways of working, management structures etc) that characterize these organizations’ ambitions in relation to sustainable accessibility and, thus, their inclination to develop, implement or in other ways apply relevant ASIs?
  • What are the key dimensions for building institutional capacity to more rapidly develop, implement and support the proliferation of sustainable accessibility service innovations?

The task consists of qualitative studies on institutional conditions that affect the implementation of service innovations for long term sustainable accessibility. Initially a pre-study will be conducted with focus on the discursive framing of contemporary initiatives and approaches to sustainable accessibility and ASIs. We will identify the overall ideas about ASIs, sustainable accessibility and digitalization that shape the actors’ understandings of what is possible and not possible to do, what types of users that new solutions are being developed for, and what they see as risks and benefits for the urban transport system.

Further, the work will be targeted at public and private organisations with central roles for providing accessibility and developing and/or supporting specific accessibility service innovations in an urban context. Our ambition is to get deep insights in “the mud of policy practice”, which means that we want to grasp the specific conditions that influence how relevant organisations act to support (or not support) emerging accessibility services and also identify what would be the most important institutional features to support a more rapid development, implementation and proliferation of promising ASIs.

A source of inspiration for the work is to be found in existing research on implementation, policy making and planning where power-analysis together with concepts and perspectives from sociological institutionalism are influential. A main challenge within this policy field today is that several of the organisations who could have a key role to promote a transition to sustainable accessibility see themselves as mainly transport and infrastructure providers and don’t connect with the idea of “smart” and “sustainable” accessibility. The focus of our work in this task is to explore both formal and informal institutional conditions that affect the way they act, and the potential for change. We analyse the role of both the formal regulatory systems (rules and instructions) and norms, mindsets, routines, professional attitudes, or ways of organizing work etc – which are often very powerful dimensions of policy practice.

User value and users participating

The work in this task will be of relevance for all users (both individuals/households and organisations) that work towards the aim of smart and sustainable accessibility and mobility. The in-depth exploration of institutional conditions will provide critical perspectives that are important for understanding the conditions that influence the implementation of these types of policy aims. The research will be carried out in close collaboration with practitioners at the key organisations in focus.

International co-operation

The work in this task is informed by knowledge about travel patterns, norms, restrictions and preferences also from other national contexts. A specific value in this context is carrying out international outlooks to cities and/or nations that have managed to implement more of the types of “smart” and “sustainable” solutions in
Mistra SAMS' focus.

Task leader and participants:
The work in this task is led by PhD Malin Henriksson, VTI. Other participants include docent Karolina Isaksson, VTI and KTH, Jacob Witzell, VTI, and professor Jane Summerton, VTI.

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Belongs to: Mistra SAMS Sustainable Accessibility and Mobility Services
Last changed: Jul 19, 2019