The Role of Public Transport in Society—A Case Study of General Policy Documents in Sweden

Vanessa Stjernborg, Ola Mattisson. Sustainability, Vol. 8, 2016

The aim of this paper is to study how local governments in Sweden view the role of public transport in society, and to investigate how public transport is used in a strategic capacity. By studying general policy documents, the ambition is to gain a wider understanding of the role of public transport based on the societal context it is situated in. Documents from 15 regions and 27 municipalities have been analysed by a qualitative content analysis. Results show that public transport is regarded as an important factor towards achieving other goals and other public values, particularly those related to economic and environmental issues; and that the social dimension is not as prioritised. Rail-bound public transport is often advocated, as are collaboration between organizations and integrated land-use and transport planning. However, the studied documents showed large overall differences in how counties and municipalities address public transport issues. It should be a priority in Sweden’s main steering documents to treat public transport consistently and give it the same priority as other societal functions—not least because Sweden’s treatment of public transport is a reasonable reflection of its overall society and can influence prioritisations and considerations in counties and municipalities across the country.

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