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Social sustainability and urban mobility: shifting to a socially responsible pro-poor perspective

Margaret Grieco (Transport Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




This paper aims to describe global trends and policy responses with respect to the social sustainability of urban mobility which, put simply, refers to whether the benefits and costs of transport and travel services (mobility) and the spatial organisation of facilities and services (accessibility) are equally and equitably distributed in a society or community. Considering urban transport provision from a social sustainability framework raises critical issues of policy goals and purpose, not least of which is the consideration that policies aimed at stemming or reducing urban mobility should not accentuate existing inequities and inequalities in accessibility. It also raises issues of reshaping urban decision-making structures to better integrate the end-user, where the end-user includes both those who are presently included in mobility and accessibility provision and, most importantly, those who are presently and have been previously excluded.


Comprehensive research into the global policy literature and urban practice around socially sustainable urban mobility under the auspices of an international agency.


The databases and methodologies around social sustainability have not been sufficiently developed to permit ready operationalisation. The use of electronic technology and user feedback – which such technology makes possible – has not been adequately harnessed to develop the necessary methodologies for the measurement of social sustainability with respect to urban mobility.

Research limitations/implications

The development of improved social sustainability methodologies will increase the probability of the building of pro-poor infrastructure.

Practical implications

The development of improved social sustainability methodologies will proved improved frameworks for evaluating the social responsibility of transport options.

Social implications

The development of participatory methodologies and evaluatory frameworks will lead towards more cohesive and better integrated cities, that is more socially sustainable cities.


This paper makes the case that the participatory research necessary to the evaluation of transport projects, schemes and networks as socially sustainable has not yet been undertaken. It brings together a set of global evidence to make the case that current discussions of the social sustainability currently take place in an evidence and policy vacuum.



This paper was drafted by Margaret Grieco under the auspices of UN-Habitat (2010-2013) to investigate the social sustainability of urban transport. The views expressed by the author are those of the author alone and are not necessarily shared by UN-Habitat. This paper is paralleled by a report on transport and poverty in Latin America commissioned under the auspices of UN agency ECLAC, see Grieco (2013a).


Grieco, M. (2015), "Social sustainability and urban mobility: shifting to a socially responsible pro-poor perspective", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 82-97.



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