Spatial patterns of transitions in the mobility sector: applying the concept of service regimes and sectoral regimes to anticipate changes in urban and rural transport systems

Jens Schippl, B. Truffer

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperOther research output


It is discussed that various technical and non-technical dynamics are about to transform our mobility systems. Electric mobility is starting to substitute internal combustion engines, but also more fundamental changes to the way transport is organized are likely to emerge. Many observers view various “mobility-on-demand” services (sharing schemes, Apps, platforms) as enablers for less car dominated, “seamless” mobility systems. And, even more, the driverless car technology is supposed to come as a revolution for transport systems. There is broad agreement that far-reaching changes are very likely, but it is far from clear what these changes will look like, what impacts they have in terms of sustainability and how they can or should be influenced by governance. In the last years many studies about future transitions in the mobility sector have been published to help answering these questions. However, the relevance of the spatial context for such transition processes seems to be underexplored. Transport is not a homogenous regime. There are huge differences between rural and urban areas but also between different urban areas. Highly densified urban agglomerations usually offer a wide range of alternatives to private cars, whereas in more rural areas this is less the case. Modal split of different Cities may vary considerably, for example some have a high share in cyclist (about 30% of urban trips in Copenhagen are done by bike; in Karlsruhe 25% are done by bike and only 34% by car), whilst others do not (in Stuttgart only 7% of the trips are done by bicycle)

In order to better cope with the spatially different assemblages of services that make up the transport system, in our contribution we propose to apply a concept that has recently been introduced by van Welie et al. (2017) for the sanitation sector in Nairobi. Here, in a sociotechnical regime the level of service provision (service regime) is distinguished from the level of the sectoral regime. Service regimes are understood as a “specific institutionalized combination of technologies, user routines and organizational forms for providing the service”. Sectoral regimes can be understood as “the broader economic or societal realms (or organizational fields) that cover a societal function such as mobility”. A sectoral regime can be populated by different service regimes (private cars, public transport cycling etc.). Following van Welie et al. 2017 and Fuenfschilling/Truffer 2014 we argue that each service regime is characterized by its specific institutional settings. What kind of combination of service regimes exist and how these service regimes are interlinked (and aligned) strongly depends on the spatial context.

By using data from Germany, we will briefly indicate that very different dynamics and potentials for alignment may emerge if innovations (e.g. electric mobility, mobility as a service, automated driving) coevolve with spatially different varieties of the mobility sector. In doing so, we point at the still open, but more and more urgent question of how these different, sometimes contrary and competing dynamics can or should be governed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference (IST) 2018: Reconfiguring Consumption and Production Systems - The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jun 201814 Jun 2018


Conference9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference (IST) 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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