My PhD research project

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This research explores the links between social exclusion, car dependence and public policies for members of non-motorized households who are potentially socially excluded. It is at the crossroads of urban sociology, public policy and transport geography. Comparing urban areas in North America and Europe, it comprises two case studies: Quebec City in Canada and Strasbourg in France.

Using a mixed methods approach, I combine qualitative and quantitative research tools to examine how the interactions of various policies, levels of car dependence, urban planning and land use affect mobility-related social exclusion with special attention to gender-based differences.

The analysis is based on official origin-destination survey data from both urban areas, semi-directed interviews within non-motorized households and with public servants, and policy documents.

I find that the factors causing non-motorized households to feel socially excluded are similar on both sides of the Atlantic. Mobility-related social exclusion can be associated with the fact of having to find an alternative to the car in order to reach certain destinations. Relying on the bus is often experienced as inconvenient, linked to long waiting times, having to leave early during evening outings and making detours instead of using a direct route. Such feelings made many of the study participants feel excluded.

Participants who felt socially excluded commonly mentioned feeling left out of the political process and not listened to during public consultations. Some participants also felt excluded for not having a driver’s licence, especially in France. Non-motorized households revealed that aggressive behaviour by motorists or their refusal to share the road with alternative mobility users were a further factor leading to social exclusion. Finally, judgmental comments by others who literally could not understand how they could live without a car – or who thought they didn’t have one because of drunk driving or poverty – was also associated with social exclusion in our sample.

The study participants often felt that owning a car had negative repercussions on their independence, as it comes with financial burdens of including car payments, vehicle repairs and maintenance. They reported feeling liberated from such burdens, as well as from logistical grievances like finding a parking spot or moving the car during snow removal, thus presenting a point of view not often explored in the literature.

The public servants considered that some of the population was car-dependent, which made the implementation of restrictive measures on the car challenging. When discussing policy solutions, the main challenge brought up by civil servants were urban sprawl and political aspects related to urban planning.

The policies in place to address transport and social exclusion contained three distinct sets of discourses. They either discussed social aspects, legal aspects, or mobility and land planning aspects. Each order of government had its own different focus, but car dependence per se was almost completely absent from policy documents, and most causes of mobility-related social exclusion were not addressed.

Keywords: car dependence, transport policy, social exclusion, non-motorized households, lexicometry, discourse analysis

Western cities are developed around the automobile mobility. The development of the automobile system can lead to automobile dependency. In such a society, the fact of not owning a car can even lead to a form of social exclusion.

To better understand the response of public policy in the face of automobile dependence, especially for non-motorized households, this research analyzes the situation of non-motorized households in four cities in Europe and North America. Implementing a literature review, a territorial contextual analysis and semi-structured interviews, the comparative perspective of this project will identify a typology of models specific the automobile dependency for each of the cities studied , namely: Quebec City (Canada) and Strasbourg (France) for the first phase of research.

It will also list the various measures put in place (through public policy as well as individuals from non-motorized  households with limited resources ) to compensate for the automobile dependency and social exclusion. It will also document for each case public policies related to social exclusion, car dependency and non-motorized households and document the expectations of non-motorized households towards the state.

Finally, we also aim to develop an automobile dependence indicator of territories that can be used by policy makers to include this phenomenon in their thought process and decision. Such an indicator may for example be part of a monitoring approach results inspired by the new public management where the achievement of public policy objectives is gauged in terms of quantitative indicators.

My Master of Arts in Public Administration thesis

To understand why all new light rail projects under development in Canada are carried out in public-private partnership (P3) rather than through the traditional mode (public administration) that prevailed in the past, this research explores three light rail projects currently underway (Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto). Using three case studies, we explore the arguments surrounding each decision leading to the choice of P3 governance as well as the form taken by the partnership. We show that in all cases, it is possible to observe the mechanisms of policy transfer, whether voluntary or coercive. We believe that policy transfer can provide an answer to our question. Moreover, the argument used by local actors to justify the choice of P3, although similar in several respects, still display a unique combination of justifications for each case, which leads us to believe that the 3P is a versatile policy instrument. These findings demonstrate the importance of taking into account the policy transfer of the municipal level and not only transfers that take place between national states.

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