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Everyday urban mobility practices in Tehran

Relating individual decision-making, mobility structures, and the Iranian socio-cultural context



04 / 2018 – 04 / 2023



In almost all populated megacities in developing countries, “Mobility” has become a complicated problem. Metropolitan areas in emerging countries are the center of opportunities in terms of education, profession as well as leisure. On the other hand, these contexts are prone to inequality and unfair distribution of facilities and services which can negatively affect individuals’ everyday social activities in general and mobility practices in particular. Tehran, as the capital of Iran, is one example of this situation. In the last two decades, population growth and increasing annual rate of car ownership put mobility as one of the most challenging and unsolvable problems in Tehran. The slow pace of improvement in public transportation and the quick level of facilitating car flow encourage more people to use private motorized transportation which is far from the Horizon 2025 of Tehran Transportation Plan.

The general question

Beyond all the challenges regarding the level of services, ‘people’ are another controversial side of urban mobility related issues. They are making decision about their daily mobility practices. The great challenging uncertainty is that how the process of decision making could be for individuals with different background knowledge, social status, lifestyles as well as different constraints and capacities they deal with in Tehran. Do they make decision individually based on rational utility of specific mode or they are embraced by socio-cultural, economic and political structures which unconsciously form their mobility practices in certain ways? In other words, are all the noise and the traffic and the bustle resulted from automobile-oriented urban configuration, the shortage and inappropriate features of public transport facilities or it might be hypothesized that these issues are significantly the causal effects of mobility structures and socio cultural context on individuals’ everyday urban mobility practices?

Methodology and outcome

By applying practice theory which is established by Pierre Bourdieu in 1972, this research expects to gain comprehensive insights to understanding unknown mobility structures and the way these structures are influencing and constraining everyday mobility practices in this city. Due to the new emerging issue of mobility practices in the megacity of Tehran, there is lack of data on the subject and it is essential to be chosen a qualitative approach in order to expand the horizons theoretically and create a conceptual theoretical framework as primary research instrument.

As a general outcome of the present research, in-depth understanding of everyday mobility practices in the megacity of Tehran may create a new perspective for urban authorities and transport planners and help them to recognize routines of mobility in Tehran in order to set transport related strategies and policies more consciously. In other words, results of this study will provide an appropriate knowledge regarding system of embodied disposition and socio-cultural structure as the context for mobility practices in the megacity of Tehran. It will add a crucial unconscious and symbolic level of understanding in mobility related studies and pave the way for policy interventions aimed at changing individuals’ everyday routines toward sustainable green way and ultimately environmental friendly behaviors. Additionally, the results of this study will provide primary hints about mobility structures in similar countries in the Global South. As megacities in emerging countries have many similar challenges in urban development, the results of study in Tehran might be applicable in other emerging contexts.

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Sara Tousi
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Mobilität und Raum