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Research in Mobilities

The Center for Mobilities Research and Policy combines interdisciplinary approaches to the study of travel, transport, migration, borders and mobile communication into one over-arching framework. Over the past decade, a "new mobilities paradigm"; has been developing in the social sciences, involving new theoretical approaches and methodological innovations for studying many kinds of mobilities and mobility systems. The term "mobilities" applies to both the large-scale movements of people, objects, capital and information across the world, and the more local processes of daily transportation, movement through urban space, and mobile communications.

Mobilities research entails interdisciplinary study of the infrastructures, flows and policies that create the contexts for contemporary mobility (and immobility). It includes attention to mobility rights, mobility justice and the new social inequalities being produced by the uneven distribution of "mobility capital."

It can inform public policy in local, regional and international contexts, from the design of urban transit systems to the surveillance of international border crossings to the design of "smart" infrastructures.

Learn more about our international journals and other publications

Current Research Projects

Forum Vies Mobiles (SNCF, Paris)


This project is under the direction of Allen W. Batteau, PhD, Mimi B. Sheller, PhD, Susan Zeilinski, and Frederick C. Gamst, PhD. (Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, Drexel: $195,000)

This study is part of a cross-national project on the “imaginary” of trains and rail transport amongst decision-makers and train users, with particular emphasis on the future development of High Speed Rail in France, China, the USA, Brazil and India. The U.S. team will conduct interviews with decision makers and passenger focus groups, concentrating on the debates surrounding Higher Speed Rail in three case-study areas: the Northeast Corridor, the Chicago-Detroit region and California. We are interested in how the historical and future-oriented “imaginaries” of political decision makers and train users tap into, frame, mobilize, amplify or reconfigure the possibilities for rail infrastructure in the different political, public and media settings in which future rail projects are contested.


"Understanding Sudden Hydro-Climatic Changes and Exploring Sustainable Solutions in the Enriquillo Closed Water Basin" (Southwest Hispaniola) (PI Jorge Gonzalez, CCNY, Co-PI M. Sheller, et al.) ENG-CBET Award No. 1264466 ($199,746), Oct. 2012 – November 2013

This project seeks to understand the causes for, impact of, and potential mitigation strategies in response to the rising water levels of two lakes on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which have submerged farmland, houses, roads, and are threatening entire towns. As leader of the social science aspects of the project, Sheller, along with Yolanda Leon of Universidad INTEC in Santo Domingo and several graduate students, conducted 35 interviews on the social and economic impacts of the flooding with local inhabitants and leaders in affected areas of Haiti (La Source, Fonds Parisien) and the Dominican Republic (Boca de Cachon, Jimani, Discubierta). The study explores issues of climate change adaptation, vulnerability and cross-border mitigation efforts, including the potential for cross-border mobilities.

Danish Council for Strategic Research (Subcontract)

"Analyses of Activity-Based Travel Chains and Sustainable Mobility" (ACTUM), led by the Department of Transport at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Transport), with Aalborg University and the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy ($45,000/DKK 255,000), Feb. 2011- Dec. 2012

The objective of the project is to provide an activity-based framework that is able to capture and describe individual and household activity patterns within a multi-modal transport environment that is characterized by a diversity of travel mode combinations. An improved knowledge about individual and household activity patterns will increase the comprehension of behavioral responses to future transport policies (e.g., road pricing schemes and travel demand management interventions). The ambition is to develop a theoretically consistent and coherent framework for activity-based modeling and forecasting of urban passenger transport. This includes (i) building activity chains for home and out-of-home activities, (ii) estimating how transport demand is derived from the activity chains, (iii) modeling the activity interaction between household members, (iv) capturing the timing of activities and their duration, (v) linking route choice with the choice of activities at the disaggregate level, and (vi) modeling long-term decisions with respect to, for example, car ownership as condition for forecasting daily activity patterns and travel decisions.

Recently Completed Research Projects:

National Science Foundation (NSF) “RAPID: Supporting Haitian Infrastructure Reconstruction Decisions with Local Knowledge”

This project is under the direction of Franco A. Montalto, PhD, Michael Piasecki, PhD, Mimi B. Sheller, PhD, Patrick L. Gurian. April 2010 - March 2012. ENG-CBET #1032184 ($199,854).

In the wake of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, the purpose of this project was to test the hypothesis that infrastructure rehabilitation priorities based on local knowledge elicited through stakeholder-driven process will differ fundamentally from those developed by technical experts based outside of the service area. To test this hypothesis, we focused on water and sanitation issues in Leogane, a town of approximately 40,000 people located about 30 km to the west of the capital and at the quake’s epicenter. The research focused on promoting sustainable, engineered infrastructure systems that support the well being of the local population and that are also compatible with the local natural environment.