Modal Talk: Discourse Analysis of How People Talk About Bus and Car Travel


J W. Guiver

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - mode choice, mode - bus, mode - car


Transportation modes, Modes, Mode choice, Modal choice, Focus groups, Choice of transportation, Bus usage, Bus travel, Automobile driving


This paper presents the findings of discourse analysis of the transcripts of ten focus groups discussing bus and car travel. It finds that the modes are talked about in different ways: bus travel being referred to as a series of episodes mostly focussing on worst-case scenarios while car travel is represented as a more consistent commodity. Both modes exhibit different characteristics depending on whether the speaker is talking as a user or an observer. Buses are seen as benign from outside, beneficial to the area and potential congestion-busters but as vulnerable spaces for users. Nothing good was said about cars from outside, but they provided protective spaces supplying flexible travel and allowing social commitments to be met by users. This paper discusses how the insights gained could help improve the perception of bus travel and contribute to more sustainable travel choices.


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