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Project information

Project team

Wladimir Sgibnev, Tonio Weicker


Tallinn University, School of Humanities, Estonia; Åbo Akademi University, Finland; Free University of Brussels, Belgium

Duration of project

05/2019 – 04/2022

Funded by

Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA), Programm "Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe"; Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

Further information

Dr. Wladimir Sgibnev
Tel. +49 341 500 55-161

Public transport as public space in European cities: Narrating, experiencing, contesting (PUTSPACE)

© Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA)

As an integral part of urban space, public transport has been central to our conceptions and perceptions of what is and should be public. Yet, public transport embraces intense and intimate sites for encountering cultural diversity, facilitating social integration and negotiating public space. Still, public transport research has however been dominated by economistic and technocratic readings.

The project ‘Public Transport as Public Space in European Cities: Narrating, Experiencing, Contesting’ (PUTSPACE), aimed to humanise transport research by studying diverse narratives, experiences and contestations of public transport, as they have been unfolding in cities across Europe since the late nineteenth century.
PUTSPACE examined public transport as one type of public space, challenging existing definitions of public space. The project explored how public transport confronts citizens with social diversity, speaks of different types of ownership, surveillance, subversion, interaction and transformation of social norms.

In order to critically conceptualise and analyse what kind of public space public transport is, we aimed to understand urban transformations of public space in European cities – leading to increased social diversity and polarisation, liberalisation, privatisation and securitisation – by attending to public transport as particularly intense and contentious set of public spaces. With a particular focus on postsocialist and post-Soviet transformation processes, we strived to offer a located and historicised perspective on the transformation of public space by examining narratives, experiences and contestations connected with public transport in different European cities, for instance in the frame of conflictual transport reforms. Through collaboration with humanities, e.g. literary science, we worked e.g. on concepts of exposure, and the role of post-and decolonial debates for public transport research.

The project brought researchers from across Europe together with transport practitioners, enthusiasts, civil activists and curators, benefiting from a strong involvement of Associated Partners – e.g. in the framework of the PUTSPACE symposium in Görlitz as well as the major final conference in Brussels. Beyond that, the project was accompanied by artistic activities by the project team and various scholarship holders, which emphasised the important links between research and the art world. This resulted in the mobile PUTSPACE exhibition, which was first shown in Brussels in April 2022 and will continue to travel to different locations in the future. Through these approaches, the project made an impact that is both academic and societal, humanising public transport research and practice, and contributed to public transport-related research, as well as to interventions in civic mobilising, planning and policy via a humanities-led analysis and conceptualisation of public transport.


Ianchenko, Aleksandra / Sträuli, Louise (2023): Rabits & Rails: Eine Ausstellung zum öffentlichen Verkehr als öffentlicher Raum. In: verkehrspolitische Zeitschrift SIGNAL 345 (Mai 2023) Berliner Fahrgastverband IGEB.

Adolphi, Lukas / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Weicker, Tonio (2023): Microtransit – alternative mobility offers in Germany, 2022. In: Journal of transport geography / Visualising transport geography, 106, 103501, p. 1–4.

Sträuli, Louise / Tuvikene, Tauri / Weicker, Tonio / Kębłowski, Wojciech / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Timko, Peter / Finbom, Marcus (2022): Beyond fear and abandonment : public transport resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. In: Transportation research interdisciplinary perspectives, 16. 100711.

Kemmer, Laura / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Weicker, Tonio / Woods, Maxwell (2022): Railway conjunctures : postcolonial and postsocialist trajectories of urban renewal. In: Connections : a journal for historians and area specialists.

Adolphi, Lukas / Dutzmann, Silke / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Weicker, Tonio (2022): When means of transport move : German export of second-hand tramways : visualising transport geography. In: Journal of transport geography, 104 (2022)

Kemmer, Laura / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Weicker, Tonio / Woods, Maxwell (2022): Spaces of exposure : re-thinking 'publicness' through public transport. In: Cultural geographies, 29 (2022), 2, Seite 285-299

Adolphi, Lukas / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Weicker, Tonio (2022): Endstation Grenze? Die aktuelle Situation des grenzübergreifenden ÖPNV. In: Nationalatlas aktuell. - Leipzig: IfL / 16 (27.09.2022), 7

Adolphi, Lukas / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Weicker, Tonio (2022): Gebrauchte Straßenbahnen auf Reise. In: Nationalatlas aktuell. Leipzig: IfL / 16 (20.05.2022), 4

Adolphi, Lukas / Sgibnev, Wladimir (2021): Mikrotransit – ein wachsendes Mobilitätsphänomen. In: Nationalatlas aktuell. Leipzig: IfL / 15 (01.12.2021), 8

Finbom, Marcus / Kębłowski, Wojciech / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Sträuli, Louise / Timko, Peter / Tuvikene, Tauri / Weicker, Tonio (2021): COVID-19 and public transport : insights from Belgium (Brussels), Estonia (Tallinn), Germany (Berlin, Dresden, Munich), and Sweden (Stockholm) (= forum ifl; 40). Leipzig, Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde. 56 Seiten. Full text (pdf)

Tuvikene, Tauri / Kębłowski, Wojciech / Weicker, Tonio / Finch, Jason / Sgibnev, Wladimir / Sträuli, Louise / Laine, Silja / Dobruszkes, Frédéric / Ianchenko, Aleksandra (2021): Public transport as public space in European cities (= forum ifl; 39). Leipzig, Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde. 29 Seiten. Full text (pdf)