Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

M. Scott Solomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peter Nikolaus Funke, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Amen, Ph.D.


capability approach, democracy, public transit, sustainability


Sustainable Human Development (SHD), rooted in Amartya Sen’s development theory on the capability approach, envisions achieving sustainable human capabilities at the local and global levels. One major area of contention within this field of research concerns determination and valuation of capabilities. How a community decides which capabilities should be developed is as important as the development itself. Some capability scholars argue that a small group of experts or “philosophers” should make this determination, while others argue that a deliberative democratic process needs to be followed. I seek to reconcile these two positions by introducing a third way of determining and valuing capabilities: the reflexive approach.

Using the 2010 Hillsborough County Transit Referendum as my case study, I examine the democratic process through the lens of capability determination and valuation. I find that the political process anticipating the 2010 referendum more closely followed a philosopher’s position process supported by Martha Nussbaum and others. Furthermore, a lack of reflexivity, or capitalizing on the opportunities to reincorporate the public into an otherwise top-down approach, led to the project’s ultimate failure. Partially because of these missed opportunities, important issues facing the referendum were ignored, ultimately contributing to the vote’s defeat. The results are telling for future mass transit proposals in Tampa Bay and other similarly sized metro areas.