Wednesday, December 7, 2016

summary: Distributive justice and equity in transportation

Hi all, the 1st paper of my thesis is now published \o/. You can download it here. If you cannot access the PDF, just let me know and I'll send it to you. Here is a summary of the paper:

Pereira, R. H. M., Schwanen, T., Banister, D. (2017). Distributive justice and equity in transportation. Transport Reviews, 37(2), doi:10.1080/01441647.2016.1257660

What's it about?

As I've mentioned before in the blog, this is a review paper on distributive justice in transportation, particularly focused on transport accessibility and social exclusion. While transport planning has been traditionally concerned with improving the efficiency of transport systems, this paper argues why policy makers and researchers should take issues of equity more seriously and it discusses how justice could be considered in evaluating the distributional aspects of who benefits from transport policies and investments.

In short, the paper:
  • reviews how issues of equity and social exclusion have been covered in the transport and mobilities literatures 
  • reviews five key theories of justice (utilitarianism, libertarianism, intuitionism, Rawls’ egalitarianism, and Capability Approaches) and critically evaluates the insights they generate when applied to transport 
  • proposes a distributive justice framework for policy evaluation, with a focus on transport accessibility and social exclusion

Core ideas of the paper

In the final part of the paper, we build a dialogue between Rawls’ egalitarianism and the Capabilities Approach to propose that distributive justice concerns over transport disadvantage and social exclusion should focus primarily on accessibility as a human capability. This means that, in policy evaluation, a detailed analysis of the distributional effects of transport policies should take account of the setting of minimum standards of accessibility to key destinations and the extent to which these policies respect individuals’ rights and prioritise disadvantaged groups, reduce inequalities of opportunities, and mitigate transport externalities. A full account of justice in transportation requires a more complete understanding of accessibility than traditional approaches have been able to deliver to date.

As you will have noticed, there are five key points developed in the paper. I should try to unpacked them in another post in the future.
  1. Focus on accessibility as a human capability
  2. Minimum standards of accessibility to key destinations 
  3. Respect for individuals’ rights 
  4. Prioritization of disadvantaged groups and reduction of inequalities of opportunities
  5. Mitigation of transport externalities

Practical implications

For now, I close this post with some of the practical implications of the ideas proposed in the paper:

  • "Some of the practical implications of this perspective can be illustrated with issues that commonly arise in cities with investments in public transport (e.g. metro and bus rapid transit developments) and cycling/walking. These types of investments can be good ways to prioritise transport modes which are more widely used by low-income classes. To be considered fair, however, these investments should not override the social rights of families threatened with eviction due to the infrastructure projects. The distributional effects of such investments should be evaluated in terms of the extent to which they reduce inequalities in transport accessibility, particularly by improving the accessibility levels of low-income public transport-dependent groups to key destinations such as employment opportunities, healthcare, and education services. According to this approach, the design of those transport projects (including the design of vehicles, stations, cycle paths, etc.) must be inclusive towards social groups such as the elderly and disabled in order to minimise the impact that non-chosen disadvantages have on people’s capacity to access activities. Moreover, this perspective also calls for complementary policies that discourage car use (e.g. congestion/parking charge and fuel tax) in highly congested and polluted areas to mitigate the negative externalities imposed by drivers on everyone else, particularly on vulnerable populations" p.15-16
I will be glad if some of you have read this far without falling asleep.