Why Transport Poverty is growing in many countries

transport poverty and social inclusion

Transport Poverty is indeed an underestimated obstacle that affects financial and social inclusion in various ways. It is a challenge that lacks a concise definition, as it can manifest in different ways.

In general, Transport Poverty refers to the difficulties faced when finding a suitable, affordable, safe, and convenient transport option to meet daily basic activities.

What causes Transportation Poverty

There are multiple factors that contribute to Transport Poverty.

One factor is the unaffordability of existing transport options. If the cost of public transport is too high, it can strain a household's income and put them at risk of poverty.

Another factor is the absence of transport options. In some areas, there may be no public transport available, making it difficult for individuals to access essential services and participate in society.

Additionally, negative externalities such as safety issues or long journey durations can contribute to Transport Poverty.

We can include in this broad definition also the specific case of people with disabilities, for example if the buses used in public transport do not offer ease of access to wheelchair or scooter users.

Transport Poverty and Work

Transport Poverty impacts various aspects of life, including work and education. Being able to go to work is crucial for earning a living and maintaining a good quality of life.

If public transport options take too much time or are too expensive, it can lead to exhaustion, time poverty, and social isolation.

Lack of access to suitable transport options can also hinder education, particularly for children and teenagers. Students may have to walk long distances or be limited in their educational opportunities due to the lack of accessible schools.

Transport Poverty and Social Life

Mobility is not only important for work and education but also for social inclusion. Being able to move in space allows individuals to access goods, services, and activities.

It enables social interactions with friends, family, and communities outside their immediate surroundings. Furthermore, mobility is essential for accessing healthcare services, and Transport Poverty can prevent individuals from receiving necessary medical care and treatment.

Transport Poverty and Social Inclusion

Mobility is not only significant for work or education. Being able to move in space is essential to have access to goods, services, and activities.

This range of activities include visiting friends and relatives, playing or practising sports, joining an association or a political party. In other words, having social interactions with other people who do not live in the immediate surroundings of our home.

More importantly, mobility allows us to reach healthcare services. A situation of Transport Poverty could force an individual to give up essential prevention and monitoring activities.

And can be a severe complication when therapy is needed.

Transport Poverty is clearly a social inclusion problem, and should be tackled as such. That is why you may find research paper and articles that refer to it with terms such as “mobility poverty”, “accessibility poverty”, or even the pretty fitting “transport-related social exclusion”.

Is the Private Car Model outdated?

The private car model, which promotes individual car ownership, is outdated and unsuitable for addressing Transport Poverty.

Many middle-class families rely on private cars for their daily activities, while public transport is often neglected. Unfortunately, cars are also very expensive to buy, with a significant upfront cost even for the humblest models.

A motor car must be maintained and is subject to taxation in many countries. The cost of fuel is directly proportional to the distance travelled. And vehicles must be insured, as well.

The private car model is exclusive to the poorest families who cannot afford a car.

It is not a sustainable solution and hinders the development of efficient and environmentally-friendly public transport systems, as it limits the potential amount of users to the fewer earners.

A sustainable public transport

A sustainable public transport system is crucial for addressing Transport Poverty. The evolution towards a smart city model questions the necessity of individual car ownership.

Efficient public transport can emit less CO2 per passenger and can adopt electric vehicles more easily. Centralizing charging infrastructure at stations is more feasible for public transport systems than individual car owners.

Shared mobility services can also play a significant role in improving access to mobility. These services, such as app-based car-sharing, scooter-sharing, or bike-sharing, allow individuals to pay for the use of a vehicle based on time or distance travelled.

By sharing vehicles, their usage is optimized, and social inclusion is improved.

The contribution of shared mobility

While shared mobility services have their benefits, they also present challenges. Achieving a minimum critical mass of users may be more difficult in rural areas.

Additionally, many of these services require digital payment methods, such as credit cards, which can exclude individuals with no credit history or a bad one.

Inclusive options, such as in-app wallets that can be topped up with debit or prepaid cards, should be considered.

There are ongoing projects and initiatives aimed at addressing Transport Poverty.

One such project is RideTandem, which operates in the UK. These projects focus on providing accessible and affordable transport solutions to individuals facing Transport Poverty.