Accessibility, Equity and Efficiency

Accessibility, Equity and Efficiency

Challenges for Transport and Public Services

NECTAR Series on Transportation and Communications Networks Research

Edited by Karst T. Geurs, Roberto Patuelli and Tomaz Ponce Dentinho

Accessibility models not only help to explain spatial and transport developments in developed and developing countries but also are powerful tools to explain the equity and efficiency impacts of urban and transport policies and projects. In this book, leading researchers from around the world show the importance of accessibility in contemporary issues such as rural depopulation, investments in public services and public transport and transport infrastructure investments in Europe.

Chapter 1: Accessibility, equity and efficiency

Karst T. Geurs, Tomaz Ponce Dentinho and Roberto Patuelli

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, transport


The tension between efficiency and equity has been the focus of major debate since equity aspects started to be considered as part of project evaluation procedures (Thomopoulos et al. 2009). In this book, we contribute to the debate by focusing on the links and trade-offs between accessibility, economic efficiency and equity in both the developed and developing country contexts. Accessibility is a concept that has been central to physical planning and spatial modelling for more than 50 years. Accessibility can be viewed as a product of the land use and transport systems, and describes the extent to which land use and transport systems enable (groups of) individuals to reach activities or destinations by means of a (combination of) transport mode(s) (Geurs and van Wee 2004). From the literature it is clear that accessibility is linked to economic efficiency and equity. In general, increased accessibility resulting from a transport project is considered an important user benefit for people and firms. A traveller can make a trip at less cost or greater convenience; there might be less congestion, and more destinations may be reached in the same time. For firms, firstly, a reduction in interaction cost may increase efficiency of production (that is, time saved can be used in productive activities), and may become more competitive and attract more customers. Secondly, improved commuting conditions may improve the labour market, giving rise to improved productivity. However, the linkage between accessibility and spatial economic development is not straightforward.