Challenges for Europe and North America
Edited by Karst T. Geurs, Kevin J. Krizek and Aura Reggiani
Chapter 13: A critical assessment of accessibility planning for social inclusion
This chapter considers a unique application of the accessibility concept, as it was developed and implemented in relation to social exclusion policy in the United Kingdom (UK). Other chapters of this volume discuss broader theories and definitions of accessibility. In particular, in Chapter 14, Halden describes the wider approach to accessibility planning in the UK. I do not, therefore, intend to revisit this material, and rather the aim here is to evaluate critically the appropriateness and effectiveness of accessibility planning in the specific context of a wider set of policy processes to address social exclusion (Social Exclusion Unit, 2003). Firstly, a brief context is offered for understanding the policy interface between transport, accessibility and social exclusion and how this theme emerged in 1997 in response to New Labour’s social welfare agenda. I will then outline the particular approach to accessibility planning that was devised by the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU), developed by UK Department of Transport (DfT) and passed on to local transport authorities (LTAs) to deliver. I, among others, have already described this process extensively elsewhere (see, e.g., Lucas, 2004, 2006, 2011a, 2012), and so my intent is to touch only briefly upon the main tenets of the approach to provide background for the critical assessment of the effectiveness of accessibility planning as a policy instrument for securing social inclusion goals, which follows. The critique of both the policy process and applied methods for accessibility which I then offer is primarily based upon studies which were undertaken with LTAs during the piloting stage of the implementation process (DHC and University of Westminster, 2004; Lucas, 2006). It also draws some of its evidence from research by others tasked with similar UK evaluation studies (e.g., Bristow et al., 2008; CRSP, 2009). I draw on a case study example from an evaluation study of the Merseytravel WorkWise programme to validate my conclusions in the final section.
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