Challenges for Europe and North America
Edited by Karst T. Geurs, Kevin J. Krizek and Aura Reggiani
Chapter 12: Who benefits from new transportation infrastructure? Using accessibility measures to evaluate social equity in public transport provision
A principal function of public transport is to provide accessibility to all members of society, particularly to those with limited mobility choices. As issues of equity and fairness gain importance in transportation planning, understanding who benefits from new and existing transit services has become an increasingly important topic. Public transport providers, however, struggle to address two, often opposing goals: providing service that attracts new riders, while striving to serve current users better. Both environmental and economic goals tend to focus on attracting new riders, as replacing car trips has more emission-reducing and revenue-generating potential than improving service for current users. This dichotomy manifests itself in many North American regions as some municipalities prioritize suburban rail systems, for instance, over improved inner-city bus lines. Suburban rail does have the potential to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, but only if it succeeds in causing a mode change. Furthermore, the quality-of-life benefit to an inner-city resident with low job accessibility due to poor or unreliable public transport is minimal. This chapter examines the extent to which proposed transit infrastructure projects in the City of Montreal, Canada transportation plan benefit disadvantaged populations (Ville de Montréal, 2008). First, we identify neighbourhoods with both high levels of social disadvantage (based on income, immigration status and education levels) and transportation disadvantage (low levels of current job access). Then, accessibility to employment opportunities are modelled using both existing and new public transport networks. A before-and-after comparison of the level of access and change in travel time will allow us to identify neighbourhoods that will benefit the most from the new plan. Benefits from new public transport projects are quantified as an increase in access to opportunities and decline in travel time to desired destinations. Accessibility measures concentrate on quantifying the benefits at the regional scale, while the travel time measures concentrate on the personal scale. In short, this study develops a methodology that can answer three research questions using readily available data and simple measures of land use and transportation interaction. Firstly, are increases in accessibility to jobs due to the implementation of transportation plans reasonably distributed throughout the socio-economic spectrum? Secondly, do these jobs match with the labour market for socially disadvantaged populations? Thirdly, are decreases in travel time equitably distributed in the region?
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