The economic benefits of improved transport accessibility

 By Lorenzo Casullo, International Transport Forum

Cover photo accessibility RT croppedA transport journey is very often the first step to participating in economic and social activities – from jobs to schools to hospitals. So if we are no promote full participation and inclusion of all citizens, including those with mobility impairments and disabilities, it is imperative to provide accessible transport options for the largest possible share of the population.

Accessible transportation should be at the forefront not only of mobility policies, but also of urban development at large. An urban approach to greater accessibility should integrate transport planning for all at the early stages of design.

Therefore, a key question is: how can we ensure that decision makers (at the local and national level) invest adequate and targeted sums of money to achieve these goals? Likewise, how can we better promote legislation about the rights of passengers and the duties of transport providers so that accessibility for all is maximised?

Filling the gap

This is the challenge that we, at the International Transport Forum, have laid out for discussion with our member countries and partner organisations. And being a think-tank with a focus on economic policies, we have identified one crucial factor that represents a barrier to investment and more far-reaching regulations – namely, the lack of a common approach to identify and value (including in monetary terms) the economic benefits of accessible transport.

Economic Benefits of Accessibility Report Cover w line around

 

A year ago, we gathered world experts and campaigners in Paris so as to work together towards a clear objective: filling the gap in the theory and practice of accessibility benefits. We produced this report which today stands as a unique compendium of good practice in this field.

We do not wish for our focus on economic benefits to be seen as alternative to the rights-based approaches that the United Nations have successfully rolled out globally, and that numerous governments including those in this room today implement with determination across the world. Rather, our work aims to complement these efforts.

A win-win situation

Our conclusion is that without a clear and robust framework to value the benefits of greater accessibility, these improvements will fail to become a priority – especially when other types of investment (such as to reduced congestion and improved safety) display a large benefits-tag, but accessible transport does not.

Most importantly, assessing the socio-economic benefits of accessibility shows decision-makers a clear win-win situation: investment in accessible transport is beneficial to a large section of the population, and not just to those who are mobility-impaired at the time of planned investment.

Let’s focus on these two key findings – that designing transport systems for those that are less mobile is actually good for everyone, and; that if we do not demonstrate value, accessibility investment will be not be a priority.

More than marginal

First, how do we show that greater transport accessibility is good for all passengers? We need to identify the main beneficiaries. Moving away from a narrower focus on current passengers with some disability, we find that those who benefit also include passengers that are temporarily encumbered in their movements – such as parents with small children, travellers with heavy luggage, pregnant and injured people.

Identifying the beneficiaries of accessible transport

Recent research in the UK and in France gives us an indicative magnitude of this exercise. Studies for the Access for All programme in Britain show that only 1% of passengers at railway stations define themselves as disabled, but more than 5% fall in the “temporarily encumbered” category. Detailed surveys in the Paris metropolitan area confirm that beneficiaries go beyond the less mobile passengers, and include 7% of the population travelling with temporary limitations. For all these travellers, low-floor buses, lifts to stations and simpler pedestrian crossings are of great importance.

An even wider focus on beneficiaries should take into account those who are currently not using transport systems because they are inaccessible to them. For these citizens, better transport accessibility does not mean a “marginally better” journey. It means an entirely transformational impact, providing freedom to access opportunities and services that would have otherwise been precluded. And the number of future beneficiaries is only going to grow in ageing societies.

Capturing the benefits

Secondly, how do we demonstrate the economic value of such investment? We need to adapt and further develop existing economic approaches. Transport practitioners already use those robust approaches in the assessment of economic impacts, and their application to accessible transport is absolutely possible.

Our report is there to help anyone identify and capture these benefits, which include welfare benefits, reduced health and social care costs, and broader economic impacts such as increased participation to economic activities. We also need to add new benefits to the list, including social benefits like reduced stress levels and lower fear of isolation; and private sector benefits such as increased patronage for transport providers.

Identifying and capturing economic benefits

The rare examples of economic valuations undertaken to date demonstrate that the magnitude of potential benefits from improved transport accessibility is often large enough to offset the higher costs. We see this in Britain where the government found a positive business case for investing in accessible railway stations; and in Norway where the National Transport Institute showed that the benefits of making universally accessible bus stops outweigh the costs. In France, a start-up  called Wheeliz is the first peer-to-peer rental website specialising in disability adapted cars for wheelchair users – its growth across Europe is backed by investors.

Whenever you have the chance to do so, outline the socio-economic benefits that accessible transport can unlock. Let’s make this argument to attract more and better investment. Let’s work together towards more accessible and more inclusive cities for all.


Lorenzo Casullo is an economist with the International Transport Forum. This text is based on his presentation at the DESA/DSPD Forum on Advancing Accessible and Inclusive Urban Development for All, held on 14 June 2017 in the context of the 10th session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Sustainable mobility: Can the world speak with one voice?

by Nancy Vandycke, World Bank

The transport sector is changing at breakneck speed. By 2030, global passenger traffic is set to rise by 50%, and freight volume by 70%. By 2050, we will have twice as many vehicles on the road, with most of the increase coming from emerging markets, where steady economic expansion is creating new lifestyle expectations and mobility aspirations. Mega-projects like China’s One Belt, One Road could connect more than half of the world’s population, and roughly a quarter of the goods that move around the globe by land and sea.

These transformations create a unique opportunity to improve the lives and livelihoods of billions of people by facilitating access to jobs, markets, and essential services such as healthcare or education. But the growth of the transport sector could also come at the cost of higher fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, increasing air and noise pollution, a growing number of road fatalities, and worsening inequities in access.

Lack of coherence, lack of objectives

Although these are, of course, global challenges, developing countries are disproportionately affected. The vast majority of the one billion people who still don’t have access to an all-weather road live in the developing world. Although low and middle-income countries are home to only 54% of the world’s vehicles, they account for 90% of the 1.25 million road deaths occurring every year. If we don’t take action now, transport emissions from emerging markets could triple by 2050, and would make up 75% of the global total.

While the case for sustainable mobility is evident, the sector still lacks coherence and clear objectives. There is a way forward, but it requires pro-active cooperation between all stakeholders. That’s what motivated the creation of Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All), a partnership between a wide range of global actors determined to speak with one voice and steer mobility in the right direction.SuM4All_Logo_Final_TM

SuM4All partners include Multilateral Development Banks, United Nations Agencies, bilateral organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, and is open to other important entities such as national governments and private companies. Together, these organizations can pool their capacity and experience to orient policy making, turn ideas into action, and mobilize financing.

Everyone around one table

There are three fundamental premises that guide the work of the Sum4All initiative. First, we need to get everyone around the same table. So far, global mobility has been managed by a multitude of actors—UN agencies, multilateral development banks, the manufacturing industry, civil society— who have all been working independently. In the absence of coherent governance, the sector has failed to bring action and financing to scale in order to transform itself. Better cohesion, however, is possible. The energy sector embarked on this journey in 2010 with great results. There is no reason why transport should not be able to do the same.

To be successful, we also have to set some clear goals. Despite its critical role in economic and social development, transport is the only major sector that didn’t manage to get its own Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). This is not good news, and will make it harder to get the global attention and financing needed to move the needle on sustainable mobility over the next 15 years. For the past six months, SuM4All partners have been working to fill the gap and agree on a set of global objectives for the sector, in line with recent international agreements like Habitat III, the Paris Agreement, and the SDGs. Specifically, the four priority goals identified by SuM4All are equitable access, safety, efficiency, and climate-responsiveness.

Taking it to the summit

Last but not least: Technology is changing our world. Let’s make the most of it! Technological innovation will go a long way in helping countries transition to more sustainable mobility. Advances in electric or autonomous vehicles promise to make transport greener, safer, and more efficient. Likewise, digital innovations such as ride sharing platforms, e-commerce, and telecommuting can significantly reduce demand and avoid unnecessary trips.

As transport ministers from around the world gather in Leipzig this week for their 2017 Summit to discuss “Governance of Transport” , we look forward to identifying influential policy makers who can join this global movement and champion the cause of sustainable mobility, not just in their own countries but around the world.


Nancy Vandycke leads the World Bank’s group of transport economists and spearheads the new global initiative on transport, Sustainable Mobility for All. She oversees strategic and analytical engagement on transport, including the climate action effort (with the United Nations), the Impact Evaluation program (with the World Bank’s Research Department), The Global Tracking Framework and the Knowledge Note series (Connections). 

Safe and secure, from London to Lahore and everywhere in between!

Heather Allen, independent consultant on sustainable transport, climate change and gender

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March 8th – International Women’s Day – gives us a good reason to reflect on progress on the variety of women’s issues that are hindering equality. Being safe and secure is a basic human value – yet in today’s world, personal security is still a major issue everywhere. In a woman’s world there are also more subtle links between it, public space and transport that I have been looking into more closely having just finished a review of published literature on this subject.  The report will be published soon on http://www.fiafoundation.org/connect/publications.

Many studies show that all over the world women use all forms of public transport[1] more than men and, more importantly, they usually rely on it more than men as they have fewer or no other mobility choices. Yet they are also more worried about using it, as their personal security is frequently compromised, and it appears that this may be getting worse rather than better!

Incidents often take place in public places, especially as women travel to and from places of education or to and from work. It comes as no surprise that it especially seems to occur on public transport, and not only in the developing world! To avoid this, women tend to use strategies that mean either they decide not to travel or they seriously change their travel habits. This impacts their access to opportunities, and ultimately their quality of life.

Harassment is a complex subject, and not made any easier by the subjective nature of how individuals interpret what might be considered harassment. In some cultures this is directed by social norms whilst in others it may be religious, faith or even income-based. We are not just talking about violence here, but rather behaviours that are unwanted, uninvited or that cause fear. Fear of it happening is as bad as what actually happens and it affects different women in different ways, making it difficult to apply scientific theory to understand why and how this happens. Collecting data on this is also made more difficult as the information can be spread across a number of security agencies, so much of the information can be considered anecdotal, unless it is obviously of a criminal nature.

It would seem to be on the increase despite the high estimated level of non-reporting of incidents that were found internationally. In New York it is estimated that 96 per cent of sexual harassment and 86 per cent of sexual assault on the subway goes unreported; in Baku, Azerbaijan, none of the 162 out of 200 women who reported having been sexually harassed on the metro reported it to the appropriate authority. In Egypt, only 2.4 per cent of the 83 per cent of Egyptian women and 7.5 per cent of the 98 per cent of foreign women living or travelling in Egypt who had experienced sexual harassment in a public place reported it.

There is little documented evidence that women have either reduced their mobility horizons or changed their travel patterns entirely because of concerns over personal security. But we do know that all forms of harassment affect women deeply and reduce their confidence, and that they implement strategies to reduce the risk of this, which ultimately impacts their ability to move freely in public places. If this is directly associated with their transport options, it is also likely to affect their decisions to take up educational opportunities, join the labour market and influences the kinds of jobs they pursue[2].

In addition, if women pass on a negative value judgement to their children, those boys and girls will grow up thinking that public transport is unsafe. It is likely that this will become ‘a belief’ as they grow into adulthood and as soon as they can, they will prefer to buy or share a car, motorbike or scooter – creating a vicious downward spiral of increased congestion even if every vehicle is cleaner than today!

So where does that lead us? Certainly farther away from where we want to be in terms of equal opportunities and sustainable development. Excluding women from being active in the labour market, for any reason should be considered to be out of order in today’s world. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion would be added to the global economy by 2025. If this exclusion or reduced opportunity is due to transport inequalities, we can do something about it, but only if we shift it to being a development rather than a security issue.

Both aspects are interdependent – the more active women are in the labour market the more they are able to demand safe and secure transport, while the less empowered they are the more socially exclusive transport becomes. Putting them in separate carriages may be a temporary solution, but it also underpins the concept that women should be kept apart and not be given equal rights.

By addressing both ends of this equation we can create a win, win, win situation – addressing equity, economic empowerment and improving quality of life. But we need to make sure that people do not think that harassment is unavoidable or acceptable, or that they will not be caught. Let’s start today in respect of women everywhere!

Useful links

This article is based on work supported by the FIA Foundation. I would like to express my thanks to the FIA Foundation for its foresight and vision in supporting this research. The full report and executive summary can be downloaded here.

You are invited to attend a free FIA Foundation webinar on 21 March 14:00 -17:00 GMT. Details are available from Caroline Flynn (c.flynn@fiafoundation.org).

At the upcoming International Transport Forum’s 2016 Summit, 18-20 May 2016 in Leipzig, Germany, there will be a debate on “Women in transport: Mind the (gender) gap”.

[1]Public transport for the purposes of this study includes all types of public transport services (formal and informal) and includes minibus services, shared taxis etc

[2] http://www.empowerwomen.org/en/circles/freedom-of-movement-and-womens-economic-empowerment/womens-mobility-in-public-places#sthash.hxTe17sT.dpuf

This post is jointly published with OECD Insights.