Travel and equity

Policy does not operate within a vacuum and different policy options impact on different groups. Transport policy is a good example of this.

Spending money on road ‘improvements’ is of greater benefit to car users than to those who do not have access to a car or minimise their car use.

Reducing tax on fuel is not only more beneficial to car users as opposed to those without access to a car but also of greater benefit to those who travel more. Higher levels of car use are generally linked to higher household incomes. Again richer households benefit more than poorer households.

Increasing walking in urban areas. Encouraging greater participation in walking is regarded as one way of reducing car use. Yet its efficacy is over-rated. For many people walking to work or to shop is not a realistic option.

But there is also a question of equity here. Who is being asked to walk? The focus is on people who live in the area. In one sense this is a realistic option yet it discriminates against local residents as distinct from those who live further away. Local residents are expected to walk whereas (generally more affluent) people who live further away can still drive their cars. Second home owners will not be reducing their car use any time soon!.

Policy needs to address issues of equality. Do not ask one group to reduce car use while others simply carry on driving!


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