Equity, efficiency and the invisible majority

The old transport paradigm, the one we are still living with today, is far too narrow in terms of the range and quality of people targeted and invisible people-cut outservices offered, and in the process fails to serve what is — in fact — the transpiration majority.

The “transportation majority” is not what most people think, transportation planners and policy makers among them.  The transportation majority are all those of us who increasingly are poorly served by the mainline service arrangements that eat up most of our taxpayer money and fail to offer them acceptable and efficient choices that mesh with their special needs and circumstances. And each year as our populations age this majority grows in numbers.

Here is a generic short-list of the people who make up this till-now all too silent, substantially under-served majority:

  1. Everyone in the city or region who does not own or have handy access to a car
  2. Everyone who suffers from some form of physical or other  impairment that makes driving or even access to traditional public transit difficult or impossible
  3. Everyone who cannot drive
  4. Everyone who should not drive, ever (for reasons of a variety of impediments such as limitations associated with age, psychological state , eye site, reactions times, , , ,)
  5. Everyone who cannot responsibly take the wheel at any given time (fatigue, distraction, nervousness, some form of intoxication. . . )
  6. All those who cannot afford to own and operate a car.
  7. Everyone who lives in a large city and for reasons of density, public health and quality of city life needs to have access to a decent non-car mobility system
  8. All of those — a fast growing group — who would in fact, given the choice, prefer to get around by walking, cycling or some form of active or shared transport who cannot safely or readily do so today — because  the money is being spent on the vehicle system which is fundamentally, and financially, incompatible with these “softer” and more healthy ways of getting around
  9. All those who are today isolated and unable to participate fully in the life of our communities because they simply do not have a decent way to get around.
  10. And so — don’t lose sight of this! – in a few years, you!

Do the numbers and you will see that this is a very sizable group, a significant and growing majority in fact, and we can know several important  things about them in the policy context. The first is that high quality public transport is one important lifeline for them  But the second is that  they represent  a highly diverse collection of individuals: they are not a “mass”  and their needs are personal and disparate.  Beyond that, it also needs to be taken into consideration that many of their needs cannot be entirely served at appropriate levels of convenience and cost by mainline public transport alone.

But the killer is that these people, their unmet  needs, are for the most part invisible. Since they are not able to get around they simply fall off the radar screen of planners and policy makers and are left, abandoned and unserved. This is neither equitable nor worthy of a democratic society.

invisible people# # #

eb-abount the editor - 15mar13 - wider

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