Comprehensive public transport is the cure for this new social ailment

Are you suffering from transport poverty?

Are you suffering from transport poverty?

Put a lens to your life, and the way energy (or the lack of it) impacts it

In recent months, people in Europe discovered, out of necessity, the term “energy poverty” in the context of disrupted fossil fuel supplies from Russia and the yet-incomplete sustainable transition model in the EU. But now there’s a new thing to worry about – “transport poverty”. After all, energy doesn’t only apply to heating households, it is also essential for making the modern world move.

The term is still relatively new and not well studied as a phenomenon, but the way a recent European Parliament’s Research Service report defines it as “a lack of adequate transport services necessary to access general services and work, or to the inability to pay for these transport services”.

Much like any poverty and marginality issue, it does not stand on its own. It’s, in fact, intertwined with social vulnerabilities such as low income, old age, disabilities and with geographical and regional structural disadvantages.

Widely accessible public transport is the relief measure

Do you feel that you’re transport poor? It may be the case that indeed being able to get from one point to another within one’s city or beyond is something that is increasingly out of grasp for more and more people.

Here are the main elements of transport poverty, as defined by the European Parliament:

  1. No transport availability (the lack of transport options or low frequency, also referred to as mobility poverty);
  2. No accessibility to transport (for disabled people for instance);
  3. Low transport affordability (inability to meet the cost of transport);
  4. Too much time spent travelling (also referred to as time poverty);
  5. Inadequate transport conditions (available transport options are dangerous or unsafe).

In a broader perspective, transport poverty can also refer to individuals or households who do have access to affordable transport options, however, since transport represents an important share of their budget (10 % or more), they are therefore sensitive to increases in transport price.

The European Pillar of Social Rights lists transport (alongside water, energy, sanitation, financial services and digital communication) among the essential services to which everyone should have access, and highlights the necessity to support people in need in accessing them.

In the context of the sustainable and smart mobility strategy, which is part of the EU Green Deal, the European Commission issued a package of proposals to support a transition to cleaner, greener transport in 2021. In this context, the Commission's communication on the new EU urban mobility framework greatly emphasises safe, inclusive and affordable public transport, which “must be at the centre of sustainable urban mobility planning, be available and attractive to all and offer barrier-free access”.

In that light, introducing free public transport is certainly a good practice, and there are more and more cities with such systems - Tallinn in Estonia was the first, Luxembourg has free public transport throughout the country and Malta introduced it in October 2022.



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