Reducing Social Exclusion by Improving Transport - Assessing the Problems and Appraising the Options
G Carson, Halcrow, UK
Social exclusion occurs when people in the community find they cannot fully take part in mainstream activities. There are often multiple reasons for this ? for example, high levels of unemployment, low levels of educational achievement, poor health or constraints imposed by childcare. However, while government initiatives have sought to reduce some of these disadvantages, the problem of access to new areas of employment and other facilities often remain in some of the most disadvantaged areas of England.
This paper describes how transport impacts on social exclusion in terms of the main activities likely to be undertaken by individuals and how this varies by the circumstances of the individuals and the characteristics of five study areas. The improvements that could be made to transport provision to overcome the problems in each of the areas are analysed, and the broader social costs identified in the appraisal.
The urban areas studied were in Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and London; the rural areas were in Devon and North Tyneside.
The paper draws on work carried out as part of a research project for the Social Exclusion Unit of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The work was carried out with the support of sub-consultants Sustainable Futures in the Devon area. 3. Methodology The study used a variety of techniques to review how some of the most socially excluded people in society use transport, mostly buses, to pursue everyday activities.
These included: mapping the transport and other facilities in areas; interviews with residents; resident group discussions and interviews with professionals in the areas who had an interest in the study outcomes. For example, social services, healthcare professionals; employers, education professionals, employment agencies, community centres officers, transport operators and local authorities and Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs). ?Journey audits? were undertaken to verify some of the key journeys described in the residents? interviews and, to determine how difficult it could be to access regeneration areas by public transport compared to the car.
Interviews were also conducted on improved bus services to measure the impact improvements had made on local people in their daily activities. This was undertaken by reviewing their activities before and after the introduction of the new service.
A range of transport improvements was reviewed in each area ? some of which had been recently implemented by local authorities. In the appraisal, the current transport costs for the community were calculated and compared with the proposals, and the transport, and other benefits, identified. 4. Key Findings Averaged over all study areas, residents ranked concerns about poor public transport and fear of crime above all other factors, such as lack of jobs or poor schools. The lack of quality local shops and busy roads was also a big concern.
The interviews and discussions with local residents revealed that a significant proportion was very reliant on buses and that they had difficulties getting to job opportunities, healthcare and ?quality of life? destinations.
There was a lot of anecdotal dis-satisfaction with bus services, particularly in terms of poor reliability, timekeeping or attitudes of drivers. However, low floor buses were much appreciated by mothers of small children (although this sometimes conflicted with the requirements of more elderly passengers).
There were also some misconceptions about bus services ? the journey audits revealed that some journeys regarded as impossible or very expensive were indeed possible and at a cheaper fare. In other cases the journey audits did reinforce residents? views.
People in work appeared to be better disposed towards bus services than other groups ? most of this group felt it was of a reasonable, or good, standard. By contrast, those people looking for work felt that a lack of transport prevented them accessing the new work opportunities. This was confirmed by journey audits, which found that journey times could be an hour or more to new development areas. This, and the fact that many, but not all, job seekers tend to set 30 minutes as a journey time threshold, means that they are excluded from job opportunities.
A significant proportion of job seekers felt that poor transport facilities prevented them from getting a job but this varied area.
Where there were direct bus services, not involving a change of service, access to local health facilities were found to be reasonable, providing that the out patients were asked to attend local hospitals, which was not always the case. In other cases, during off peak timings, when out patient appointments took place, there was sometimes an inconvenient requirement to change buses to complete the journey.
In four of the areas, respondents said that they had missed hospital appointments because of transport problems.
Young people?s access to colleges of further education could involve them in long journeys by public transport, but generally could be achieved within 60 minutes journey time.
In terms of leisure activities, shopping and general quality of life issues, a majority of residents could reach their local facilities reasonably easily, for example to local leisure centres or the cinema. However, a sizeable proportion (about a third) said that there were a number of places they were unable to visit because of the limitations of the transport network.
Similarly, about two thirds of residents reported that they could access the shops of their choice, but a third wanted to shop in other locations (which they felt were difficulty to reach). Despite this, the use of buses featured strongly in the shopping trip, although taxis were necessary to bring back heavy loads of shopping.
The consequences of a proportion of residents feeling that they are unable to access local facilities, because they feel that local transport is inadequate or the cost is too high, has the result that they are likely to feel unable to participate fully in work search and other activities. This is particularly the case for those journeys that are so much easier by car, but difficult by bus.
Part of the problem is the geographical location of the residential areas. Four of the areas are on the periphery of the metropolitan areas. Although there are reasonably frequent bus services on radial routes to the city centre, bus services to local destinations ? because of much lighter passenger loadings ? are less frequent.
Furthermore, non-radial bus journeys to new job opportunities tend to be very difficult. This has been confirmed by journey audits. 5. Summary and Conclusions The areas examined are representative of deprived neighbourhoods in England having reasonably good bus connections to the city centre but much poorer connections to areas of new employment, often putting these areas much beyond job seekers? travel time thresholds, and much longer than a comparable journey by car.
The local authorities and PTEs are aware of the accessibility problems and are introducing new bus services to provide linkages with new employment areas ? some of these are innovative demand responsive services. In Nottingham a new tram is being introduced, and in the longer term, in Liverpool, there will be the Merseytram, which will improve journey times to the city centre.
New bus routes in Liverpool have shown that upgraded bus services can make a big difference to local residents activities enabling them to visit places they were unable to before. However, these services require more targeted funding if these benefits are to be maintained.
The recommended proposals for the study areas were designed to cover a wide range of transport needs. Amongst the proposals were new or reinstated bus services, taxicard schemes in urban areas and taxi vouchers in rural areas (proposed by Devon County Council), the expansion of community bus and mobility bus schemes, transport information officers and safety and traffic calming measures.
Traditional transport planning has focussed on the journey to work and probably emphasised projects that have demonstrated good working-time savings. If a more ?holistic? and inclusive approach is to be introduced, more emphasis on quantifying other benefits is required. In current evaluations they are qualitative assessments added onto the appraisal.
It is clear from this study that this methodology needs development. Mapping and measuring accessibility of areas is one way of providing an indication of areas of poor accessibility, but this needs to be related to residents? required destinations and objectives. Plotting journey times to areas of job vacancies from the study areas in this exercise illustrated the problems very clearly.
The proposed measures will require increased funding for bus services, however, where operators are invited to increase frequencies, this could breach Office of Fair Trading (OFT) standards. Strictly applied, the additional services should be tendered, but this could lead to a situation where alternate operators ran the upgraded service. This would not be helpful from the passengers? point of view.
Association for European Transport