Ensuring Best Value and Equity in the Provision of Mobility For Elderly and Disabled People By Urban Public Transport

Ensuring Best Value and Equity in the Provision of Mobility For Elderly and Disabled People By Urban Public Transport


D J Ling, Manchester Centre for Civil & Construction Engineering, UMIST, UK



Local Authorities and public transport operators in Britain help the mobility of elderly and disabled people within their areas by encouraging or using more accessible vehicles and infrastructure; by supporting and operating socially necessary non-commercial services; by providing specialised services to those with particular mobility problems; and by financial assistance through concessionary fares and, in some cases, with other help such as reduced taxi fares. Whilst some of this help, such as the requirement for new low-floor buses and a maximum half-fare concession on local bus services, except before 09:30 Monday to Friday, is mandatory; most of this help involves discretionary expenditure, largely financed from Local Authority and PTA revenue budgets.
Consequently, the costs of such services and assistance have to be justified, both in terms of competing political priorities and in terms of ensuring they meet the ?Best Value? requirements of the Local Government Act 1999.

Within an authority?s total revenue budget for local public transport, or even within that part of it allocated to helping the mobility of elderly and disabled people, each type of expenditure is competing for limited total funds and so must be shown to be cost effective and to achieve value for money. Inevitably, therefore, the extent to which local authorities provide these various types of help, and so the levels of service and fares concessions available, will differ.

In the major urban areas of Britain, especially those outside of London where the effects of bus de-regulation add complexity to the tasks of funding and operating concessionary fares schemes and supporting bus services, the mobility needs of elderly and disabled people have to be considered alongside issues of more general social inclusion and the wider roles of public transport expenditure, especially related to reducing traffic congestion, environmental policy and encouraging modal shift away from the car. Differences in wider considerations add to the variation between authorities in the priority given to elderly and disabled people.

To the individual elderly or disabled person, however, it may seem quite inexplicable why the fares they have to pay or the mobility related services available to them can be quite different from those available to a friend or relative with almost identical needs and circumstances living in the neighbouring town which happens to be in another Local Authority area.

This paper considers these issues in relation to the major urban areas of England outside of London. It provides a comparative analysis of the patterns of expenditure, of concessionary fares schemes and of accessible transport service provision and use for the six English Passenger Transport Authority areas, with some additional comparisons with the Strathclyde PTE in Scotland and with other non-PTA urban areas in England.

The paper builds on work undertaken by the Audit Commission and uses information from the Best Value reviews undertaken by individual PTAs and Local Authorities. It seeks to compare the achievements of these authorities, in providing mobility assistance to elderly and disabled people within their areas, with their policies and aspirations, as presented in their Local Transport Plans and other policy statements, and with the strategic policies, guidance and recommendations provided by the Department for Transport and organisations such as the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.

The paper then uses the results of surveys of the real-life problems reported by elderly and disabled people in travelling around urban areas, and the impact of various transport problems and provision on their travel behaviour and on their quality of life, to consider how the different approaches adopted by the various Local Authorities would affect a range of archetypal elderly or disabled individuals if they were resident in each of their areas.

The paper concludes by considering whether Benchmarking and Best Value assessments, that typically employ as targets or performance indicators either ?in-puts?, such as expenditure, or ?out-puts?, such as bus-km operated, may in some situations reduce the likelihood of policies being pursued that would be of greatest benefit to elderly and disabled people, or increase the likelihood that problems which give them the greatest difficulties will remain unresolved. Alternatives are suggested, which employ out-come measures? that can be validated against the everyday mobility experience of elderly and disabled people.


Association for European Transport