chapter  8
16 Pages

The Promotion of Social Equity through Railways

WithLinna Li and Becky P.Y. Loo

As one of the three pillars of sustainable development, social equity is often less defined than economic and environmental dimensions (Boschmann and Kwan 2008). Social equity, sometimes called social justice, refers to the equitable distribution of benefits and burdens in society (Beyazit 2010, Litman and Brenman 2012). There are many social equity theories. One important theory is utilitarianism, focusing on the consequence of an act and assuming that equality should be the greatest happiness of the greatest number, which means that the total amount of good should be greater than the total amount of bad (Jost and Kay 2010). Egalitarianism is different from utilitarianism. Egalitarianism advocates that all people should be treated equally and the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society should be pursued. Similarly, sufficientarianism supposes that there is a certain threshold of ‘sufficient’ well-being, and the priority should be given to the improvement of people whose well-being levels are below the threshold (van Wee and Geurs 2011). Traditional transport policy and planning adopts utilitarianism as its principles and tends to neglect the well-being of people with least advantage in transport. It was not until the 1990s that the academia and governments started to pay more attention to transport-related socoal equity (Beyazit 2010). Indeed, most of those who are transport disadvantaged are economically disadvantaged people, who cannot afford the most convenient transport modes (Litman 1997). Other groups may also face transport disadvantage due to a variety of reasons, including people without driver licenses, people with physical or mental disabilities, people too young or too old to drive, and immigrants from developing countries, who face language barriers and social isolation (Litman 2003). Because of transport disadvantages, it is more difficult for them to access either public or private sector facilities, including education, employment, key services and affordable goods, thus a combination of social exclusion problems happens to them. Considering the pervasiveness of transport disadvantage, social equity has been put forward as an integral element of sustainable transport, along with economic development and environmental protection (Button and Nijkamp 1997). Before suggesting strategies to solve social exclusion problems related to transport, we need firstly to understand the main groups of people who are experiencing transport disadvantage (Hine and Mitchell 2001).