Justice in public transport systems: A comparative study of Auckland, Brisbane, Perth and Vancouver

Although the concept of social justice seems to be ubiquitous in most transportation plans, methods adopted to evaluate transit systems have little engagement with political theories to define justice. Without a proper definition, transport planners will be unable to design transit systems that achieve justice. The present study proposes a combination of sufficientarianism and egalitarianism principles to define justice in transit. Based on this framework 1) assess to public transport is a right, 2) public transport should provide a minimum accessibility, 3) public transport should benefit the least well-off groups, and 4) a just distribution has to be spatially evaluated. The framework proposes methods that can be used to measure and compare justice in transit systems. The framework is applied to four case study cities, Auckland, Brisbane, Perth, and Vancouver. The results show that the Auckland’s transit system performs well relative to the other three case study cities by accounting for people and providing a minimum access to jobs. However, Auckland’s transit services fail in the just distribution as it favours more affluent neighbourhoods. This issue is more severe in Brisbane’s and Perth’s transit systems. Vancouver, on the other hand, provides a better service for the low-income neighbourhoods. This study contributes to the field of justice in transit by providing a clearly defined framework which can be adapted to analyse a city’s transit system and compare it with other cities. It is expected to assist practitioners in obtaining insights that can inform policy decisions.

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