Greater accessibility is an important element in improving living standards and quality of life through better access to jobs, public services, and other amenities and opportunities. Placing social inclusion at the centre of transport planning can effectively maximize accessibility for all groups of society. The examples brought together from different cities in this session highlighted the range of approaches to make urban transport more inclusive, focusing on mobility-impaired and low income users.
National and international conventions have enshrined the rights of all groups of society, notably of vulnerable users, to access public transport. Local authorities have increasingly been incorporating equity and universal access goals in their mobility agendas. For example, the City of Moscow has made substantial improvements by introducing low-floor buses (now making up 100% of the public bus fleet) and dedicated assistance for mobility-impaired passengers at metro stations. The metropolitan area of Nice has lowered public transport ticket prices for multi-modal trips and introduced a single-zone ticket to improve affordability.
Yet, planning for more inclusive urban transport remains a major challenge. Policymakers are faced with the difficulty of measuring the social and economic benefits of improving accessibility. Mayors and city representatives agreed that by spelling out the wider social benefits of more inclusive transport, (e.g. greater access to jobs and the capacity of retaining mobility independence in the case temporary impediments for example pregnancy, or injuries from accidents) public acceptance of policies that enhance accessibility and inclusiveness is enhanced and public funds can more easily be shifted towards addressing issues of social justice and quality of life rather than merely cost considerations.
Nonetheless, the availability of funding remains critical to implementing inclusive solutions for urban transport. In many cases national laws that are inflexible and impose too many requirements for infrastructure (without granting flexibility to tailored solutions) place additional pressures on budgets and do not necessarily deliver value for money.
Mayors and city representatives in the session presented a number of mechanisms to overcome the challenge of funding restrictions:
Local authorities can also take advantage of new technologies and new forms of funding to support policy implementation in this area.
More broadly, planning processes can be made more cost-effective by reinforcing citizen participation, for example with apps and online instruments that allow for the population suggesting where infrastructure investment in accessibility needs to be prioritised, as is now done in Amsterdam and Leipzig through dedicated surveys and focus groups. Private sector participation can also be beneficial in addressing funding gaps as is the case in San Francisco, where the city government has become a platform that invites service providers such as Uber and Lyft to provide their services within a clear regulatory framework that sets the targets to achieve social inclusion goals. Finally, improving the attractiveness and image of public transport through positive advertising and quality-enhancing investment can support the modal shift necessary to achieve revenue growth from user fees underpinning further investment in transport systems.
Mayor, City of Leipzig, Germany
Deputy Mayor, Head of Transport Department, The Government of Moscow
President of GART, Senator and Mayor of Cagnes-sur-Mer, France
Chief Innovation Officer, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Secretary General, European Metropolitan Transport Authorities (EMTA)
Moderator, Chief Political Correspondent, Deutsche Welle-TV