Discussing equity and social exclusion in accessibility evaluations

Bert van Wee*, Karst Geurs

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    251 Citations (Scopus)
    44 Downloads (Pure)


    Ex ante evaluations of transport policy options (including infrastructure plans) are generally based on cost-benefit analyses (CBA). Accessibility changes are included in such analyses indirectly, via a utilitarian perspective. But accessibility is broader than is assumed by this perspective and also incorporates equity and related distribution effects as well as social exclusion. This paper aims to give an overview of the relevance of distribution effects and equity, and social exclusion for accessibility, based on the literature. The most important conclusions of our paper is that the two subjects are poorly addressed in transport appraisal in general, and in CBA in particular. Additional ethical theories could add value to the utilitarian perspective, egalitarian theories being a major competitor. Equity analysis is however complex because there are several types of equity, various ways to categorize people for equity analysis, numerous impacts to consider, and various ways of measuring these impacts. And such analysis requires normative judgements, in addition to simply presenting distribution effects. Several options are available to express distribution effects. Important choices to be made if such effects need to be reported relate to the unit of comparison (e.g. the household versus the individual), the indicator to be used, and the value of each unit to be compared (e.g. accessibility) for all units of comparison (e.g. households). We also conclude that CBA is not suitable for evaluating social exclusion policies. Based on this overview we propose an agenda for potential future research in the area of ethics and accessibility.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)350-367
    Number of pages18
    JournalEuropean journal of transport and infrastructure research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2011


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