Concepts, reflections and applications of social equity: approaches to accessibility to primary goods and services in the region of Flanders, Belgium


Mobility presents a variety of opportunities as it allows users to access locations and services, and to meet people beyond their immediate surroundings. While the concept of mobility primarily focuses on the ease of moving, accessibility delineates the actual potential to participate in out-of-home activities. As a result, accessibility is a complex concept with a multitude of foci. This complexity is presented in the first section, which explains the general concept of accessibility, how it is defined and how it is related to the notion of transport-related exclusion. This section also gives an overview of the body of literature on the measures to determine area-based as well as personal accessibility levels and points out the important contrast between the simple, easy-to-interpret methods, adopted by policy makers and the complex methods preferred by experts. The second section clarifies how the dichotomous relationship between the urban and rural environment is reflected in transport policy that emphasizes on (especially car-based) mobility rather than on accessibility. Furthermore, the environmental and economic points of view are highlighted and the common policy strategies focused on sustainability are illustrated. Subsequently, the shortcomings in the way in which the contemporary debates concerning mobility, sustainability and the social implications of transport planning are conducted, are criticized. Finally, the last part of this section is dedicated to an extensive discussion on the ability of transport policies to, on the one hand, generate spatially as well as temporally uneven accessibility effects that give preference to certain population groups above others, and on the other hand, their ability to strive for a more equitable distribution of transport services amongst the population. The third section proposes two methodologies for measuring transport-related social exclusion implemented in a literature-based case study in Flanders. These studies comprise the following topics: measuring transport gaps by relating the social to the transport disadvantage and measuring modal disparities by comparing accessibility by private and public transport. The former investigates in which areas the provision of the public transport system is not tailored to specific public transport needs. The latter examines the disparity in access by private and public transport in order to highlight the car dependency. Both case studies incorporate the temporal variability in provision through the private and public transport network, as the time-of-day strongly influences accessibility levels

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