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Equity in Auckland’s transport system

Ministry of Transport | MRCagney
Publication date:  

Executive summary (extract)

This report investigates equity in Auckland’s transport system. Equity is an important consideration because access to transport affects peoples’ lives in positive and negative ways. Understanding those impacts is important if transport policy and investment are to contribute to an overall improvement in wellbeing.

Inequity in transport arises as a consequence of two main factors. First, a lack of transport choices means that people have limited options to participate in everyday activities, known as ‘transport disadvantage’. Second, some people overcome a lack of choices by paying more than they can afford for mobility, typically by buying and operating a car. People who pay more than they can reasonably afford for travel are defined as having ‘transport poverty’.

Both transport disadvantage and transport poverty are apparent all around the world. Some groups of people are known to find it more difficult than others to access transport safely. Groups investigated for this report include Māori; low-income groups; women; the LGBTQI+ community; disabled people; older people; and ethnic minority groups.

International evidence suggests that while there is wide variation in peoples’ transport behaviour and experiences, there are disadvantaged people within each group. 

Māori experience transport inequity because they have lower incomes on average than other Aucklanders and are more likely to have a disability at younger ages than other ethnicities. Many Māori live and work in areas that are not well served by public transport. However as a whole, Māori are underrepresented in Household Travel Survey data and
there is a need for more specific information about what their transport needs are.

Women who work part-time, have caring responsibilities, and have a larger role in managing households have complex trip patterns compared with people who work fulltime and travel in peak hours. Women are also more likely to consider personal security and the risk of harassment or attack when making their travel choices. At night, they are more reluctant to use public transport or to walk. At all times they choose routes more selectively than men, based on how confident and safe they feel.

There is little local evidence on the transport needs and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community. Transgender and non-binary people are more likely than other groups to report harassment and to feel vulnerable when walking and using public transport. However, avoiding those modes introduces costs, and this group is also more likely to have a lower income than other groups. Therefore, they are prone to transport poverty.

Disabled people are also more likely than others to experience transport poverty due to lower incomes on average than other groups. Further, disabled people have specific needs for accessibility of transport, which reduces their choices.

Older people have markedly different transport patterns than other groups. They are most likely to travel for social and recreation reasons. The impacts of transport disadvantage and transport poverty are acute for older people because they are vulnerable to social isolation, given that many of them do not otherwise spend much time in the company of other people.

There is a gap in understanding the needs and challenges faced by ethnic minority groups in Auckland. There are many diverse communities, with some having low incomes and difficulty communicating in English, while others have high incomes and do not necessarily lack transport choices.

All of the evidence internationally about different groups is replicated in Auckland, however, low-income populations are the most uniformly disadvantaged of all of the groups studied. People in other groups with a high income have more capacity to overcome transport challenges, whereas people on low incomes in Auckland face distinct disadvantages. They are more likely to live in places less well-served by high quality public transport, and they are more likely to work part-time or shifts that do not align
well with public transport timetables.

Low-income families in Auckland are more likely than others to live in crowded households, placing a wider variety of transport demands on families. All of those factors combine to reveal a high incidence of transport poverty in Auckland.

While people on high incomes can overcome challenges related to transport choices, inequities remain for many groups. People in Auckland who have disabilities and would like to walk and use public transport often cannot do so easily, because transport infrastructure and services are inaccessible to them. Women and LGBTQI+ people who would like to walk and use public transport are often discouraged from doing so due to fear of harassment or attack. Although people on higher incomes can choose modes that feel more accessible or safer to them, the inequity remains because their choices are restricted.

The prevalence of transport poverty and transport disadvantage in Auckland was confirmed through four case studies involving interviews with staff of key nongovernment organisations. All interviews revealed that many people seeking advice or social support in Auckland find it difficult and expensive to get around the city. They have challenges locally, for example if affordable groceries and other shopping are not close to where they live. Getting across Auckland for work or other reasons is particularly difficult. Many low-income people in Auckland consider it essential to own a car, because they have no other way to do what they need to get done in their lives. Work and other activities are not close enough to walk to; the cycling networks are not safe enough; and public transport is neither frequent nor direct for people who do not work in the central city and live close to train lines or rapid bus routes.

Evidence from literature and case studies confirms that there is inequity in Auckland’s transport system. People who travel to work in peak hours and whose home and workplace are well served by public transport have the most choices. There are many people and families whose situations do not fit that model. They need to travel outside of peak times when high-frequency services are running, and the need to get to places that are not easily accessible by public transport. The quality of walking and cycling infrastructure may not be equal around the city, and many of the places people need to get to are not local regardless. Transport inequity affects many different groups. Transport poverty is apparent for many people on low incomes, and it is exacerbated for low-income people who also identify as LGBTQI+, and/or who have a disability.

November 2020