Chapter 1: Equity in transport

Fair access: Towards a transport system for everyone

Chapter 1: Equity in transport

Transport provision drives the social and economic life of the city. We all consider public transport services – provided and regulated by the public sector, and funded from a mixture of fares and general taxation – to be a public good. But the benefits are not spread equally among the capital’s citizens.

A good transport system enables Londoners to live their lives. Transport makes it possible to go to work or school, see friends, visit the shops, and get access to welfare provision, hospital services, leisure facilities, financial support and housing. Unfortunately, lack of access, unfair barriers and disproportionate negative impacts can restrict certain groups’ ability to move around the city – thereby affecting their wellbeing and life chances.

Framework and methodology

In the context of transport, we define equity as having fair access to transport options – including the extent to which the options available and the resulting impacts fall unfairly on some groups rather than others. We examine the availability and impacts on different groups who may be disadvantaged or under-represented to some extent, including young, older, disabled, ethnic minority and low-income Londoners. We also consider fair access to transport in the context of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy objective to move away from motor vehicle usage and towards more sustainable transport in order to accommodate continued growth in the city. To this end, our report considers the barriers to accessing public transport as well as walking and cycling routes – and the extent to which people need to rely on private cars and taxi services as a result.

For this study we developed a new framework for examining transport and equity in London (see Figure 1). It identifies two types of factors that affect equity
in transport.

Transport and Equity Framework

First, there are three factors that affect the travel options available to Londoners.

  1. Connectivity: the distance to the nearest transport points, density of connections, directness of links to other locations, and quality of infrastructure.
  2. Affordability: the cost of different travel options as a proportion of household income.
  3. Accessibility: the extent to which people with different mobility, sensory and mental impairments are able to access or reach different destinations though public transport.

These factors affect Londoners’ lives in a number of ways, including:

  • Increased travel times due to living further away from dense transport networks and/or choosing a cheaper form of transport.
  • Reduced access to job opportunities and amenities such as hospitals, shops and schools.
  • Reduced living standards resulting from having less money to spend on other things.

Second, particular travel choices and/or types of transport provision can have negative impacts on the user and those around them in terms of:

  1. Inactivity: people who do not have good access to public transport (or walking and cycling routes) may end up relying on cars and becoming less physically active; this can contribute to social isolation and damage both physical and mental health.
  2. Air pollution: the impact of air pollution on London’s roads and other forms of transport on different road and transport users.
  3. Crime and road danger: the extent to which different users are at risk of injury from accidents or crime/anti-social behaviour on the roads and public transport.

The conclusions of this report are based on research undertaken through a combination of methods, including:

  • Data analysis: We used a number of different datasets to inform our findings. Global business consultancy Steer also conducted analysis for this report, mapping the impacts of affordability, connectivity and accessibility across London.
  • Survey: We commissioned polling company ComRes to undertake a survey of Londoners on their transport choices and the barriers they encountered in accessing different transport options. (ComRes interviewed 1,011 London residents between 15 and 18 of July 2019. Data is representative of all London residents by age, gender and region. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.)
  • Interviews: We interviewed representatives of a number of stakeholder groups, as well as academics and experts in the field.
  • Focus groups: We organised two focus groups to understand the factors that affected the transport options available to Londoners. A total of 43 people attended, representing a range of age groups, areas of London, main ways of travelling and barriers to access (including disabled, blind and older users).

The rest of this chapter examines how London compares to other global cities. It also shares our headline survey results on Londoners’ travel choices and the barriers to accessing the different transport options. Chapter 2 then focuses on the affordability, connectivity and accessibility of public transport, walking and cycling – as well as whether the availability of these options affects certain groups unfairly. Chapter 3 examines whether the negative impacts of transport provision and usage affect certain groups disproportionately, and looks at the specific barriers different groups face in accessing transport. Based on the report’s findings, we then make a number of policy recommendations to address equity concerns and remove barriers to access.

International comparisons

First, we look at how London compares to other global cities on some of the measures we identified – particularly in terms of public transport.

There are a number of global rankings suitable for this purpose: for example, Deloitte’s 2019 City Mobility Index ranks London relatively highly on connectivity and safety, but lower on affordability and accessibility (see Figure 2). 1

In terms of connectivity, London is the highestscoring European city and on a par with Moscow, Singapore and Tokyo. Indeed, more than one-third of Londoners live within 500 metres of a Tube or rail station: this is in line with Berlin (33 per cent) and Hong Kong (40 per cent), and is a substantially higher proportion than in American cities such as Los Angeles (12 per cent). 2

Despite this, the time spent commuting in London is high compared with other cities. According to travel app Moovit, Londoners using the app spend an average of 84 minutes per day commuting by public transport. This figure is on a par with American cities of similar size like Los Angeles and New York, but is higher than in smaller European cities like Paris and Berlin, where the average commute is just over an hour. 3

Affordability is the Achilles heel of London’s transport system. The Deloitte Index scores London at two out of five on this measure – worse than Paris, Singapore, Tokyo and New York. McKinsey’s index of urban transportation in 24 global cities also ranks London among the least affordable. As a comparator, the average monthly ticket in Tokyo costs 2.5 per cent of average income, while in London it is 6.1 per cent. 4

Deloitte also awards London three out of five points for public transport accessibility. This is in line with similar global cities like New York and Paris, but lags behind world leaders such as Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Copenhagen and Los Angeles. In these cities, much of the transport system (particularly the newer parts) is fully wheelchair-accessible, with ramps or elevators from the street level to platforms. 5 In the next section, we examine how regular Londoners experience these barriers to accessing public transport.

How Londoners travel and the barriers they face

While large volumes of data on transport usage are published regularly, we lacked detailed information on usage by different groups within London, and on the factors behind their choices. The polling commissioned from ComRes as part of this project sheds more light on these factors, discussed in more detail in Chapter 3.

According to the survey, walking and taking the bus are the most frequently used modes of travel in London. Seven in ten (69 per cent) Londoners walk all their way to a destination (rather than to a bus stop or station) at least once a week, and three in five (61 per cent) use the bus with the same frequency. This is followed by the Tube (including Overground), which half of people (49 per cent) use at least once a week (see Figure 3).

Respondents were the most polarised in the use of private cars or motorcycles. Whilst 44 per cent of London residents use this mode of travel at least once a week, one-third (35 per cent) say they never do.

This reflects the fact that only 55 per cent of London households own a car (compared to 80 per cent across the rest of England). 6 However, it also suggests that those who have access to a car are likely to use it regularly, perhaps instead of walking or taking public transport.

The survey also found that only 29 per cent of Londoners report using the train on a weekly basis. This is a significantly lower frequency of usage than for the other modes of transport, possibly reflecting less extensive coverage.

Barriers to access also vary by mode of transport. Our survey found that the biggest barriers to using Tube and rail more frequently were overcrowding (61 percent for Tube and 31 per cent for rail) and cost (26 per cent for Tube and 35 per cent for rail). (See Figure 4).

By comparison, only 9 per cent of respondents said that cost is a barrier to using the bus more frequently – but overcrowding is again cited as a barrier for just over onethird of people (36 per cent). Cost was the main reason given for not using taxi/ride-hailing services (60 per cent) and car clubs (21 per cent) more frequently, alongside lack of convenience (26 per cent for car clubs and 12 per cent for taxi/ride-hailing apps). This perhaps reflects relatively limited coverage. In addition to cost, concern about air pollution is cited as the main barrier to using a private car or motorcycle more frequently (33 per cent). It is also a factor in discouraging increased car club (18 per cent) and taxi/ride-hailing usage (20 per cent). By comparison, personal safety, convenience and physical challenges were most likely to be cited as barriers to more cycling or walking.

Throughout the remainder of this report, we examine in more detail how these barriers affect different age, ethnicity and income groups.

  • 1 Dixon, S. et al. (2019). The 2019 Deloitte City Mobility Index. Retrieved from: focus/future-of-mobility/deloitte-urban-mobility-index-forcities.html
  • 2 Rode, P. & Floater, G. (2014). Accessibility in Cities: Transport and Urban Form (NCE Cities Paper 03). Retrieved from: 2014-Transport-and-Urban-Form-NCE-Cities-Paper-03.pdf
  • 3 Moovit (2019). Moovit Public Transit Index. Retrieved from: Transit_Index-commute-time
  • 4 McKinsey & Company (2018). Elements of success: Urban transportation systems of 24 global cities.
  • 5 Ibid.
  • 6 Department for Transport (2019). Household car ownership by region and Rural-Urban Classification (Table NTS9902). National Travel Survey.