Australian Urban Transport and Social Disadvantage Graham Currie

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Graham Currie
Poor children; Urbanization; Disadvantage
All cities face the challenge of catering for often-conflicting economic, environmental and social objectives in developing transport policy. In general, there is a widespread acknowledgement that, of these, the objectives addressing social issues are the most poorly managed from a policy context. The impacts of social disadvantage, both economic and non-economic, are less quantifiable and, hence, less easily addressed in economics or policy. Therefore, the specific role of transport associated with social disadvantage is also burdened by this lack of quantitative evidence. However, there is a growing recognition internationally that transport can be a significant factor in social disadvantage. Several international and national policy agencies now include transport and its links to social exclusion as a key input to policy-making (Gwilliam 2002; UK Social Exclusion Unit 2003; Ward 2005). There is also considerable evidence that the importance of transport in both causing and addressing disadvantage is growing. Increasing urban sprawl, the high and growing costs of transport and growing inequalities in the spatial distribution of travel and activities are acting to increase needs (Lucas 2004). The links between social disadvantage and transport have been shown to be particularly significant in urban Australia compared to other countries (Currie, Stanley and Stanley 2007; Stanley and Stanley 2008). Distance is a major barrier to economic and social activity and Australian cities have some of the world's longest urban travel distances. Australian cities are also amongst the lowest density in the world (for example, Canberra is probably the world's lowest-density city). By definition, this makes the need for, and scale of, travel greater. Australian car ownership is also amongst the highest in the world. However, not everyone has a car or can drive, suggesting inequalities in access. Young people, those on lower incomes, seniors, people with impairments and many minority groups are known to experience difficulties in accessing economic and social activities and these are said to be exacerbated in the low-density, car-dependent Australian urban context (Currie, Stanley and Stanley 2007). This article reviews the links between transport and social disadvantage in urban Australia from an economic perspective. The aim is to outline the nature of these links, to outline the policy responses and to review these issues from an economic perspective. The first section outlines the traditional models of urban transport disadvantage. This is followed by a review of emerging models. A review of the future trends and prospects is then outlined. The article concludes with a discussion of the major themes emerging in this field.
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