Monday, August 24, 2009

Access for all

Last April, I talked about Transportation for All as one of my goals in choosing to advocate one transportation policy or critique another. Jarrett introduced the term mobility, which seems to fit a little better with what I'm aiming for. But now Jarrett comes along with access, which may fit even better.

Jarrett writes, "Mobility is how far you can go in a given time. Access is how many useful or valuable things you can do." They're clearly connected: you can have minimal mobility and minimal access, like the Count of Monte Cristo in the Ch√Ęteau d'If, or you can have maximal mobility and maximal access, like Rick Steves. However, mobility and access are not the same thing at all: you can have minimal mobility and maximal access, like Neo in the Matrix, or you can have maximal mobility and minimal access, like Charlie on the MTA.

When we think about the public welfare justifications for transportation subsidies, it is clear that their goal is access, not mobility. As a society founded on equal opportunity, we find it unjust for certain people to be restricted in the jobs they can have, the places they can live, and the stores they can shop at, through no fault of their own. It may be because they cannot drive due to disability, because they cannot afford a car or gas, or because they cannot even afford to ride the bus or train.

That is the main reason we have subsidized transit. The benefits to society in the form of decreased pollution, more efficient use of energy, safer streets and greater social cohesion are often forgotten by those who fund transit.

The only problem I have with the phrase "access for all" is that it's already the name of a long-established Dutch internet provider.


Jarrett at said...

Just note, per that paper that I pointed you to, that as density goes down, the conflict between ridership-oriented goals and social inclusion-oriented gets more and more difficult. At the rural extreme, you have an old man who really shouldn't be driving who lives at the end of a three mile dirt road. Access for him too? How much more are you willing to spend on needs that follow from where he chose to live?

Cap'n Transit said...

Yes, Jarrett, I'm sorry if that wasn't clear. My point, which might be clearer in the next post, is that "access" can take many forms, and transportation is only one of them.

Of course, as I wrote in March, I think there's some kind of "reasonableness" standard to follow here, and at some point you have to say, "no, that's too remote. If you want subsidized access, you need to relocate closer." Preferably before they all move to Tristan da Cunha and start demanding hourly flights to Irkutsk.

Ian Mitchell said...

Wouldn't anyone with internet access presumably lie somewhere on the low-mobility, yet extremely high access side of the scatter plot? I know several web developers who claim they wouldn't ever leave their homes if they could reliably get groceries and other necessities delivered to their homes.