After initially getting involved with the Greater Manchester Campaign for Free Public Transport I put (knocked!) together the following paper which outlines some of the arguments for a step-change in British transport policy:
However, this is clearly only a starting point for a wider research project that will investigate the following:
Economic arguments (current national and local subsidies to public transport, efficiency savings from dispensing with ticket collection, the economic costs of congestion, using local or national forms of taxation to fund free public transport)
Environmental arguments (the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the continuing suburbanisation of housing and employment and consequent loss of greenbelt, the need to reduce dependence on insecure and polluting carbon fuels, new technologies that can promote cleaner and greener mobility, the need to promote walking and cycling)
Social Justice arguments (the problems created for low income, disabled, elderly, young, ethnic minority and female populations by inadequate transport provision including the rural transport problem and both urban and rural service deserts, the continuing polarisation of communities between the highly mobile and the relatively immobile)
Health arguments (the need to promote walking and cycling and the concomitant need to make these modes of transport more attractive by restricting car usage, the need to reduce harmful emissions, especially in inner city neighbourhoods which bear the brunt of both road traffic accidents and poor air quality)
Social arguments (research from Hasselt in Belgium’s experiment with free public transport suggests that if they have the transport available they are more likely to visit acquaintances in hospital and this speaks volumes regarding the social good that could be achieved with free public transport, reducing the dominance of the car may mean people spend more time with friends and family and less time on a solitary commute, finally there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that having more people walking our streets rather than ensconced in their cars helps to reduce both crime and the fear of crime, producing safer, more sociable neighbourhoods)
That is an overview of the broad research possibilities for free public transport. All of these areas need to be explored in great depth by experts in transport policy, transport geography, economics, GIS and statistical modelling, sociology, health studies, criminology, human geography etc etc – As well as any “non-experts” who would be very welcome to join the research project to provide various forms of assistance.
We are hoping to thrash out the research possibilities at our forthcoming conference on the 16th of October 2010 at the Britannia Hotel in Birmingham. Nevertheless, if anyone reads this and has an idea for research that supports the wider campaign, or of potential funding possibilities we would be very glad to hear from you (email firstname.lastname@example.org ).