Social dimension of transport: modal shift hits hardest the poor


Transport is a link between peoples, between producers and consumers, between the family and work. If we restrict transport, we weaken the quality of life and prosperity. "Transport is the breathing of society - it's detrimental to strangle it. That breathing is becoming ever cleaner, thanks to technological development", says Ari Vatanen, MEP, who moderated the panel discussion titled Fairer Roads in the 3rd European Road Congress, in Brussels, June 25th.
The strategy of the European Commission to "greener" transport is to expand the network of public transport and increase artificially the cost of already very expensive individual transport in order to force people to heavily subsidised public one. This is called modal shift.

The social dimension of transport goes often unnoticed. Ari Vatanen explains: "This artificial increase of costs,  which is done under the veil of 'internalising the external costs', will hurt hardest the poor because the need for individual transport is not going to disappear, it will only become more expensive and elitisized. The poor will be backed up to already crowded buses and will find themselves worse off in the search for a work, a school for their children, and a place to live, as they are unnecessarily made dependent of public transport network."
Another viewpoint to the social dimension of transport is safety. There are little less than 40 000 unnecessary deaths in European roads every year. Ari Vatanen suggests: "We could give tax deductions for the safest cars and safety devices like the groundbreaking ESC. And if everybody wore a seat belt, complied with legal speed limits and did not drive under the influence of alcohol fatalities would be cut by more than 60%."