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Abstract: Low travel horizons can be a major barrier for socially excluded groups to fully participate in the economic, social and cultural life of modern society. This in turn can lead to socially deprived ghettos even in our most prosperous and dynamic cities. This paper examined the factors behind low travel horizons including how mental geographies are influenced by access to different transport modes. Drawing upon original primary research in inner London the paper presents a wide range of recommendations as to how travel horizons can be broadened.
The ability and willingness to travel is key to fully participating in the economic, social and cultural life of modern society (Shove 2002). Society has become more travel intensive as individuals either desire or are required to take on a greater number of roles and services are centralised. For example, a parent may want to take children to school, go to work, go shopping, keep a hospital appointment, visit an elderly relative, collect children and have an evening out with friends in a single day. It is increasingly unlikely that all these activities can be carried out in the same locality. This has led to the concept of time poverty (Turner & Grieco 2000), that is, people are not able to do everything that they need to do within the time available to them. While society has become more travel intensive the average amount of time people are prepared to spend travelling, (their time budget) remains at around one hour per day. Research shows that this figure is constant around the world in different societies and over time (Schafer 2000). Averages, of course, cover a wide range of actual experiences but the concept of a travel time budget is an important one. So as we are required or desire to travel more but are not prepared to spend any more time travelling then we must travel faster and/or more efficiently (for example, more linked trips). The National Travel Survey (2005) clearly shows this process over the last 30 years, as people at a national level have switched from walking, cycling and bus use to car and a lesser extent rail travel. People with low travel horizons are defined by the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU 2003) as individuals unwilling to travel long journey times or distances, or who may lack trust in, or familiarity with transport services. Travel horizons, therefore, covers two issues. The first relates to an inability or unwillingness to access a transport system. The second relates to having accessed the transport system, an inability or unwillingness to use it to its full potential. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to switch to faster modes of transport will thus experience lower level of opportunities in relation to training, work and services than society as a whole. Travel is related to access to a transport system and Cass et al (2005) identified four key dimensions of ‘access’ – financial, physical, organisational and temporal. Each impacts on individuals’ travel horizons depending on their particular circumstances.
Transport has a cost and as a result those in the highest income quintile travel nearly three times the distance as those in the lowest quintile (National Travel Survey 2005). This is due to the modes of transport used. The highest quintile make nearly three times as many car trips and four times as many rail trips but only half the number of walking trips and a third of bus trips compared to the lowest quintile income group. A key journey purpose where distance travelled between high and low-income varies markedly is journey to work (London Area Transportation Survey 2005) where the former travel twice as far as the latter meaning the number of jobs available to them is far greater. Physical access relates both to the ability to get to and enter a particular mode of transport. In the London context, access to the system is not an issue for the majority of able bodied people as 91% of Londoners live within six minutes of a bus stop (National Travel Survey 2005). Whilst London’s bus fleet is entirely low-floor, the mobility impaired are often unable to use the rail network due to the need to negotiate steps or escalators. The organisation of public transport services relates to where services go to, interchange facilities, information provision and ticketing structures. In London integrated ticketing and comprehensive coverage of the city reduces the impact of some of these factors. Finally temporal refers to services running when people need or wish to travel. Again in London this is less of a problem with the vast majority of bus stops being served by high-frequency services that operate at least 18 and increasingly 24 hours a day. There are also a range of non transport related barriers that impact on travel horizons. In his article on public transport and social exclusion, Church et al (2000) defined barriers relating to the design and safety of the street environment as ‘space exclusion’. The environment in which public transport is located therefore needs to be taken into account while analysing barriers to travel. Fear of crime or anti-social behaviour is a barrier to travel, particularly for women and the elderly. The SEU found that 44% of women and nearly a fifth of men feel unsafe waiting at the bus stop after dark. Fear of racism deters some ethnic minorities from travelling, usually making them stay within their local communities. This reluctance to travel may be compounded by language issues. It is estimated that 42% of people and 30% of school children living in London do not have English as their first language (London Skills Commission 2002). In certain cases, culture or religion may also act as a barrier to travel. This may relate to women not able or wishing to travel in the company of men, attitudes of other passengers when travelling in religious or cultural dress and religious divides in some communities that make travel in another area virtually impossible. Having children or having to look after a family member can also reduce the possibility of travelling long distances due to time restrictions. For example, lone parents or parents with large families cannot travel far to work if they have to pick up their children after school. They also require reliability, that is, they must be able to guarantee that they can pick up children at a set time. Irrespective of income, average distance travelled falls as household size rises (London Area Transportation Survey 2005).
The literature and existing data suggests that travel horizons are driven by a wide range of factors, including income, perceptions of crime, family circumstance, personal mobility or disability. Low travel horizons are likely to be both an indication of social exclusion and a reason for it. Research methodology Given the limited literature on travel horizons the research aimed to explore the extent and reason behind low travel horizons in inner-London. An area which is perceived as being well served by public transport but suffers from high levels of social deprivation. The research took the form of a mixture of focus groups and face to face interviews with 61 people from a wide range of backgrounds. There was a broadly even mix of men and women interviewed from different ethnicities and age groups. Only a quarter of participants were in employment as the study deliberately targeted socially excluded groups. A third of the participants where aged 14-25 (including two school based focus groups), slightly under a fifth were over 55, and four of the people interviewed were registered disabled. All participants received a small payment for taking part. Individuals were recruited via Job-Centre Plus, community groups, on-street and via schools around Camberwell, Peckham, Brixton, Camden Town and Covent Garden. Table.1: Participants matrix
T o t al 2 8 3 3 3 2 2 9 1 8 1 9 1 0 4 6 1 per cen tag e 46 % 54 % 52 % 48 % 30 % 31 % 16 % 7%
Male Female White Non White In Employ ment Young (14-25) 55+ Disable d Total
The interviews and focus groups asked about: individuals’ use of public transport by mode; the reasons for their use or lack of use of each mode; what they liked and disliked about each mode; views on obtaining travel information; ticketing; distance and time prepared to travel; and issues related to mental geographies, that is people’s knowledge and perception of the area within which they move. Cost of transport The cost of transport was repeatedly mentioned during the interviews and the focus groups. Many participants felt that public transport is too expensive for them and this does sometimes influence how far and often they travel. Some participants explained they would rather spend the money on other goods and services than
transport, and spend more time in their local area. When asked for the reason why people do not travel more and further than they do already, cost was one of the three main responses given (along with destination and ease of journey). Those for whom travel was free travelled more that those who had to pay1 and highlighted the freedom that this gave them to see friends or take advantage of activities and services in London.
Geographical accessibility Even within inner-London some interviewees felt their areas were not well served by public transport. Bus use was more frequent as one participant explained it enabled people to “travel to all nooks and corners”. Many of those interviewed did not use rail because it does not go to where they want to go. Public transport accessibility to potential jobs plays an important role in employment opportunities. Indeed, it conditions the geographical limits of job search. One participant explained that he could not apply for certain jobs as they were not easily accessible by public transport. However, there are many other factors at play which prevent people from accessing employment. The most common barriers to employment expressed during this research were lack of relevant skills and experience rather than transport. Physical accessibility The problem of physical accessibility was mainly brought up by participants who were physically disabled or women regularly travelling with children and buggies. However, in all the focus groups, at least one person mentioned that the tube and railway stations in London do not provide access and help to disabled and mobility impaired people. The issue of being refused entry onto a bus, or the bus not stopping at all because the person has a buggy or is a wheelchair user was reported as an all too regular occurrence. School children also complained that buses do not stop for them, particularly when large numbers are present at stops on their way home. A disabled woman highlighted the fact that getting to public transport facilities was difficult for her, because of the street environment. In her area, wheelie bins and other street clutter make it extremely difficult for her to get to and from the bus stops. Staffing The lack of staff at bus stops and on station platforms as well as on buses and trains was mentioned in all of the focus groups and many of the interviews. More staff is seen to be the solution to improving information, safety and preventing anti-social behaviour. Having wardens at certain times (for example, to keep order on the bus when school children are present) was mentioned several times. Whilst school children
At the time of the interviews free travel by bus was available to children at school as well as those over 60 or with a disability.
themselves also felt the need for additional staff on buses to keep order and to reduce vandalism. Journey experience The main points of dissatisfaction in relation to public transport use in general, are to do with the journey experience. Many do not travel frequently or long distances because they do not enjoy the journey experience. Overcrowding, dirty buses and tubes, lack of ventilation, claustrophobia, noisiness and the inconsiderate behaviour of other passengers puts many people off travelling on public transport and in many cases limits people’s willingness to travel further. When the participants were asked what would be the main improvement that would make them travel further, many of them answered comfort, pleasant routes, and clean and safe transport facilities. Improvement of journey experience on the whole could significantly influence travel patterns and horizons. Safety and security Safety was mainly an issue raised by women but it affected all age groups and genders. Some women and school children do not travel on public transport at night, they would rather take mini-cabs or taxis. Fear of crime and anti-social behaviour is present not only in the streets, but also while waiting for the bus/tube/train and on public transport itself. Young men raised the issue of mugging and other crime on buses, while school children also raised the fear of being mugged on the way to and from bus stops. Nevertheless, fear of crime does not, on the whole stop people from travelling. A female interviewee explained that “you can’t live your life in fear”. It seems to put people off travelling at night, but generally does not have any relation to time and distance travelled. Many participants mentioned that surveillance on public transport had improved significantly, especially with CCTV being installed at stations, and on platforms, buses and trains. On the whole, CCTV increased the sense of safety in public transport facilities. Interchange Going to places which require changing buses or trains is generally seen as an inconvenience. It was observed that many people are prepared to travel longer distances when the route is direct. A female participant said how she is happy to travel for a long time if she can get a seat and “get stuck into a book”. Interchanging on the underground or railway was not considered as troublesome as on the bus, mostly because it is easier to find your way round the tube system, and the changes are well signposted, with colour coding. One participant noted that bus interchange at locations where there was a bus station was acceptable as it is straightforward and well planned. But having to walk long distances in the tube system, and from one bus stop to another, also deters people from changing. Regularity and reliability Irregular bus services, delays, congestion on the roads, inefficient bus lanes, cancelled trains were all problems mentioned in the focus groups and interviews. However, these were especially problematic for people who were in employment or having to attend an important job interview/appointment. One of the reasons for
people using mini-cabs or taxis was time pressure: they could not rely on public transport to get them to their destination on time. Information When individuals sought information on how to get somewhere or where to catch a bus from; it was mainly done by asking people on the streets, friends and relatives. On the whole, information regarding ticketing, routes and transport facilities was not perceived as clear and straightforward. However, many found the bus spider maps and frequency timetables easier to use than conventional bus maps and timetables. Information on fares and discounts is according to a focus group participant "one of the most confused things in London”. All of the participants found information on fares and ticketing confusing, and many of them pay cash. Oyster2 cards were seen as a way for Transport for London to make money, instead of making passengers save money. Most of the participants did not understand the pre-pay system, and were appalled by the fact you have to pay £3 to acquire an Oyster card. Moreover, there were concerns over using Oyster cards as a means of tracking people’s movements, using them as a form of ID. The majority of comments regarding the Oyster system, with the exception of a few young people, were negative. Information on which bus to take, where to change, and where to get on and off buses was perceived as not always being straightforward. Many participants said that they found bus maps difficult to understand, especially when travelling in an unfamiliar area. As one participant stated it is very difficult “for the novice” to get around London on buses. Many participants said they get travel information via word of mouth and train/tube/bus stations. A small number used the internet but even the school children who were highly computer literate did not use it as a way of accessing travel information.
Family responsibilities Family responsibilities is a factor limiting travel horizons particularly for women with children. A child minder explained that it was a hassle to travel on public transport with children, most significantly as she also had to look after a child in a wheelchair. A woman mentioned that she preferred staying in her local area, as she wanted to be close to her children who were at school, and could not work too far away as she had to take them to school in the mornings and pick them up in the evenings. Limited mental geographies Many of the participants explained that they did not travel further than they already do because they did not feel the need to do so. However, many participants explained that they would be willing to make longer journeys if they had a destination which was worthwhile (e.g. a well paid job). The
Smart card that can be used as “A pay as you go” or conventional season ticket on London buses and underground.
majority of participants stay in their local area for most services. Staying in their local area is more convenient, especially for work. As one participant highlighted: “life is too short, why waste your time on public transport?” The school children were given an exercise trading off pay with journey time. They were given the choice of three identical jobs, one of which would be local to where they worked, one in central London within around 45 minutes travel time and one in north London around 60-90 minutes away. The wages paid increased the further away the work was and by far more than the fare cost of the additional travel. The initial view of all the children was to take the job nearest to home even though it paid least. After further discussion some children were prepared to travel to the intermediate location. In all cases the children’s ideal would be to obtain employment locally with the younger children the least confident about travelling further out of their area. Conclusions Inner London is not representative of the UK and much of the research on low travel horizons is not always pertinent to the area. Very high population densities mean that an extensive range of services and opportunities are still provided within compact geographical areas. Even major public services such as hospitals can be within walking distance, a situation that rarely applies elsewhere. However, there remains the problem of high unemployment within inner-London combined with labour shortages even of unskilled workers. In addition limited travel horizons can also impact on an individual’s quality of life. There are a wide range of factors that impinge on individuals’ travel horizons. These relate both to accessing the transport system and then using that system to its maximum potential. Findings of the research highlight a number of broad factors that limit travel horizons namely: • • • • • • • • Financial issues; Physical accessibility; Security; Information; Time poverty; Limited mental geography and aspirations; Staff attitudes; and Passenger attitudes.
Transport is expensive and an inability to afford transport severely reduces travel horizons. Over recent years the cost differential between using rail or bus in London has increased considerably pushing lower income groups towards bus use and thereby reducing their travel horizons due to the shorter distances that can be travelled within a given time budget. In addition moves towards cashless buses and the increased differential between cash and Oyster fares has again had consequences for those low-income groups who have not adopted Oyster. People
travel less than they otherwise would do and will avoid interchanging if that means having to buy another ticket. Despite huge improvements in physical access to the bus network (i.e. an entirely low-floor bus fleet) there are still many physical constraints to travel. These include a lack of seats at bus stops, buses not stopping near the kerb, inability to get buggies on buses due to other passengers crowding on first and inability to access the bus stop. Rail access both underground and overground is virtually impossible for many mobility impaired persons due to the large number of stairs that need to be negotiated. Fear of crime is a major constraint to using public transport to its full potential as well as walking and cycling. This includes anti-social behaviour and the presence of graffiti and litter. This fear relates to access to and from public transport nodes and waiting at bus stops and railway stations and on public transport services as well. Fear of crime is particularly a factor discouraging the elderly, young people, ethnic minorities and women from travelling especially to unknown areas. This fear of crime leads people to use mini-cabs which, as they are more expensive, results in fewer trips than otherwise might have been desired. Despite the availability of an increasing range of technologies whereby people can obtain information the lack of accessible and understandable information is still a major inhibitor to travel. While people generally have a good understanding of their local bus services they still rely on friends or transport staff to find information to get to new locations. Even the school children who were interviewed who were all very computer literate did not think of using the internet to obtain travel information and Transport for London’s telephone inquiry service is not well known. This lack of knowledge is a major inhibitor to people travelling off their local bus network. The interviews and focus groups showed that individuals are content to travel to any destination that is directly served by their local buses but will rarely travel to destinations which may be closer but require an interchange. However, they are readier to travel throughout the underground network due to the availability of a relatively easy to understand tube map. A lack of understanding about fares and ticketing was a frequently occurring theme in our research. Take-up of lower price tickets, for example, Oyster, is inhibited by people’s lack of understanding of how it works. The need to cram an increasing number of activities in a limited time severely restricts travel horizons for all income groups. For example, an increasing number of children in a family reduces travel across all incomes. However, travel poverty principally affects low-income groups who can not “buy” time from other people, (e.g. through the use of cleaners, child minders and or who are dependent on public transport). The need to pick up children at fixed times and high penalties for being late for work severely inhibit travel horizons for these groups. Many individuals do not travel far because they do not want to. All their needs are met in their local community and as they do not travel they are unaware of opportunities outside their local area. Hence they are in a “catch 22” situation of not travelling and therefore do not know what opportunities they are missing and therefore they do not travel.
Linked to this it is also the case that some individuals may have limited aspirations. They may know there are better opportunities available elsewhere but still are not prepared to travel to take them up. The attitudes of staff can be a factor in reducing individuals’ willingness to travel. This can include poor driving skills, an unwillingness/inability to manage passenger behaviour, lack of understanding of mobility impaired passengers needs and generally poor attitudes to passengers. Travel Watch report that around 1,000 complaints a week are made to TfL (Transport for London) about staff behaviour. The behaviour of fellow passengers can also be an issue. Anti-social behaviour by fellow passengers and or passengers’ refusal to move down the bus or take seats upstairs can limit access to those with pushchairs. While an increasing unwillingness to offer mobility impaired passengers a seat puts off those passengers from travelling. In addition the whole ambiance or lack of it can be a major factor in whether a person will use a particular route or service. Summary The inward-looking attitude of deprived communities who have lived most of their lives in London is particularly strong. They are not willing to, or are apprehensive of, travelling to unknown territory. Individuals who have grown up in these areas and who have not travelled much out of their local area are usually more reticent to travel far to work. They are the ones most affected by low travel horizons, as travelling anywhere else in London is perceived as difficult and time consuming. They also have a strong sense of community or identity with a specific area that discourages them from travelling a long distance to work. This attitude is passed from generation to generation and influences people in their search for jobs Confidence for travelling on public transport and travelling out of the local area is another linked issue. This is especially true for people who have been unemployed for a long period of time, as their level of confidence is gradually reduced. Lack of confidence can be exacerbated by language issues which can restrict the awareness and willingness to use public transport.
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