Friday, July 23, 2010

Free transit promotes social inclusion

Let us reclaim human interaction - get rid of the anti-social private auto

Further evidence of the positive effects of free public transport can be gleaned from the Belgian city of Hasselt. Not only did use of Hasselt’s bus system explode once zero fare were introduced (from 331,551 in the old situation to an astonishing 3.2 million - and this for a city of only 70,000 people), with all the obvious benefits this shift suggests, but also, some rather unexpected advantages were produced as well. For example, following the introduction of zero fares, the number of visits to patients in the city’s hospitals was reported to have “increased enormously” (van Goeverden, 2006: 7). This suggests that individuals and families will take more of a role in terms of caring responsibilities if they can actually access the people who need to be cared for, and this could represent incredible indirect savings for the state in terms of social and health care budgets. Indeed, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam has demonstrated statistically that people who socialise and participate in social activities are on average happier and healthier (2000:326-335). Of course you can only do this if you can get around, an evidence from a wide range of sources indicate that many people cannot ‘get around’ (see Church et al, 2000; Graham and Marvin, 2001; Hine and Mitchell, 2003; Knolwes, 2006 New Economics Foundation, 2003; Pooley et al, 2005; Raje, 2007; Reisig and Hobbiss, 2000; Shaw, 2006; Social Exclusion Unit, 2002 and 2003; Urry, 2007).

Bob Jeffrey - Towards a Sustainable Transport Policy

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