Public transport policies play a key role in shaping the social and spatial structure of cities. These policies influence how easily people can access opportunities, including health and educational services and job positions. The accessibility impacts of transport policies thus have important implications for social inequalities and for the promotion of just and inclusive cities. However, in the transportation literature, there is still little theoretically informed understanding of justice and what it means in the context of transport policies. Moreover, few studies have moved beyond descriptive analyses of accessibility inequalities to evaluate how much those inequalities result from transport policies themselves. This is particularly true in cities from the global South, where accessibility and equity have so far remained marginal concerns in the policy realm.
This thesis builds on theories of distributive justice and examines how they can guide the evaluation of transport policies and plans. It points to pathways for rigorous assessment of the accessibility impacts of transport policies and it contributes to current discussions on transportation equity. A justice framework is developed to assess the distributional effects of transport policies. This framework is then applied to evaluate recent transport policies developed in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in preparation to host sports mega-events, such as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, which included substantial expansion of the rail and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) infrastructure. This research presents ex-post analyses of the policies implemented between 2014 and 2017 and ex-ante analysis of an as yet unfinished BRT project. It evaluates how the planned transport legacy of those mega-events impacted accessibility to sports venues, healthcare facilities, public schools and job opportunities for different income groups.
The results show that there were overall accessibility benefits from the expansion in transport infrastructure between 2014 and 2017, but these were generally offset by the reduction in bus service levels that followed an economic crisis that hit the city after the Olympics. Quasi-counterfactual analysis suggests that, even if the city had not been hit by the economic crisis, recent transport investments related to mega-events would have led to higher accessibility gains for wealthier groups and increased inequalities in access to opportunities. Results suggest that those investments had, or would have had, greater impact on inequalities of access to jobs than in access to schools and healthcare facilities. The evaluation of the future accessibility impacts of the unfinished BRT corridor, nonetheless, indicates that such project could significantly improve access to job opportunities for a large share of Rio’s population, particularly lower-income groups. Spatial analysis techniques show that the magnitude and statistical significance of these results depend on the spatial scale and travel time threshold selected for cumulative opportunity accessibility analysis. These results demonstrate that the ad-hoc methodological choices of accessibility analysis commonly used in the academic and policy literature can change the conclusions of equity assessments of transportation projects.