The inequality effects of public transport fare: The case of Lisbon's fare reform

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, place - urban, policy - equity, policy - fares, planning - surveys, ridership - mode choice, ridership - commuting


Fare reform, Inequalities, Affordability, Transport accessibility, Palma ratio, Lisbon


Spatial segregation of social groups within cities and inadequate transport conditions are frequently pointed to as major barriers to improving urban livelihood conditions for disadvantaged groups. For that reason, accessibility measures have increasingly been used as a tool to measure inequality. However, traditional accessibility measures fail to capture both travel costs and individual characteristics, which are central to equity. Therefore, in this paper, we discuss the importance of incorporating fare cost, fare affordability, and individual socio-economic characteristics of transport users into accessibility equity measurements. Given the April 2019 fare policy change introduced in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA), this study examines how the fare restructuring, the integration of all public transport (PT) modes into a single pass with a maximum cost of 40€ per month, affects inequality levels. Using survey data collected in June and July 2020, we compare the self-reported trip modes and travel costs under Lisbon's previous and current public transport fare systems. We first define 4 benefits associated with the reform and calculate them for all survey respondents. We then used statistical analysis to determine which sociodemographic and locational groups benefited the most from the reform. Finally, using a pseudo-Palma ratio, we compare accessibility inequality levels for income and spatial subgroups before and after the fare price change.

Results show that fare reform had positive effects on commuter accessibility levels, when interpreted as the reduction of generalized costs. Income, age, gender, and transport modal choice were found to be the main characteristics that distinguish the most benefited groups, while other characteristics played a more modest role. These effects, when interpreted from a spatial perspective presented a clear positive association with public transport supply levels. Relative to the impact of the fare reform on equity of benefit distribution, results reinforce that price policies can reduce inequalities.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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