A justice-theoretic approach to the distribution of transportation benefits: Implications for transportation planning practice in the United States

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

policy - equity, economics - benefits, place - north america


Justice, Equity, Access, Walzer, Rawls


Transportation improvements inevitably lead to an uneven distribution of user benefits, in space and by network type (private and public transport). This paper makes a moral argument for what would be a fair distribution of these benefits. The argument follows Walzer’s “Spheres of Justice” approach to define the benefits of transportation, access, as a sphere deserving a separate, non-market driven, distribution. That distribution, we propose, is one where the maximum gap between the lowest and highest accessibility, both by mode and in space, should be limited, while attempting to maximize average access. We then review transportation planning practice for a priori distributional goals and find little explicit guidance in conventional and even justice-oriented transportation planning and analyses. We end with a discussion of the implications for practice.


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


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