Sizing up transport poverty: A national scale accounting of low-income households suffering from inaccessibility in Canada, and what to do about it

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, ridership - disadvantage, planning - methods


Transport poverty, Accessibility, Inequalities, Canada


Millions of Canadians rely on public transportation to conduct daily activities and participate in the labour force. However, many low-income households are disadvantaged because existing public transit service does not provide them with sufficient access to destinations. Limited transit options, compounded with socioeconomic disadvantage, can result in transport poverty, preventing travel to important destinations, like employment opportunities. Given the growing gentrification of Canadian downtowns and the dispersion of poverty into Canadian suburbs, the time is right for a national accounting of those living in transport poverty, and the development of a national transport and land use strategy for alleviating the risks of accessibility deprivation. Accordingly, in this paper we measure and analyze vertical inequalities in access to employment in Canadian cities in order to estimate how many, where, and to what extent, Canadians are at risk of transport poverty. We make use of open transit network data and cutting edge accessibility measurement methods to generate comparative scores suitable for a national-scale analysis. We find that in aggregate, lower income neighbourhoods tend to have better levels of transit accessibility. But despite this overall positive outlook, there are still nearly one million low-income individuals living in urban areas with low transit accessibility. We summarize our findings by generating descriptive typologies for areas vulnerable to transport poverty which are then used to develop and recommend planning strategies to reduce inequalities.


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


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