Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base
Equity is defined by Giuliano (1994) in simple terms relating to the distribution among different groups in society of the costs and benefits resulting from the implementation of a scheme or policy intervention. As will be seen in Section 10.2, the groups of interest, often referred to as impact groups, can be defined in a range of ways reflecting their economic status, their demographic status, their geographical status or their current use of transport facilities.
One simplifying categorisation is the distinction between vertical equity and horizontal equity. Vertical equity concerns the distribution of impacts by income and socio economic characteristics, and so relates very much to issues of affordability and individuals’ ability to pay for access. Horizontal equity deals with the fairness of impact allocation between individuals and groups considered comparable in ability and need. The concept implies that consumers should “get what they pay for and pay for what they get,” unless a subsidy is specifically justified. It is also referred to as spatial or territorial equity and relates mostly to impact on people living in areas affected by a policy intervention or those who need to make specific journeys.
Vertical equity is in turn closely related to the concept of social exclusion. The concept concerns the tendency for certain groups of people to be less able, or less willing, to participate in activities which other members of society take for granted, such as employment, education, health improvement and leisure activities. It can in turn be closely related to problems of ill-health, unemployment and crime. The group of people identified as being at risk of transport-related social exclusion consists of households and individuals who are on a low income – and there is an over-representation of disabled people, people from ethnic and religious minorities and women in this group.
All of these concepts involve the objective measurement of opportunities for, or activities undertaken by, different groups in society. In addition, Schade & Schlag (2003) introduce the concept of “perceived justice”, particularly in the context of public acceptance and the building of public support for a policy intervention. Perceived justice in relation to a proposed or actual scheme might differ markedly from the actual distribution of cost and benefits. Schade and Schlag also distinguish between “procedural justice”, (which relates to the fairness of the process of policy development, consultation and implementation), and “distributive justice”, (which is the balance of costs and benefits that is actually delivered).