Tackling transport-related barriers to employment in low-income neighbourhoods — Data Impact Blog

Alasdair Rae uses quantative and qualitative data, including the stories of the people affected, to explore the reality of using public transport to access work from poorer areas of the UK.

Three hour commutes: for ‘fun and profit’?

The Department for Work and Pensions suggests that jobseekers should look for jobs up to a 90 minute commute away. In a tweet from 2016, the Department suggested that jobseekers could ‘travel, for fun and for profit’.

Look for jobs up to a 90 minute commute away. Travelling further opens up more vacancies https://t.co/i10x6ML5x1 #UniversalCredit

DWP (@DWP) May 22, 2016

At 5am

At 8am

Local voices: what did people tell us?

But of course looking at the data only tells us so much, and that’s why it was really important to speak to residents. In order to make this meaningful and manageable, we decided to focus our efforts in six areas across the country, two each in and around Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester, as you can see in the map below.

“I’d be willing to travel any distance, it’s more time … [The Job Centre Plus expectation) It’s just silly, you’ve got three hours travel time on top of a job, so you do a 12 hour shift, 15 hour day, where are you supposed to sleep in that?”

Harpurhey, female, aged 35

“They have tons of work, big industrial estate, but there’s no bus service, it’s about 13 miles away. I do not understand why they build a big estate where there’s no transport, that’s like tough, if you haven’t got a car.”

Seacroft resident, male, aged 49

“[It’s] got to be the worst bus service out, they’re shocking, they’re either five minutes late or five minutes early, sometimes they don’t even show up.”

Port Glasgow resident, female, aged 20

What should be done? Some policy recommendations

We believe transport-related barriers to employment could be addressed through a wide range of measures. However, a ‘pick and mix’ approach would most likely lead to poor outcomes. Strategic and coordinated action is required.

  • implementing bus franchising or ‘strong’ models of cooperation, to address transport-related barriers emerging from a deregulated public transport system that all too often fails to meet the needs of low-income users;
  • making public transport more accessible and more accountable through technology — particularly through open data (including fares) and real-time data on public transport — to understand issues, develop solutions and communicate information to users;
  • developing longer-term spatial planning frameworks and tools to embed sustainability, density and transit-oriented development principles that better connect places of residence and work.

The UK’s largest collection of UK and international social, economic and population data. Funded by ESRC. Writing about how the data we hold makes impact.

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