Transport Equity in Beijing, China

Mengqiu (Matthew) Cao

Cao, M. and Hickman, R. (2019) ‘Understanding travel and differential capabilities and functionings in Beijing’, Transport Policy, 83. pp.46-56.

The social impacts of transport systems and new transport infrastructure have often been overlooked and under valued, partly because the relationship between transport and social equity is indirect and difficult to quantify. Researchers have usefully investigated the relationship between transport and social exclusion, focusing on aspects such as access to opportunities and activities by different population cohorts such as income, class, age, ethnicity and gender. The analysis has focused on addressing the imbalance in the distributional effects of transport provision, and accessibility planning has often been a central tool of analysis. This research seeks to build on the aforementioned research, employing Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach as a theoretical framework to explore how an individual’s capabilities and functionings differ in relation to transport. Beijing is used as a case study, with analysis from three stations on the Beijing subway line 1 and its extension to the Batong line, namely Guomao, Sihui and Tuqiao. Martha Nussbaum’s Central Human Capabilities Approach is used to frame the analysis.The results show that functionings and capabilities differ according to an individual’s socio- economic characteristics and geographical location, meaning that both the opportunities to participate in life and also the actual activities themselves differ. This is an important distinction that the Capabilities Approach offers, and it is useful to consider if the potential for achieving improved social equity is to be realised.