How Poverty Affects Transport

The European commission establishes that essential services are those that are key for the basic living needs of the population. And transport is considered one of these basic needs, as it has a great impact on equality in terms of job opportunities, access to health care, education and other basic needs. [1]

What is then transport poverty? How does social and economic issues influence on how citizens and, especially, groups in a situation of vulnerability, move? Poverty on transport happens when an individual or a household have to spend more than what they can afford for their basic transport needs.

The Eurostat (2019) determines that private car mobility still dominates the scenario, accounting for almost 83 % of the total, while public transport (trains and buses) only account for 17.2 % of the total mobility share. It also estimates that almost 2.5 % of the total population of the European Union suffer from transport poverty, and almost 6 % of the people at at risk of poverty acknowledges suffering from mobility poverty as well, showing the existence of this problem. [2]

A low-income situation is the main cause of transport poverty, because it traduces into the impossibility to afford enough transport means to cover all the basic needs. However, there are other aspects provoking transport poverty situations. One of the main alternative causes is the lack of proper transport and public transport connections with the citizens workplace, hospitals, education centres, or supermarkets. That is specially problematic when it comes to rural areas. Moreover, there are other key aspects like street connectivity or safety of the neighbourhood that need to be taken into consideration. Gender inequality also hits on transport poverty, with women being statistically more affected by it.

The following list presents a summary of transport poverty main causes.

Low – income

Transport poverty is directly linked with energy poverty and social exclusion risk situations.

– Not being able to afford transport options.
– Not being able to afford a private car in a car-centred society.

Poor connectivity

Transport poverty is also related to interconnectivity between households and basic needs.

– Especially in rural areas
– No public transport options, or limited frequencies
– Poorly connected roads

Climate change policies

Climate change policies also affect transport poverty by provoking an increase in mobility related costs.

– Rising of traditional fuel prices due to carbon taxes.
– Increase of public transport costs due to new infrastructure needed.

Gender and transport poverty

Women are more vulnerable statistically, since they generally take care of the household and also have a job (double-employment).

– Combining home tasks, children care, and work translates in more transport needs.
– Rural and poorly connected areas affect even more due to having to use more transport means.
– Security in public transport and neighbourhood safety due to sexist violence can also have an impact

What other aspects are important when analyzing poverty in transport? Could this problem increase in the upcoming years? In Ecoserveis we are doing our best to deal with this reality. Through the project “Mobilitat Justa” (Fair and sustainable mobility & Fair Mobility II: Sustainable Mobility Against Inequality) we have the goal to study and analyse the inequalities that exist in the transport sector, in order to promote more sustainable and fair alternatives.


[1] European Comission (2019).

[2] Eurostat (2019)