Entitlement to concessionary public transport and wellbeing: a qualitative study of young people and older citizens in London, UK.

Research paper by Alasdair A Jones, Anna A Goodman, Helen H Roberts, Rebecca R Steinbach, Judith J Green

Indexed on: 16 Jan '13Published on: 16 Jan '13Published in: Social Science & Medicine


Access to transport is an important determinant of health, and concessionary fares for public transport are one way to reduce the 'transport exclusion' that can limit access. This paper draws on qualitative data from two groups typically at risk of transport exclusion: young people (12-18 years of age, n = 118) and older citizens (60+ years of age, n = 46). The data were collected in London, UK, where young people and older citizens are currently entitled to concessionary bus travel. We focus on how this entitlement is understood and enacted, and how different sources of entitlement mediate the relationship between transport and wellbeing. Both groups felt that their formal entitlement to travel for free reflected their social worth and was, particularly for older citizens, relatively unproblematic. The provision of a concessionary transport entitlement also helped to combat feelings of social exclusion by enhancing recipients' sense of belonging to the city and to a 'community'. However, informal entitlements to particular spaces on the bus reflected less valued social attributes such as need or frailty. Thus in the course of travelling by bus the enactment of entitlements to space and seats entailed the negotiation of social differences and personal vulnerabilities, and this carried with it potential threats to wellbeing. We conclude that the process, as well as the substance, of entitlement can mediate wellbeing; and that where the basis for providing a given entitlement is widely understood and accepted, the risks to wellbeing associated with enacting that entitlement will be reduced.