IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Affordability and Subsidies in Public Urban Transport: What Do We Mean, What Can Be Done?

Listed author(s):
  • Tomás Serebrisky
  • Andrés Gómez‐Lobo
  • Nicolás Estupiñán
  • Ramón Muñoz‐Raskin

Subsidy policies on public urban transport have been adopted ubiquitously. Both in developed and developing countries, subsidies are implemented under two major premises: (1) to increase public transport use and to reduce externalities, such as greenhouse gas emissions and congestion, and (2) to make transport more affordable, particularly for the poorest. This paper focuses on the latter. Despite the widespread implementation of subsidies, there are virtually no quantitative assessments of their distributional incidence, making it impossible to determine if these policy instruments are pro‐poor. Using different tools to quantitatively evaluate the incidence and distributive impacts of subsidy policy options, this paper analyses the findings of a series of research papers that have studied urban public transport subsidy policies in developed and developing countries. Available evidence indicates that current public urban transport subsidy policies do not make the poorest better off. Supply side subsidies—provided to the operator—are, for the most part, neutral or regressive; while demand side subsidies—provided to the user—perform better, although many of them do not improve income distribution. Considering that the vast majority of developing countries justify public urban transport subsidies on social grounds, as a means to improve the mobility, and thus welfare, of the poorest, it is imperative to move away from supply side subsidies towards demand side subsidies and integrate transport social concerns into wider poverty alleviation efforts, which include the possibility of channelling subsidies through monetary transfer systems or through other welfare instruments (food subsidies, health services and education for the poor).

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Transport Reviews.

Volume (Year): 29 (2009)
Issue (Month): 6 (January)
Pages: 715-739

in new window

Handle: RePEc:taf:transr:v:29:y:2009:i:6:p:715-739
DOI: 10.1080/01441640902786415
Contact details of provider: Web page:

Order Information: Web:

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:transr:v:29:y:2009:i:6:p:715-739. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael McNulty)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.