Does public transport accessibility enhance subjective well-being? A study of the City of Johannesburg

Author: Lionjanga N., Venter C. (2018)

Journal: Research in Transportation Economics

Keywords: Accessibility; Time-series analysis; Well-being; Quality of life; Johannesburg; Public transport; Bus rapid transit

The Net Wage After Commute describes the potential wage earnable less the transport costs incurred to commute
to work from a particular location. This paper explores the time-series development of accessibility, using this
poverty-relevant metric, in low-income residential areas of Johannesburg, biennially from 2009 to 2013 when
accessibility patterns were altered as a result of investment in the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. The results
suggest that significant changes in accessibility are driven by improved affordability rather than spatial coverage
enhancements, which were very marginal in this case. A difference-in-differences approach is adopted to explore
the effects of access to the BRT on the subjective well-being of lower-income households. The model fails to find
evidence that the additional accessibility provided by the BRT improves the general sense of well-being in the
communities it serves. There is evidence however of well-being improvements among the narrower cohort of
actual users of BRT, especially in terms of their satisfaction with their amount of free time. This suggests that the BRT in Johannesburg is beneficial as a transport project, but not yet as a general urban intervention able to
leverage wider improvements in life satisfaction within served communities.