A justice-theoretic approach to the distribution of transportation benefits: Implications for transportation planning practice in the United States

Karel Martens, Aaron Golub, Glenn Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

98 Scopus citations


Transportation improvements inevitably lead to an uneven distribution of user benefits, in space and by network type (private and public transport). This paper makes a moral argument for what would be a fair distribution of these benefits. The argument follows Walzer's " Spheres of Justice" approach to define the benefits of transportation, access, as a sphere deserving a separate, non-market driven, distribution. That distribution, we propose, is one where the maximum gap between the lowest and highest accessibility, both by mode and in space, should be limited, while attempting to maximize average access. We then review transportation planning practice for a priori distributional goals and find little explicit guidance in conventional and even justice-oriented transportation planning and analyses. We end with a discussion of the implications for practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)684-695
Number of pages12
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2012



  • Access
  • Equity
  • Justice
  • Rawls
  • Walzer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Management Science and Operations Research

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