Image: Richard Johnson / AdobeStock

Image: Richard Johnson / AdobeStock

New Approaches to Transport Unaffordability


Transport affordability is often understood in purely economic terms, as the mismatch between high transport prices and low incomes. But experiences of being unable to afford transport can be much more complex, and incorporate different social practices, changing technologies, and political and business decisions. Examples include a passenger not having the exact fare for a bus journey, or a rail commuter being unable to buy a season ticket and relying on expensive day fares. During 2021 and 2022, the project New theoretical and methodological approaches to transport unaffordability, led by Dr Anna Plyushteva, will examine this expanded notion of transport unaffordability.

The project, funded by the University of Oxford John Fell Fund, examines four dimensions of unaffordability: transactions; journeys; budgets; and conversations, using a combination of qualitative methods (participant observation, social media content analysis, in-depth interviews, and diaries). The geographical focus of the research is the UK, with fieldwork conducted in the city of Bristol between October 2021 and April 2022. Developed in consultation with civil society organisations concerned with the accessibility and affordability of transport (Bus Users, Transport for All), the project will develop understandings of transport unaffordability which better reflect the lived experience of transport users. Some of the themes the project has identified so far include the role of uncertainty (e.g. not knowing how much a taxi journey will cost), the importance of cash payments, and the impact of different transport operators' refund policies.

Apart from academic publications, the project will produce policy briefs for the civil society organisations which have provided support, and will inform further research in the broader fields of transport poverty and inclusion.

Further Information

For more information on this research project please contact Dr Anna Plyushteva.

In brief


2021 - 2022


John Fell Fund

TSU Principal Investigator

Dr Anna Plyushteva


Dr Kris Hyesoo Lee


Dr Anna Plyushteva