The transportation system in Lebanon is a deep-rooted inequality reinforced by bankruptcy

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The deterioration of basic services resulting from bankruptcy, scarcity of dollars and austerity will not stop when the power is cut off, the quality of cellular service or the deterioration of health services and education, but it will also affect other public and basic services, most notably transportation, as a result of the rise in the price of the dollar and with it car parts, and the continued bleeding in currencies. And the decline in the possibility of securing fuel in a sustainable manner and in sufficient quantities, making transportation in private cars very expensive and perhaps not possible for some, in light of the lack of a public transport system.
The last passenger journey took place on the Lebanon Train in 1991, then the train continued to carry goods for two years before it stopped operating completely. Since that day, residents of Lebanon did not receive fast public transportation, and they deliberately compensated for their denial of public transport services, using private cars, even if they were in debt. The number of car loans up to the first quarter of 2019 amounted to about 73,000, valued at $ 964 million, or by resorting to private shared transportation despite its poor services.

Transport by numbers
The number of cars in Lebanon is estimated at about 1.53 million private cars, equivalent to 90% of the total vehicle fleet, noting that 70% of all households in Lebanon own at least one car (89% of urban or middle and high income families). This means that there are 307 cars for every thousand residents. It is a very high rate compared to the global average of 182 vehicles per thousand residents, the rate for Eastern European countries and Russia (281 vehicles per thousand residents), and even the Middle East average (105 vehicles per thousand residents).
Beirut is one of the most car-driving cities in the Middle East, with an average of 350 cars per thousand residents, which means a high percentage of cars that provide more than 80% of the motorized transportation (motorized vehicles), and half of the restricted transportation (between the place of residence and the place of work / study). And two-thirds of unrestricted travel (for consumption, entertainment, visits …). On the other hand, public transport vehicles provide 40% of restricted travel, a third of unrestricted movements, and only about 7% of all travel by the Lebanese people are on foot due to the almost complete absence of a bicycle.

The political economy of transportation
The dominance of the car on the movement of the Lebanese is due to the political economy of the post-civil war period, which weakened public transport services in favor of real estate development, especially in the center, i.e. Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon, and secured protection for the interests of fuel and car importers who benefited from the high incomes of families resulting from the remittances of their migrant members, The resulting social and cultural factors promoted the use of private cars, as well as the policy of expanding infrastructure for cars, such as the road and parking network, and urban and urban expansion.
This reality has produced several negative consequences, most notably the stifling traffic congestion in cities and on the main axes, the high rate of environmental pollution, poor traffic safety, stimulation of urban expansion, and the loss of large areas of public space in favor of building roads and parking lots. The social cost of these discharges is estimated at more than 7% of GDP (2015), in addition to a negative social impact represented in the inequality of movement among residents, as is the case in most rich countries with car-based transportation systems.

Deepening inequality
This policy adopted during the 30 years following the Lebanese war resulted in inequality in mobility, which is evident through the difference in speed and ease of access between car users and users of other means of transport, and caused by several factors, most notably:
– The absence of the ability of several societal groups to own or use the car (families with limited incomes, the elderly, people with special needs, and people who do not have market books …).
– The weakness of public transport services in Lebanon, as they are not organized, and at the same time are expensive in relation to their quality, and their confinement in Greater Beirut, and thus their absence in most of the peripheral areas. In addition, car transportation is twice as fast as bus travel in urban travel (within Beirut, for example), and 1.3 times faster when traveling between regions (Beirut – Akkar, for example). The difference in speed and accessibility reinforces the inequality between private car users and public transportation users.
The economic and demographic distribution in Lebanon, which is characterized by an urban, demographic, economic and political concentration in Greater Beirut. This raised the attractiveness of this region and stimulated the displacement process towards it, especially from the outskirts and the nearby suburbs. This factor was further reinforced by the continuous urban sprawl resulting from migration from the outskirts towards the city and the reverse migration from the city towards its suburbs due to the high cost of living in it, so that private car users enjoy a privilege compared to the users of other modes of transport. This privilege allows them to access the center where jobs and services are located more easily, and it takes hold more with the increase in the rate of use of the car. The higher the number of motorists, the more services connected to it directly, such as the road network, garages and parking lots, and indirectly, such as shopping places.

About 70% of the poorest families in Lebanon do not own a car

Inequality is also demonstrated by mobility allocations within the household budget. In countries whose residents depend heavily on private cars for their transportation, as is the case in Lebanon, the cost of transportation is high, especially in terms of the costs of owning, consuming and maintaining a car and buying fuel. In practice, mobility allocations acquire about 13% of families’ incomes and 14% of their total expenditures, which is a relatively high cost that reinforces inequality between families according to their incomes, and puts pressure on them, which increases with the decrease in the level of income, which leads to the risk of “social exclusion.”
And since the poorest families are the least able to access a car (about 70% of the poorest families in Lebanon do not own a car), and in the absence of an advanced and sustainable public transportation system, these families find themselves facing low range and speed of access to services and jobs compared to The rest of the families. This decrease becomes more effective if poor families live on the periphery far from the center.

May God bless the Arab women!
With the intensification of the economic crisis, the deterioration of the value of the lira and the dependence on imports to secure consumption related to the use of the car (vehicles, fuel and spare parts) on the one hand, and the decrease in the value of income and the increase in the poverty rate on the other hand, it seems that we are heading towards a new type of inequality in mobility, which is summarized by the restriction of the privilege of mobility Easily and freely with high income families. The use of private cars will become costly to a large segment of society, which drives them to abandon them, or use them and incur their high costs at the expense of other basic services and needs due to the absence of an effective alternative.
what does that mean? A large number of individuals were forced to resort to individual solutions to reduce their losses, such as:
Use public transportation in its current form and spend more time commuting with less comfort.
– Resorting to participatory transportation, that is, sharing the car between several people to move towards one destination, such as work.
Reducing the costs of using the car, such as canceling insurance, neglecting maintenance, and abandoning parking consumption.
These steps may be applicable and their cost is limited in some cases, but in other cases they will result in greater costs and difficulty related to changing the place of residence to become closer to work or even leaving it due to the difficulty of accessing it.

What to do
This brings us to two questions: What are the economic and social impacts of changing the level of resident mobility? Has the authority taken measures to limit these effects, or has it adopted a policy of decision again, which will gradually lead to the formation of a privileged class capable of moving in easy and fast ways, in exchange for a majority deprived of mobility or under the pressure of very high travel costs?
Of course, the solution cannot be technical but rather political, and it stems from the existence of a state capable of making decisions, protecting society and building an economy, that is, a civil state not governed by sectarian quotas, to be established during a transitional phase run by a government with legislative powers capable of making decisions Fast track that secures people’s rights, including a fairer, more sustainable, advanced and integrated transportation system, finding feasible alternatives at the lowest cost, and exploiting the expected decrease in the rate of car use to establish these alternatives as reliable means of transportation.

* Member of the Citizens Movement of a State

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