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Public defense of Csaba Toth's PhD Dissertation: Mobility subsidies and distributive justice - case study of Budapest

Budapest brown zones
Friday, December 17, 2021, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Mobility subsidies and distributive justice - case study of Budapest

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Meeting ID: 981 0888 0365
Passcode: 936576


Car use dominates inner cities worldwide and this car domination reduces the quality of life through public space consumption and air and noise pollution to a relatively great extent. It is widely acknowledged that to reduce these problems the external costs of car use (costs that are not borne by the car user but imposed on society) should be internalized, and tax exemptions and subsidized prices should be ended. However, as these measures would entail significant price rises, they are considered unpopular and so rarely implemented. This research aims to explore through a detailed case study the consequences if all external costs, tax exemptions and subsidized prices of motorized transport are considered as subsidies and the distribution of these subsidies is viewed through the lens of distributive justice. The research hypothesizes that in this case the distribution of mobility-related subsidies can be shown to be unjust, as the inequalities in distribution are based neither on desert nor need and, further, that redistributing them might be popular or at least publicly acceptable. Thus, as redistributions would entail higher prices for car use due to subsidy reductions, they would result in lower car domination. Based on this line of reasoning the research aims to explore (1) the mobility-related subsidies in the case of inner city residents and workers of Budapest, (2) how (un)just the distribution of these subsidies is, and (3) how the public perceives the distribution and potential redistributions of subsidies. Mobility-related subsidies include unspecific subsidies (e.g. the external costs of climate change or resource use), air pollution subsidies, parking subsidies, public transportation subsidies and commuting subsidies and the estimation of their unit values (per km, or per year in the case of parking) are based on widely accepted studies and legal regulations. Regarding the distribution of mobility-related subsidies, representative characters with distinct mobility patterns are created and the annual amount of mobility related subsidies they receive is calculated based on the unit values of subsidies and the mobility patterns of these characters. Then I investigate whether the annual amounts of subsidies are markedly different in the case of different characters, and if they are, whether the differences can be explained by the desert or need of the characters. Finally, I explore the public views regarding the current distribution and potential redistributions of subsidies in the case of parking. The findings suggest that the distribution of mobility related subsidies is indeed unjust, and most people can perceive this injustice and would support a more equal distribution of mobility related subsidies. Based on these findings I formulate policy recommendations that would redistribute the mobility related subsidies by raising the prices of motorized mobility in Budapest metropolitan areas and providing equal or need-based monetary subsidies. Finally, I briefly consider the potential barriers to introducing such policies.

Thesis defense committee:

Supervisor: Alan Watt, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy (CEU)
Co-Supervisor: Laszlo Pinter, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy (CEU)
Internal member: Ruben Mnatsakanian, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy (CEU)
External memberMattias Juhasz, Researcher / external expert on traffic, Budapest University of Technology and Economics

Opponent: Liam F. Beiser-McGrath, University of London
Chair: Karl Hall, CEU