Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Understanding Capabilities, Functionings and Travel in High and Low Income Neighbourhoods in Manila

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Abstract:  Transport plays an important role in helping people to access activities and participate in life. The availability of transport networks, the modes available, new infrastructure proposals, and the type of urban development can all impact on and change activity participation, and hence contribute to social equity in the city. This article uses surveys in low and high income neighbourhoods in Manila, the Philippines, to assess the social equity implications of differential access to transport. The analysis demonstrates how the theoretical framework of the Capability Approach (Nussbaum, 2003; Sen, 1985, 1999, 2009) can be used to assess what individuals might be able to access (capabilities) versus their actual travel (functionings). The spatial patterns of travel and access to activities are assessed, demonstrating significant differences by gender, age, income and neighbourhood, in terms of travel mode and cost of travel; health, physical and mental integrity; senses, imagination and thoughts; reasoning and planning; social interaction; natural environment; sustainable modes; and information. This approach to assessing the transport dimensions of social equity offers much potential, based not only on access to resources or consumption of mobility, but also in the opportunities that people have in relation to their activity participation. The case study context is also informative, with Manila providing an example of an Asian city with high levels of private car usage, high levels of congestion, and large spatial and income differentials in travel and associated social equity.

Keywords:  Capability Approach; income; Manila; mobility; neighbourhood; social equity; transport; travel



© Robin Hickman, Mengqiu Cao, Beatriz Mella Lira, Alexis Fillone, Jose Bienvenido Biona. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.