Types of objective
Sustainability as an overarching objective
A possible set of sub-objectives
Conflicts, constraints and priorities
Problems as indicators of failure to achieve objectives
Quantified objectives and performance indicators
Types of objective
An objective is a statement of a desired end-state. However, that statement can range from the very general, such as a successful urban economy or a high standard of quality of life, to the very specific, such as avoiding pollution levels above a specified threshold. Both are helpful, the first in providing the context for the strategy, and a direction to it; the second in providing a basis for assessing whether the objective is being met.
Statements of vision The most general specifications often appear in Statements of Vision: broad indications of the type of area which politicians or the public wish to see. These serve to identify long term goals to which more detailed transport policy objectives can contribute.
The London Planning Advisory Committee, for example, specified a "Fourfold Vision for London" in which the capital would provide a strong economy; a good quality of life; a sustainable future; and opportunities for all (LPAC, 1994). Similarly, the Birmingham Integrated Transport Study started with a vision of Birmingham as:
1. having a national and international standing equivalent to that of other European provincial capitals;
2. maintaining its special and high level role as a regional centre; and
3. providing a social and cultural environment in which its diverse groups of residents could each play a satisfying and distinctive part (Wenban-Smith et al, 1990).
Singapore, more directly, set itself the target "to provide Singaporeans with a world class transport system" (LTA, 1996).
These broad statements often say nothing about transport itself; instead they raise the question: "how best can transport help to realise this vision?". The answers to this question help to specify the higher level transport policy objectives.
Higher level objectives These, which are sometimes referred to as aims or goals, identify attributes of the transport system, or its side effects, which can be improved as a means of realising the vision. Typical among them are the desire to reduce congestion, protect the environment, avoid accidents and improve accessibility.
Birmingham's five transport objectives within its overall vision were:
Singapore's objectives are specified as being to:
Some of these "objectives" have more to do with the strategy to be implemented to meet other true objectives. For example, the emphasis on integration in both the Singapore and UK objectives is not an end in itself, but a strategic approach which helps achieve the other objectives. The PROSPECTS project (May, Matthews and Jarvi-Nykanen, 2001), on which this Knowledgebase is founded, drew a clear distinction between objectives and strategy. It considered sustainability as an overarching objective, and identified the following key sub-objectives:
It will be seen that this list covers all of the objectives identified by others above; consultation with European cities suggested that it provided a suitably comprehensive coverage of their aims. These objectives are defined more fully below, and are used in Level 2 as the basis for assessing the performance of individual policy instruments. In addition the Level 2 assessment considers two further objectives, which might more readily be considered as avoidance of constraints:
These broad objectives indicate the directions in which strategies should be developed. They are sufficient to indicate that the appraisal procedures should predict and assess the level of congestion, noise, pollution, accidents and access. They also provide a means of assessing the relative performance of different strategies in reducing pollution or accidents. They do not, however, indicate whether a particular solution is adequate in its impact. To do this more specific, quantified objectives are needed.
Quantified objectives Quantified objectives may indicate a requirement, for example, to avoid frontage noise levels in excess of 68 decibels, or residents without cars being more than 30 minutes from the nearest superstore. They provide a clearer basis for assessing performance of the strategy, but they do require careful definition if the specified thresholds are to be realistic. Once this is done, quantified objectives provide a direct basis for identifying problems, for current or future conditions, on the basis that a problem occurs wherever the quantified objective is not met.
Solution-specific "objectives" It is important to avoid
specifying solutions within the objectives, since this constrains the
search for solutions, and may well lead to an overall strategy which is
less appropriate to the area's needs. A statement such as "to improve
accessibility by public transport by introducing bus priorities"
suggests that this is the only way of improving accessibility. A broader
statement of strategy, such as "to reduce the level of car use"
begs the question as to whether a reduction in car use is essential to
meet the policy objectives. Where such statements are made, it is preferable
to ask why this solution is being proposed and what it is designed to
achieve. Answers to such questions should lead to a clearer specification
of the true underlying objectives. The solution-specific "objective"
can then be replaced by the set of underlying objectives, and the proposed
solution can be tested alongside others in the strategy formulation process.
The definition of sustainability adopted for the Knowledgebase follows Chichilnisky (1996) and Heal (1998), see Minken (1999). According to them, one of the two defining characteristics of sustainability as an objec-tive is that it includes both the welfare of the present society and the society of the very distant future. The second defining character-istic of sustainability is that it implies conservation of natural resources. Put in other words: natural resources should be valued not only as something that may be consumed (in production or consumption), but also as stocks that benefit us even when not being consumed. The fundamental reason for this is that we are dependent on some basic qualities of our surrounding ecosystems for our quality of life and indeed to continue to exist.
If our strategies now had negligible long run effects, sustainability would not be an issue. The concerns about sustainability arises precisely because our actions now may constrain the opportunities of future generations and diminish their maximum attainable welfare. The aspects of our actions that are most likely to do so, are energy consumption, CO2-emissions, emissions of other pollutants with long term or irreversible effects, and the running down of non-renewable resources like various kinds of green areas and cultural sites inherited from the past. Some forms of long term investments are also highly relevant.
On this basis, a sustainable urban transport and land use system can
be considered as one which:
This definition has largely been accepted by European cities, 85% of whom considered it to be appropriate or very appropriate.
Because sustainability involves trade-offs between generations, all the
sub-objectives considered below, even if they are taken to apply only
to the present generations, are legitimately sub-objectives of sustainability.
Ideally, however, they should apply both to the present and to every future
generation. If it is seen as impossible to predict and measure the level
of sustainability at some distant point in the future, special emphasis
must be attached to the sub-objectives whose current level will mean the
most for the welfare of future generations. It is easily seen from our
definition of sustainability which sub-objectives in the list below should
be given a special emphasis when planning for sustainability.
Within the context of attempting to achieve sustainability, eight sub-objectives can be identified. These are defined below, but are not listed in any particular order of priority.
In practice, in transport, the efficiency objective is defined more narrowly. It is concerned primarily with maximising the net benefits, in resource terms, of the provision of transport. Efficiency defined in this way is central to the principles of social cost-benefit analysis, and a higher net present value from a cost-benefit assessment represents a more efficient outcome. However, it is based directly on the values which individuals assign to their journeys, and there has been some concern recently that the resulting emphasis on increases in the amount of travel, and in speed of travel, may not be wholly consistent with the needs of society.
More recently, particularly following the Rio and Kyoto Summits, the environmental protection objective has been defined more widely to include reduction of the impact of transport on the global environment, particularly through emission of carbon dioxide, but also by consumption of scarce and non-renewable resources.
Equity, social inclusion and accessibility
Accessibility can be defined as "ease of reaching", and the accessibility objective is concerned with increasing the ability with which people in different locations, and with differing availability of transport, can reach different types of facility. In most cases accessibility is considered from the point of view of the resident, and assessed for access to activities such as employment, shopping and leisure. By considering accessibility separately for those with and without cars available, or for journeys by car and by public transport, the shortcomings of the existing transport system can be readily identified. It is possible also to consider accessibility from the standpoint of the employer or retail outlet, wanting to obtain as large a catchment as possible in terms of potential employees or customers. In either case, access can be measured simply in terms of the time spent travelling or, using the concept of generalised cost, in terms of a combination of time and money costs.
While all of the other sub-objectives can be considered for an area as a whole, they also affect different groups of people in society in differing ways. The equity objective is concerned with ensuring that the benefits of transport strategies are reasonably equally distributed, or are focused particularly on those with special needs. Among the latter may be included lower income residents, those without cars available, elderly and disabled people, and those living in deprived areas. The equity objective will also be concerned with avoiding worsening accessibility, the environment or safety for any of these groups. One way of considering these equity, or distributional, issues is by reference to an impact matrix, which identifies the impact groups of concern to decision makers (among both residents and businesses) and the objectives and indicators which are of particular concern to them.
It has been common practice for some time in the UK to place money values on casualties and accidents of differing severity, and to include these within a social cost benefit analysis. These values include the direct costs of accidents, such as loss of output, hospital, police and insurance costs, and replacement of property and, more controversially, an allowance for the pain, grief and suffering incurred.
While these sub-objectives may all be aspirations of a particular urban area, they will almost certainly not all be able to be achieved. Some will be in conflict with others. For example, the requirements of the efficiency objective may well, by encouraging faster or more frequent travel, run counter to those of sustainability. Equally means of improving accessibility, by car or by bus, may contribute to increased intrusion into the local environment. The equity objective represents an area in which many of these conflicts are focused. It will almost certainly not be possible to achieve similar improvements in the environment in all areas of a city, or similar increases in safety or accessibility for all modes of travel. For these reasons it is particularly important to be able to specify priorities among objectives (for example that protection of the environment is more (or less) important than economic development) as well as among impact groups.
Once this is done, the other objectives serve as constraints. The environment can be enhanced subject to there not being too great an adverse impact on economic activity. The safety of cyclists can be improved subject to there not being too great a restriction on bus users. In this way all the objectives, and not just those concerning finance and practicability, can be specified also as constraints: as outcomes which the strategy should avoid.
The figure below summarises the assessment of the importance of the first six sub-objectives to European cities. In all cases over 90% of respondents considered them of importance. Economic growth received the highest scores, followed by safety and economic efficiency; liveable streets and the environment received slightly lower scores. The equity sub-objective received the lowest assessment, with only 70% considering it important or very important. There were very few differences by city size; the only ones of note were that economic growth was slightly less important for medium sized cities, and liveable streets was of most importance to the smaller cities.
Importance of sub-objectives to survey cities (number of cities)
While objectives, as defined in Section 3.3, are the starting point for
Objective-led Planning, Problem-oriented Planning requires them to be
respecified as a set of problems to be overcome. Since both approaches
are used in practice, they are both reflected in the assessment of individual
policy instruments in Level
2. The principal problems which will indicate failure to achieve objectives
are listed below
There are three problems with setting targets of these kinds. First, there is no guarantee that they are achievable. It may be in practice that performance against other objectives, such as efficiency, finance or practicability, would be much worse if the targets were met in full. Second, and conversely, they may be all too readily achieved; if targets are set which are easy to meet they may result in under-achievement against the underlying objective. Third, targets which have to do with the strategy rather than the objectives, such as seeking a given increase in the level of cycling, beg the question as to whether this is the most appropriate strategy for achieving the objectives.
It may well be preferable to develop an overall strategy which goes as far as possible to achieving the priority objectives, without producing unacceptable disbenefits against the lower priority objectives, and then to convert that strategy into a series of targets which can be used to monitor performance and achievement. In other words, the strategy ought to determine the targets, rather than the targets being allowed to define the strategy.
At a more detailed level, it may be appropriate to define specific targets for the achievement of specified objectives in particular locations. These can be produced for each of a series of indicators for each objective. This level of treatment makes it easy to identify problems and to demonstrate achievement either with a predicted strategy or with implementation. However, once again it is essential to avoid targets which are too demanding, or insufficiently so. In some cases the targets can be derived from scientific studies which demonstrate that an impact, such as carbon monoxide levels, causes a serious problem above a given level. An alternative approach is to use attitude surveys, which indicate that people are much more dissatisfied when problems such as delays or noise exceed a given level. However, this presupposes that the target, or threshold, uniquely defines the point at which problems occur. In practice, this will often not be the case, as illustrated in the figure below, which shows the relationship between façade noise level and percentage of occupants likely to be annoyed. Superimposed on this is the UK's standard 68 dB threshold above which action is required in the case of road construction. It is clear that failure to deal with noise levels below 68 dB will leave a large proportion annoyed. Equally there will be benefits to be gained from a reduction from, say, 75 dBA to 70 dBA, which will not be identified by such a target. A more defensible approach is to define a series of thresholds, including one which it is desirable to attain, and one above which action is definitely necessary.
Figure to be provided