Transport strategy
Policy Instruments

Objectives, indicators and targets
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:

  • efficiency in the use of resources;
  • accessibility within and outside the city;
  • an enhanced environment, including townscape and safety;
  • economic regeneration;
  • practicability, including financial feasibility (Wenban-Smith et al, 1990).

Singapore's objectives are specified as being to:

  • "deliver an effective land transport network that is integrated, efficient, cost-effective
    and sustainable to meet the nation's needs;"
  • "plan, develop and manage Singapore's land transport system to support a quality
    environment while making optimal use of our transport and safeguarding the
    well-being of the travelling public;"
  • "develop and implement policies to encourage commuters to choose the
    most appropriate transportation mode" (LTA, 1999a).

The UK Government has specified the following set of objectives for the pursuit of its integrated transport policy, and the appraisal of local authorities' plans (DETR, 1998):-

  • to protect and enhance the built and natural environment;
  • to improve safety for all travellers;
  • to contribute to an efficient economy, and to support sustainable economic growth in appropriate locations;
  • to promote accessibility to everyday facilities for all, especially those without a car;
  • to promote the integration of all forms of transport and land use planning, leading to a better, more efficient transport system.

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:

  • economic efficiency;
  • liveable streets;
  • environmental protection;
  • equity, social inclusion and accessibility;
  • safety;
  • economic growth.

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:

  • finance;
  • practicability.

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.

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Sustainability as an overarching objective

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:

  • provides access to goods and services in an efficient way for all inhabitants of the urban area
  • protects the environment, cultural heritage and ecosystems for the present generation,
  • does not endanger the opportunities of future generations to reach at least the same welfare level as those living now, including the welfare they derive from their natural environment and cultural heritage.

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.

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A possible set of sub-objectives

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.

Economic efficiency
Much economic analysis is concerned with defining "efficient" allocations of scarce resources. Economic efficiency is achieved when it is impossible to make one person or group in society better off without making another group worse off. In such a situation, it is impossible to find any measures for which - if they were undertaken - the gainers would be able to compensate the losers and still be better off themselves. In other words, seeking economic efficiency means taking all measures for which the "willingness to pay" of the beneficiaries exceeds the "required compensation" of the losers. Such a definition, applied to transport, would involve comparing benefits to travellers such as faster travel time with disbenefits such as increased noise and pollution. This would subsume virtually all of the other sub-objectives listed below.

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.

Liveable streets
City life involves more than simply more opportunities for employment, shopping, leisure and culture. If cities are to be attractive as places to live, they must compete with smaller towns and rural areas in being "liveable". Liveable streets are characterised by increased freedom of movement for pedestrians and cyclists, including reduced risk of traffic accidents and increased opportunities for social, cultural and recreational activity within an urban neighbourhood. This objective is thus focused on streets and outdoor conditions in residential areas. It is an important objective when planning for sustainability, and deserves to stand alone because it is neither captured in the economic efficiency objective, nor fully in environmental protection or safety objectives.

Environmental protection
The environmental protection objective involves reducing the impact of transport facilities, and their use, on the environment of both users and non-users. Traditionally, the environmental impacts of concern include noise, atmospheric pollution of differing kinds, vibration, visual intrusion, severance, fear and intimidation, and the loss of intrinsically valuable objects, such as flora and fauna, ancient monuments and historic buildings through the consumption of land.

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
Social inclusion is concerned primarily with accessibility for those without a car and those whose mobility is impaired.

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.

The safety objective is concerned straightforwardly with reducing the loss of life, injuries and damage to property resulting from transport accidents. The objective is thus closely associated with the concerns over fear and intimidation listed under environmental protection above, and these concerns could as readily be covered under either heading .

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.

Economic growth
The economic regeneration objective can be defined in a number of ways, depending on the needs of the local area. At its most general it involves reinforcing the land use plans of the area. If these foresee a growth in industry in the inner city, new residential areas or a revitalised shopping centre, then these are the developments which the transport strategy should be supporting. At its simplest it can do so by providing the new infrastructure and services required for areas of new development. But transport can also contribute to the encouragement of new activity by improving accessibility to an area, by enhancing its environment and, potentially, by improving the image of the area. The economic regeneration objective therefore relates directly to those of accessibility and environmental protection.

The ability to finance an individual policy instrument or an overall strategy is most often treated as a constraint, and is considered further in Section 6. However, pricing instruments in particular also offer ways of generating income to finance an overall strategy. This objective can therefore be thought of as involving both minimising the capital and operating costs of the strategy, and generating revenue to finance it.

The other barriers considered in Section 6 are practical ones. They include availability of legislation, feasibility of technology, and ease of administration and enforcement. Public and political acceptability can also potentially be considered under this heading. Flexibility in design and operation, to deal with uncertainties in operating circumstances, may also be important. The practicability objective can therefore be defined as ensuring that policies are technically, legally and politically feasible, and adaptable to changing circumstances.

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Conflicts, constraints and priorities

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)

Problems as indicators of failure to achieve objectives


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

  • economic efficiency: delays resulting from congestion; unreliability and variability in travel time arising from congestion; both considered for all affected modes of travel;

  • liveable streets: community severance, in which traffic and infrastructure impose physical or psychological barriers on movement, and social contact, within urban areas; visual intrusion from traffic or infrastructure; loss of local amenities, which may occur when people are encouraged to shop and pursue leisure activities further from home;

  • environmental protection: global warming through increased emission of carbon dioxide; local air pollution through increased emission of carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, hydrocarbons and micro-particulates; noise generated by the flow, speed and composition of the traffic stream; reduction of green space through increased infrastructure provision, and encouragement of urban sprawl; damage to environmentally sensitive sites from traffic levels or new infrastructure;

  • equity: poor accessibility for those without a car; poor accessibility for those with mobility impairments; disproportionate disadvantaging of particular social groups or of people living in particular areas; increased social exclusion;

  • safety: number, severity and risk of accidents overall and for each mode;

  • economic growth: suppression of the potential for economic activity; direct loss of economic activity.

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    Quantified objectives and performance indicators

    While the higher level objectives defined above indicate the directions in which a strategy should aim, they say nothing about the amount which it would be appropriate to achieve. As a result, it may be difficult to judge whether a proposed strategy is successful, or whether more could be achieved. More quantified objectives can be specified in terms of a series of indicators, which can be either general or specific, and which can be used also to identify problems.

    Indicators for use in planning must meet a number of requirements. First, they must be comprehensive, and fully reflect the objectives to which they relate. Second, they must avoid double-counting. Third, they should be sensitive to changes in the policy instruments implemented.

    A suggested set of indicators is given below.

    Suggested indicators
    Economic efficiency Delays for vehicles (by type) at junctions
    Delays for pedestrians at road crossings
    Time and money costs of journeys actually undertaken
    Variability in journey time (by type of journey)
    Costs of operating different transport services
    Environmental protection Noise levels
    Levels of different local pollutants
    Visual intrusion
    Townscape quality (subjective)
    Fear and intimidation
    Severance (subjective)
    Safety Personal injury accident by user type per unit exposure
    (for links, junctions, networks)
    Insecurity (subjective)
    Accessibility Activities (by type) within a given time and money cost for a specified origin and mode
    Weighted average time and money cost to all activities of a given type from a specified origin by a specified mode
    Sustainability Environmental, safety and accessibility indicators
    as above
    CO2 emissions for the area as a whole
    Fuel consumption for the area as a whole
    Economic regeneration Environmental and accessibility indicators as above, by area and economic sector
    Finance Operating costs and revenues for different modes
    Costs and revenues for parking and other facilities
    Tax revenue from vehicle use
    Equity Indicators as above, considered separately for different impact groups

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    For some objectives general targets can be readily defined. The two best examples in the UK at present are the government's target of a 40% reduction in serious casualties between 2000 and 2010 and the Kyoto target of carbon dioxide emissions in 2010, 20% below those in 1990. It would be perfectly feasible to extend these to other attributes of the environmental protection and sustainability objectives, but it is much harder conceptually to suggest overall targets for objectives such as efficiency, accessibility or finance.

    The UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP, 1994) suggested in addition targets for reductions in car use and increases in public transport use and cycling, including:

  • reducing the proportion of urban journeys undertaken by car from 65 per cent in 1990 to 60 per cent by 2000 and 50 per cent by 2020.
  • increasing the proportion of passenger-kilometres by public transport from 12 per cent in1993 to 20 per cent by 2005 and 30 per cent by 2020.
  • increasing cycle use to 10 per cent of all urban journeys by 2005, compared to 2.5 per cent in 1993.

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

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Text edited at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT