Decision Makers' Guidebook
Objectives, indicators and targets
How can cities formulate a vision?
Whether they have a visionary leader or not, many cities develop a statement of vision as a basis for developing their strategies for transport and other sectors. As with other elements of strategy development, these vision statements are likely to be more acceptable, and effective, if they are generated in partnership with the city’s stakeholders. The box (right) shows the vision for London. These vision statements may well not mention transport at all, but instead focus on aspirations such as economic competitiveness and opportunities for all. The key will be to determine how a transport strategy can contribute to such a vision. The answers to this question may well help in specifying the objectives of the transport strategy.
Why do we need to specify objectives?
In developing a land use and transport strategy, it is essential to be clear what the strategy is designed to achieve. Objectives are broad statements of the improvements which a city is seeking in its land use and transport system. They are thus the starting point for our logical structure (Section 6). They serve several functions (see box).
Objectives specify the directions for improvement, but not the means of achieving them. In setting objectives, it is therefore important to avoid including indications of preferred solutions (e.g. ‘improving the environment through better public transport’); this may cause other and better policy instruments to be overlooked.
How should objectives be determined?
It is important that decision-makers determine the objectives which they wish to pursue. However, it is preferable to reach agreement on them with other stakeholders; this is often a key first stage in participation (Section 5). In some countries, local objectives are specified by national government; even so, cities should check whether these represent the full range of their aims. In practice many cities adopt rather similar objectives, and we set out below the ones which we have identified. For many cities, these objectives all contribute to a higher level goal of increased sustainability.
What do we mean by sustainability?
There is ample evidence that European city transport systems are unsustainable, in terms of their growing levels of congestion, pollution, fuel consumption and accidents, the adverse effects on the economy, and the increasing polarisation of opportunities to travel. Sustainable development was defined by the Brundtland Commission as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Most cities transport systems would fail this test.
In 2001 the EU Transport Council adopted the definition of sustainable urban transport shown in the box.
Which objectives are relevant to the pursuit of sustainability?
This definition of sustainability provides a basis for identifying eight more specific objectives, all of which should contribute to sustainability.
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.
Protection of the environment
This objective involves reducing a number of adverse impacts of the transport and land use system: regional pollutants such as NOX and SO2; local pollutants such as particulates, and their impacts on health; noise and vibration; visual intrusion; fragmentation and severance of settlements and biodiversity; urban sprawl; and loss of cultural heritage and natural habitats.
Liveable streets and neighbourhoods
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 movements 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 focused on streets and outdoor conditions in residential areas. It includes the positive external effects on social, cultural and recreational activity in neighbourhoods, increased freedom of movement on foot and bicycle, and reduced sense of danger for these modes. It is linked to, but separate from, the environmental and safety objectives.
This objective straightforwardly involves reducing the numbers of accidents for all modes, and reducing the severity of those which occur. However, since some locations, age groups and modes have higher accident rates than others, the safety objective also has equity implications.
Pollution, noise and accidents affect health, but so does the stress of living and working in congested cities. Increasingly the lack of exercise offered by an increasingly motorised transport system is being seen as an even greater threat to health. Once again, these impacts affect some groups in society more than others.
Equity and social inclusion
Under equity the principal concerns are the need for reasonably equal opportunities to travel, costs of travel and environmental and safety impacts of travel. Within social inclusion we include accessibility for those without a car and accessibility for those with impaired mobility. True equality of opportunity will never be feasible, but consideration needs to be given to compensating those with the fewest opportunities or the greatest costs.
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.
Contribution to 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.
While all of the above objectives are important for today’s cities, many of them will have implications for future generations also. But three impacts of today’s activities will particularly impact on future generations: greenhouse gas emissions, and particularly CO2, which will affect longer term climate change; consumption of land; and depletion of non-renewable resources, of which oil is perhaps the most important.
Why is it important to decide which objectives are most important?
Usually it is not possible to satisfy all of the objectives which may be desirable, as some of them will conflict; for example it is often difficult to improve accessibility without intruding into the environment. Therefore it is helpful to be able to trade off performance against different objectives, so that these conflicts can be more easily resolved. Priorities between objectives are a matter for political judgement which is exercised by the decision-maker, but other stakeholders’ views can be judged as part of an effective participation campaign (Section 5).
Why is it helpful to specify indicators?
Objectives are abstract concepts, and it is thus difficult to measure performance against them. Indicators are ways of quantifying objectives or sub-objectives. For example, casualty numbers would measure the overall safety objective; locations exceeding a pollution threshold a part of the environmental objective. This type of indicator is often called an outcome indicator (see box), in that it measures part of the outcome of a strategy. It is also possible to define input indicators, which measure expenditure and resources provided for transport, output indicators which measure what has been done (e.g. length of bus lanes implemented) and intermediate outcome indicators, which describe how the transport system is responding (e.g. number of bus users). Of these, outcome indicators are the most informative, since they measure directly performance against the specified objectives. However, output and intermediate outcome indicators may be helpful in understanding how a change in performance has been obtained. To be effective, outcome indicators must be exhaustive, in that they cover the whole range of objectives, provide sufficient information to decision-makers, and be sensitive to changes in the strategies that are tested.
The PROPOLIS project used a number of indicators to measure performance of the strategies which it tested against a range of objectives, which in turn reflected the economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability (see PROPOLIS table below). It used no input indicators (although cost of the strategy tested was included in the economic indicators), and no output indicators, but focused specifically on outcome indicators which covered all its key objectives, and intermediate outcome indicators, such as trip-km and modal shares, which helped explain the changes which were taking place.
|Types of indicator
• Input indicators: expenditure, resources consumed
• Output indicators: actions taken
• Intermediate outcome indicators: changes in travel patterns
• Outcome indicators: impacts on the strategy objectives
PROPOLIS Indicator System
|Environmental indicators||Global climate change||Greenhouse gases from transport.|
|Air pollution||Acidifying gases from transport.
Volatile organic compounds from transport.
|Consumption of natural resources||Consumption of mineral oil products, transport.
Need for additional new construction.
|Environmental quality||Fragmentation of open space.
Quality of open space.
|Social indicators||Health||Exposure to PM from transport in the living environment.
Exposure to NO2 from transport in the living environment.
Exposure to traffic noise.
|Equity||Justice of distribution of economic benefits.
Justice of exposure to PM.
Justice of exposure to NO2.
Justice of exposure to noise.
Vitality of city centre.
Vitality of surrounding region.
Productivity gain from land use.
|Accessibility and traffic||Total time spent in traffic.
Level of service of public transport and slow modes.
Accessibility to city centre.
Accessibility to services.
Accessibility to open space.
|Economic indicators||Total net benefit from transport||Transport investment costs.
Transport user benefits.
Transport operator benefits.
Government benefits from transport.
Transport external accident costs.
Transport external emissions costs.
Transport external greenhouse gases costs.
Transport external noise costs.
Why is it useful to specify performance targets?
Objectives and indicators generally indicate the desired general direction of change; for example: to reduce the environmental nuisance caused by traffic. They may also be couched in more specific terms which include the notion of a target, for example:
• To reduce traffic noise to below 68dB(A) in residential streets; or
• To reduce nitrogen dioxide levels to below 60mg/m3
There are advantages in this kind of more specific target. It is clear when any one objective has been achieved and the degree of achievement can be measured by the extent to which conditions differ from the target. It is also possible to specify targets for both output and intermediate outcome indicators; for example a target for the number of bus lanes or for the number of bus users. These can also help in measuring progress, but are a less direct indication of performance against objectives. Several governments are now linking finance for transport strategies to the achievement of targets, and this is an approach recommended by DGEnv for use in the preparation of Sustainable Urban Transport Plans. Such links make it essential that targets are set for the right indicators, and at appropriate and consistent levels. The DGEnv report makes a number of recommendations for the selection of targets (see box), and advocates selecting both a few high level ones for use by citizens and a wider set of operational ones.
What are the potential risks in setting performance targets?
If targets are only set for some objectives, this may result in less emphasis on the other objectives. Conversely, setting performance targets for all objectives can give a misleading indication of their relative importance. Using the example in the previous paragraph, the two objectives imply that a noise level of 68dB(A) and a nitrogen dioxide level of 60mg/m3 are equally important.
Targets for output and intermediate outcome indicators present further problems. The level of intervention specified by an output target may not be required in order to meet the underlying objectives, and a given target reduction in car use may be excessive. It is therefore better to set targets for outcome indicators, and determine any output or intermediate outcome targets to be consistent with them.
How might performance targets be set?
It is difficult, therefore, to specify targets which are appropriate and internally consistent. Where some targets are imposed nationally, it can be even more difficult to specify ones for other objectives which are consistent. However, targets are a very effective way of encouraging action and monitoring performance. It may be best, therefore, to determine the overall strategy (Section 11), and then calculate the targets for the horizon year (Section 3) for all outcome indicators, and selected intermediate outcome indicators which are consistent with that strategy. These can then be used to monitor performance.