Transport and mobility play an important role in the concept of Quality of Life (QoL) as they are central elements of the integration in society. Since implementations are generally aimed to increase QoL, it is important to assess how QoL of affected citizens is influenced and to be able to demonstrate that implementations in the public space do (indeed) have positive effects on QoL. QoL assessments are important for effective and efficient planning; implementations will be more acceptable, and thus feasible, if they do not significantly decrease individual QoL.
Establish satisfying communication between decision makers and users is an important basis for achieving co-operation from different segments of the population, which is important if they should change behaviour in some way to achieve sustainability. So far strong engineering focus has been taken in this area, but little action has been taken to understand, what difficulties different groups and sub-groups of people have with transport and mobility, as the need and interests of the relevant segments of the population are not considered appropriately.
The ASI project is an accompanying measure of the EC 5th Framework Program Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development in the Key Action 4: Cities of Tomorrow and Cultural Heritage. It suggests methods for developing solutions in the transport and mobility area in order to make them more effective and more efficient, because they meet the needs of the target groups, (i.e. different groups of citizens in different parts of Europe).
The main objective of the project was to provide knowledge about the practice of quality of life assessment by different disciplines in connection with different types of public measures in the area of town planning and design, transportation and mobility.
Specific objectives of the project are to:
- examine how and to what extent policy makers and practitioners take into account QoL effects of implemented policies and measures;
- develop a preliminary instrument to assess such QoL effects, with the help of interviews politicians, decision makers, practitioners and other experts;
- develop a basic databank frame for both results of QoL assessments (questions used, answers given), of measures on basis of assessment results, and their evaluation with respect to effects on QoL;
- develop guidelines for the transformation of QoL assessment results into policies and measures.
The project was organised in the following groups of activities:
1) State of the art.
The state of the art had to rely upon the actual literature and empirical work data available. The aim was to find and summarise work in the area that has been done till then, as well as to find information about variables and criteria for the assessment of QoL from a psychological and social science perspective. The approach consisted of the following steps:
- study of publications, Internet search concerning parameters for QoL, QoL in connection with transport and mobility, instruments for measuring QoL;
- study of grey literature that is, among other things, available at the involved institutes;
- evaluation of the studied literature ;
- summary of the variables and criteria for the assessment of QoL;
- transparency of ASI with what LUTR is doing (Communication between ASI and the LUTR-Cluster);
- development of a first frame for the evaluation for the sites and for the experts interviews.
2) Preparation of the evaluation.
Firstly five sites in different European regions (Central, East, North, South, West), where planning, construction elements etc.... had been implemented with the goal to improve the sites with respect to the objectives of the Programme Cities of Tomorrow were identified. This selection was done in co-operation with responsible persons from the European Commission and the LUTR-cluster. A work plan for the consortium, especially with respect to time-space co-ordination and logistics was developed.
User groups were defined. This step depended on what user groups were affected at certain sites, with respect to gender, age, mode choice, disabilities, trip functions, etc..
Materials for the interviews with the experts were developed. Elaboration of an interview frame, consisting among other things of a list of topics to be discussed with selected experts at CoT-Implementation sites, and its translation and pre-testing.
The aim of the interviews was to find out in which way LQ aspects of different user groups, especially in connection with mobility and transport, were considered at these sites.
3) Carrying out of interviews with experts.
In-depth interviews with experts of different types and disciplines at the five selected sites were carried out. Approxim
Within the ASI project, instruments were developed that will enable decision-makers to better address QoL issues in land use and transport planning, in order to secure public acceptance and promote user behaviour changes.
A support toolbox, which was still felt missing by the involved experts was developed. It is compact, practical and easy to understand and to use. In addition to the toolbox, ASI provided a databank concept and “prototypical” guidelines for the implementation of land use and transport projects, which focus on QoL. These instruments are considered useful for politicians, decision makers and practitioners.
The final instruments comprise a key set of indicators that should be appropriate for use in every context. Project specific indicators, if needed, can enrich this set. Toolbox users can either select additional indicators from a list of suggested indicators, or develop new ones. Ideally, the QoL indicators are assessed objectively and subjectively, before and after implementations, via user and expert interviews. To collect valid (unbiased) data, to be able to compare results of different toolbox applications, to learn from previous experiences and to forecast possible effects of implementations, it is important to apply at least the key set of QoL indicators, and to follow the general guidelines as indicated in the toolbox. To achieve this, ASI has also described a databank concept, in which comparable data on QoL assessments are put together, in order to improve the basis for practical work, since policy makers can build on experiences in previous projects. Data collected in the databank provide a detailed overview of how various implementations may affect QoL, and what should or could be done to (further) improve QoL.
The acceptability, effectiveness and efficiency of policies will be enhanced by systematically assessing (possible) QoL effects before and after the implementation of such policies.
Administering the toolbox before a policy implementation is taking place can help policy makers to identify what aspects need to be improved. Further, it can reveal how and to what extent the policies may affect QoL of citizens, what should be done in order to reduce, prevent or compensate possible negative effects, and how to optimise positive ones. By paying due attention to the results of QoL assessments before a policy implementation, the implementation is more likely to become acceptable, effective and efficient.
ASI aimed to examine to what extent QoL issues are considered in traffic and urban planning, and the way they are dealt with in projects aiming to promote sustainable transportation.
A finding of the project was that in the evaluated projects hardly any social scientists were included. However, social scientists have studied QoL issues for quite some time now, and could play an important role in developing relevant instruments. Most experts appeared to have a technical professional background, such as engineering and/or architecture. The under-representation of social scientists is remarkable because most projects dealt with QoL issues, which may by considered as the core business of social scientists. As sustainable development implies balancing economic, environmental and social costs and benefits, it is recommended to create multidisciplinary teams including social scientists.
Although there is great consensus among experts and practitioners in the fields of land use and transport about the importance of evaluating the effects of policy implementations on QoL, such issues are considered mainly at the beginning of projects, but are considered less when the projects becomes more concrete and detailed. According to the result of the interviews QoL issues are taken care of in one or the other way throughout the whole life time of the projects, but not systematically. It is stated that the main reason for this can been seen in the high number of definitions for QoL. Therefore, many experts and practitioners experience significant difficulties with evaluating QoL effects of policies, because no general concept or operational definition of QoL is available at the moment. A complicating matter is that experts have different disciplinary backgrounds (e.g., architecture, town planning, transportation planning, civil engineering, economy), each associated with different, and sometimes divergent, ideas on and definitions of QoL. This not only hinders communication on this issue, but also the development of suitable instruments to assess QoL. But the consequence is not that the number of disciplines should be reduced. Rather, it is recommended that interdisciplinary work should become more common in the area so that joint discussion and problem solving procedures improve.
Interviewed experts say that practice mainly focuses on measuring objective conditions, reflecting expert’s point of views. However, assessments of objective conditions may differ from subjective