The European White Paper on Transport Policy identified the ever-increasing congestion, environmental pollution and consumption of energy based on imported fossil fuels as key causes for the deteriorating performance of Europe's transport systems, especially in urban areas.
The White Paper stresses that European transport policy has reached a critical point where a clean, well-functioning and less-fossil fuel based urban transport is considered as an indispensable condition for achieving the Community's overall objective of sustainable mobility in Europe. European Union policy and local, regional and national policies should mutually strengthen each other. In order for the European Union to be successful in its policies, it is essential that local, regional, national and EU policies match with each other within coherent policy-frameworks.
Only when there is a good match, can policies be successful in providing the right incentives for achieving the anticipated outcomes. In order to analyse this match between the European, national and the regional/local level, and to provide a comparative analysis of urban transport in the EU-15 Member States, the European Commission (DGTREN) initiated this 3-year long project.
The project aimed to collect information on urban transport performance at national level in the 15 'old' EU Member States, to provide comparative analyses between countries and on a temporal basis, and to draw conclusions in relation to performance and data collection issues.
Few countries in fact have something which could be termed a 'national policy framework' for urban transport, although all have certain structures, rules and procedures set at national level within which local authorities must act. The project therefore concentrated on data collection to assess performance of urban areas at national level, rather than reviewing national policy frameworks per se.
This assessment is both 'objective' (statistical) and 'subjective' (perception-based). The 'objective' part involves the collation and analysis of data for the EU-15 on a variety of urban transport indicators at the national level, where possible, such as capital investment, modal split, passenger-km or transport costs. This can in fact be more accurately termed as 'statistical' than 'objective', as the choice of data used, its interpretation, and selection of proxy data (in cases where the desired data at the national level is unavailable) means that such an assessment can never be wholly objective. The 'subjective' part of the study includes an EU-wide survey of public perceptions of urban transport policy among 3000 persons, in order to explore user-oriented urban transport issues and priorities within a pan-European context.
The outputs and recommendations of this project are primarily aimed at Member States' governments (including devolved administrations where these are responsible for setting the legislative and fiscal framework for transport and/or local government) and the European Commission.
The project is organised around five technical workpackages (WPs), plus a sixth for project management:
- WP1 - Definition of Indicators: The project started by selecting about 20 indicators, for which as much data as possible is publicly available for each Member State. The use of indicators already used by other important Europe-wide initiatives was considered and the indicators are validated by an Advisory Group (see WP4).
- WP2 - Data Collection and Reporting: For the indicators defined, data will be collected for each Member State covering four years: two 'base-years' (1980 and 1990), a recent year (2000) and the final full year before the end of the project (2004). This data will be at national level, preferably for urban areas only. Where appropriate data cannot be obtained, overall national data is used, supplemented by examples from a small sample of urban areas. The results will be presented in a series of data papers, with the key trends clearly shown.
- WP3 - Public Perception Assessment: This 'subjective' part of the study is required as the data collected in the above task will not necessarily provide a good picture of how effective and successful the citizens perceive these policies and activities to be. Around eight indicators on public perception will be defined (covering inputs, policy outputs, real outcomes and the 'national – regional/local policy match'). Data collection for each Member State (approx. 200 interviews per country, by telephone) will take place in summer 2004. The reporting will include a critical analysis of the differences between the 'objective' information and the public perception.
- WP4 - Guidance and Advisory Group: An advisory group has been established, consisting of five external experts from European and national organisations. In future, representatives from the Member States will also be invited to participate. The role of the advisory group is to offer guidance on the definition of the indicators and the data collection, to discuss the results presented in the reports and working papers, and to discuss the needs and the means to harmonise the indicators and the ways that data are measured at national level.
- WP5 - Recommendations, Final Results and Dissemination: The final results of the project will include information on national and European trends
1. Statistical Data Collection
Twenty-five indicators were defined in this project, comprising:
- 7 'context' indicators (population density, car ownership, fuel prices, etc),
- 7 'input' indicators (investment, age of public transport fleet, parking prices, etc),
- 5 'intermediate outcome' indicators (costs for certain types of car and public transport journey, passenger-km, etc), and
- 6 'outcome' indicators (safety, energy use, emissions, etc).
A huge amount of data exists which is related to these indicators, but most is either at a national or regional level, or at a city or conurbation level. The former are not suitable for urban transport policy framework analysis as they also contain significant regional, rural and interurban transport elements, whereas the latter are not representative of the whole country, but depend on the size of the urban area and its particular characteristics.
Data was therefore collected at national level where available, and where appropriate it has been illustrated by examples from some cities (typically one or two per country). As collection of data at regional or local level was not within the scope of this project, such data collected serves only to provide examples and to compare with national data, or to substitute for national data where this does not exist (e.g. for local public transport fares).
A very diverse range of results were found, making it difficult to identify countries which are performing well and those which are not, and whether these performances are due to policy frameworks or external factors. Comparability is also limited by the different spatial scales and methods of data collection. A clear assessment would be possible if specific outcome indicators could be related to specific urban policy (mainly input) indicators at consistent space and time-series scales. It was found that such a clear definition is only present at a specific operator level and less at a city and rarely at a national level, with input indicator decisions clearly being done at the city or regional level for most countries. In addition, most outcome indicators measuring the impacts of the society by urban transport are not consistently measured at a national scale.
At a very general level, the Nordic countries appear to be successful in most areas, including investment, modal split and safety. Denmark and Finlan
As a conclusion it is somewhat difficult to assess urban transport performance at a national level especially if there are different policy frameworks and contexts at the city and regional levels within the same country. In most cases, input policy indicators are a matter of individual urban areas. What is needed and could be readily available at the national level are the indicators reflecting the 'impact' side of the policies, i.e. outcomes such as energy, environment, mobility and safety indicators.
The project made a number of methodological (i.e. data collection) and policy recommendations as follows:
- The European Commission, through Eurostat, should define a series of population thresholds for urban areas, for which national transport data should be disaggregated and reported to Eurostat. National and regional authorities should apply these thresholds wherever possible in their transport data collection. These thresholds should be without prejudice to existing definitions and thresholds used in the Member States.
- Where performance is being measured against common overarching national and European objectives, it should be done in a consistent manner. National governments in the Member States (and also devolved or regional governments where these have statistical collection responsibilities) should aim to collect key transport statistics in a way which allows results to be shown separately for urbanised and non-urbanised areas (with a clear description of how these areas are defined).
- The European Commission, through Eurostat, should specify a small number of 'quick win' indicators for which the Member States should provide data at urban level, measured in a consistent way. These should concentrate on outcome indicators for which there are common objectives at the European level and for which national data is already collected for all countries. Where this imposes additional data collection and reporting effort on local and regional authorities, national governments should consider assisting this with central funding.
- European institutions should specify standards for all urban transport related data which is submitted to national ministries or statistics institutes, regardless as to whether this submission is obligatory or not. The European Commission (either directly or via national governments) sho