Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Sustainable development in the field of transport – Criteria and indicators for social aspects

Switzerland Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
SVI 2001/509
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues,
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

In the framework of the National Research Programme NRP 41 'Sustainability: Criteria in Trans-port' (project C5 of the NRP 41), and preliminary indicators have been elaborated. They cover ecological, economic and social aspects of transport. The analysis of the social aspects turned out to be particularly difficult.

Compared to the analysis of the ecological and (partially) the economic aspects, the investigation of social issues of this kind lacks both scientific foundation and practical experience. Because of the relatively high importance of social criteria of sustainability and the strong mutual relationship with the ecological and economic criteria, and the issue of (eventual) target values, additional scientific research is needed.


This research study aimed in the first place at improved and complemented sets of criteria and indicators for the social aspects of sustainable development in the field of transport. Different sets of criteria and indicators were developed for different use and levels of application. The resulting criteria and indicators aim at the completion of the criteria covering the social aspects of sustainable transportation. 


Important methodological issues included:  

  • Clear structuring of criteria/indicators according to their application;
  • Vertical and horizontal coherence;
  • Top-down and bottom-up approach;
  • Quantitative vs. qualitative indicators;
  • Differentiation between drive, state and response indicators;
  • Equal weight given to environment, economy and society.

The detailed working process was the following:  

  1. Preparatory work: The first step was the compilation of basic information (among others from internet and literature). Existing relevant knowledge will be reprocessed (methods: internet research, literature studies, compilation of own experiences and selective interviews with experts).
  2. Analysis of the connection between mobility and society: The basic structure of the social aspects of sustainability will be determined. The comprehension of societal sustainability will be worked out. The connection between the individual / society and their mobility level will be investigated. Those topics relevant to society with regard to transport/mobility will be structured. The change in societal affinity with regard to mobility in the course of history will be analysed according to the importance of transport yesterday, today and tomorrow (methods: compilation of own studies and experiences, heuristics, trend research and interviews with the relevant research experts, top-down approach).
  3. Analysing the connection between demand and supply: Parallel to step 2 the connection between the societal need for transport and the supply of transport services (transport mode, attractiveness by using space and provision of infrastructure) will be analysed. By using current case studies from own experience, enhanced with examples from the peer group, the aspects relevant to society, can be determined. Additionally, individual access to transport infrastructure as well as distribution questions (equity) will be analysed. The focus is on showing the respective mechanisms, not on problem solvings (methods: use of own case studies, interviews with relevant experts, bottom-up approach).
  4. Structuring, derivation of initial criteria and indicators: The initial structuring of criteria and indicators designed in step 2 by using a top-down approach will be added to the application-oriented analyses in step 3 (bottom-up). Different sets of criteria resp. indicators for the different applications (strategy, concept or


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Private foundation
Institution Name
Association of Transportation Engineers
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


Within the scope of the research work a target and indicator system was developed which provides a good basis for the augmentation of various indicator systems in the social dimension for sustainable development in connection with mobility and transport. A total of 58 indicators were identified for 12 target areas.


Target areas:

  1. securing livelihood
  2. quality of life
  3. physical integrity
  4. social contacts
  5. participation
  6. recreation
  7. choices
  8. mobility culture
  9. information and education
  10. organisation and coordination
  11. solidarity
  12. equal opportunities.

The proposed target areas and postulates can be applied directly for the evaluation of policies and programmes and for the qualitative evaluations of projects. For the quantitative application of the indicators at project level, the practical relevance of the new indicator system to the availability of data for the individual indicators and proposed measured quantities can be determined.

The acquisition of information is dependent on the purpose of application and the spatial-institutional scope. A possible adjustment to the measured quantities may be necessary.

The need for research and development gives information on possible concrete expression and precise specification of the indicator of measured value and its operationalisation in the following areas:

  • clarification of definition and terms
  • development of indicators and measured values
  • collection and making available of data
  • monitoring of traffic patterns
  • obtaining information

    Policy implications

    The proposed target areas and postulates can be applied directly for the evaluation of policies and programmes and for the qualitative evaluations of projects. The indicator set proposed can be used for quantitative assessments at project level.

    The results of this research work can be implemented in practice in stages and at different levels:

    • The proposed indicator system should be widely discussed with representatives of the planning sector and integrated in a reasonable and balanced way in existing indicator systems.
    • The indicator system should be concretely applied , reduced and further specified using case studies, incorporating costs and applicability depending on the purpose. Concrete application aids and calalogues relating to the specific application can be drawn up.
    • In order to bring together all studies to date in the area of sustainability criteria in transport, an actual schedule of "Core indicators relating to traffic" should be drawn up, involving 5 to 10 key indicators.
    • This research has concentrated on passenger transport on land. The indicator system should be expanded to include air traffic and goods transport.
    • The need for research and development shown on the individual indicator sheets should be interpreted and acted upon with regard to implementation. The outstanding fundamental questions should be taken up within the relevant frameworks and pursued further. This also applies ot the issues of gender equality, which should be included in a more in-depth indicator system, with active inclusion of the gender perspective and a thoroughly integrated view for the purposes of gender mainstreaming.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


Contribute! Submit your project

Do you wish to submit a project or a programme? Head over to the Contribute page, login and follow the process!