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The Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative

European Union
Geo-spatial type
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport,
Active mobility


Background & Policy context

The Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative has applied the concept of benchmarking to the urban transport systems present in cities across the EU and its new Member States. In total 29 cities and regions were represented in year one of the initiative (2003-2004) and 39 in year two (2004-2005). Each participant collected data relating to 25 common indicators. In addition the participants provided data and qualitative information for a range of thematic indicators, which they had selected based upon the interests of their working group. These working groups were based around the following five themes:

  • Behavioural and Social Issues in Public Transport 
  • City Logistics (Until February 2005)
  • Cycling 
  • Demand Management 
  • Public Transport Organisation and Policy

The working group themes were chosen by the participating cities to reflect their interests in terms of urban transport issues. The participating cities were also responsible for helping to select common data indicators, which have been used to benchmark general aspects of urban transport, and thematic indicators, that have been collected by cities within each of the five themed working groups. The thematic indicators are specific to each working group and aim to answer the chosen research questions. The participants have been aided with the definition and analysis of thematic indicators by their working group's expert and rapporteur.

The Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative is built upon the experience of the two previous Citizen's Network Benchmarking Initiatives which together ran from 1998 until 2002. There have been many other transport benchmarking projects and the aim of this initiative has been to learn from the experiences of previous transport benchmarking projects and implement their findings.

The project is now in its third year (2005-2006) and the key objective is to develop the successful aspects of the first and second years in order to attempt to deepen the understanding of the link between interesting practice and good urban transport performance.


The key objectives of the Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative are:

  1. To select annually a group of participants representing local and regional urban transport stakeholders from 35-40 cities.
  2. To agree a set of common performance indicators covering urban passenger and freight transport.
  3. To undertake a comparative analysis across stakeholders.
  4. To set up a maximum of 5 thematic working groups on topics agreed by the participants.
  5. To organise site visits (3 per year) for the working groups through which to identify and study best practices.
  6. To disseminate the results.

These objectives were largely achieved and a review of the achievements of years one and two of the Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative are presented in the final report of the project.


The Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative was launched formally in November 2003 and the benchmarking activity took place until June 2005, when the results of the second year of the project were disseminated at the end of year conference.

During the second year of the initiative, the benchmarking processes of self analysis, the identification of interesting practices and the analysis of performance variations shaped the activities of the participants. As stated above, following the year two launch conference in September 2004 the participants were organised into the 5 thematic working groups (Behavioural and Social Issues in Public Transport;

City Logistics (Until February 2005); Cycling; Demand Management; Public Transport Organisation and Policy)

The original topics were refined and adapted based on feedback from participants in the project. These working groups formed the basis for the majority of the work carried out in year two of the Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative, with each group effectively undertaking an individual benchmarking exercise. In addition the participants collected data relating to 25 common indicators, which was analysed by the project team with input from the participants at the end of the second year.

In order to organise year two of the initiative around the three benchmarking processes, each of the working groups participated in 3 site visits (with the exception of the City Logistics group which terminated in February 2005). These site visits enabled the groups to have some face to face meeting time so that the participants could discuss progress through steps one to three in the benchmarking process and plan the next phases of development. In addition the site visits offered participants the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of interesting practice in different locations across Europe. This was identified by the Citizens' Network Benchmarking Initiative as one of the most valuable aspect of the previous initiative and has also proved to be important for participants in the Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative.

Once the working groups had advanced through the process of data collection and analysis the rapporteurs from each working group were responsible for producing an end of year report, with the help of the participants in the group. The key findings from year two of the project were disseminated at the end of year conference which took place i


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission - Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DGTREN)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


The Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative has provided a practical tool which has supported cities in identifying changes for improving performances of their urban transport systems, by comparing them with those of other cities, understanding the differences and identifying best practice. Its results pertain to 3 key aspects:

  • analysis of common indicators;
  • analysis of themed indicators;
  • identification of best practices.

The main findings established from the analysis of the common indicators are:

  • average income levels have an impact upon public transport use and car use in cities/regions (where GDP per capita was found to be high, the modal share of public transport was generally lower and the proportion of trips made by cars was higher);
  • cycling was found to be popular where it had been encouraged by investment (cities that have larger cycle lane networks tended to be those with higher levels of GDP per capita);
  • car ownership levels vary according to city size (the cities that displayed the largest urban populations also displayed lower levels of car ownership);
  • a critical mass of population is necessary to support a metro system (the vast majority of cities with populations in excess of 1 million inhabitants were those that had metro systems).

The main findings of the analysis of the thematic indicators for working group are:

1) Cycling.

  • there is potential for research into different cycle-hire schemes for exploring which type of schemes are appropriate in cities of different sizes and with different existing levels of cycle use;
  • there is scope for the foldable bicycle to become an important tool in the research into their advantages and disadvantages, usability and design;
  • there is clear potential for bicycle use on trains, trams and buses.

2) Behavioural & Social Issues in Urban Transport.

  • people commuting to work is a surprisingly overlooked target group for publicity and marketing activities;
  • proactively promoting public transport fares and services with direct comparisons against the full cost of car use can help to encourage public transport commuting in cities;
  • simplifying fare options available to commuters may also help to promote greater uptake of commuting by public transport;
  • greater effort must be

    Technical Implications

    Main technical implications are:

    T1: Funded demonstration projects could be established by drawing on the combined body of quantitative data and qualitative examples which highlight good practices in Urban transport. This represents a logical step for the research since it would enable participants to implement good practices which address problems identified in their city and monitor the impacts. This would effectively test the potential of the good practices which the Urban Transport Benchmarking Initiative identified and enable real-life guidance to be developed based on the experiences of transferring good practices.

    T2: The transferability of good practice is a key issue and one that should be given serious consideration for development. While it has proved relatively straightforward to identify good practices, it is less simple to determine whether a solution will work well when transferred to other cities. This would be of particular benefit to New Member States and Accession Countries seeking to draw upon good practice experience from EU15 states and vice- versa.

    T3: The initiative’s working groups could be developed to form individual projects, which continue to research good practice and act as knowledge centres for their urban transport themes. This type of research activity could be privately funded by the participants (as the CoMET9 metro benchmarking has continued to be) or through European Commission funds. The topic of benchmarking accessible urban transport for people with reduced mobility has already raised considerable interest in the UK and has the potential to be extended across the EU.

    T4: The innovative work on interchanges and intermodality, developed through joint working between the Behavioural & Social Issues in Urban Transport and the Cycling working groups, could be developed into a project in its own right. This work has so far focused upon the combination of cycling and public transport modes, and specifically commuting, but could be broadened to include all modes of urban transport as well as topics such as car sharing and car clubs, which have not been considered so far.

    Some technical implications are also drawn from the analysis of the thematic indicators:

    1) Cycling.

    T5: a comparative research project exploring the relative merits and effectiveness of sustainable travel incentives offered by local authorities would greatly assist local authorities

    Policy implications

    A series of policy implications have been identified according to the size of a city’s population as well as for cities in Central and Eastern European states.

    1) Policy implications for larger cities (populations of more than 1 million inhabitants).

    Larger cities provide less support for cycling as a mode of transport, demonstrating relatively small cycle networks as a proportion of the total road network.

    P1: Two main types of barriers prevent city authorities from promoting cycle use in the same manner as medium- sized and smaller cities:

    • Land space is at a premium in the centre of large cities as a result of the dense urban development. As a result there is often insufficient space to integrate cycling infrastructure into the existing environment without severe disruption and cost. It is hard to promote cycling or to develop a cycling culture when the physical infrastructure required by cyclists is not in place.
    • Road traffic congestion, pollution and the lack of safe routes deter people from attempting to cycle.

    These barriers need to be addressed through bold policy making to encourage cycling in larger cities.

    2) Policy implications for medium-sized cities (300,000 – 1 million inhabitants).

    P2: The challenge for policy makers in medium-sized cities is to balance the pressure of car use through careful demand management and parking controls which increase the cost and reduce the accessibility of private motorised travel, yet simultaneously seek to encourage greater levels of public transport use, walking and cycling through the development of infrastructure which reflects the size and stature of the city.

    3) Policy implications for smaller cities (less than 300,000 inhabitants).

    Transport policy makers in cities with smaller populations are faced with the challenge of encouraging public transport use where there may be an insufficient critical mass to provide an extensive, high frequency public transport network and where car use is very high.

    P3: Subtle use of demand management measures aimed primarily at reallocating road space to sustainable modes, the continued development of sustainable modes (walking and cycling) through pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and the development of high quality, accessible bus services could be considered as key ch

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