How to measure the environmental impact of transport?

How can the environmental impact of transport be calculated? A report - "Indicators of environmental sustainability in transport: An interdisciplinary approach to methods" - has just been published by the French transport institute INRETS. Several researchers from TØI have contributed to the report.

The report concludes more than 4 years of joint networking within COST, the European body for Cooperation in Science and Technology. This will now enable researchers from 20 European countries to offer advice on how to identify, assess and apply indicators for a wide range of environmental impacts of transport systems and policies.

The main target groups of the report are researchers working on transport and environmental analysis, and policy institutions in Europe and elsewhere involved in the application of environmental knowledge to transportation planning and decision making.

The network - called COST 356 'EST, Towards the definition of a measurable environmentally sustainable transport' - aims primarily to contribute to the development of methods to integrate environmental issues into the assessment and decision processes in transport planning and policy.

The main elements of the report are,
- systemic analysis of environmental impacts of transport, in the form of 'chains-of-causality' approach for all impacts
- procedures for assessment and selection of individual indicators, and
- methods for joint consideration of several indicators for several impacts through aggregation or multi-criteria analysis.

For example, the report has analysed potential indicators for impacts such as toxicity of air pollutants, noise pollution, habitat fragmentation and greenhouse effects. For each impact, a range of indicators have been evaluated according to specific criteria. For some impacts, such as 'loss of cultural heritage due to land take', new indicators have been proposed.

The COST Action work has not undertaken a full assessment of all indicators for all impacts, but was able to provide a general approach. The final report contributes new knowledge on how to measure environmental impacts of transport, how measurements can be transformed into operational indicators, how several indicators can be jointly considered and how indicators can be used in planning and decision making.

The work has been highly interdisciplinary as it has involved scientists specialized in a range of environmental impacts, in decision making processes, as well as in transport and environment planning. Along the way several meetings, researcher exchanges and two international events were held, including an international conference in Paris in March 2010.

Several recommendations and research needs have been identified in the final report. Institutions such as the European Environment Agency (EEA), and the European Commission have now been invited to take the results into account in their work on environmental monitoring and assessment in transport.

The TØI-researchers who have contributed to the report are Aud Tennøy and Farideh Ramjerdi.


The report and all material of the COST Action 356 can be accessed on the websites below
inrets. and


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