Project C Improved Indicators for Sustainable Transport & Planning
Project C has, in collaboration with participant local authorities and the Department for Transport completed a review of the use of indicators and developed a specification for the selection of indicators, consistent with Department for Transport guidance for Local Transport Plan 2. The specification is available as a deliverable, downloadable here. A summary of key issues from the deliverable is given below:
The research brief for the indicators specification was to:
• conduct a survey of local authorities’ experience in measuring,
predicting and using indicators;
The survey work identified a set of concerns surrounding the ways in which indicators are applied in practice. Eight aspects of indicators scored importance levels between fairly and very important and levels of satisfaction between not satisfied and fairly satisfied. These aspects of indicator selection would therefore appear to be of greatest concern to the practitioners. In order of importance, these were:
1. Their use in the development of well-founded targets
Whilst the current set of indicators being used in local transport planning did not typically correspond well to the local authorities’ perceptions of what sustainability is, some of what is measured is seen to count towards sustainability.
There are therefore several barriers to be overcome to the effective selection and measurement of indicators. One further area of concern that was investigated was the potential for indicator systems, through their role in driving performance changes, to lead to perverse incentives and outcomes. Smith (1995) identified eight unintended consequences of publishing public sector performance data which were; tunnel vision, sub-optimisation, measure fixation, myopia, complacency, misrepresentation, gaming and ossification.
Where monitoring and strategy development are not well connected it appears that the performance management system will perform less well. If the indicators do not match well with the overall objectives then management action in pursuit of the indicators is likely to lead to distorted outcomes. Our review of the decision-making process determined that a common set of indicators, comprising a mixture of key outcome and intermediate outcomes, is desirable for application through the option generation and strategy formulation, testing and appraisal process as well as for use in monitoring the success of strategy delivery as shown in Figure A.
Figure A: Integrating the indicator set throughout the decision-making process
Monitoring of outputs and scheme specific monitoring are also important in determining the reasons for the successful or otherwise implementation of the strategy. Understanding what has been delivered and for how much is important for accountability purposes and for improving the efficiency of expenditure.
We have proposed a core set of outcome indicators (key and intermediate) for
use across the strategic decision-making process. The suite of indicators is
drawn from only those indicators already in use but provides a fuller coverage
of sustainability issues than could be achieved by using just those mandatory
indicators set out in the LTP2 guidance. We have also proposed a method for
prioritising the selection of these indicators. Not all of them appropriate
for each area nor would it be resource efficient or necessarily useful to monitor
them all. The list of indicators can be found in the full deliverable.
Project Manager: Dr Gregory Marsden, ITS