Identifying and Ranking Sustainable Transport Practices
Further to our yesterday’s note on this topic, I attach for those eventually interested a copy of the working outline and some sample sections of the Wellar project on this. I have dug out two examples below thinking that they may encourage, the first of which since it is very close to the appraoch we try to take in our New Mobility City Dialogues projects. Eric Britton
Commentaries on Methods and Techniques
The term “Open House” is used by municipal and provincial government
agencies to refer to come-and-go meetings that are portrayed as opportunities
for citizens, business people, community associations and interest groups to
provide feedback on planning, development, transportation, zoning, and other
However, Open Houses are not solely within the purview of government bodies.
For reasons that include informing citizens about civic issues, shaping opinions
on public policy and planning matters, and creating media events, Open Houses
are also organized by the proponents or opponents of proposals, priorities,
programs, and activities of municipal and provincial governments, as well as
those of quasi-public and private corporations such as hospitals, universities,
development companies, land developers, waste disposal operators, health
facilities, and transportation companies.
Depending upon the issue, an Open house can feature from a half-dozen to fifty,
sixty or more static display boards, as well as videos, PowerPoint slide
presentations, and interactive computer presentations. The number of
professionals on hand (staff, consultants) can range from two or three to 15 or
20. Members of the public in attendance may be fewer in number than the staff,
or may outnumber staff by a ratio of 50-1 or more if the planning, development,
transportation or other proposal is a contentious issue.
In terms of format, an Open House may begin with an opening statement by an
elected official or officials, a staff person, or a consultant, and then one, two,
three or more professionals (staff, consultants) make presentations about the
purpose of the Open House and offer general comments about the display
materials distributed around the hall, gymnasium or room. The Open House
process generally involves members of the public perusing the displays, videos,
slides, etc., and then asking questions of the organizers, expressing opinions
about the respective displays, and filling in a comment sheet or sheets.
Pros and Cons of the Open House as a Decision Support Tool for
Sustainable Transport Practice Decision Making
Initially the Open House technique was regarded by governments, interest
groups, and citizens as a useful and reasonably productive means of engaging
members of the community in civic affairs. Further, Open Houses were also an
opportunity for members of the community to pick up reports or other
documentation, share views with other members of the community about an
issue, and arrive at a consensus position. Open Houses in their early days were
deemed to provide a good read of the politics of an issue, largely because Open
Houses were “the place” for the community to make its values, attitudes, and
voting inclinations known.
However, within the past decade several fundamental changes have occurred
that make the Open House a marginal technique for many of the decisions
involving sustainable transport practices. The changes and the causes of the
changes are summarized as follows.
First, online access to municipal and provincial materials in many jurisdictions
has significantly diminished the role of the Open House as a place for many
people with civic talents, and especially technical skills, to obtain information and
participate in civic affairs. The loss of these people downgrades the quality of
discourse that could be used for decision purposes, and also raises major doubts
as to the representativeness of any notion of consensus that might be reached.
Second, whether for reasons due to amalgamation, complexity of issues, a
general decline in public participation, or other factors that diminish the quality of
public discourse, there is an increasing sense that the Open House has become
less a means of informing and listening to the public and more a means of simply
going through the motions of public consultation.
Indeed, references such as ‘fraud’, exercise in futility’, ‘waste of time’,
‘manipulation’, and ‘staged’ are often encountered in media reports to describe
Open House topics that have broad and complicated scope, a long timeline,
multiple decision points, and involve mathematics, statistics, engineering
drawings, and other technical elements.
It seems clear, therefore, that any meaningful Open House contribution to
decisions about sustainable transport practices would be highly suspect except
under particular conditions and constraints. That is, each of the three phases of
identifying, adopting or implementing sustainable transport practices requires
more examination and analysis than can be provided by an Open House. Major
shortcomings include the inability to ask detailed questions, share responses,
discuss responses among all interested participants, have time for
reconsideration of choices, priorities, etc., and then re-visit such major concerns
as budgets, timing, and legacy implications associated with each of the three
If, however, an issue revolves around a matter that is particular to a
neighbourhood, to a group of transport modes users (e.g. pedestrians, cyclists,
transit riders), or sub-groups such as teen, adult, and senior pedestrians, or is
otherwise limited in scope, complexity, and legacy implications, and the Open
House is seeking a ‘popular opinion’ among the group or sub-group, then the
Open House can be a useful,
Walking Security Index
The Walking Security Index (WSI) project was approved in 1994 as an element
of the Transportation Environment Action Plan (TEAP) of the Region of Ottawa-
Carleton (now the City of Ottawa). One of the goals of TEAP was to encourage
more trips by walking, and the primary mission of the WSI project was to design
indexes measuring levels of safety, comfort and convenience experienced by
pedestrians at intersections.
The thesis of the WSI research was that indexes could be designed that provide
scores on the performance of intersections from the perspective of safety,
comfort, and convenience of pedestrians, and the scores could be arranged in
rank order. Then, for public safety, quality of life, engineering, traffic,
enforcement, maintenance, health, or other purposes, the scores could be used
to identify needed corrective actions at intersections rated from best to worst, or
at problematic intersection quadrants, and the rankings would provide elected
officials and Region/City staffers with information for prioritizing remedial actions.
More than 40 publications describe the research design and findings of the WSI
methodology. This commentary overviews a selection of elements of the WSI
project which are pertinent to a report on “Methods and Techniques that Could
be Used in Making Decisions about Identifying, Adopting, or Implementing
Sustainable Transport Practices”.
During the design phase (1995-1998) ten indexes were developed, and in the
subsequent pilot study phase (1999-2002) three macro indexes were tested for
operationality. In this commentary, the macro indexes are presented along with
several observations about similarities between the WSI project and the
Transport Canada project in regard to the identifying, adopting, and implementing
phases of decision making.
Intersection Volume and Design Index (IVDI)
The IVDI is a dot product formula, IVDI = V1 • V2 • V3 • V4 •V5 • V6 • V7 • V8,
that scores and ranks intersections in terms of “pedestrian friendliness”, where,
V1 = number of passenger car equivalents2/hour
V2 = number of pedestrians/hour
V3 = number of lanes rating
V4 = number of turn lanes by type rating
V5 = intersection geometry rating
V6 = intersection slope rating
V7 = direction(s) of traffic flow rating
V8 = number of channels adjacent to intersection rating.
Quality of Intersection Condition Index (QICI)
The QICI formulation uses a tabular format, and consists of 18 variables which
represent a selection of design, construction, condition, and maintenance,
standards and practices that affect pedestrians’ use of sidewalks and
intersections. The QICI uses a “Condition Met?” system which is quadrant-based,
and the scores for quadrants or overall scores for intersections can be used for
remedial and/or ranking and prioritizing purposes by elected officials and staff, as
well as for calls for action by citizens and community groups.
Driver Behaviour Index (DBI)
The DBI formulation is an equation, and this index measures the level of
aggressive driver behaviour at intersections used by pedestrians. Thirteen
variables (two for running reds, two for running ambers, and nine for fail-to-yield)
were considered when formulating, testing and refining the DBI.
Driver Behaviour Index = ALI
= amber-light incidents per phase,
= red-light incidents per phase,
= fail-to-yield incidents per phase.
The research on methods and techniques in the design phase of the WSI Project
is directly relevant to the design phase of the Transport Canada project, as is the
WSI pilot study research in the operational or implementation phase. Making
decisions about identifying variables, adopting indexes, and implementing the
indexes and acting on index scores and rankings, corresponds to the decision
processes of identifying, adopting and implementing sustainable transport
practices. In addition, the WSI reports suggest ways of customizing the indexes
to make them more appropriate for differences in weather, demographics, motor
vehicle types and traffic, etc., which may lead to the kind of flexible methods and
techniques needed for decisions about sustainable transport practices.
Finally, the WSI project reports include applications and critiques of a number of
methods and techniques that are likely to be pertinent to the Transport Canada
project, including attitudinal surveys, authority, comparative analysis, focus
groups, indexing, indicators, modelling,