Balance Impact and Implementability To Create Lasting but Effective Sustainability Policy.
A research report by Austrian transportation experts highlighted key factors to consider when designing policy packages that can provide necessary shifts in behavior without being overly onerous to implement.
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How to design policy packages for sustainable transport: Balancing disruptiveness and implementability


Passenger transport has been identified as a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, the sector has experienced a significant growth rate in the last several decades, meaning that interventions to curb emissions are vital to ensure sustainability. In particular, focus has been placed on a demand-side approach to allow for change to be made in the absence of technological transformations. By shifting utilization of the existing services, it is possible to reduce overall GHG emissions and to in turn reduce the environmental impact of transportation systems.

A study by a team of Austrian researchers performed a literature review and conducted expert interviews with 17 transportation officials and sustainability advocates, as well as a series of focus groups with transportation experts, to learn more about how policy packages may best balance disruption and policy effectiveness to provoke significant, sustained shifts in transportation usage. This research was used to create a series of recommendations and best practices for policymakers.

Lessons Learned

The list of recommendations included: 

  • Balance the "push" and "pull" of policies. Policies with a focus on "pushing" behavior, for example through restrictions or negative incentives, tend to be more impactful but harder to implement. Policies with a focus on "pulling" behavior, for example through positive incentives, tend to be easier to implement but less impactful. Being able to strike a balance between the two is crucial for sustainable, effective policy.
  • Center discussions of infrastructure and spatial planning. The expert interviews highlighted these two specific concerns as critical to lowering system emissions; their influence can impact the success of all other policy measures.
  • Policies do not need to be unique to be effective. Having a well-designed policy package that consists of tried and tested measures that are designed to support and complement one another is typically more effective than packages that are needlessly complex.