Transportation Indicators
  • Waiting time at intersection
  • Number of cars at peak period
  • Time devoted to non-recreational travel
  • Portion of household expenses spent on transportation
  • Percent of vehicles powered by renewable energy
  • Ability of non-drivers to reach employment centers

Talking Points
  • Which of these indicators address carrying capacity?
  • What types of capital are being addressed?
  • Which are measuring pressures, states or responses?
  • Which take a long-term view?
  • Which address links within the community?

For example, "Waiting time at intersection" and "Number of cars at peak period" are traditional measures of the traffic flow that are very counter productive to sustainability. Although they are measures of the "carrying capacity" of a particular road, they are not good measures of the overall "carrying capacity" of the entire community. A number of studies have shown that widening roads generally results in increasing amounts of traffic, which, in turn, requires even wider roads. There is a limit to the amount of land in a community that can be devoted to transportation and neither of these indicators addresses those limits. Nor do these two measures link transportation to other aspects of the community.

In contrast, "Time devoted to non-recreational travel" links transportation to work and to free time. In effect, this measures a piece of a person's social carrying capacity--the amount of time available in a day--by indicating how a person is able to use that time. Time spent commuting results in less time for family, friends, community, and personal leisure.

"Portion of household expenses spent on transportation" links transportation to personal income and therefore to the number of hours needed to support basic needs. As with time spent commuting, the larger the percentage of household income used to pay for transportation, the smaller the percentage of income available for other basic needs.

"Percent of vehicles powered by renewable energy" links transportation to energy use and speaks to the type of energy used.

"Ability of non-drivers to reach employment centers" links transportation to work as well as to social equity and housing.

(If there is time, ask the participants for additional ideas of better indicators.)
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Copyright © 1998 Maureen Hart. All rights reserved.