Best Practice Insights

Improved Urban Transport Systems for Sustainable Cities

Edition : 2013 98 pages
Edition : 2017 2 pages

Improved Urban Transport Systems for Sustainable Cities

A clean, efficient and effective city transport system is critical to economic growth and to the health and welfare of inhabitants and workers. Yet transport users in most cities experience slow journey times, crowded transport systems and the direct and indirect impacts of inefficient and polluting vehicles.

The International Energy Agency has identified three critical factors to guide policy makers in improving city transport systems to increase efficiency while simultaneously mitigating the negative climate, noise, air pollution, congestion and economic impacts of rising urban transport volumes.

Policy pathway to improving urban transport systems:

  • Use an “avoid, shift and improve” approach. Set clear long-term transport policy objectives before deciding on the mix of energy efficiency policies that best suit the urban context.
  • Ensure policy proposals reflect broad transport, economic, social and environmental needs by engaging with a broad range of interested stakeholders to develop and implement policy responses. Such stakeholder engagement will also improve public acceptance of policy changes and initiatives.
  • Implementation of efficient transport policies can require significant planning, technical, institutional, and financial resources. Identifying and securing these resources, including through partnership opportunities is critical to delivering service improvements and energy efficiency objectives.


The full Policy Pathway offers guidance on improving the energy efficiency of urban transport systems and provides case studies from around the world. The report and other Policy Pathways documents can be downloaded here.

Checklist to successfully improving the energy efficiency of urban transport systems

PLAN: Engage stakeholders to identify underlying, city specific, causes of transport inefficiency and define resulting key policy objectives (balancing energy efficiency, environmental, transport, economic and social needs). Secure administrative, technical and financial resources.
Detail the current transport situation, the desired transport outcome, and define objectives to transition from current to future situation.
Continually engage key stakeholders to articulate concerns, help formulate solutions and develop partnership opportunities.
Identify and address potential barriers to achieving objectives. Secure necessary technical, institutional and financial resources.
Develop policy framework and action plan (including key steps, responsibilities and milestones). Decide how to measure progress.
IMPLEMENT: Manage the implementation process by defining specific responsibilities, communicating clear objectives and avoiding unnecessary revisions to the plan.
Establish roles, responsibilities and deliverables for key actors.
Engage stakeholders to raise awareness of energy issues, explain mobility choices and communicate policy measures and targets.
Manage implementation through verifying progress and enforcing deliverables. Build required institutional and professional capacity.
MONITOR: Establish progress by assessing compliance with individual policy measures. Determine the effect of policies on citizens, businesses and transport system efficiency.
Measure policy outputs (e.g. number of buses) and outcome indicators (e.g. public transport journey times). Maintain credibility by communicating both positive and negative outcomes.
EVALUATE: Analyse effectiveness of programmes in achieving defined goals. Determine how policies can be improved and identify next steps to achieve policy goals.
Assess programme effects on transport outcomes relative to original objectives.
Where necessary, adapt transport policy and plan next steps.