COST 356
EST - Towards the definition of a measurable environmentally sustainable transport

How can environmental impacts of transport be measured, using operational indicators and indices? And how are indicators used in planning and decision making?

30 to 40 scientists from different countries met twice a year and exchanged analyses between 2005 and 2010 to address these questions. By adopting an interdisciplinary approach to methods, the main tasks were:

COST 356 is presented in a two page leaflet (.pdf), and in a poster in English or French (.ppt)

1. Outputs

1.1. Final report "Indicators of environmental sustainability in transport: an interdisciplinary approach to methods"

The final report tries to answer the following questions: How can environmental impacts of transport be measured? How can measurements be transformed into operational indicators? How can several indicators be jointly considered? And how can indicators be used in planning and decision making? Firstly we provide definition of 'indicator of environmental sustainability in transport'. The functions, strengths and weaknesses of indicators as measurement tools, and as decision support tools are discussed. We define what "environmental sustainability in transport" may mean through the transport system, the concepts of sustainable development and of environment. The concept of 'chain of causality' between a source and a final target is developed, as a common reference for indicators and assessments. As the decision making context influences the perceived and actual needs for indicators and methods, we also analysed the dimensions and context of decision making. We derived criteria and methods for the assessment and selection of indicators of environmental sustainability in transport, in terms of measurement, monitoring and management. The methods and the criteria are exemplified for seven chains of causality. Methods for a comprehensive joint consideration of environmentally sustainable indicators are analyzed and evaluated. They concerned aggregated or composite indicators as well as multi-criteria methods. Five case studies are presented. Finally, recommendations for continued research and development of indicators and joint considerations methods for assessment of environmental sustainability in transport are given.

Joumard R. and Gudmundsson H. (eds), 2010. Indicators of environmental sustainability in transport: an interdisciplinary approach to methods (pdf file 17 Mo). INRETS report, Recherches R282, Bron, France, 422 p.


1.2. Final conference of the action Indicators of environmental sustainability in transport - An interdisciplinary approach

Final conference of the action "Indicators of environmental sustainability in transport - An interdisciplinary approach", on 15 March 2010, Paris. See the programme.

R. Joumard: Presentation of work, scope and objectives of the conference (slides pdf).

1. Context and methodology

G. Arapis: What to measure with indicators: Environmental impacts of transport (slides pdf).

T. Fischer: The dimensions and context of transport decision making (slides ppt).

H. Gudmundsson: How to measure with indicators: Criteria and methods for indicator  assessment (slides pdf).

2. Indicator Assessment per impact

E. Ortega Pérez: Indicator assessment for habitat fragmentation (slides pdf).

D. Geneletti: Indicator assessment for habitat fragmentation: Comments (slides pdf).

C. Camusso: Indicator assessment for noise (slides pdf).

C. Lavandier: Indicator assessment for noise (slides pdf).

K. Karkalis: Indicator assessment for cultural heritage (slides ppt).

L. Karali: Assessment of the evaluation of the cultural heritage indicator (slides pdf).

M. Boughedaoui: Greenhouse effect indicators (slides ppt).

M. Lehtonen: Comments on the climate change indicators (slides pdf).

3. Joint consideration of indicators

A. Guehnemann: Challenges for combining indicators (slides pdf).

P. Wäger: Methods for a joint consideration of indicators (slides pdf).

E. Calderon: The applications of joint consideration of indicators: some practical examples (slides pdf).

4. Conclusions and further development

R. Joumard: Recommendations and research needs from COST 356 (slides pdf).

Panel and debate: How to apply and combine indicators for environmentally sustainable transport? How to continue methodological development for environmentally sustainable transport indicators? G. Arapis, P. Jensen, A. Radu, M. Saisana, A. Tennøy.

H. Gudmundsson: Conclusions (slides pdf).


1.3. Communications on outputs of the action

Joumard R., Nicolas J.P. et Boughedaoui M., 2010. Analyse d'indicateurs pour les études d'impact sur l’environnement (slides pdf). Congrès Eau, Déchets & Développement Durable, 28-31 mars 2010, Alexandrie, Égypte. Actes Développement durable, Univ. Senghor, Alexandrie, p. 137-144.

Joumard R., 2010. Les indicateurs environnementaux au service de l'évaluation des impacts du PDU : résultats de COST 356 (slides pdf). Séminaire de réflexion du projet Eval-PDU, Nantes, 9 juin 2010.

Joumard R., H. Gudmundsson and L. Folkeson, 2011. Framework for assessing indicators of environmental impacts in the transport sector (slides pdf). TRB 90th Annual Meeting, Washington, January 23-27, 2011. To be published by Transportation Research Record (TRR).

Gudmundsson H., Joumard R. and L. Folkeson, 2011. Indicators of 'environmentally sustainable transport' – why, what and how to measure? Results of the European 'COST Action 356' (slides pdf). United Nations Univ., Inst. Advanced Studies, Yokohama, Japan, March 1st 2011.

Joumard R., 2011. Environmental sustainability assessments: toward a new framework. International Journal of Sustainable Society (IJSSoc), Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 133-150.


1.4. Contacts


1.5. Seminar Towards the definition of a measurable environmentally sustainable transport

COST 356 seminar "Towards the definition of a measurable environmentally sustainable transport" on 20 February 2008, in Oslo, Norway. See the programme.

Proceedings: Institute of Transport Economics / TOI ed., Oslo, Norway, 2008, 167 p. (text pdf).

R. Joumard: Definitions of indicator within the COST action 356 EST (text pdf). Proceedings, Institute of Transport Economics / TOI ed., Oslo, 2008, p. 1-8.

R. Joumard, S. Mancebo Quintana, G. Arapis & T. Zacharz: Chains of causalities of environmental impacts (text pdf). Proceedings, Institute of Transport Economics / TOI ed., Oslo, 2008, p. 9-21.

P. Ventura: Assessment of the landscape quality including the historical heritage in Italy (text pdf). Proceedings, Institute of Transport Economics / TOI ed., Oslo, 2008, p. 141-157.

Dalbokova and S. Kahlmeier: Towards an Integrated Reporting on Transport, Health and Environment: Environment and Health Indicators (text pdf). Proceedings, Institute of Transport Economics / TOI ed., Oslo, 2008, p. 23-38.


1.6. Network building, methodological guidance and concept of sustainable development

P. Wäger: Life Cycle Assessment – a short overview. Powerpoint, Madrid WG1 meeting, 18-19 Oct. 2006.

R. Joumard & H. Gudmundsson: Functionalities of indicators and role of context (.doc). Aug. 2007, 10 p. PowerPoint, Turin WG1 meeting, 10 Oct. 2007.


1.7. Environmental assessment (indicators as measurement tools)

R. Joumard, G. Arapis & T. Zacharz: Detailed description of the chains of causalities of environmental impacts (.doc) Draft working paper, Oct. 2007, 25 p. PowerPoint, Turin WG2 meeting, 10 Oct. 2007.

HJ. Althaus & P. de Haan: Modelling of transport noise in LCA (.pdf). PowerPoint, WG2 meeting, Turin, 10 Oct. 2007.

B. Martín, S. Mancebo, I. Otero & E. Ortega: Visual qualities of landscape (.doc). 10 October 2007, 3 p.

H. Gudmundsson: Criteria and methods for indicator assessment and validation - a review of general and sustainable transport related indicator criteria and how to apply them. Background report for chapter 4 in COST Action 356 scientific report, April 2010, 78 p.


1.8. Integration in decision making (indicators as decision making tools)

L. Adolphe: Towards a multicriteria evaluation making tool for the analysis of the environmental impacts of human settlements - PIE aggregation (.pdf). Slides, Stockholm WG3 meeting, 24 May 2007.

E. Ortega & S. Mancebo: Aggregation methods (S. Mancebo) (.doc), Draft, June 2007, 6 p.; Aggregation methods (E. Ortega) (.pdf), Turin WG3 meeting, 12 Oct. 2007.

P. Wäger: Multi Criteria Evaluation (.pdf). PowerPoint, Turin WG3 meeting, 12 Oct. 2007.


2. Conferences, links, literature

2.1. COST actions, research projects...

Two other COST actions are linked to COST 356: COST 350 and 355.

The action COST 350 "Integrated assessment of environmental impact of traffic and transport infrastructure" has for objective to establish a concept integrating at regional scale all the environmental aspects of traffic and land-transport infrastructure in relation to the decisionmaking process. This in order to assist policy makers at an earlier stage of their decision-making on transport and mobility. See its public web page or restricted one.

The action COST 355 "Changing behaviour towards a more sustainable transport system" has for objective to analyse the conditions under which the process of growing unsustainable transport demand could be reversed, by changing travellers, shippers, and carriers' behaviours. See its public web page or restricted one.


2.2. Conferences

International Conference Environment and transport in different contexts, Ghardaïa, Algeria, February 16-18, 2009. Proceedings: Kerbachi R., R. Joumard, M. Boughedaoui et T. Goger (2009). ENP ed., Algiers, vol. 1, 270 p., vol. 2, 405 p.


2.3. Literature in the field of the action

Baastel, Alcor & Apex (2004) : Plan d'action d'atténuation des émissions de Gaz à Effet de Serre par la maîtrise de l'énergie en Tunisie (Action plan for limiting emissions of Greenhouse Gases by energy control in Tunisia). ANME and AEEQ report, Tunis and Quebec, 184 p. (pdf, 1,5 Mo)

Adolphe L., B. Rousval, J. Beaumont, R. Joumard, M. Maurin & T. Goger (2006) : L'aide à l'évaluation environnementale des sytèmes de transport : propositions. Rapport École d'Architecure de Toulouse – INRETS, Toulouse & Bron, France, 119 p. (pdf, 3 Mo)

Goger T. (2006) : Un indicateur d'impact environnemental global des polluants atmosphériques émis par les transports (an indicator of global environmental impact of air pollutants emitted by the transport sector). Thèse, Insa Lyon, 28 nov. 2006, et rapport Inrets, n°LTE 0633, Bron, France, 283 p. (pdf, 5,6 Mo)

Joumard R., J.P. Nicolas & G. Le Réveillé (2007) : Méthodologie d'évaluation du schéma de voirie de l'Ouest lyonnais (Methodology for evaluating the transport infrastructure plan of West of Lyon). Note, Inrets-LTE, 16 p (pdf, 0,6 Mo).

USEPA (1996): Indicators of environmental impacts of transportation - Highway, Rail, aviation and maritime transport. USEPA report, 230-R-96-009, Washington, USA, 268 p. (pdf, 5,7 Mo).

Litman T. (2005): Developing indicators for comprehensive and sustainable transport planning. Victoria Transport Policy Inst. report, Victoria, Canada, 35 p. (pdf, 930 Ko).

Zah R., H. Böni, M. Gauch, R. Hischier, M. Lehman & P. Wäger (2007): Ökobilanz von Energieprodukten: Ökologische Bewertung von Biotreibstoffen (Environmental impacts of biofuels). BAFU report, Bern, 206 p. (Web site).

Guinée et al. (2001): LCA - An operational guide to the ISO-standards - Part 1: LCA in perspective, Part 2a: Guide, Part 2b: Operational annex, Part 3: Scientific background. (Web site).

Goedkoop M. & R. Spriensma (2001): The Eco-indicator 99, a damage oriented method for life cycle impact assessment – Methodology report. MVROEM report, nr. 1999/36A, 144 p. (Web site)

Johnstone C. (2006): Environmental indicators for North America. UNEP report, 158 p. (pdf, 9,1 Mo)

Nardo M., M. Saisana, A. Saltelli, S. Tarantola, A. Hoffman and E. Giovannini (2005): Handbook on constructing composite indicators: methodology and user guide, OECD Statistics Working Paper, 108 p.

Final reports of the action COST 350 "Integrated assessment of environmental impact of traffic and transport infrastructure":

J. Zietsman: Transportation corridor decision-making with multi-attribute utility theory. Int. J. Management and Decision Making, Vol. 7, Nos. 2/3, 2006, p. 254-266.


3. Cost 356 objectives

Most of the present strategic environmental assessments do not take into account properly the variety of the environmental impacts, or are using markers, indices and more generally tools which do not represent the impacts. A correct representation of the whole range of impacts is necessary to ensure that sustainability takes into account environmental issues to a satisfactory degree. This is especially important for the transport sector where the concerns and the stakes are important.

The main objective of the action is to design harmonised methods to build better environmental indicators by using existing European indices, and to build methods to be applied to the decision making process of the transport sector in the different European countries, in order to contribute to a systemic approach to environmental and transportation issues.

Besides and beyond the previous COST 350 activity more focussed on the user's point of view, this action deals with the scientific analysis and design of tools for environmental impact assessment, focussing on the representativeness of the methods, either for evaluating sub-impacts such as health impacts, or for aggregating by a multi-criteria analysis the different sub-impact indices.

Output will be valuable for policy analysts (forecasting or back-casting), transport planners, decision-makers, etc...

Finally the objectives of the action are:

The objectives and the initial work programme of COST 356 are described in detail in a so-called Memorandum of Understanding or MoU. The finalised work programme is presented in the next section.

The duration of the action is October 14, 2005 - January 15, 2010.


4. COST 356 work programme

The structure (as the MoU) organises the work in 3 parts: An initial methodological part (network building, methodological building), the core of the scientific work (indicators as measurement tools, integration in the decision making), and a final part (research needs, synthesis, dissemination).

The core of the scientific work is organised in one WG (WG2) working from the environmental or natural science point of view, discussing what impacts are important and relevant, and how they could and should be described and measured within an indicator system, while the other WG (WG3) starts from the planning and decision making point of view, discussing indicator requirements from that point of view, and then discusses this related to options and methods used today. Even if the work is split in two WGs, an important part of the work is to be found in the room between the agendas of the groups. What is the gap between the WG views on indicator requirements etc., how can it be closed or reduced? For that, both approaches must be described in detail and analysed before being compared in task 3.3 and 4.2.

It is the reason why WG2 and WG3 should work in parallel but with some common participants. In addition, the different tasks of these WG are corresponding as drawn in the table below: 2.1 - 2.3 and 3.1 - 3.2 have similar objectives, but from different points of view (natural sciences / social sciences); The task 3.3 should merge both points of view around case studies.


1.1. Network building

1.2. Methodological guidance

2.1. Chain of causalities

3.1. Requirements from planning point of view

1.3. Sustainable development

2.2. Criteria from environment. p. of v.



2.3. Indicators per impact

3.2. Integration of indicators

3.3. Case studies

4.1. Further research needs

4.2. Synthesis

4.3. Dissemination


The timetable translates this structure, with the same duration for parallel tasks.

WG tasks and outputs (WG tasks outputs.pdf)

WG 1: Network building and methodological guidance

Task 1.1     Network building

Main purpose

To develop a network of researchers working on environmentally sustainable transport assessment in Europe (and elsewhere) in order to:


Activities needed to deliver output

Task 1.2     Methodological guidance

Main purpose

To generate consensus between participants on the basic concepts to be used throughout the project and to define the detailed structure of the work


Activities needed to deliver output

Task 1.3     Transport and environment in the concept of sustainable development

Main purpose


A report with review and critical evaluation of the state-of-the-art of sustainable transport definitions and concepts

Activities needed to deliver output


WG 2: Environmental assessment (indicators as measurement tools)

Task 2.1     Analysis of the chain of causalities for each environmental impact

Main purpose


A report describing the chain of causalities, from the transport activities to the final impacts

Activities needed to deliver output

Task 2.2    Defining criteria for environmental indicator quality assessment

Main purpose

To identify operational quality criteria needed for assessing indicators from a scientific perspective (representativity, simplicity, transparency etc) based on available literature – thus forming the basis for task 2.3


A working note summarising criteria for good quality indicators

Activities needed to deliver output

Task 2.3    State of the art of building indicators per individual impact

Main purpose


A report including:

Activities needed to deliver output


WG 3: Integration in decision making (indicators as decision making tools)

Task 3.1    Defining requirements of EST indicators from the planning and decision making point of view

Main purpose


A report with a framework for understanding ‘policy and decision making related’ conditions for indicator use.

Activities needed to deliver output

Review of literature built on the output of the task 1.3.

Task 3.2    Options for integrating EST indicators

Main purpose

To analyse options and methods for aggregation (e.g. cost-benefit, multi-criteria decision methods), or selection (e.g. based on participatory process), or other ways to create integrated measures of environmentally sustainable transport, based on individual (non-aggregated) impact indicators.


A report with:

Activities needed to deliver output

Task 3.3   Case studies: Applications of EST indicators in decision making

Main purpose


A report with case study results and recommendations for the application of indicators and indicator systems in policy making.

Activities needed to deliver output

Undertaking analysis of the ability of environmental indicators (non-aggregated, integrated) to be used for each (relevant) case of assessment.


WG 4: Integrative synthesis, research needs and dissemination

Task 4.1   Further research needs

Main purpose

Identifying white spots and research needs

Task 4.2   Synthesis

Main purpose

Synthesis of the whole Action

Output of tasks 4.1 and 4.2

Final report

Task 4.3   Dissemination

Main purpose

Dissemination of the results


Papers, Internet, CD-ROM, short focussed syntheses

Activities needed to deliver output

Assign person responsible for each dissemination function


5. What is a COST action?

Founded in 1971, COST is an intergovernmental framework for European Co-operation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research, allowing the co-ordination of nationally funded research on a European level. COST Actions cover basic and pre-competitive research as well as activities of public utility.

Therefore COST is one of the longest-running instruments supporting co-operation among scientists and researchers across Europe. COST now covers 35 member countries and enables scientists to collaborate in a wide spectrum of activities in research and technology. COST also welcomes the participation of interested institutions and scientists from non-COST member states without any geographical restriction.

COST is based on so-called "actions". These are networks of co-ordinated national research projects in a given field, which is of interest to a minimum number of participants (at least 5) from different member states. Each action is built by scientists in a bottom-up way, and is defined by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Governments of the COST states wishing to participate in the action. The duration of an action is generally 4 years.

A detailed description of COST is available.

A given COST action contains:

The COST rules are available on the COST website (section 2: Instruments for financing of COST Actions activities).


6. Who do participate to COST 356?

The present signatory countries are the following 20 : Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

The participants to the action are mainly scientists. Different types of participation are possible:


7. Private area for the action members only

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8. Your comments on this web site

If you have comments, remarks, some problems with the proposed methodology, or if you want to be in contact with the working group, please send them at with "COST356" in the title.

If you want get in contact with a laboratory or an expert involved in a report, please look at its web adress, mail or email adress indicated on this page or in the different reports.

If you have difficulties to download any report or to contact authors, please send a message with the title "problem on the COST356 web site" at

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Last modification : April 2011