How Can Stakeholders of the Transport Decision-making Process Be Convinced of Sustainable Transport Options?

How Can Stakeholders of the Transport Decision-making Process Be Convinced of Sustainable Transport Options?


R Hoessinger, G Sammer, University for Bodenkultur, AT



VEREIN is a basic research project funded by the Austrian ministry for transport, innovation and technology. It had a duration of two years and was concluded in 2002.


Experience shows a great discrepancy between the stated goals in transport policy and the effective behaviour of decision-makers. There is a lack of both the willingness of decision-makers to introduce environmentally friendly transport options and the readiness of citizens and interest groups to accept these options. This is true for example when it comes to an environmental tax on fuels or a road pricing.


The project deals with attitudes in terms of the readiness to act towards environmentally friendly transport options. Three objectives were defined:

(1) Measuring of attitudes of various actors in the field of transport policy: citizens, businessmen, representatives, journalists, transport experts, and politicians at different levels.
(2) Exploration of the scope of change of attitudes, and explanation of the attitudes and the change of attitudes by means of statistical models.
(3) Development of suggestions for information campaigns in the field of transport policy to increase the readiness to act towards environmentally friendly transport options.

Theoretical approach

The theoretical basis is formed by two models:

(1) The 'situational model' served for the explanation of attitudes. The influencing factors on attitudes are allocated to three domains: the objective situation of the individual, the subjective perception of this situation, and personal aims and values.
(2) The 'four-phase model' served for the explanation of a change of attitudes in terms of a phased process: perception of a certain problem -> passive collective acceptance to solve this problem -> individual acceptance of according actions, e.g. the implementation of a measure -> the action itself. The last step was not investigated in the project.

Data collection

A two-phase survey was carried out with a stratified sample according to different groups of actors:

(1) A written postal survey (net sample size 1,200 people) to measure the attitudes towards transport options and the anticipated explaining variables, i.e. socio-demographic variables, travel behaviour, the subjective perception of transport topics, personal aims and values.
(2) A stated response interactive in-depth survey (net sample size 230 persons). It served to record the basis of knowledge of the individuals, the motivation, the scope of change of attitudes, and the factors bearing an influence on this change. In a series of stated response games the interviewees had to estimate the impacts of transport options and the attitudes of different groups towards these options. Later on they were confronted with the results of impact analyses and with the actually measured attitudes of the groups.

Description of the 'market' of attitudes towards transport options

The description is based on two criteria of structuring:

(1) Actors in transport policy: Particularly strong distinctions in the attitudes towards transport options result from a grouping by the travel behaviour and different political parties. The estimation of impacts of transport options rather varies depending on different 'levels', i.e. citizens without a political function and politicians at the local, regional or national level. The perception seems to be influenced by the everyday experience stronger than by the affiliation to a political party.
(2) The main topics of transport policy and their conjunction also provide a significant structuring. Any question is considered and answered by means of an association with other topics. There appear typical associations in terms of catchwords and well known arguments, ranging to the fields of policy, privacy, economy, social welfare, and progress and future. They provide an important source for the change of attitudes in other fields far away from transport policy.

Explanation of attitudes and the change of attitudes towards transport options

Both the situational and the four-phase model were confirmed and expanded in the analysis. Two rough groups of factors bearing an influence on attitudes were identified: those describing the individual situation and those referring to communication.

Concerning the individual situation three domains of influence were identified:

(1) Frequency of use of different transport modes: This attribute is strongly connected to different values and general views on transport policy. A frequent car usage is connected to individually oriented values and to a commitment to support the car traffic. A rare car usage is rather connected to social values and to the demand of car traffic restraints in favour of alternative modes.
(2) The values: They bear a direct influence on attitudes and also determine the way of perception and association. The question for the 'attitude towards a fuel tax' can lead ones view to environmental, social or economic effects. The most significant categories of values in the field of transport policy are individual freedom (and economic wealth), social solidarity, and environmental awareness. These values also provide the final motivation for attitudes.
(3) Perception of impacts of transport options: This is the most promising factor for a change of attitudes. The expression of attitudes is always based on the consideration of a small part of reality that varied even within an interview. Two criteria of perception are important: The fundament (affective versus cognitive), and the perspective (detailed versus global oriented). The focus can be for instance on the individual situation or on the countries' economy.

Any expression or change of attitudes is embedded in a communicative situation. Thus, two further influencing factors have been identified:

(1) The situational framework of communication: The effectiveness of the influencing factors as mentioned above depends on the respective situation. The judgement of parking facilities for example can take place from the viewpoint of the everyday experience, or with view on the aim to keep the parking facilities. There also appears the 'principle of lobbyism', i.e. a strategic defence of a scope for negotiation.
(2) The criterion trust: It is derived from the perception of the counterpart in the communication. This factor appears to be the strongest influencing factor on the change of attitudes. Two types of withdrawing trust have been identified: 'Mistrust' as a fundamental an offensive refusal, and 'scepticism' as an objective reserved attitude. In case of mistrust the attempt to change ones attitudes hardly bears an effect. A sceptical rejection can rather be overcome.

Suggestions for information campaigns in the field of transport policy

First of all two principles should be mentioned:

(1) Marketing campaigns in the field of transport policy differ from commercial marketing and need experts with relevant experience.
(2) A precondition for a successful campaign is the knowledge of the market. The following suggestions are therefore divided into a market analysis and the actual campaign.

The market analysis draws on a segmentation of the target group by means of three criteria:

(1) Position of attitudes (approval versus refusal).
(2) Mobility of attitudes (persistent versus flexible). It depends particularly on ones trust in the operators and the subject of the campaign.
(3) The fundament of attitudes (affective versus cognitive). This is the main criterion of perception and reflection. Further significant criteria are the perspective (detailed versus global), the stage of awareness (four-phase model), catchwords and lines of arguments.

These criteria are used to arrange the target group in a cross-table. The table allows an estimation of the share of persons in terms of the necessity to change the attitudes (position), the prospect of success of a change (mobility), and the suitable verbal and textual level of the campaign (fundament). The analysis leads to a series of strategies for separate market segments. Any strategy can be evaluated by means of the cost-efficiency to be expected.

For the actual campaign four suggestions have been derived:

(1) Gain of trust: A certain amount of trust in the operator and the subject of the campaign is a condition of the serious willingness of communication. It is therefore important to win different opinion-leaders who argue for the subject to signalise a broad based approval.
(2) Open and transparent decision-making process: The process must be comprehensible for the citizens to avoid the impression that their problems are ignored. It should also be clear that the responsibility of the operators continues after implementation.
(3) Action instead of reaction: The market analysis provides much information. This should be used to address the important aspects from the viewpoint of the target persons at first and not to wait until they are addressed from the opponents.
(4) Objectification: Environmentally friendly transport options often generate fears which can be reduced by means of an objective reflection. It is therefore important to avoid an emotional discussion and to objectify things. But, this cannot be obtained just by a factual argumentation. Key factor is the readiness of the target persons for an objective reflection. This is again a question of trust.

Additionally to the findings of the project, the report also provides a concrete suggestion


Association for European Transport