Is Benchmarking An Effective Policy Tool? - a Case Study of Four World Cities

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - history


This paper examines the explicit and indirect benefits of benchmarking to policy makers. It follows a study completed by Transport for London to compare the provision and quality of public transport in London with that of New York, Paris and Tokyo, with a view to influencing future policy direction in London. The study collected and compiled data from recent studies and from data published by operators in each city. It compared, among other indicators, average journey speeds, punctuality and reliability. The rationale for the study was to highlight areas of provision and performance where London performs relatively less well, and to suggest targeted improvements. The study recognises that demographic and socio-economic context, inter-regional links, city roles and transport system management exerts a strong influence upon the extent and utilisation of public transport. In particular, planning policies and labour market dynamics contribute to the formation of independent yet unique roles for individual modes. This, in turn, affects demand and investment to meet such demands. A number of challenges encountered during the study included; ·Limited public transport usage data due to private and contracted operations; ·Assimilating and interpreting data from a duplicity of sources; ·Difficulty in collecting consistent and comparable performance data for modes without data-sharing bodies such as CoMet; ·Political sensitivities and the appropriate approach to safety; ·Communicating complex issues to policy makers, politicians and the public. These difficulties beckon a policy response both at the level of respective transport authorities and at a trans-national scale, to improve the availability and comparability of data. The recent EMTA study, “A comparative survey of the funding of public transport in the European metropolitan areas” (ATM, 2001), the Regional Environment Centre (for Central & Eastern Europe) “Urban transport benchmarking initiative” and moves to create a European Transport Information System (ETIS), clearly recognise this. The role for benchmarking upon the transport agenda at home and in Europe remains open to debate. The many studies underway to determine a role for benchmarking in the definition of transport service development and investment policies, represents an exciting opportunity to discuss the methodological pre-conditions for such studies. The paper examines this and draws out the key findings of this recent study of the Four World cities.


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.