Economic appraisal of universal design in transport: Experiences from Norway

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - benefits, economics - appraisal/evaluation, place - europe, mode - bus, infrastructure - station, infrastructure - stop


Universal design, Economic appraisal, Valuation, User benefits, Road and public transport


Economic assessment of universally designed transport projects has not been studied in depth in the transport planning literature. Universal Design (UD) refers to the design of transport systems in a way that they are accessible to all users, irrespective of the users’ abilities. This definition of UD has not yet gained roots in the transport economic literature. The conventional thinking is that UD is for the few, i.e., the impaired, and given that they are few in numbers, UD projects will generally be unprofitable from a socioeconomic point of view because benefits will be low while investment costs will be too high. The objective of this paper is to prove the opposite: UD projects benefit all users of the facility, whether impaired or not, and the additional costs of implementing them are generally low; hence, their net present values are high and positive. We build on collaborative work between the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) and the Institute of Transport Economics (TOI) aimed at creating guidelines for assessing the economic merits of UD projects. Therefore, in this paper, we: (1) define how UD is to be understood in the context of road and public transport; (2) describe the types of benefits and costs that accrue to users if UD projects are implemented; (3) address how the benefits and cost can be valued in monetary terms; and (4) using three different types of projects, demonstrate that UD projects are surprisingly profitable from a socioeconomic point of view. Finally, we address the implications of our findings and explain why governments need to be concerned with UD of transport systems.


Permission to publish abstract given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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