How to select interventions to solve transport challenges

Addressing Transport Challenges – Part 3 Instruments

In the two previous articles – Part 1 Strategy and Part 2 Analysis – I described two the steps in addressing transport challenges: Strategy and Analysis. In this article I will outline the third step – Instruments or Interventions.

Once you have determined a strategy and desired outcomes, and analysed transport challenges, the next step is to identify the most appropriate instrument or intervention or package to address the problem.

Usually there is more than one way to address any transport challenge. Different options have different contributions, different key stakeholders, different resourcing and risk profiles.

A package of interventions may be the most appropriate, for example in addressing a road safety speeding problem, the most effective approach will be a combination of engineering (ensure posted speed limits are appropriate), education (road safety advertising), and enforcement (speed camera). See article: Emerging fourth ‘E’ in improving road safety


The main types of instruments are:

  1. Advocacy – such as influencing behaviour through public education
  2. Collaboration – action in partnership with key stakeholders
  3. Economic – using taxpayer funds or taxing powers as an incentive
  4. Service Delivery – such as provision of public transport services
  5. Legal – using legislation and regulations.

Option Generation

One of the mistakes I often see is a focus on a preferred approach …“this is how we have always done this …” You should always consider alternative approaches, for example if we have a local traffic congestion problem:

  • minor infrastructure upgrade, such as provide a lane widening at an intersection where there is a bottleneck
  • non-infrastructure option, such as increasing parking pricing to deter traffic to a congested area
  • integrating transport and land use, such as encouraging mixed use development at a transport hub
  • use transport technology, such as variable speed limits to reduce traffic flow breakdown at critical times of the day
  • staging project implementation, particularly when all the funds are not currently available, and progress some lower cost components.

Choosing a Preferred Instrument

You should establish criteria for selecting a preferred intervention early on, before getting to option evaluation, as this allows a consistent approach to option comparison.

Criteria used can involve a combination of technical application and political practicality – some questions to help guide your choice of instrument include:

  • Efficient: will the instrument be cost-effective?
  • Effective: will the instrument get the job done?
  • Appropriate: is this a reasonable way of proceeding?
  • Equity: are the consequences likely to be fair and reasonable?
  • Doable: can the instrument be readily delivered?
  • Scalable: can the instrument adapt to changing circumstances (expanded, contracted)?


Key Concepts

  • instruments are means to address transport challenges and achieve desired outcomes
  • there are five basic types: advocacy, collaboration, economic, delivery, legal
  • selecting the most appropriate package of instruments is difficult and involves trade-offs
  • criteria to evaluate instruments will involve a combination of technical application and political practicality.


See other articles in this series:


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2 thoughts on “How to select interventions to solve transport challenges

  1. The word “instruments” does not sit well in this context. It is a very legalistic term. “Interventions” or “actions” are better words to use.
    Collaboration is not an intervention in its own right. Most interventions will require some consultation and collaboration with other parties. Collaboration to do what? Collaboration, by itself, will not achieve any change in the current situation.
    Where does improving the infrastructure sit in your 5 types of interventions? Constructing a new rail line, through to tweaking the traffic signal timings, are all viable engineering interventions to improve the infrastructure.
    However, I agree with you that public sector transport professionals need to consider a broad range of viable interventions, not just focus on the engineering solutions.
    Regards, David

    • Thanks for your comment David – use the term that suits, but instruments is OK for me, so is countermeasure, intervention, potential solutions, actions …
      In some cases collaboration by itself delivers results – in road safety for example if state and local transport and police agencies collaborate effectively then alignment of objectives occurs and without additional resources current engineering, education and enforcement actions are aligned and focused to achieve a better result. Delivery should include infrastructure and non-infastructure options. The key message of the articles is to consider a wider range of practical options.

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