Social impact assessment in transport planning
The Kronoberg region in Sweden is striving to ensure that requirements of users in different life situations are considered in regional transport planning.
The authority of the Kronoberg region provides a guideline and tools for use in planning, implementation and monitoring of regional transport planning. The document describes what social sustainability can be in the transport sector, what goals regional actors have to relate to when it comes to social aspects and what special challenges exist in Kronoberg linked to the transport sector .
For example, different perspectives are highlighted in the guidelines:
- Individual perspectives: describes who may be affected by an intervention/project. For example, individuals have different preconditions to be mobile which connects to age, gender, ability, family relations and more.
- Geographic perspective: describes which geographies are affected by an intervention/project. For example, urban areas, which parts of the urban area, rural areas, what type of rural areas. The transport system affects the various groups’ prerequisites to meet their transport needs, depending on where a person lives, works, or has their leisure time.
- Mobility perspective: describes which means of transport benefit from a project. This is relevant because different groups have different conditions and preferences to use different means of transport. By including this perspective, conclusions can be drawn about means of transport and which groups benefit from the intervention/project.
Social perspectives in transport planning handle mapping and analysing :
- Different groups’ need for infrastructure, public transport and target points
- Accessibility by various groups to infrastructure, public transport and target points
- Consequences for different groups of decisions related to transport planning
- Different groups’ ability to participate in planning processes linked to transport planning
- Facilitate meetings between people and support active life.
 Social Impact Assessment: tools to include social aspects.
 Tools for use in planning, implementation and monitoring of regional transport planning. http://www.regionkronoberg.se/contentassets/82e2a25c02d440d6bc0580a7cd8a104d/dokumentation-av-ska.pdf
 Kronoberg Region website.
Interview with Camilla Ottosson and Elsa Andermann, Kronoberg Region
Kronoberg Region social planner and operations development manager
Why have you been successful in the area of gender and transport?
Region Kronoberg has developed a tool for social impact assessment in regional transport planning. The method was developed in close collaboration with various stakeholders, including representants from Trafikverket (Swedish transport administration), Länsstyrelsen (the County Administrative Board), Länstrafiken (responsible for public transport in the region) and from the department of regional development at Region Kronoberg. The working group had expertise in infrastructure and public transportation planning, but also in public health, gender equality, human rights and environmental issues. The working group used an explorative approach in developing the tool, which allowed the group to explore the definition of social sustainability, norms and power structures, existing tools and methods for social impact assessment and travel patterns of different groups. The explorative approach was complemented with examining current research in the field. This working method has led to a high level of acceptance from the stakeholders expected to use the social impact assessment tool.
What were the main challenges in implementing the outcome of the social impact assessments?
Even though the acceptance of the social impact assessment tool is high, there is always a challenge in implementing a new way of working. The backbone in the social impact assessment is participation, dialogue and a thorough situation assessment. To do a social impact assessment takes time and requires knowledge and insight into other people’s living conditions, needs and attitudes. Such knowledge requires a culture of ongoing dialogue, that can lay the foundation for a nuanced situation assessment highlighting conditions and needs of different groups in society. The infrastructure and public transport planners are usually not used to working with high participation from different groups, nor at working with statistics broken down to a group level (as gender, age, background). This also increases costs initially. Many times this more in-depth knowledge requires the collection of new data, both quantitative and qualitative. In addition, there are norms and power structures in the area of infrastructure and transport planning which are difficult to overcome.
What further activities in this area would be desirable in the future?
In the tool, we chose to focus on social sustainability. We did this because we were particularly weak in this area and saw a gain in focusing on one dimension of sustainability. As we move on we see the need to tie together the different dimensions of sustainability.
We also think it would be valuable to develop national guidelines to ensure quality in these types of processes but also to explore some kind of legal framework that requires not only environmental impact assessments, but also social, in planning and in decision making.
Do you have any recommendations for your European colleagues?
Success factors that have enabled us to develop the tool have been participation – where those expected to use the tool have been included in the design, and a cross-sectoral approach – where a width of skills and experience contributed to the process. The dialogues conducted outside the working group have also contributed to the final model and have led to a distribution of the tool to a wider range of actors.
Our experience is also that it is important to start the social impact assessment early in the planning process, preferably before political decisions takes place. Various alternative about investments and reductions could then be compared to each other, weighted and evaluated. It is, on the whole, to ensure that the necessary priorities and re-priorities contribute to the achievement of set goals.