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The ideas and concepts of sustainability need to be given operational forms if they are to influence and count in the governance of transportation systems. Such a prerogative has been acknowledged by many policy bodies and scholars over the last two decades; and the term indicators is often evoked as an important element in this respect (Jeon and Amekudzi 2005; Joumard and Gudmundsson 2010). The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the concept of an indicator as a key informational device for both planning and delivery (see Chap. 5) with regard to sustainability in transportation, and to present various ways to develop and use indicators. However, a key problem for making sustainability count in transportation with the use of indicators is the diversity of values, scientific disciplines, and planning tasks that are involved. This creates a number of challenges for developing indicators that will be effective and resonate with a broad array of stakeholders and contexts. It also undermines the idea that one “general set of sustainable transportation indicators” can be found, which is why we have not pursued this task in this book.
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The term “proxy” is often used to denote that indicators only provide an approximate description of an issue. It is not an exact term, but it highlights the important aspect that the indicator always needs to be interpreted by someone to form a conclusion about the problem.
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