Report numberRA-MOW-2010-007
TitleMethodology for an objective measurement of the effect of traffic on the quality of life.
SubtitleAn aggregation technique for measuring the local effects of traffic (safety, health and quality of the environment) at home, during trips and at the destination, using the individual activity pattern and trip behavior – Theoretical framework.
AuthorsLuc Dekoninck
Dominique Gillis
Dick Botteldooren
Dirk Lauwers
Published byPolicy Research Centre for Mobility and Public Works, track Traffic Safety 2007-2011
Number of pages109
Document languageDutch
Partner(s)Universiteit Gent
Work packageOther: Sustainable transportation

The purpose of this report is to develop a methodology for measuring the impact of traffic on the quality of life in the neighborhood in an objective way. In order to improve the shortcomings of existing evaluation methods, the following basic principles are formulated:


  • The inhabitant is central in determining the quality of life indicators. The calculation of the traffic effects is based on the actual living address. The evaluation takes into account the characteristics of the home location and the residents (age, family situation, ...).
  • An important shortcoming in the existing methodologies is the estimation of local traffic. Using the results from trip surveys, quantified data about the individual travel behavior per dwelling are available. This information has a high added value in two ways: first in creating a set of typical movements for several trip profiles (person characteristics) and, after aggregating these for a residential area, in estimating the total amount of local traffic. These individual trips are the basis for the evaluation of the indicators.
  • Although the focus is on the impact of traffic on the quality of life, also other aspects of traffic and quality of life are considered. This way, some negative impacts of traffic can be compensated by some (personal) benefits of traffic (e.g. good accessibility).
  • Depending on the application, the individual dwellings can be aggregated into the desired level. Where necessary, the quality of life can be determined on a street level, but on the basis of the above remarks, it seems more appropriate to evaluate it for a residential area. Possibly even the livability at a district or city level is useful.

The first part of the study is an exploration of relevant literature. From this study, the different effects of traffic on the environment are defined, with an inventory of possible indicators. Traffic has four major impacts on the quality of life: the accessibility and quality of functions, the health effects (including road safety, and external effect as traffic noise and air quality), the traffic impacts to the environment (including disturbance of the environment and the attractivity of the public domain) and the barrier effect of the traffic and infrastructure (affecting the social cohesion of the neighborhood). For each of these aspects a set of indicators is set up, which are objectively measurable. Each impact is evaluated on an individual basis taking into account the individual movement characteristics.


  • The evaluation of the accessibility aspect is largely based on driving time, driving cost and distance to reach a set of representative functions frequently visited. The trip costs are added together, taking into account the frequency of each trip, in order to calculate a weekly transportation budget. Above this, a correction can be applied, based on the quality (safety, health, attractiveness) of the route followed and of the ultimate destination. This allows a longer travel time to be compensated if this is a safer or more attractive route.
  • For the aspect of the traffic safety, the accident risk is used as the indicator. Taking into account the individual's trip pattern and the routes and modes for each trip, the individual accident risk over all trips is calculated for each individual.  To do so, the risk ratios are needed for the accident probability in regard to the amount of traffic, the road category and the intersection types.
  • The external effects of traffic mainly consist of traffic noise and traffic emissions. These are measured in terms of DALY’s (Disability Adjusted Life Years).
  • The disturbance of the environment is measured on the basis of sleep disturbance, traffic noise from road and rail traffic, the availability of a quiet side to the house and the odor caused by road traffic.
  • The appreciation of the living area is measured by the disruption caused by traffic. This is partly expressed in terms of the visual presence of traffic, and partly by the subjective perception of the traffic in the wider environment.
  • The social cohesion of the environment is evaluated on the basis of three indicators: the traffic bustle near the house, the ease to cross the road and the presence of facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

For each of these indicators, the final score is converted to a 5-point scale, so that all aspects have a similar final result. The definition of the evaluation scales needs special attention. Where possible scientific or policy accepted thresholds should be used to determine these scales.


This first assessment of the effect of traffic on quality of life at the individual level should be aggregated in two consecutive steps. First, the individual scores for each aspect should be merged into an overall assessment of the quality of life. For this purpose, weights are calculated for each of the aspects of traffic livability. These weights are based on a large scale trip survey in Flanders (Schriftelijk LeefbaarheidsOnderzoek, SLO). Based on this analysis it is clear that certain aspects have a heavy weight in the global assessment of traffic livability. In particular, traffic noise, traffic bustle (both in their own streets and in the wider environment), accessibility (especially of shops and facilities for leisure and recreation) and road safety get high weights in the aggregation. The second step is to aggregate the individual scores by geographic area (street, suburb, ...). For both steps the aggregation method to be applied, is described.


This theoretical methodology will be applied in a number of case studies, which will be elaborated in the period 2009-2010. The goal is to implement and to refine the described methodology. Therefore, the base data which are needed for this methodology are listed. This shortlist will be helpful when selecting the specific cases for studies, as the availability of the necessary input data will be one of the main requirements.


This also means that the described model structure is only a first theoretical proposal, which will be tested during the case-studies. It will need further elaboration and possibly even structural adaptations in order to improve the model calibration and model sensitivity.

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The Policy Research Centre for Traffic Safety carries out policy relevant scientific research under the authority of the Flemish Government. The Centre is the result of a

cooperation between Hasselt University, KU Leuven and VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.


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