How can we track progress toward sustainable mobility?

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How can we track progress toward sustainable mobility?
 Photo: World Bank/Flickr

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” This is a saying you’ll hear over and over again if you work in global development. The idea is that, before designing and implementing any intervention, you first need to assess the existing situation as thoroughly as possible, including by collecting data on all relevant indicators. This initial diagnostic phase is essential to making informed policy decisions and achieving the best possible outcomes.

Want to improve transport? Start with a good diagnostic

Evidence-based action is at the heart of the approach developed by the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All), a global coalition of organizations working to make transport greener, safer, more equitable and efficient. Our recent Global Roadmap of Action Toward Sustainable Mobility (GRA) is a case in point. The GRA helps decision makers identify concrete policy measures that can help move the needle on mobility, and combine them into realistic, locally-relevant action plans. This entire framework relies upon—you guessed it—a comprehensive mobility diagnostic: Where does the country stand? What are the strengths and weaknesses of its mobility system?

This is exactly the process that we followed with our counterparts in South Africa, which just became the first country to adopt the GRA as an official basis for guiding transport investment and policy. As highlighted during SuM4All’s 8th Consortium Meeting, the findings that came out of the diagnostic phase were instrumental in South Africa’s decision to embrace the GRA, and helped the country get a much clearer sense of what kind of mobility investments it ought to prioritize.

To take this further, SuM4All has recently released a suite of complementary tools that will allow our partners to evaluate the state of the transport sector even more precisely, both at the global and country level. These include the updated Transport Global Tracking Framework (GTF 2.0), the Online Tool Toward Sustainable Mobility 2.0 , and 183 new Mobility Performance at a Glance papers.

The case for a comprehensive tracking framework

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda that was adopted in 2015 charted a course for the future of people and the planet. Sectors like energy and technology were front and center in that process, while transport was somewhat left out. Stakeholders in the field did not manage to secure a dedicated transport SDG, in large part due to the lack of: (i) clarity on overarching goals, (ii) standard performance metrics and indicators and (iii) a global data system.

This was certainly a wake-up call for the global transport community. To turn things around, a wide range of organizations rallied under the SuM4All umbrella with the support of the World Bank, the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID) and members of SuM4All.  Together, they developed the first iteration of the Transport Global Tracking Framework (GTF 1.0), a catalogue of more than 100 indicators to measure the performance of the transport sector across all modes and track countries’ toward four critical policy goals: universal access, efficiency, safety, and green mobility.

A constant work in progress

A few years later, we are excited to introduce the Global Tracking Framework 2.0, an enhanced version with new data, a more extensive range of indicators, and graphs depicting change in indicators over time. Produced with the financial support of the World Bank, The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and SuM4All members, the GTF 2.0 provides an opportunity to refine how we monitor countries’ performance thanks to three key metrics:

  • Sustainability Rating: a ‘grading’ system that clusters countries into groups based on mobility performances  (methodology).
  • Sustainable Mobility Ranking: an assignment of positions based on country performances along what we coined as the ‘Sustainable Mobility Index’  (methodology).
  • Sustainability Gap: a multifaceted assessment of how far a country’s mobility performance is relative to the global leaders, regional benchmarks, income group benchmarks or their own historical performances (indicators and data sources).

These tools will give us the ability to better assess country-level progress toward sustainable mobility. But the work is far from over. In a quickly-changing global environment, the transport community will have to keep adjusting the way it evaluates progress toward sustainable mobility—with new indicators, new benchmarks, and new methodologies. By mobilizing knowledge and leadership from around the world, the SuM4All coalition will be at the heart of that process.


The author would like to acknowledge the technical support of Mary Ngaratoki Fabian  in the development of the Global Tracking Framework 2.0.


Gurpreet Singh Sehmi

Economist, Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All), World Bank

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