3. How can amenity and liveability be included in transport appraisal and planning

Amenity and liveability should be included through the ATAP appraisal approach as outlined in Part F3 Chapter 3. The approach consists of:

  • Clarification of relevant goals, transport system objectives and indicators
  • Consideration of strategic merit and alignment
  • Use of the ATAP triple bottom line appraisal elements of CBA and the Appraisal Summary Table (AST). The AST provides the mechanism for presenting all the appraisal results—monetised and non‑monetised—in a single location.

3.1 Developing goals, objectives and indicators

The Guidelines seek to have clear jurisdiction goals, transport system objectives and related indicators as drivers at the start of the ATAP Framework (see Part F1). It is therefore important to clarify early in the planning and assessment process the goals and transport system objectives that relate to amenity and liveability. That allows those objectives to be part of the identification of options, and for the amenity and liveability effects of an initiative to be related back to goals and objectives.

Goals and transport system objectives will vary from one jurisdiction to the next, so practitioners need to assess the situation in their particular setting. Appendix B provides an illustrative list of goals and objectives identified by Litman (2011) relating to sustainable development, many of which relate closely to amenity and liveability effects. Note that in the ATAP Framework, all economic, social and environmental goals and objectives are relevant, and so the Framework is consistent with the concepts of sustainability and sustainable development.

3.2 Strategic merit and alignment

The degree of strategic alignment of a transport initiative or option should next be assessed with the identified goals and objectives, including those related to amenity and liveability. This can be done by undertaking the Strategic Merit Test – as discussed in Part F3 Chapter 3.

3.3 Appraisal

The ATAP appraisal methodology recognises that all benefits and costs—monetised and non-monetised—are relevant to the appraisal of initiatives. It facilitates this through use of the AST in which monetised and non-monetised benefits and costs are presented side-by-side – see Part F3 Chapter 3.

This is particularly important where major impacts cannot be monetised. Infrastructure Victoria (2016) observes that monetisation of many impacts of initiatives is difficult, such as for many aspects of amenity and liveability. Use of the AST therefore allows amenity and liveability effects to be explicitly considered in the appraisal process through the AST, so the option delivering the greatest net economic benefit overall can be identified.
In that content, amenity and liveability should be included in the broader appraisal as follows:

  • List the various amenity and liveability effects of the transport initiative being appraised
  • Decide which ones can be monetised and those that must be expressed in non-monetised terms
  • Identify those that can be measured in physical terms, and the methods and measures by which to report
  • Proceed with the relevant measurements and assessments.
  • Include the monetised results in the monetised component of the CBA
  • Ensure that non-monetised items are not duplicating items that have been monetised (to avoid double counting – see section 3.5 below)
  • Undertake sensitivity testing (see section 3.6.3 below).

The above tasks can be undertaken in both rapid and detailed phases of the appraisal.

It is important to acknowledge that a transport initiative can have positive and negative impacts on aspects of amenity. The choice between options will therefore involve trade-offs between impacts. The AST provides the basis for presenting the trade-offs to the decision-maker. For example, improving the quality of access to a range of built environment features may reduce natural habitats and open places. The result is not an either/or but requires careful consideration of a range of competing outcomes (through the AST).
In some cases, the outcome of an appraisal depends on the significance of non-monetised benefits and costs. For example, the monetised benefits and costs may produce a net present value (NPV) of $100 million, but the initiative has negative non-monetised net benefits. As discussed in Part F3 section 3.2, the initiative is economically justified if the decision-maker judges that the non-monetised net disbenefits are worth less than $100 million — resulting in a positive combined (monetised and non-monetised) net benefit. To further assist the decision-maker, the threshold value ($100 million in this case) could be expressed on a per person basis. Say 1,000 people are affected by the disbenefit, then the initiative is justified if the non‑monetised disbenefit is considered to be less than $100,000 per person ($100,000,000 / 1,000).

Consider, for example, the construction of a new road, with two options being considered that deliver the same user benefits (Infrastructure Victoria 2016):

  • An at-grade alignment through a suburb or park – the lower cost option
  • A tunnel solution under the suburb or park – a high cost option.

For the tunnel option, the large cost will be monetised – with the cost aspects therefore favouring the at‑grade option. However, it is difficult to monetise the positive and negative impacts of preserving amenities in surrounding suburbs, and the exclusion of these effects could seriously hamper the selecting the preferred option. A balanced AST, with monetised and non-monetised effects presented side-by-side, would ensure that all major effects are presented to the decision-maker.


A key challenge is understanding the cost and benefits of amenity, particular when comparing design or alignment options for rail grade separations or building new freeways that would have an effect on local amenity (Infrastructure Victoria 2016). There is often criticism of the additional cost of including aesthetic features in an infrastructure project when the budget is already stretched. However, the inclusion of aesthetic features is a result of growing concerns over social and environmental impacts of the transport system, resulting in such features receiving higher weighting in projects and programs in recent times. Accordingly, transport facilities are increasingly being developed that create a balance between fitting the physical setting, preserving the scenery, aesthetics, history and environmental resources whilst maintaining safety and mobility, which in turn affects travel behaviour and choices and the overall health and experience of users (Handy 2002).

It is important the outcomes of amenity are not confused with their drivers (correctly identifying cause and effect). For example, some areas may have high amenity as a result of higher incomes and wealth, but they may also have higher wealth or income because of the amenity. Similarly, there are a range of complex phenomena including crime, local culture and other unobservable or part-observable attributes that may be the cause or the effect of amenity. The drivers of amenity may also vary across a jurisdiction, city or region of a city or suburb. In these cases, amenity estimates risk being systematically biased, may misrepresent policy interventions, and may cause policy interventions to be misguided. For example, some initiatives that try to connect a residential area to employment areas by building new transport infrastructure can generate higher rates of gentrification, which pushes out poorer incumbent residents and destroys social capital.

3.4 The measurement challenge

Measuring and monetising urban amenity and liveability is crucial for creating an informative AST for the decision-maker. However, amenity and liveability are not easy to measure and/or monetise due to the multiple dimensions of amenity and liveability, the intangible nature of some aspects and the fact they are not bought and sold through markets (which reflect value through prices).

One illustration of this is the various global scales that exist to measure liveability, such as The Economist Intelligence Unit2, the Mercer Quality of Living Survey3 and the Monocle Lifestyle Magazine4). The criteria used in these measurements are continually changing, and some criteria may be considered more important than others. Interpretation of what constitutes a ‘liveable city’ can therefore be a complex.

Notwithstanding this measurement challenge, the principle of measurement does have significant merit, and further research is required.

Where measurement is possible, measures should be chosen based on their relevance. For example, they must have a direct influence on the output required from the initiative, and their reliability—they must be sufficiently accurate and have appropriate spatial or geographical coverage to represent the area of influence of the project, capturing before and after the implementation of the initiative, be as complete as possible and should be current so they detect any changes over time periods.

Where impacts are not easily measured, such impacts should not be simply dismissed. They should still be acknowledged and recognised in the appraisal as non-monetised effects, even if they can only be described in qualitative terms in the AST.

3.5 Avoiding double-counting

It is necessary to avoid double counting at all times in the appraisal of initiatives. Double-counting can arise when the full list of benefits of an initiative is generated. If two or more benefit components are expressed in different terms, but are effectively measuring the same overall effect, then double-counting will occur. It can also arise when overlapping measuring methods are used to measure two or more benefits (TfNSW 2016).

The example typically referred to in the CBA literature is of a transport improvement that leads to a travel time savings. The value of those time savings is in due course reflected in increased land and property values for locations that experience the time savings. To count the value of time savings (measured through a stated preference survey, or by estimation and monetisation of the time savings) as well as the increase in land value is a case of double-counting.

Similarly, amenity improvements will also be reflected in local property prices. If the improved amenity is valued through a stated preference survey, double-counting will occur if the increase in property values measured through hedonic pricing is also included.
TfNSW (2016) notes that double counting can arise from a failure to recognise an economic chain reaction and also from a failure to recognise overlapping measuring methods.

The risk of double-counting is reiterated in section 3.7.3.

3.6   Monetised parameter values

The Guidelines encourage the monetisation of impacts wherever feasible, maximising the coverage of impacts in the key CBA result metrics (NPV, BCR, etc). This approach is also recommended by Infrastructure Australia (2017). However, as noted in sections 3.4 and 3.5, in the case of amenity and liveability impacts, the review of literature undertaken for the development of this guidance has revealed that very few monetised values are available. Further research would clearly be helpful.

3.6.1 Noise and urban separation

Noise and urban barrier and separation effects are the two amenity impacts that are currently best supported by monetised parameter values in Australia. Unit parameter values for these for use in Australia have been published since 2003 (Austroads 2003, 2012; ATC 2006), as part of a broader set of environmental parameter values reported in Part PV5 of the ATAP Guidelines.

Current reported values are shown in Tables 1 and 2 below. Practitioners should continue to use these in their appraisals, although where robust evidence-based values are available for a specific initiative they should be used instead.

Users of these values should first read the practice notes and caveats provided in Austroads (2012) before using them.

Table 1 Noise and urban seperation parameter values - Cars and buses (cents per vehicle kilometre

Impact Urban Rural
Passenger cars Buses Passenger cars Buses
Noise 0.82
(0.59 - 1.06)
(1.18 - 2.83)
Urban separation 0.59
(0.35 - 0.82)
(1.18 - 2.6)

All values are in 2010 Australian dollars. For indexation use CPI for all groups, Source: Austroads (2012)

Table 2 Noise and urban separation parameter values; Freight vehicles ($ per tonne-km)

Impact Urban Rural
Light vehicles Heavy vehicles Light vehicles Heavy vehicles
Noise 27.1
(18.86 - 37.71)
(2.36 - 4.71)
(0.24 - 0.49)
Urban separation 25.93
(15.32 - 36.53)
(1.18 - 3.54)

All values are in 2010 Australian dollars. For indexation use CPI for all groups,Source: Austroads (2012)

3.6.2 Non-market approaches for monetising urban amenity / liveability

Monetisation of most amenity and liveability effects is difficult primarily because few of those aspects are revealed in market prices. In such cases, the use of non-market approaches to valuation can be considered in order to infer the monetised value of amenity and liveability impacts. Appendix C provides a discussion of the range of methods available, including: stated preference techniques; regression approaches; contingent valuation; cost-based approaches; revealed preference approaches; hedonic pricing and modelling.

3.6.3 Undertaking sensitivity analysis

Due to the diverse range of amenity and liveability impacts that need to be considered and valued, non-market valuations may result in a range of values being produced. The practitioner should therefore consider using the upper and lower bounds of these ranges in a CBA through sensitivity testing (see F3 Options Generation and Assessment and T2 Cost-Benefit Analysis for further information on sensitivity testing).

3.7 Non-monetised quantification

Where monetisation is not possible (even through non-market approaches) those aspects need to be expressed in non-monetised terms and presented in the AST. It is preferable they are expressed in quantitative terms (if possible) rather than just as qualitative information.

This section discusses available tools for assessing several aspects amenity and liveability.

3.7.1 Walk Score, Transit Score and Bike Score measures

Walk Score (2017) is a system of measuring local accessibility. It provides measures for walkability (Walk Score), transit access (Transit Score) and the quality of local biking (Bike Score). The Walk Score methodology could also be used in conjunction with other indicators such as: retail turnover; vacancy rates; foot traffic; speed of vehicles in kerbside lanes; waiting times for pedestrian traffic lights; and tree cover.

Walk Score measures the walkability of any address using a patented system. For each address, Walk Score analyses hundreds of walking routes to nearby amenities. Points are awarded based on the distance to amenities in each category. Amenities within a 5-minute walk are given maximum points. A decay function is used to give points to more distant amenities, with no points given after a 30-minute walk. Walk Score also measures pedestrian friendliness by analysing population density and road metrics such as block length and intersection density. Data sources include Google, Education.com, Open Street Map, the U.S. Census, Localeze, and places added by the Walk Score user community.

The levels of Walk Scores are shown in Table 3.

Table 3 Walk Scores and descriptions

Walk Score Description
90–100 Walker's Paradise
Daily errands do not require a car
70–89 Very Walkable
Most errands can be accomplished on foot
50–69 Somewhat Walkable
Some errands can be accomplished on foot
25–49 Car-Dependent
Most errands require a car
0–24 Car-Dependent
Almost all errands require a car

Source: Walk Score (2017)

Transit Score is a patented measure of how well a location is served by public transit. Transit Score is based on data released in a standard format by public transit agencies. To calculate a Transit Score, a ‘usefulness’ value is assigned to nearby transit routes based on the frequency, type of route (rail, bus, etc.), and distance to the nearest stop on the route. The ‘usefulness’ of all nearby routes is summed and normalised to a score between 0 – 100. The levels of Transit Scores are shown in Table 4.

Table 4 Transit Score and descriptions

Transit Score Description
90–100 Rider's Paradise
World-class public transportation
70–89 Excellent Transit
Transit is convenient for most trips
50–69 Good Transit
Many nearby public transportation options
25–49 Some Transit
A few nearby public transportation options
0–24 Minimal Transit
It is possible to get on a bus

Source: Walk Score (2017)

In the UK, a similar scoring approach in relation to public transport is PTAL (public transport accessibility level). It assesses the access level of geographic areas to public transport.

Bike Score measures whether an area is good for biking. For a given location, a Bike Score is calculated by measuring bike infrastructure (lanes, trails, etc.), hills, destinations and road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters. The levels of Bike Scores are shown in Table 5.

Table 5 Bike Score and descriptions

Bike Score Description
90–100 Biker's Paradise
Daily errands can be accomplished on a bike.
70–89 Very Bikeable
Biking is convenient for most trips.
50–69 Bikeable
Some bike infrastructure.
25–49 Somewhat Bikeable
Minimal bike infrastructure.

Source: Walk Score (2017)

3.7.2 Social exclusion index

Social inclusion refers to people’s ability to participate adequately in society, including education, employment, public service, social and recreational activities. Social exclusion describes the existence of barriers which make it difficult or impossible for people to participate fully in society (e.g. opportunities needed to create the life society desires, community poverty, a lack of suitable and affordable housing, illness, discrimination). Research indicates links between mobility, accessibility, and the prospect of a person being socially excluded, and social exclusion has not been widely accommodated in appraisal and planning processes in Australia.

TfNSW (2016) presents a quantified social exclusion index for comparing social exclusion in different locations and demographic groups. This could be used in two ways: in planning for assessing how resources to improve social inclusion are most effectively invested; and in appraisal to see the social exclusion effects of an initiative. A potential Transport Social Exclusion Index is described in Table 6. It uses six factors that represent various aspects of accessibility, rated from 0 to 5 using various indicators, giving a maximum rating of 30. An individual or group that rates low on this scale could be considered to face significant problems from social exclusion.

Table 6 Transport Social Exclusion Index Form

Factor Definition Indicators Rating
Mobility Need Number of “essential” trips outside the home a person must make From 5, subtract one point each for:
  • enrolled in school
  • employed outside the home
  • is a primary caregiver (responsible for children or disabled adults]
  • has special medical requirements (such as dialysis)
  • has other responsibilities that require frequent travel
Land Use Accessibility Average travel distance to common destinations, based on land use clustering and mix, and roadway network connectivity One point for each different type of public services within 0.3 kilometre of residences
  • food store, other retail shops
  • post office / newsagency
  • school
  • park
Physical and Communication Ability An individual’s physical and communications ability One point for being able to
  • walk one kilometre
  • bicycle 3 kilometres
  • speak and read the local language
  • has residential telephone
  • has residential internet service
Automobile Access An individual’s ability to use an automobile One point for
  • having a drivers license
  • having a vehicle rental within suburb
  • living in a household that owns at least one motor vehicle
  • owning a personal car
  • having a major paved highway within 5 kilometres of home
Mobility Options Number of non-automobile mobility options available to an individual for local travel
  • Three points for accessing a train station
  • Two points for access a bus stop or transitway station
Financial Wealth Ability to pay for Iransport services. One point for each income quintile #
  • Lowest quintile <$436 per week
  • Second quintile $436—$634 per week
  • Third quintile S635 - $$853 per week
  • Fourth quintile $854-$1174 per week
  • Highest quintile >$1174 per week

Source: TfNSW 2016

Note also that ATAP Part M1 section 4.11 reports research that monetises the benefit of an additional trips in cases of social exclusion.

3.7.3 Improvement in user amenity, community amenity and pedestrian safety

TfNSW (2016, pp. 41–42) discuss a number of other amenity benefits:

  • Transport user amenity: Transport improvements can improve the amenity to users, such as improvements to public transport vehicles in terms of cleanliness, seating characteristics and comfort.
  • Community amenity: Transport initiatives often result in improvements to surrounding infrastructure facilities such as shelter, CCTV and lighting, especially at interchanges of bus and rail stops.
  • Both user and community amenity improvements are generally valued using an equivalent In Vehicle Time (IVT) minutes (IVT factor). The IVT factor is determined mostly by stated preference valuation surveys which represent passengers’ willingness to pay under different scenarios and is an incremental value (difference between base case and the project case). Part M1 Chapter 5 of the Guidelines provides indicative IVT factors used in the valuation of amenity improvements for public transport vehicle and infrastructure initiatives.
  • Pedestrian safety: Pedestrians are often involved in crashes. To the extent that an initiative affects pedestrian accident costs they should be counted as benefits or disbenefits. Benefits are calculated as the change in the number of pedestrian accidents multiplied by the unit cost per accident. Unit crash cost values are available from ATAP Part PV2 (see Table 20)
  • It is important to note that user amenity, community amenity and pedestrian safety benefits can only be counted once in an appraisal. If some or all of these benefits have already been included in the calculation of user benefits of an initiative, they cannot also be included again as amenity benefits. To include them again would be double-counting (see section 3.5).

3.7.4 Improvement in public realm

Another amenity benefit of a transport initiative is any improvement in public realm quality it may produce. TfNSW (2016) provides an approach called Pedestrian Environment Review System (PERS), a tool which allows quantification of the quality of the existing and proposed public areas (in terms of lighting, quality of service, obstructions, permeability, security, user conflict, overall quality of the environment.

PERS assesses infrastructure provision of links and public spaces by placing scores (e.g. lowest score -3 (very poor) highest score +3 (very good) on a scale on a number of established characteristics such as:

  • Lighting
  • Quality of surface
  • Effective width
  • Obstructions
  • Permeability
  • Security
  • User conflict
  • Overall quality of environment (TfNSW 2016).

Figure 2 shows the improvement to the public realm generated by a proposed interchange or network hub improvement project. For link characteristics, the scheme proposals improve the PERS scores for surface quality and maintenance as well as the quality of environment within a study area. For public spaces, there is a dramatic improvement in all PERS characteristics, such as ‘moving in the space’ and ‘feeling comfortable’ attributable to the pedestrianisation of these areas and reduced dominance of road traffic, making the spaces accessible to all types of users (see TfNSW (2016) for further information).

Figure 2 Changes in PERS Scores for Link Characteristics


Source: TfNSW (2016)

3.7.5 City Resilience Index

The City Resilience Index was developed as a partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and Arup. It provides an indication of the resilience of a city to natural and man-made events, and enhances the ability to adapt to these challenges in the future. It measures a city’s resilience profile against 12 goals (ranging from how essential needs are met to the level of law enforcement, economic participation to the competency of infrastructure management) and 52 indicators (a detailed array that ranges from sanitation to availability of financing, crime prevention measures to continuity plans for vital assets). Further information can be obtained from http://www.cityresilienceindex.org.

3.7.6 Aggregated index approach

Handy (2002) refers to using indicators individually or in combination to provide non-monetised guides to the amenity and liveability effects, providing the following as a simple measure of amenity that combines various aspects:

A= w 1 C 1 +  w 2 C 2 +  w 3 C 3 +….........

[EQ 1.1]


A = Overall amenity

Ci = a characteristic of a place that contributes to amenity

Wi = a weight representing the relative importance of that characteristic

Source: Handy (2002)

Using this equation, transport planners would need to determine what characteristics to include and what weights to assign to them. This requires compiling a list of characteristics that may contribute to the amenity of a place, However, determining the relative importance of these characteristics is more subjective and can vary on the basis of opinion. This approach should therefore be used with caution, and with full documentation of all underlying assumptions.

3.8 Future monitoring

This chapter has stressed there are complexities and difficulties in measuring and monetising urban amenity and liveability effects. Research work continues throughout the world on how to better quantify and monetise amenity and liveability impacts, such as by applying techniques such as hedonic modelling, where amenity values are estimated by their contribution to lifting property prices (Infrastructure Victoria 2016). Further enhancement will assist future assessments, provided the impact is counted only once and therefore not double-counted (see section 3.5).

The Guidelines will continue to monitor the literature for new developments and update this Part as required.

3.9 Other approaches

Other methodologies that could be seen as having a broad link to amenity and liveability, namely those that focus on accessibility and equity, include:

  • Activity based models (ABM)
  • Equity Benefit Analysis (EBA) and the Subjective Value of Accessibility (SVOA)
  • Travel demand and community effects modelling (Geographic Information System based approach)
  • Benefit Incidence Tables (BIT).

Appendix D provides further brief information on these approaches. Some use multi-criteria analysis (MCA) and distributional weighting. Users should note that the ATAP Guidelines has reservations about such aspects, so their use should be considered cautiously — refer to related discussions in the following locations of the ATAP Guidelines: Part F3 section Chapter 3 and Part T5 appendix B.

2 The Economist Intelligence Unit Criteria (in Chaffer 2015) covers 127 cities; stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education and infrastructure.

3 Mercer Quality of Living Survey (in Chaffer 2015) covers 221 cities based on 39 criteria e.g. housing, recreation, schools and natural environment.

4 Monocle Lifestyle Magazine covers 25 cities; safety, international links, climate, public transport, environmental issues and urban design (Macmillan Geoworld 7 p.236 in Chaffer 2015).