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Concordia University Study: smarter ways for cities to approach mass transit issues

Concordia researcher Anjali Awasthi shows that ranking projects according to certain criteria can guide municipalities considering new sustainability projects.


Re-thinking a city’s transit DNA is a complex puzzle, one with multiple stakeholders and multiple objectives.  Anjali Awasthi, associate professor at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering (CIISE) recently published a paper in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice that lays out a system for ranking sustainable transportation alternatives.

Awasthi and her co-authors ranked three projects underway in the city of Luxembourg: a downtown tramway, re-organizing the city’s bus lines and implementing an electric car-sharing service.

The team first elicited input from a seven-member committee consisting of academics and practitioners from Luxembourg’s Ministry of Transport.

The committee evaluated each mass transit option’s performance against a list of almost three dozen different criteria that they ranked from Very Low to Very High. The criteria ranged from economic expenditures such as land and infrastructure costs to fossil fuel consumption to the effects of congestion reduction on human health and well-being.

Awasthi then calculated the results using a technique called Ideal Solution-Based Multicriteria Decision-Making.

The Ideal Solution-Based technique ranks options based on how close they come to maximizing their goal. For instance, if a goal is reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, how do the various options rank in achieving that goal?

The team then applied three different Ideal Solution-Based Multicriteria Decision-Making techniques to obtain relative rankings of each project.

Upon analysis they found that the tramway was the best solution.

Awasthi warns that the study did have its limitations, not least of which was its tiny sample size.

“Of course, the higher number of participants we have ranking criteria, the more accurate the results will be,” she says. “If we had more team members, we could investigate whether the results would change or not.”

The research project was supported by MOEBIUS project from CEPS/INSTEAD Luxembourg (Centre d’Etudes de Populations, de Pauvreté et de Politiques Socio Economiques / International Network for Studies in Technology, Environment, Alternatives, Development – Luxembourg).