Introduction for Transportation Professionals

Tools of Change provides transportation professionals with a very accessible set of resources for fostering healthier, safer and more sustainable transportation choices and lifestyles. Once you have registered for a free account, this website can remember your transportation interest and provide you with related examples as you use its Planning Guide and Tools of Change sections. The site has over 30 transportation case studies with measured impacts, illustrating the planning methods and social marketing tools described. You can browse brief descriptions of these on the transportation resources page, and also of additional on-line resources for transportation professionals.

This introduction begins by reviewing the challenges we face in engaging individuals to take action and, at a broader level, in achieving more sustainable transportation. It concludes with a site guide tailored to your interests.

Sustainable Transportation and the Challenge of Behaviour Change

Around the world, professionals are working to reshape transportation systems and make them more sustainable. Technologies such as more efficient cars and cleaner fuels can help, but the reality is that we need to focus on changing individual behaviour in two key ways:

  • Increasing the use of non-driving travel modes, like walking, cycling, public transit, carpooling and teleworking.
  • Making individuals' car use more efficient, including their decisions about what car to buy, when and where to drive their car, and how to operate and maintain it.

Tools that can help us change travel behaviours include land use measures, such as the creation of more compact and walkable communities. They include transportation supply measures, such as improving public transit facilities and services and building more sidewalks, cycling networks and carpool lanes. They also include transportation demand management (TDM) measures that use education, promotion, incentives and disincentives to influence whether, why, when, where and how people travel. Experience has shown that even strong land use and transportation supply measures are not enough by themselves and that the levels of success we need will require us to make effective use of TDM.

A person's travel decisions are closely tied to their family responsibilities, type of employment, geographic context, economic status, environmental awareness, age and physical ability. Because no two people or places are alike, it can be challenging to combine land use, transportation supply and TDM measures with optimal effect. However, social marketing can help. It provides a conceptual framework for understanding behaviour, and offers proven tools for practitioners to bring about new transportation decisions that benefit individuals as well as their communities.

Applying Social Marketing to Sustainable Transportation

Social marketing principles tell us that to change individual travel decisions, we must first ensure that alternative choices exist, that individuals are aware of them, and that (as far as possible) they want to use them. But, based on these circumstances alone, the people who change their habits would be greatly outnumbered by those who do not due to barriers that transcend individual understanding and intention, and that prevent them from taking or sustaining action. Some barriers are shared by certain groups of people, while others are as individual as fingerprints. Social marketing methods allow us to investigate what influences people's actions, identify the barriers to these actions, classify individuals according to the barriers they face, select and test measures to remove the barriers, and finally implement and monitor solutions on a wider scale.


  • Child car seats. One example of social marketing's effectiveness in the field of transportation is in advancing the use of child car seats. Proper restraint of children in cars requires parents to have not only the understanding and willingness, but also the knowledge and physical ability required for proper installation, and attention to detail. Each of these requirements poses potential obstacles, showing why new laws requiring the use of child restraint devices have not been enough to protect children. Rather, substantial successes have occurred through broad advertising and information campaigns, coupled with outreach to individuals through medical institutions and parenting educators, installation and verification by local firefighters, and enforcement by police departments.
  • Bicycle commuting. Conventional thinking by local governments holds that the best way to increase bicycle commuting is to build on-road bicycle lanes and new pathways -- straightforward, visible solutions that can often be delivered unilaterally. However, research into commuting behaviour often reveals important obstacles to cycling such as a lack of secure bicycle parking, absence of shower and change facilities at workplaces, a fear of cycling on roads, a lack of equipment for cycling in cold or dark conditions, a need for assistance in finding the best route between home and work, or a fear of being 'stranded' at work in case of family emergency or unexpected overtime. These barriers are not addressed by infrastructure solutions, and their removal may require new services or partnerships with employers, non-governmental organizations and bicycle shops. Additional market research, testing and refinement would be required to identify which solutions made best use of available resources - perhaps showing that investments in bicycle parking, training or user incentives were more cost-effective than new cycling facilities, or at least that they might help maximize the return on concurrent investments in infrastructure.
  • Idling prevention. The notion that we can convince people to save money, gas and the environment by turning off their engines is misleadingly simple. Regulation requires expensive and impractical enforcement, and efforts to raise awareness of the impacts of idling tend to have had minimal effect. A more successful approach might incorporate both regulation and advertising, accompanied by driver education curricula, fleet operator training, signage at key idling locations like school zones and transit stations, and personal contact with operators of idling vehicles. These additional steps all require 'customer-focused' research, development and testing in order to be effective.

Site Guide

Use the navigation bar at the top of the screen to explore the various sections of this site. The following are some highlights for transportation professionals.

The Planning Guide:

  • provides step-by-step instructions for planning and tracking your programs, with plenty of examples that can be set to specifically match your areas of interest,
  • enables you to create and print out a skeleton communication plan, which can be developed over a number of Internet sessions if desired, then taken into your word processor for further editing and printing,
  • places a strong emphasis on social marketing and community-based social marketing in particular, and
  • stresses research-based decision-making (see the Planning Guide sections: Getting Informed and Measuring Achievements).

The Tools of Change section:

  • provides step-by-step instructions for making use of specific Tools of Change, with plenty of examples that can be set to specifically match your areas of interest
  • can help you make strategic decisions regarding marketing's traditional four P's (see This Site and Marketing - the Four P's), and
  • can help you make your marketing "exchanges" more attractive by increasing the perceived benefits and decreasing the perceived costs (see This Site and Exchange Theory).

The Case Studies section:

  • brings the first two sections to life, with success stories illustrating how the planning approach and the use of multiple tools led to success,
  • has 30 + transportation case studies with measured impacts, and
  • can be searched by topic area, location, key words, and other factors.

The Sustainable Transportation Resources page, and the Road Safety Resources page:

  • provide brief descriptions of related transportation case studies on this site,
  • feature annnotated links to additional on-line resources for transportation professionals, and
  • can be searched by location, key words, and other factors.