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Sustainable Mobility, Impacts, Quality of Life:
an Economic Perspective
Economic reasoning can go far beyond its intuitive reach and help address
the relationships between mobility and environmental policies, human
development or quality of life.
A first group of economic readings of sustainable mobility are ground-
ed on the concept of “costs,” assuming that they can be discounted over
time and substitution is possible between the costs borne in different peri-
ods. The possibility of covering the present and future external costs of
mobility would assure sustainability . Nevertheless, according to these
• The sustainability of mobility systems would depend on the estimation
of future costs, which are by nature imperfect and not always possible.
• The perceived unsustainability of actual situations (which meet the
requirements of the definitions) would be ignored.
• It would be difficult to suggest any active policy option, due to the focus
Thus, sustainability can hardly be identified looking only at costs. Other
aspects have to be considered in a system, where sustainability results from
a balance between layers. Analytically, this corresponds to defining a set of
indicators , where all the layers of the system are represented .
A second group of economic readings highlights the economic relation-
ship between mobility and regional economic growth: efficient mobility
systems produce economic benefits that result in positive effects such as
better access to markets and employment, increased productivity of busi-
nesses due to lower transport costs, and additional investment [3-6]; social
benefits induced by transport planning policies (reduced commuting time
lowering private defensive expenditures 7 and improving quality of life
); accessibility and affordability of services affecting people's right to
mobility ; availability of modal choice, affecting the quality of life of citi-
7 Defensive expenditures are “ not directly sources of utility themselves but [...] regrettably neces-
sary inputs to activities that may yield utility ” . They “ are required to maintain consumption
levels or the functioning of society ” : e.g., expenditure on prisons and for commuting to work.