The Avoid-Shift-Improve (ASI) framework has guided approaches to sustainable, low carbon transport for more than a decade. Yet, it is widely recognised that an over-reliance on technology focussed Improve strategies will not achieve the systemic transformation needed to achieve climate and equity goals. There is also a growing body of evidence showing that Avoid and Shift strategies offer broader benefits at lower costs than Improve strategies. (SLOCAT)   


Re-examining the ASI framework in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to capitalise on an unprecedented disbursement of funds through pandemic recovery packages; however, many recovery packages to date are skewed toward Improve measures (e.g. extension of EV subsidies in China) and fossil fuel subsidies. (SLOCAT)  At the same time, many cities and countries have implemented short-term measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which can be organised according to the ASI framework:  (TUMI/SLOCAT


  • Avoid measures to reduce individual (motorised) transport demand to address the pandemic and reduce long-term carbon emissions, traffic crashes and congestion (e.g. increased congestion pricing charges in London, temporary cross-border travel restrictions in many countries, including LMICs).
  • Shift measures to direct users to safer, lower-contact modes of transport during the pandemic. These include forms of active mobility such as walking and cycling and equitable public transport (e.g. expanded bike lanes in Bogota; pedestrian zones in Cape Town and Mombasa; maintenance of distanced public transport use in Kerala). 
  • Improve measures to improve quality of public and shared transport services and allow social distancing. These include improved cycling and walking facilities to create capacity in other modes (e.g. electric bike distribution in Madrid to increase air quality; contactless freight and deliveries in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries). 


The Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI), with SLOCAT and the wider transport community, has proposed a conceptual framework for transport responses to COVID-19 based on the ASI framework (Figure 1). These responses are structured around avoiding non-essential travel; shifting essential travel to the most suitable modes, and improving the performance and attractiveness of essential transport modes. The application of each response type is to be aligned with local conditions and public health recommendations. (TUMI/SLOCAT

Figure1: Avoid-Shift-Improve Instruments for COVID-19 

An essential element of the strategy is the sequencing of measures, which involves the coordination of health, transport, safety administrations.  Further, it is necessary to differentiate essential travel (e.g. transport of medical personnel and essential workers; security personnel; delivery of essential goods and medical supplies) from non-essential travel, due to restrictions on movement of people and goods in many cities.  The strategy also envisions that response measures should create short-term social participation, gender and generational equity, and should support long term transformation to sustainable mobility paradigms. (TUMI/SLOCAT)  


This section was developed by SLOCAT Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport with contribution from High Volume Transport (HVT)