Is the Randstad a City Network? Evidence from Commuting Patterns

Is the Randstad a City Network? Evidence from Commuting Patterns


Daniƫlle Snellen, Jan Ritsema van Eck, National Institute for Spatial Research, NL


Does the Randstad Holland function as a coherent system of specialised and complementary cities? This question is researched on the basis of an anlysis of commuter flows and regional employment data.


In recent years the concept of city networks has been introduced in Dutch spatial planning [Ministry of HSPE, 2004]. In previous policy documents the 'daily urban system' was considered as the level at which main interactions took place. However, an (assumed) expansion of the span of activities to larger networks underlies the new policy. The relationships with other cities or 'daily urban systems' in the region are gaining importance over the relationships between urban centres and their suburban areas. Specialisation of centres within this network and, as a result of that, complementarity are factors in this process.

In the Netherlands the Randstad Holland, the western most urbanised part of the country, is viewed as an example of the expansion of urban interaction to a polycentric city network. In a recent study, the Dutch National Institute for Spatial Research is looking for answers to the question to what extent specialisation en complementarity of centres within the city network Randstad actually occur. Furthermore, the study aims to find out whether this leads to functioning as a city network. In other words: does the city network Randstad exist or is it still nothing more than a group of 'daily urban systems' located relatively close to each other.

In this paper we present the results of an analysis of commuting patterns within the Randstad region. This analysis is based on data from the EBB (survey of the working population), which allows us to differentiate between educational and occupational groups and between economics sectors. In this way, changes in the commuting pattern between 1992 and 2002 can be analysed in relation to sectoral developments in the regional economy of the Randstad. Do these changes show a development of the Randstad in the direction of a system of specialised, complementary cities, in other words into a city network? To answer this question we follow the method of analysing spatial interaction proposed by Limtanakool e.a.s [Limtanakool et al, 2005a and b]. This method measures three aspects of relationships, e.g. strength, connectivity and symmetry. Taken together, these aspects can be seen as indicators of the level of hierarchy within the network (monocentric vs. fully polycentric). Differentiation between groups of workers and economic sectors allows will generate more insight into the mechanism of specialisation and complementarity: between complementary cities we expect symmetric flows when aggregate commuting flows are analysed, but we expect more asymmetric flows for groups and sectors with a high level of spatial specialisation. For the analysis, the Randstad region is divided in nine urban regions and their position in the network will be assessed. For comparison, several urban regions in the rest of the Netherlands as well as the Green Hart of the Randstad and its green belt will be considered as sending and/or receiving nodes.

This study is still in progress and the network analyses will be executed in February. The results will be available on time for the preparation of the full paper.

Limtanakool, N., T. Schwanen & M. Dijst [2005], Development of hierarchy in the Dutch urban system on the basis of flows. In: Colloquium Vervoersplanologisch Speurwerk 2005: Duurzame mobiliteit: hot or not?, pp 21-40. Rotterdam: CVS.
Limtanakool, N., T. Schwanen & M. Dijst [ 2005] A Theoretical Framework and Methodology for Characterising Urban Systems Based on Flows of People: Empirical Evidence from France and Germany. Article submitted for publication in Urban Studies.
Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning & the Environment [2004] National Spatial Strategy. The Hague.


Association for European Transport