Urban Dispersion, Changing Mobility Patterns and the Implications for Transport Planning in the Area of Metropolitan Madrid

Urban Dispersion, Changing Mobility Patterns and the Implications for Transport Planning in the Area of Metropolitan Madrid


A Sánchez Vicente, M Mateos Arribas, Á Aparicio Mourelo, CEDEX, ES


This paper will look at the evolution towards more complex, diverse and diffuse mobility patterns in our metropolitan areas due to the extensive process of decentralization of activities and population suburbanization.


Urban mobility is continuously growing in Spanish and most European cities. While this tendency is well known, as well as most of its causes, it is believed that the characteristics of the current mobility patterns have evolved towards more complex, diverse and diffuse movements. Economic, territorial, and social aspects take part in a feedback process that could explain the basis of such transformation.

Cities are becoming the core centre of great metropolitan areas, where most of the country?s activity is concentrated, and Madrid is a good example of the latter. New activities are attracted and others are regenerated, producing a demand of new places where activities are to be located, and therefore significant changes in land use are produced. The area under the influence of the core city, and where these activities are to be located, is increasingly more difficult to define and geographically delimit, partly due to an intense process of decentralization of production, commercial and employment activities, usually grouped in new monocentric clusters. At the same time, there is an extensive process of population suburbanization, rising the general concerns derived from urban sprawl. Many factors, including type and price of housing, services, urban environment or the search of natural surrounding is influencing this tendency. Frequently, these new residential neighboroughs are also distributed in separated patches, dispersed and fragmented.

Transport infrastructure is undoubtedly playing a very important role in this process, as it provides accessibility and stimulates land change over areas not previously developed, increasing urban pressure along corridors and therefore shaping the metropolitan area. Companies and residents tend to locate and live further away, taking advantage of lower land prices and, initially, better context conditions. But the location of workplace and residence is not following the same principles. While companies are located in places with good road accessibility but close enough to the core to maximise efficiency (proximity to customers, employees and suppliers), population choose to live in places where type and price of housing fulfil their taste and their socioeconomic conditions, leaving distance to work at a second level. The fact that most of families have more than one employed member makes even more difficult to value work location as a key issue for housing location choice. The result is a huge increase in the number of movements, distance travelled, and stages within the trip. It is believed that mobility is not as radial as their use to be (core to suburbs) but increasingly lateral (suburb to suburb), with significant implications in transport planning, energy efficiency, time expenditure and environmental conditions.

The generalised use of private cars is actually feeding this process, on a never ending demand for new road infrastructures. A huge increase of potential origins and destinations and their dispersion makes public transport a very difficult option, both in terms of demand and supply, as it is not currently an alternative for very complex, dispersed and multipurpose movements unless new approaches to the problem are developed.

As an example, data from the 1996 and 2004 surveys of Consorcio Regional de Transportes de Madrid (CTRM), points out that there has been a significant increase in the number of motorised trips, rising from 1,94 motorised trips per inhabitant in 1996 to 3,08 in 2004 (an increase of 60%). While private vehicle motorised trips has increase 74%, public transport has done it by 33%. In general, there is a tendency of localising new commercial centres, offices and general services at the surroundings of high capacity roads, facilitating a better access to private transport than that to public transport.

The paper will look at the new mobility patterns that, according to the general data, are becoming more relevant in Madrid Metropolitan Area. A GIS with data on population density, employment, trips generated and attracted and the mode of transport will be developed in order to acquire enough information to understand this new patterns and their characteristics. The aim is then to propose policy alternatives, new transport options and guidelines for the future in order to decrease transport problems and their consequences for the environment.


Association for European Transport