The Future of Living, Working and Transport in Dutch Regions: Planning for Uncertainty

The Future of Living, Working and Transport in Dutch Regions: Planning for Uncertainty


H Hilbers, D Snellen, J Ritsema van Eck, PBL Environmental Assessment Agency, NL


In the paper we show the results of a foresight study into possible futures for living, working and transport in Dutch regions, using scenario's and policy alternatives.


For many years spatial and transport planning was a process of guiding and directing growth. Population, housing stock, jobs, kilometres travelled almost continuously increased for almost as long as we can remember. The question was not if there would be growth but how much growth there would be.

The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency recently executed a foresight study investigating possible futures for living, working and transport in the Netherlands, looking towards the year 2040. In the study we look at living, working, mobility and accessibility, asking ourselves three questions: what is de dominant direction of developments per region, how robust is this direction of development and what kind of bandwidth can be expected. The study incorporates three scenarios for the future. One business-as-usual variant, extrapolating recent trends into the future to describe a ?surprise-free" future. And a high and a low scenario based on the two extreme scenarios from a previous study of the agency in cooperation with the CPB Netherland Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. All scenarios assume unchanged policies with regard to planning and transport. In addition, different sets of policy measures were investigated: one regarding a much more liberal spatial planning policy and three alternatives for future infrastructure policies: two levels of investment and a combination with congestion charging. For each of the scenarios we analysed the development of population, households, jobs, mobility, match between jobs and workers and accessibility (jobs within reach).

From this study we find that growth should no longer taken for granted in many parts of the country. However, that does not mean that decline is immediately at our doorstep either. In some regions it is but for most of the country the future is much more diffused. Planning will have to deal with a broad spectrum of developments. We also find that changing the dominant way of thinking in urban planning can have great consequences regarding the spatial patterns in our country and the resulting mobility patterns. And we draw conclusions on the different infrastructure strategies.

These insights gained in possible future development paths are relevant for policy. Continuing as we have always done before, with policies grafted on growth and expansion, can have severe negative effects: disinvestments in infrastructure and built environment and decline in existing urban areas. Can lead, since the uncertainty regarding the future is large. That justifies a new approach for planning: planning for uncertainty. We also conclude that a new directions in policy should be carefully considered since their effects could include unwanted ones.


Association for European Transport