Improving Coherence Between Urban and Transport Planning: a Way Towards Better Accessibility

Improving Coherence Between Urban and Transport Planning: a Way Towards Better Accessibility


Daniëlle Snellen, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, David Hamers, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Joost Tennekes, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency


Improving coherence between urban and transport planning helps improve accessibility, however it is far from straightforward. Obstacles are found in habits, rules and regulations. The paper analyses these obstacles and derives solutions such as TOD.


Improving the coherence between urban and transport planning is an often voiced aim of policy makers and planners. Coherent planning provides more and better choices for activity participation and travel (better accessibility) and is financially more efficient.

Increasing coherence is a shared responsibility of both urban and transport planning alike. It would not be fair to have transport planning solve the problems created by urban planners disregarding the transport needs their plans create (although current practice sometimes seems to resemble this, often narrowing accessibility down to solving congestion and increasing travel speeds). Vice versa, it would be unfair to expect planners to follow the courses of infrastructure designed by transport planners mainly based on technical considerations. Although both exaggerations of reality, we find that cooperation between urban and transport planners is still far from optimal, regardless the urgent need for it. This is not necessarily due to unwillingness. There are simply many habits, regulations and institutions preventing better co-operation.

In 2013/2014 PBL carried out an extensive study into the (lack of) coherence between urban and transport planning. Based on both quantitative and qualitative research we found that several things can go wrong when coherence is lacking, for example:
- Newly developed TOD locations will often flourish, yet at the expense of older TOD-like locations. Investments lead to shift of employment and amenities, not to growth. Investments done in the past will deliver fewer returns.
- Car dependence will increase. Better transport supply enables scaling up of housing, jobs and amenities markets. People are forced to travel further instead of having a choice.
- The level of accessibility reduces: the amount of destinations within reach to choose from will most likely decrease.

More coherence can be obtained from three main courses of action. The first is transit oriented development (or development oriented transit, for that matter). This is co-production in the flesh: it cannot be realised without both domains working together (which is likely one of the reasons why TOD is not really successful in the Netherlands). The second main course of action is increasing proximity of housing, jobs and amenities making it possible for people and businesses to satisfy their needs and wants with less mobility. Although this puts urban planning in the lead, it will also need transport planning since it sets different requirements for the transport networks. Third course of action is improving transport chains by increasing the smoothness of transfers between modes. Co-production at especially the local level is crucial for this. None of these courses of action are straightforward: consistency in choices and acting upon them, clear allocation of responsibilities and controls in administrative and financial arrangements are lacking.

The main conclusions of our study are:
1. Proximity is crucial for accessibility. This requires concentration in and utilisation of the existing built-up area. This is currently safeguarded insufficiently. Many forces steer urban developments in a more dispersed direction. Examples are the way infrastructure costs are attributed to building plans, the fact that many municipalities and project developers have invested in land for development outside the current built-up area and the lack of insight into the consequences of urban planning choices for transport demand and accessibility. Cost attribution, selectiveness in where to develop, and a shared responsibility of urban en transport planning for accessibility are necessary.
2. TOD can play an important role in creating more coherence between urban and transport planning. However, the large number of actors involved and their conflicting interests make TOD difficult. Current financial arrangements are obstructing pro-TOD choices and autonomous forces often work in an opposite direction. Furthermore, the (current) lack of demand for housing, office space et cetera means new TOD locations will cannibalise on existing ones. Moreover, every TOD-location is different: there is no ‘one size fits all’ policy strategy for TOD. Selectiveness and scarcity are important. Integration of budgets previously earmarked for transport OR urban plans into a budget for accessibility could be useful.
3. For the success of TOD as well as for offering multimodal access in urban areas transport chains and smooth transfers are most relevant. Currently the transport chain ‘belongs to no one’, making improvements difficult to implement. Also, connecting transport modes and developing attractive urban environments in station areas not always go together well. Ways forward are making choices on what is most important where (combining P&R with developing a high density urban area is very difficult) and attributing responsibility for the transport chain to the most appropriate actor.


Association for European Transport