Urban Transport Layers - A Data-Driven Exploration of European City Structures


  • Christian Gerten ILS - Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development


Sustainable Transport, GIS, 15-minute city, Mobility Transition, Public Transport




The transition of urban transport towards sustainability stands as an outstanding challenge for the cities of the 21st century. The ubiquitous dominance of private motorised mobility has been identified as one of the main drivers for many negative urban developments in terms of urban sprawl or functionally segregated neighbourhoods (Wiersma et al., 2021). Cities are urged to actively promote sustainable transport solutions, fostering a mobility transition through initiatives such as cycling promotion, enhancing public transport infrastructure, and introducing innovative sharing services. Urban paradigms like the 15-minute city and transit-oriented development embody these principles for sustainable and inclusive urban development. Current research assumes that these concepts, which require physical redesign, can significantly facilitate the transition from cars to eco-friendly transport modes. The urban fabric theory by Newman et al. (2016), which classifies cities into pedestrian, transit, and car zones, provides a framework linking urban design and transport. However, previous studies often rely on simple indicators, such as distance to transit or car density. A study by Gerten & Fina (2022) introduced a methodological approach by analysing physical characteristics, walkability, and access to high-quality public transport, allowing a nuanced classification of neighbourhoods based on transport priorities. Advancements in technology and the rise of open data initiatives present new opportunities for urban transport analysis. This includes the availability of new data sets and their increasing accuracy (transit feeds, OSM) on the one hand, and new software (GIS-plugins, R-packages) to process them on the other. By using, combining, and adapting different methodological approaches, such as the OS-WALK-EU (Fina et al., 2022) or public transport quality categories, urban structures and their transport qualities can be refined. With these emerging opportunities, it is also possible to expand the concept by Gerten & Fina (2022) with an additional view on other sustainable modes of transport. Extending these layers of urban transport allows for a classification ranging from multi-modal to car-dependent areas, which could provide a more accurate view on transport options within a city. By analysing the results over time, this approach allows to quantitatively monitor the progress or setbacks of the transport transition. Additionally, combining this information with data on land development, urban growth or socio-economic characteristics could also shed new light on topics like mobility poverty, the cycle of car dependency or transit-oriented development. This research contribution will use several selected European cities, to explore the following research questions: What changes in transport modes can be observed in cities? Are there specific structures in the distribution of transport modes within cities, and do these structures contribute to patterns of socio-economic inequality in accessing these modes? This research contributes to the discourse on quantitative monitoring of urban transport and provides insights that are crucial for creating sustainable and inclusive cities.


Fina, S., Gerten, C., Pondi, B., D'Arcy, L., O'Reilly, N., Vale, D. S., Pereira, M. and Zilio, S. (2022) ‘OS-WALK-EU: An open-source tool to assess health-promoting residential walkability of European city structures’, Journal of Transport & Health, vol. 27, p. 101486.

Gerten, C. and Fina, S. (2022) ‘Scrutinizing the buzzwords in the mobility transition: The 15-minute-city, the one-hour metropolis, and the vicious cycle of car dependency’, Projections 16. Measuring the City: The Power of Urban Metrics [Online]. Available at https://projections.pubpub.org/pub/g7vtbyns/release/1.

Newman, P., Kosonen, L. and Kenworthy, J. (2016) ‘Theory of urban fabrics: planning the walking, transit/public transport and automobile/motor car cities for reduced car dependency’, Town Planning Review, vol. 87, no. 4, pp. 429–458.

Wiersma, J. K., Bertolini, L. and Harms, L. (2021) ‘Spatial conditions for car dependency in mid-sized European city regions’, European Planning Studies, vol. 29, no. 7, pp. 1314–1330.