In English

  • Seminar: Governing Future Cities 21.2.2019

    13 joulu 2018
    Iina Sankala

    How do complex cities work as arenas of governance, civic engagement and planning?  

    Join us to discuss some of the most urgent issues in urbanizing society. BEMINE research project together with Faculty of Management and Business at Tampere University organizes an afternoon seminar Governing Future Cities. We look forward to a vivid exchange of ideas from strategic research projects Beyond MALPE-coordination: Integrative Envisioning (BEMINE), Dwellers in Agile Cities (DAC) and Urbanization, Mobilities and Immigration (URMI).

    Keynote by urban planning theorist, prof. (em.) Robert A. Beauregard based on his recent books “Cities in the Urban Age” and “Planning Matter: Acting with Things”.

    Date: Thursday, 21 February 2019
    Time: 12:00-16:00
    Venue: Werstas auditorium (The Finnish Labour Museum), Väinö Linnan aukio 8, Tampere


    12:00 Welcoming words
    12:05 Keynote: Complexity in the urban age, Robert A. Beauregard, Columbia University
    12:50 Reflections: Organized complexity in city governance, Ilari Karppi, Tampere University, BEMINE
    13:10 Hybrid governance in urbanising society, Jarmo Vakkuri, Tampere University, BEMINE, HYPER
    13:30 Coffee break
    14:00 Visual communication of the Five-star City Centre, Minna Seppänen, City of Tampere

    Five-star City Centre brochyre (in English)

    14:20 A missing citizen? Issue-based participation in city-regional planning, Jouni Häkli & Kirsi Pauliina Kallio, Tampere University, BEMINE
    14:40 Context matters in cities: Why scaling up is so hard to accomplish? Helena Leino & Markus Laine, Tampere University, DAC 
    15:00 Changing drivers of urbanisation and complexity of the Finnish system of cities, Jenni Partanen & Panu Lehtovuori, Tampere University, URMI (canceled)
    15:20 “Artefactual anchoring” of strategic spatial planning as persuasive storytelling, Raine Mäntysalo, Aalto University, BEMINE consortium leader
    15:40 Discussion & closing words

    (Program in PDF, here)

    If you have any questions, please contact the organisers:,,


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  • Beyond the urban? Planet-izens of the metro-village

    22 marras 2018
    Iina Sankala

    In this blog series, we catch a glimpse of the BEMINE scenario work led by Joe Ravetz from the University of Manchester, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy. With Integrated Envisions we aim at new insights which are beyond current trends or the results of any one study or field. These short stories are formed from the ‘baseline envisions’ developed by knowledge-mapping and co-design. This came from the creative ideas of the BEMINE partners, in workshops from 2017-2018, to explore newly emerging futures.

    New forms of urban and rural living are emerging, from both local and global forces. The new peri-urban and peri-rural settlement patterns are challenging for conventional spatial planning. The urban agenda is about spatial eco-zones, hubs and policy-centric patterns. Urban-rural ‘metro-villages’ are all around: cities which green up their local neighbourhoods: or rural towns or villages which are now for high-end metropolitans. Old structures are pushed aside by new divisions of growth and decline, high or low value, local or global, insiders or outsiders.

    Meanwhile the new generation of ‘planet-izens’, with flexible local-global lifestyles and work-styles show a new kind of relational city. Whether people follow jobs, or jobs follow people, many people follow communities family structures. While modern urban development often builds ‘non-places’ (malls, airports, fast food etc), many search for places with more personal meaning. The result of rapid urbanization and regional growth or in some cases decline is not just a simple technical change, but changes in people’s life patterns and family systems.

    This is likely to bring new directions for the future. One is the tech-enabled globalized multi-locality of new work and life combinations, with a new kind of peri-urban. Another direction is towards  nature-enabled, localized, semi-rural communities which keep their links to the past, while serving the logic of the future: a new kind of peri-rural. To respond to these new patterns, it seems local government and spatial planning may need to re-invent itself.

    What is the dynamic? Workers and citizens make individual choices on location and lifestyle. There are new models of citizenship and participation that are combinations of social norms and expectations, political mandate and outcomes and cultural mindsets and ideologies. Financiers and entrepreneurs are active in property and development. Infrastructure providers deal with demands for new kinds of systems. Policy makers and spatial planners have to manage a rather different kind of urban-rural pattern.

    What are the challenges? New forms of settlement, spatial economies and communities raise new challenges for spatial planning and public services. The new patterns may cut right across the policy objectives of urban fabrics, and the management of density and infrastructure and services.

    Joe Ravetz, University of Manchester, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy

    Got interested? Come visit us at the open house poster session in the upcoming Urban Forum V 23.11.2018! These are also some of the most relevant topics in this Envision:

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  • Beyond the technical? Function versus experience

    21 marras 2018
    Iina Sankala

    In this blog series, we catch a glimpse of the BEMINE scenario work led by Joe Ravetz from the University of Manchester, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy. With Integrated Envisions we aim at new insights which are beyond current trends or the results of any one study or field. These short stories are formed from the ‘baseline envisions’ developed by knowledge-mapping and co-design. This came from the creative ideas of the BEMINE partners, in workshops from 2017-2018, to explore newly emerging futures.

    Urban development and spatial planning is generally focused on direct tangible issues, such as numbers of houses, jobs, schools etc. And most of our policy is built on a fairly simple idea of problems and solutions – a technical style of knowledge and management that is suitable for a technical urban system. But many emerging trends cut across, leaving gaps in our knowledge and policy systems. All around there are tensions and contradictions between economic, social, political and technology forces, each pulling in different directions. While urban policy aims to provide functions and services, such as health education or housing, what if the people are more interested in experiences?

    If a school or college is also for entertainment, social networking, transport hub or business centre, we may need to shift to a more responsive, nuanced kind of knowledge, looking ‘beyond the technical’. Similar for public services, with growing pressure for continuous performance management, benchmarking and evaluation. In contrast, in health or education there are quite different pressures and opportunities for responsive operations, community co-production, platform skills and resources.

    For the MALPE system of collaborative agreements in urban planning, there is a need to share new kinds of knowledge between policymakers, experts, citizens, activists, NGOs and newly emerging networks. Much of this knowledge is beyond the technical, with deeper layers of cultural and ethical and psychological experience, in organizations, communities, networks. By default, cities could lose green areas, small towns could decline, large cities could sprawl, local neighbourhoods could gentrify, public services could be more expensive and less effective. On the positive side there are emerging ideas, from networked organizations, public service co-production, platform ‘wiki-nomics’, and ‘associative governance’.

    What is the dynamic? Cultural dynamics are at the root of change, in organizations, institutions or communities. Technical systems for management, benchmarking, evaluation etc, are also instrumental in organizing knowledge learning and exchange. Political and policy systems are involved as agents of change and/or resistance, with new models for participation, deliberation, co-production. Urban agendas focus on policy and management innovation, in multi-level and multi-sector governance.

    What are the challenges? Organizations and public services are under pressure to adapt and innovate, doing ‘more for less’ by co-production and partnership. But they are also tied up with smart technical monitoring and management and evaluation, which make it harder to adapt and innovate. Urban policy for spatial planning, as in the MALPE agreements, is expected to manage forces which are beyond its control, involving citizens beyond its boundaries.

    Joe Ravetz, University of Manchester, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy

    Got interested? Come visit us at the open house poster session in the upcoming Urban Forum V 23.11.2018! These are also some of the most relevant topics in this Envision:

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  • Beyond mobility? Somewhere versus anywhere

    20 marras 2018
    Iina Sankala

    In this blog series, we catch a glimpse of the BEMINE scenario work led by Joe Ravetz from the University of Manchester, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy. With Integrated Envisions we aim at new insights which are beyond current trends or the results of any one study or field. These short stories are formed from the ‘baseline envisions’ developed by knowledge-mapping and co-design. This came from the creative ideas of the BEMINE partners, in workshops from 2017-2018, to explore newly emerging futures.

    There are powerful forces for globalization and networking, but also powerful reactions towards local economies and landscapes. It seems there is a human need for locality, local environments and local communities: and if these needs are not met they can break out in populist or nationalist movements, bringing social division and economic harm.

    The localism principle is supported by well-meaning policies and plans, and by expert advice from researchers. But there are tensions and contradictions between a local and a globalized economy: a ‘somewhere’ community versus a mobile ‘anywhere’ society, where the forces pushing outwards are more powerful than those pulling in. There are emerging global platform economies, advanced VR and robotics, high speed responsive travel systems, decentralized infrastructure, and diffused social and family structures. All these point towards a future of ad-hoc low-density urban sprawl, populated by transients and migrant workers.

    What is the dynamic? Environmental values and qualities bring the local into focus, but they are equally used to attract global mobile workers and residents. Economic forces push toward globalized markets and networks, but there are opposite pulls towards local economies and social enterprise. Political and policy systems try to respond, via multi-level governance and citizen participation, but the structures are not well suited to the problems. Tensions between locality and mobility define the urban agenda, which is on policy challenges for sustainable settlements. The urban development metabolism is seen as a processor of value-added, moving up the value hierarchy, towards globalized gravity fields for skilled labour and consumer markets.

    What are the challenges? Since there are new patterns of growth and decline, urban policy faces more than one ‘Nexus’ of tensions and dilemmas: There are tensions between migration and mobility, linking local jobs to local people, and the role of the multi-local educated, creative and globalized classes. Policy-makers have to deal with conflicting interests between greenspace and urban zone policy and the regional imbalances of skills and investment.

    Joe Ravetz, University of Manchester, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy

    Got interested? Come visit us at the open house poster session in the upcoming Urban Forum V 23.11.2018! These are also some of the most relevant topics in this Envision:

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  • Beyond smart? Cities but not as we know them

    19 marras 2018
    Iina Sankala

    In this blog series, we catch a glimpse of the BEMINE scenario work led by Joe Ravetz from the University of Manchester, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy. With Integrated Envisions we aim at new insights which are beyond current trends or the results of any one study or field. These short stories are formed from the ‘baseline envisions’ developed by knowledge-mapping and co-design. This came from the creative ideas of the BEMINE partners, in workshops from 2017-2018, to explore newly emerging futures.

    It’s easy to walk around cities looking for buildings and spaces – but there’s also a sense that things are changing underneath. When a bus-stop is an internet café, or when a quiet rural village is a global urban hub, we have to rethink – what are cities or rural areas, what is their role, and for who?  Such questions are the start of the Integrated Envisions program of BEMINE. The Envisions aim to look beyond current knowledge, to map alternative futures, to generate new ideas in response, and then to plan the actions needed for positive outcomes. Each Envision contains four parts:

    • ‘Baselines’ – problems, challenges, and the underlying systems, in the present
    • Scenarios’ – forces of change, uncertainty, and alternatives in the future
    • ‘Synergies’ – opportunities, innovations and inter-connections, for the future
    • ‘Strategies’ – pathways and roadmaps for action which links the future to the present

    The Baselines here are the first stage of four in the synergistic process: they point towards the Scenarios, Synergies and Strategies. These are the preliminary Baseline Envisions, each suggesting a space ‘beyond’ that of present-day knowledge:

    • BEYOND SMART: cities but not as we know them: new urban systems are emerging, with the catalyst of digital technology, which change the structures of economy and society.
    • BEYOND MOBILITY: somewhere versus anywhere: there are powerful forces for globalization and networks, but also powerful reactions for local economies and landscapes.
    • BEYOND THE TECHNICAL: function versus experience: most urban policy aims to provide services, such as health, education or housing: but what if the people are more interested in ‘experiences’?
    • BEYOND THE URBAN: metro-village Planet-izens: new patterns of rural-urban living and working, lead towards new peri-urban / peri-rural settlement patterns, a challenge for spatial planning.

    (A general ‘practical guide’ is on – & early version of the online toolkit is on )

    Beyond smart? Cities but not as we know them

    New urban models are emerging. They are accelerated by digital technology and spreading into all areas of economy and society and lifestyle. The ‘beyond smart’ post-digital city is changing all the known rules on economics, governance and urban policy. It is also inventing new rules on working and living. If the mission of the ‘smart city’ is basically to improve the existing urban system, the ‘beyond smart’ city looks towards a completely different kind of system.

    The implications for spatial development and urban governance are near impossible to predict. But it seems plausible that cities and towns could be much more fluid, as the boundaries between work, leisure, education and shopping are mixed up. New divisions and polarizations could emerge, by income, lifestyle, culture etc. Small towns and rural areas could also be more mixed, as previous home-work-service-lifestyle structures are changed.

    What is the dynamic? Technology forces the change via advanced robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality (VR). Economic innovation revolves around platforms, portals, cloud working, blockchain and mobile apps. Social lifestyles, education and leisure each are adapting and innovating. Spatial flows, hubs and networks are in the core of new urban agendas.

    What are the challenges? Co-location of work and leisure is one face of a broader shift where the ‘beyond smart post-digital city’ is changing all the rules on economics, governance and urban planning. The creative classes are riding the change, clustering in the metropolitan centres, building global networks and mobilizing their educational advantage. Other classes may find other solutions, but there is a high risk of exclusion and obsolescence. Service models, public services and business models will all need to adapt and innovate. The text-book urban typology of ‘home, work, services’ may soon be obsolete, and urban policy will need to adapt and innovate.

    Joe Ravetz, University of Manchester, Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy

    Got interested? Come visit us at the open house poster session in the upcoming Urban Forum V 23.11.2018! These are also some of the most relevant topics in this Envision:

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  • Density and the distribution of household car ownership

    9 touko 2018
    Matti Lindholm

    This blog post presents analyses previously discussed in an earlier blog post written in Finnish. However, since there probably is wider interest on the topic, this post summarizes the results in English focusing on the relationship between household car ownership and density. This blog post also provides the results from the whole range of densities (graph 1), which was not included in the original post.

    The relationship between household car ownership and density becomes evident when analyzed with detailed GIS data. The below graphs illustrate the relationship between combined population and job density and the distribution of households into three groups based on their car ownership status: Carless, one-car households and multi-car households (2 cars or more).

    We used register-based 250×250 m grid dataset to get accurate interpretation of job and population density. Data is from the year 2015 and covers the area of 14 municipalities in the Helsinki region [1]. We calculated density using land-area of the grid cells and applied neighborhood method [2], which includes surrounding cells into calculation.  This way the variable represents density in the close proximity of each location. The household car ownership data is also from the 250×250 grid dataset. The data does not allow household level analysis, because the information is summed to each cell.

    The first bar graph shows the overall distribution including the entire scale of densities.

    First notion: Major changes in the distribution occur in the densities below 100 population+jobs/ha.

    In the second graph we zoomed into the densities below 100 population+jobs/ha and changed the visualization. The graph shows the observed change in the distribution against one unit change in the density variable.

    Second notion: When the density exceeds 50 population+jobs/ha carless households are the most common household type. In densities greater than 63-66 population+jobs/ha over half of the households are carless and the share of the multi-car households drops below 10%.

    Third notion: The share of carless households exceeds multi-car households in the density range of 21-26 population+jobs/ha. In the urban structure of Helsinki region this can be regarded as a threshold density for proper public transport supply and walking/bicycle infrastructure.

    In the densities below approximately 7 population+jobs/ha multi-car households are the majority, but still even in the most sparse areas about 10% of the households are carless.

    This analysis illustrates a clear connection based on accurate data that is not tied to predefined administrative or statistical areas. Analysis does not consider other evident factors influencing car ownership like household income or household structure among others. However, these other factors are often connected to density. For example, household size undoubtedly explains car ownership of households and households of different size have different spatial distribution in urban region.

    We utilize this analysis as a part of the research to determine threshold values to identify and delineate the areas of three urban fabrics: walking, transit and automobile fabrics. Analysis has been conducted in two projects: BEMINE and Urban fabric analysis project for Helsinki Region MAL 2019 Plan.

    Ville Helminen, Finnish Environment Institute, SYKE

    Cover photo: Riku Lumiaro

    ¹ Helsinki region municipalities: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen, Hyvinkää, Järvenpää, Kerava, Kirkkonummi, Nurmijärvi, Sipoo, Tuusula, Vihti, Mäntsälä and Pornainen

    ² Read more about neighborhood method (focal statistics tool applied here) at:

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  • And transport (accessibility) justice for all?

    3 marras 2017
    Milos Mladenovic

    The latest Helsinki Region Transport System Plan (HLJ) that Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) planners have developed includes a statement “the accessibility of the region improves significantly”, among several other impact assessment statements. This statement is a prime example of transition in the transport planning practice in Finland and in the world.

    On the contrary to being concerned with for example average vehicular traffic speeds, the focus is on measuring accessibility. In general, accessibility means focusing on how people reach certain destinations, usually by measuring certain aspects of their journey, such as travel time. Thus, one has to conclude that HLJ is one of the leading examples worldwide of advancement in transport planning practice.   

    The focus on measuring accessibility impact is important for at least one important reason. By having the freedom to travel, we are able to accomplish many other rights, such as right to work, right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being, or right to education. Thus, by measuring how well people are able to reach certain destinations in time and space, we have at our disposal an important information about the opportunities citizens have in a society.

    In relation, information about accessibility is even more important having in mind a dominant value of the Finnish society, which is equal access to opportunities for everyone. However, the idea of absolute equality is often challenged by the basic properties of transport systems. Essentially, the explanation is rather simple – it is rather difficult to have equal travel time to the Helsinki city center for all the citizens across the region.

    So, if this type of equality is difficult to achieve, how should we measure improvement to the accessibility across the region? To this end, we might want to think about certain perspectives on social justice. And by doing so, we face a dilemma.

    Among many theories of social justice, let us take a look at the two most influential ones. First, classical utilitarianism. Despite its cumbersome name, the central message is quite straightforward – an act is morally right if it maximizes the difference between the total amount of benefits for all and total amount of burdens for all people. Following this idea, we have to be thoughtful about the aggregate effects from our transport systems.

    Contrary to this theory, one of the most influential political philosophers of the 20th century, John Rawls, has proposed an alternative view. Rawls argued that the distribution of effects matters as well, as it is not always desirable to violate the right of one to help the many. However, Rawls recognized that inequalities may exist, as long as the benefits from the inequalities are accessible to all, and are distributed to benefit the least well-off.

    Dilemma originates from the fact that even taking into account only the utilitarian and Rawlsian standpoints, planner’s choice is difficult. For example, following the utilitarian idea, a planner might decide to measure average travel time or weight travel time value with the number of people traveling to certain destinations.

    This approach sometimes would make complete sense, as for example, in the case of CO2 emissions. We certainly would want that our mobility system results in the lowest possible amount of total CO2 tons emitted.

    On the contrary, taking a Rawlsian standpoint, a planner would have to focus on how much accessibility travelling from certain locations implies, or how much accessibility certain societal groups have. Similarly, this approach also makes sense, especially if we recognize that individuals have some inalienable rights.

    However, the extent of the dilemma that planner has to face does not end here. Modern transport systems are rather complex, as they operate differently in different times of the day, in different locations, or with different transport modes. For example, we know that traveling with public transport often requires accessing the stop from where the public transport vehicle departs at a certain scheduled point in time.

    Let us take a look at an example. The following link provides the travel times and transfers before and after the opening of West Metro in the Helsinki region, between 7 and 8h in the morning ( These two parameters are available for every stop in the Helsinki region, assuming travelling from and towards each stop.

    Testing out already two or three stops in the Helsinki region using this web tool, one can easily see that there is a (re)distribution in travel time and number of transfers values across the region. This visualization thus highlights the challenging dilemma that HSL and other transport planners face when making decisions about how transport system should function.

    One could immediately wonder – how do we resolve such a dilemma if we are to advance planning practice? However, one could also wonder if we actually need to ask some additional questions in order to start resolving this dilemma? Perhaps we might need to ask ourselves how much societal importance we place on citizens’ mobility? Or perhaps we might need to ask ourselves how much societal importance we place on the challenges that built environment planners have to face today?

    Ultimately, perhaps we might need to ask ourselves can we avoid asking such challenging questions if such questions are explicitly in front of us?   

    Further reading:
    Kujala, R., Weckström, C., Mladenović, M., Saramäki, J., (2017) Travel times and transfers in public transport: Comprehensive accessibility analysis based on Pareto-optimal journeys, Computers, Environment and Urban Systems (
    Martens, K., (2012) Justice in transport as justice in accessibility: applying Walzer’s ‘Spheres of Justice’ to the transport sector, Transportation (

    Coverphoto: Nikodemus Siivola

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  • How to Make Helsinki the World’s Best City with Help of Tactical Urbanism

    4 elo 2017
    Otto-Wille Koste

    Something has changed in our cities. People are moving to cities for their dynamic street life and elegant and personal services. At the same time we are building more and bigger units than ever. This creates a widening gap between large-scale developments and people’s willingness to mould their surroundings. Newly built areas take centuries to develop into lively cities that people appreciate.

    There is a new approach – tactical urbanism – that promises to bridge this gap.

    Short-term, community-based projects—from pop-up parks to open streets initiatives—have become a powerful and adaptable new tool of urban activists, planners, and policy-makers seeking to drive lasting improvements in their cities and beyond. These quick, often low-cost, and creative projects are the essence of the Tactical Urbanism movement.

    On Friday 18th Demos Helsinki and European Commission Representation in Finland invite all urbanists, planners, builders, technologist, investors and architects to RE:vitalizing Cities co-creation session at YIMBYcon to join in combining strategic urban development with everyday life. The session is free and snacks will be served, so please let us know, if you will be there, by signing in the Eventbrite.

    RE:vitalizing Cities session will launch with distinguished keynotes from Mike Lydon and Kaisa Schmidt-Thomé. Presentations will be commented from multidisciplinary point of views by Juha Kostiainen, Timo Mäkelä, Pauliina Seppälä and Olli Voutilainen. The session is part of YIMBYcon, an international event that brings together urban-minded people to exchange thoughts, ideas and lessons on developing cities. Main event: YIMBYcon 2017 – an event for networking and creating change.


    Mike Lydon is an internationally recognized planner, writer, speaker, and advocate for livable cities. He is the principal of Street Plans, an award-winning urban planning, design, and research/advocacy firm and the creator of the The Open Streets Project. With Tony Garcia, Lydon is the recipient of the 2017 Seaside Prize and co-author of Tactical Urbanism (Island Press, 2015), named by Planetizen as one of the top ten planning books of the year. He collaborated with Andres Duany and Jeff Speck in writing The Smart Growth Manual (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

    Kaisa Schmidt-Thomé, senior researcher from Demos Helsinki, has a long research career in the field of Urban Studies. She did her PhD dissertation at Aalto University about tension between urban development megaprojects and place-based regeneration. Lately Schmidt-Thomé has been interested in co-creative research done together with stakeholders.

    Juha Kostiainen, M.Sc. (Eng.), Ph.D.(Adm.), is Senior Vice President of Sustainable Urban Development at YIT Oyj and its Member of Group Management Board. He is a passionate and practical urbanist with urban development experience from academia, business and the public sector.

    Timo Mäkelä has worked on environmental, finance and sustainable development issues for the last 40 years in a wide range of organizations in the national and international context.  In 2015 he joined Sitra as a senior advisor on issues related to energy and climate, sustainable management of natural resources, circular economy and environment finance.

    Pauliina Seppälä is one of the founders of Yhteismaa ry, the organisation behind concepts such as Cleaning Day and Nifty Neighbor. She is also a partner and employee at the crowdfunding service. In 2016, Seppälä was selected as the social scientist of the year.

    Olli Voutilainen works with urban development policy in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in Finland. Olli also has a long-term international working experience on EU collaboration on urban issues as well as on key European funding instruments for cities.


    For further informtion
    Facebook event
    Johannes Mikkonen, Demos Helsinki,  0405694948,
    Otto-Wille Koste, Demos Helsinki 0405217122,

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  • 3 myths about polycentric urban development

    7 kesä 2017
    Petter Næss

    Planning policy documents increasingly promote the ‘polycentric city’ as a model for sustainable urban development, not the least in Finland.  There seems to be a widespread assumption that polycentric intra-metropolitan settlement patterns with compact, transit-oriented cities and neighborhoods will reduce travel distances, discourage car driving and promote the use of public and non-motorized modes of travel. But how well do these assumptions fit with state-of-the-art knowledge about the influences of land use on travel?

    Will polycentric urban development reduce travel distances?

    The short answer is to this question is no. Residents travel on average longer distances for commuting as well as most other trip purposes the farther away from the main center of the urban region they live – up to a turning point beyond which travel distances tend to be reduced if the residential distance to the city center increases even more (Figure 1). This has to do mainly with the greater concentration and density of workplaces, stores and other facilities in the inner than in the outer parts of the metropolitan areas. The more or less radial structure of the main road and rail networks and the fact that the point of gravity of all trip destination addresses in the region is usually located close to the main city center also contribute to this.

    Figure 1: Curve showing how commuting distances tend to vary with among workforce participants living at different distances from the city center of Oslo. N = 1160. Source: Data from the RESACTRA project.

    Proponents of polycentric urban development might argue that travel distances among suburbanites could be reduced if more workplaces and service facilities were decentralized. While it is true that non-specialized facilities such as grocery stores, primary schools and kindergartens should preferably be located close to the residential neighborhoods they are intended to serve, decentralization of specialized facilities will only lead to longer travel distances. This is especially so for specialized workplaces. Decentralizing of workplaces to a suburban sub-center may reduce commuting distances among the local residents, but most companies recruit their employees from a much larger geographic area than the local neighborhood. There is little overall variation between workplaces located at different distances from the city center in average commuting distances, although employees of workplaces close to a second-order center do commute shorter distances than employees at other peripheral workplaces.

    Will polycentric urban development discourage car driving?

    In most city regions, decentralizing residential development to polycentric nuclei contributes to more car driving than if the new dwellings were built as inner-city densification. Although suburban residents living close to a second-order center travel less by car than suburbanites living far away from a second-order center do, especially if they live in the outer suburbs, their car travel distances are substantially longer than those of their inner-city counterparts (Figure 2).
    Figure 2: Weekly travel distance by car for commuting and seven non-work purposes among workforce participants living at different distances from the city center of Oslo and from the closest second-order center. N = 1061. Source: Data from the RESACTRA project.

    Increasing the jobs-housing balance in the suburbs by decentralizing jobs will not decrease car driving, but increase it. Accessibility by car is usually much easier in the suburbs and exurbs than in the inner city. In the suburbs, roads are normally wider and less congested, with fewer light-regulated crossings and easier parking conditions. As a result, the proportion of employees and visitors who travel by car to outer-area jobs and service facilities is much higher and overall distances commuted by car longer than for workplaces and facilities located in the inner city, even for job locations close to second-order centers (Figure 3).

    Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 14.20.01
    Figure 3: Proportions of regular car commuters (to the left) and mean weekly distance commuted by car (to the right) among employees of workplaces located at different distances from the city center of Oslo and from the closest second-order center. (Please notice that no workplaces located closer than 2 km from the city center of Oslo are located less than 1 km from the closest second-order center.) N = 1160. Source: Data from the RESACTRA project.

    Will polycentric urban development promote the use of public and non-motorized modes of travel?

    Mirroring the different shares of car commuting among employees of workplaces differently located, the proportions of regular public transport commuters are much lower at suburban than at centrally located workplaces (Figure 4). This is true also when the suburban workplace is located close to a second-order center, although such proximity contributes to somewhat higher shares of public transport commuters than among the employees of other peripheral workplaces.

    Figure 4: Proportions of regular public transport commuters among workforce participants living at different distances from the city center of Oslo and from the closest second-order center. N = 1160. Source: Data from the RESACTRA project.

    A similar pattern exists for non-motorized travel. Measured as the share of total travel distance, there is a steep center-periphery gradient, also among residents living near a second-order center (Figure 5). Living close to a second-order center still contributes to higher proportions of non-motorized travel among the suburban residents.

    Figure 5: Non-motorized proportion of total travel distance for commuting and seven non-work purposes among workforce participants living at different distances from the city center of Oslo and from the closest second-order center. N = 1061. Source: Data from the RESACTRA project.


    Polycentric intra-metropolitan settlement patterns with compact, transit-oriented cities and neighborhood perform better, judged from a sustainable mobility perspective, than ordinary outward urban spatial expansion does. However, polycentric development is far less favorable than densification close to the main city center if the aim is to reduce travel distances, discourage car driving and promote public and non-motorized travel. Polycentric intra-metropolitan urban development is likely to increase car travel per capita instead of reducing it.

    Professor Petter Næss, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. E-mail:

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  • Do you really want your mobility on a whim?

    15 touko 2017
    Milos Mladenovic

    A reflection on the questions of MaaS scalability


    Somewhere on planet Earth, a human wonders.  

    This traffic is not moving at all. This is horrible!

    Those damn transport engineers! Why cannot they figure this out and solve congestion?! It is 2017! We should be having flying cars by now…

    How was that thing called again? MaaS? Anyway, it would certainly be great to have it now. I could just take a taxi ride, and perhaps manage to reply some of those emails from this week.

    Why are we not having that already?! We can certainly figure out all the necessary data integration. Most of our systems across the city are going digital anyway.

    In one click, I could choose my trips. Then I could just use the system whenever I want and however I want. And then I just get a bill at the end of the month.

    That would make my life so much easier. And I bet all my friends would love to have the same thing. Simply, on-demand transport service.

    Hmm… Wait a second. If all my friends join in, that might be quite good. But what if a lot of people joins in? Or even all the people?

    At that scale, how will the system make sure that we all get the service that we need in that particular moment? As I am traveling to work, there are also a lot of people who are traveling to work. And at the same time there are people traveling to school, to the airport, to the grocery store, to see a friend, or who knows where else. There might be even a person going to the hospital because of a broken leg or because she is having a baby.

    That is a lot of people with so many different needs. And some other day, their needs might be completely different. Just as some other morning I might be having one of those meetings that start sharp at 9.

    Then, what about traffic? Certainly telecomm network has a bit of different properties from traffic network? I mean, is it that easy to linearly add more bandwidth just like in the Internet networks? And Internet has routing protocols that determine how data moves across the network. Is that even possible for traffic?   

    In addition, I remember reading somewhere that traffic networks have a certain maximum value of traffic that they can sustain before getting into congestion. And I remember that going into congestion is much easier as opposed to going out of congestion. So those dynamics certainly complicate the situation. 

    Perhaps this is not as easy as it seems. If we have all those people with different needs, that all want all to travel at the same time without much thinking about their mobility, will it be possible that everybody gets a promised service?

    Certainly, it will be quite difficult to accomplish this without delaying and routing some people on the network? And who is to determine that some of us will arrive on time while some will have to be delayed?

    Then, what if not all the people join the system? There might be some people who cannot afford to pay for this service. And if we do not know their travel requests, how can we account them in traffic predictions?

    Hmm… This seems more complex than I imagined. No wonder why we don’t have the system at scale yet.

    Anyway, why am I worrying about this? Certainly, there has to be someone responsible who is thinking about the same things?

    Somewhere on planet Earth, a human waits in congestion, while staring at the sea.


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