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Are we moving in the right direction? Indicators on transport and environmental integration in the EU: TERM 2000

Spatial planning

Group 3: Spatial planning and accessibility


Are spatial planning and transport planning becoming better coordinated so as to match transport demand to access need?


TERM indicators




10. Access to basic services

improve access to services by environment-friendly modes
reduce need to travel



11. Access to transport services

improve access to public transport



positive trend (moving towards objective)

some positive development (but insufficient to meet objective)

unfavourable trend (large distance from objective)

? quantitative data not available or insufficient

Group policy context

Enabling people to gain access to work, education, shopping or leisure is an essential component of economic and social development. Providing accessibility for everyone, at low cost to the environment, should therefore be the key objective of any transport policy. However, increasing mobility does not necessarily improve accessibility. For example, more car use in and around cities increases congestion, which can reduce access to the city centre.

Accessibility is governed by many factors. Spatial (land-use) planning (i.e. urban and regional planning) and transport planning (both public and private) can influence the time and distances that people spend travelling and that goods have to be transported, and also the transport modes that are used. A better integration of spatial and transport planning is therefore a key to achieving better accessibility and to manage the need for travel. At the urban planning level, this can be achieved by, for instance, a better spatial mix of economic activities backed by improvements in public transport, cycling and walking facilities, and by restrictions on parking. In this way improved accessibility can be achieved while reducing the demand for energy-consuming mobility. The need to provide accessibility by conventional transport means may be progressively reduced by developments in telecommunications and e-commerce which provide other important ways of accessing services.

Community transport policies have, so far, tried to increase mobility mainly by increasing transport infrastructure and services supply. Interestingly, the Common Transport Policy is subtitled . towards sustainable mobility. rather than . towards sustainable accessibility. . Spatial planning has received much less attention from transport policy-makers and planners in recent decades. No integrated accessibility strategies have been developed, nor are any targets set in this area.

One reason for this deficiency may be that the responsibility for developing such strategies lies not with the EU but with Member States, regions and authorities. The Community. s role is therefore limited to promoting good practice (e.g. the sustainable cities. campaign, car-free cities, the Citizens. Network campaign, the Urban Exchange Initiative), and developing EIA and SEA legislation so that the issue of accessibility and transport generation are addressed adequately in land-use and other spatial plans. Another important framework is the action plan of the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP, (CEC, 1999)), which can help to strengthen the link between spatial policy and transport policy.

Group findings

  • Trends in trip lengths in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Belgium show how urban sprawl has contributed to the growth in travel during recent decades. Increases in income and car ownership have led many people to chose to live out of town. Working places and shopping are increasingly located in green-field sites. This has led to longer trips with people living further away from work, leisure activities, shopping centres and schools.
  • The overall time that people spend travelling has remained more or less constant. However, with increasing congestion, and increasing home-to-work distances, commuting to and from work now takes longer.

Figure 3.1: Average journey lengths by purpose (United Kingdom)

Source: Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (United Kingdom)

  • Access to services has increasingly become dependent on the car, so a large group of the population (about 30 % of EU households do not have access to a car) has difficulty in accessing even basic services. Data from a recent United Kingdom survey indicates the extent to which people in no-car households are disadvantaged.
  • The ease of access to transport services depends both on transport infrastructure and on the level of service provided. Car ownership can be used as one proxy access indicator for car owners. Ownership rates have increased steadily over recent decades (see Indicator 25). In 1997, the EU car ownership level was 454 cars per 1 000 inhabitants. Italy, Luxembourg and Germany had the highest rates (over 500 cars per 1 000 inhabitants).
  • No comprehensive EU data is available on the ease of access to public transport (e.g. time to nearest train or bus station). Data from Denmark shows that access to public transport is more difficult outside conurbations.


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