Travel-related Urban Zones as a Planning Tool (Urban Zone 2)


Project backround

Urban form affects sustainability significantly by daily travel demand and possibilities for using different travel modes. In the project, a new method has been developed  where urban region is divided into zones according to their location in the urban form and their public transport supply. The zones are pedestrian zone, public transport/ transit zone and car-oriented zone. They are based on the theory of three urban fabrics (Newman et al. 2016) according to which cities comprise of historically developed overlapping urban fabrics that have varying characteristics of land use and transport system.

Urban zones.png

The key research question in the project is how frequent the public transport supply has to be and what elements urban form should contain to be able to avoid car dependency in peri-urban areas.

Research data of travel related urban zones is based on GIS-based land use information and travel surveys. Urban form elements like density, morphology, mix of land use etc. is analysed using high resolution GIS data generated into 250 x 250 meters grid cells compatible with Finnish Monitoring System of Spatial Structure (YKR) including variety of statistics of urban form in 1985-2010.

Project objectives

The objective of the urban zone approach is to refine the land use and travel behaviour data for the purposes of land use and transport system planning. Main objective in the project is to analyse the changes in urban form and travel behaviour in Finnish cities occured in the past decades. Based on the national analysis, urban zones are then adjusted into a planning method.  The method provided can be widely applied by land use and transportation planning organisations in planning and impact assessment.

Project phases and results

  • Forming the travel-related urban zones for 34 Finnish cities and defining the criteria for zones
  • Analysing changes in urban form with Monitoring System of Spatial Structure (YKR) using variables such as number of inhabitants and workplaces, area density and car ownership
  • Analysing changes in travel behaviour in the cities using zone approach using variables such as distribution of travel modes, travel-related CO2 emissions
  • Case study on the relationship between polycentrism and public transport corridors in Helsinki Metropolitan Area
  • Evaluating future urban form in 2030 in Finnish cities
  • Appliying zones as a planning method in practice (e.g. Uusimaa regional land use plan)
  • Providing a guide for planners to apply the urban zone method in planning

A research report  on changes in Finnish urban structure from 1985 to 2010 reflected by the travel-related urban zones is published in 2013. The publication is in Finnish.

NEWMAN, P., KOSONEN, L. & 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, 87, 429-458.


Further information

Head of Unit Ville Helminen, Finnish Environmet Institute SYKE

Published 2013-09-19 at 15:45, updated 2023-09-01 at 14:55

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