Plannable sustainable mobility with GIS

News - 11 February 2016

The sustainability of urban areas is largely dependent on traffic and transport. However as yet there is no effective way of comparing these. Doctoral candidate Jorge Lopes Gil built a GIS model that gives insight into traffic and transport during the urban planning phase.

Thesis defence Jorge Lopes Gil
23 February 2016 | 15:00
Aula TU Delft

In his thesis 'Urban ModalityModelling and evaluating the sustainable mobility of urban areas in the city-region' Lopes Gil charted all forms of mobility per postcode area. He collected public domain data on car traffic routes, train, bus and tram stops and pedestrian and cycle routes in neighbourhoods, as well as on land use and socio-economic features. He linked these data to the open-source digital map OpenStreetMap. “This creates an image of how a neighbourhood should function in theory", explains Lopes Gil. “Then you can evaluate the performance of the area in practice.” 

The method he has developed makes it possible to form a sharp and context-sensitive comparison between various types of areas and environments. Moreover, unlike existing generic methods, it is easy to ensure that only equivalent areas are compared. After all, a rural area has totally different characteristics than an inner city area. 

To test his theory, the Portuguese doctoral candidate made a comparison of the new VINEX housing districts IJburg and Ypenburg. As far as urban planning goes, the large-scale IJburg district in Amsterdam is fairly similar to that of Ypenburg, its counterpart in The Hague. Yet the graphic information system (GIS) developed by Lopes Gil shows that one of these examples of compact urbanisation scores highly in the area of sustainable mobility whereas the other one scores poorly. IJburg was planned around a central tram line with a direct connection to the city centre of Amsterdam and the district also has excellent bus connections. Mobility in Ypenburg is largely dependent on the surrounding A4, A12 and A13 motorway access routes. Despite its proximity to the centre of The Hague, Ypenburg scores poorly with regard to sustainable mobility. 

The big question is, is it possible to improve the performance of underachieving areas. That is difficult, concedes Lopes Gil. Because the performance of an area is largely determined by the balance between various planning and mobility factors. And these in turn determine the eventual living culture. “That's not something you can change just by adding a new bus stop. It's like cooking: a bad cook can't rescue a dish by throwing in some more salt at the end.” 

Generally speaking, retroactive urban planning interventions are too expensive to implement. So it's more sensible if planners examine an area beforehand using a GIS model. Because this makes it possible to plan sustainable mobility after all.

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