Webinar documentation: Navigating the future of urban nodes

In light of the TEN-T revision process, the Scandria Alliance explored the reinforced role of urban nodes within the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) in a webinar on 1 December 2023.

The purpose of the webinar was threefold:

  • to inform representatives of cities along the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor about the upcoming requirements for urban nodes in the European Union’s new policy for the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T),
  • to inspire participants by best-practice examples from our member regions, and
  • to present preliminary findings from an interview series on the status quo of sustainable urban mobility planning in urban nodes of our member regions carried out by the Scandria Alliance task force on urban nodes.


The European perspective

Robert Szűcs, Policy Officer in the European Commission’ DG MOVE, presented the reinforced role of the urban nodes in the Commission’s proposal for a new TEN-T regulation. The Commission’s approach to look at urban nodes has developed from a linear approach to a place-based one due to the need to create better interactions between long-distance and urban transport as well as between different transport modes. Besides infrastructural requirements, the upcoming requirements for urban nodes will include the provision to set up a sustainable urban mobility plan (SUMP) and to report on sustainable urban mobility indicators (SUMI). There will be a SUMP training programme for all urban nodes organized by JASPERS in the years 2024 and 2025. Moreover, the Commission asks member states to provide support to their national urban nodes.


Sustainable urban mobility planning as a process

Most cities interviewed by the Scandria Alliance task force on urban nodes indicate that they already have a SUMP or a similar plan in place, but their level of detail and the degree to which cities have worked with the European SUMP guidelines differs greatly.

A recent example of an extensive SUMP process was presented by Juliane Martinius, head of unit “holistic transport strategies” in Hamburg’s Ministry of Transport and Mobility Transition. Hamburg’s strategy for mobility transition has just been adopted by Hamburg’s Senate in late November 2023. A key learning from Hamburg’s process is that a thorough coordination of and dialogue with all relevant actors and stakeholders as well as public participation processes require a lot of time and resources, but are worth the effort. To facilitate political decision-making, also scenario modelling proved to be an important tool. The strategy sets up the ambitious goal of an 80% share of sustainable modes of transport in Hamburg’s modal split by 2030. To reach this goal, ten key areas of action are defined. A massive expansion of the public transport offer (“Hamburg-Takt”) is the first of these action areas, which also contain push measures to achieve a re-allocation of space for busses, cyclists and pedestrians on a number of main roads. With the approach of offer-based planning, Hamburg turned the traditional planning approach of demand-based planning upside-down.


The functional urban area approach

One of the principles of the European SUMP guidelines is that SUMPs should ideally not only cover the area of the city itself, but take into the entire functional urban area, i.e. the city and its commuting zone. The interviews conducted by the Scandria Alliance revealed that there are only a few examples of SUMPs formally covering more than one municipality and that planning across municipal borders and cooperation and coordination with neighbouring remains a challenge. In Finnish city regions, we have seen exceptions with regional SUMPs in place that cover several municipalities.

Heikki Saarento, Planning Director at the Regional Council of Southwest Finland, provided insights into how the seven largest Finnish city regions work with integrated land use, housing and transport agreements, so-called a MAL agreements. These structural agreements are concluded between the state and municipalities to support and finance operative measures to achieve strategic goals that are integrated into regional transport system planning.

Petri Suominen, transport planning manager at Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, illustrated the evolution of cross-municipal transport system planning in the Helsinki metropolitan region and provided some current transport planning projects in and around Helsinki. These include setting up a cross-link plan between heavy rail connections in the region as well as several light rail tram lines.


Integrating zero-emission urban logistics in sustainable urban mobility planning

Urban nodes are also the first and last mile of freight transport flows on the TEN-T corridors, which requires (urban) logistics to be recognized in sustainable urban mobility planning, as well. While the focus in SUMPs of the urban nodes interviewed by the Scandria Alliance task force on urban nodes is clearly on passenger transport, the importance of freight transport is growing in newer generations of SUMPs or SUMPs currently being revised. In particular, Italian cities are advanced in integrating urban logistics into sustainable urban mobility planning.

Giuseppe Luppino, President of Open ENLoCC and Head of Unit at the Institute for Transport and Logistics (ITL), summarised the experience from various European projects on decarbonising and improving (urban) logistics in northern Italian cities. According to Giuseppe, a more comprehensive approach and more data on logistics are needed for integrated planning approaches. Nevertheless, public administrations have already developed mechanisms to coordinate freight transport, driven by the need to improve air quality and high competition for city space. Approaches addressed by the current GRETA project include curb side management and the development of micro hubs.


Projects and initiatives supporting urban nodes

The webinar closed with three brief impulse presentations of other projects and initiatives aimed at supporting urban nodes

Chelsea Tschoerner-Budde, policy officer at the Hessian Ministry for Economic Affairs, Energy, Transport and Housing, provided a brief overview of the operational mechanisms by the Hessian federal state to offer support and to assist towns and cities within their state borders. Among supporting initiatives is the Centre for Sustainable Mobility Planning funded by the state government, the new active mobility act and a planned state level funding programme to provide capacity for sustainable mobility planning.

Tiina Ruohonen, project coordinator at the city of Oslo, gave a teaser to the MOVE21 project, which is working with deploying innovations in both passenger and freight transport in six urban nodes along the ScanMed corridor. To strengthen the links between the TEN-T corridor and the urban domains, MOVE21 has set up a ScanMed Observatory as a platform for urban nodes to exchange and cooperate. Focus is on data collection, funding and governance questions. The next public meeting of the ScanMed Observatory will take place in Oslo on 22-23 April 2024.

Juha Pulmaranta, development specialist at the city of Turku, presented the new SUMPs for BSR project. With smaller and medium-sized cities from different parts of the Baltic Sea region as project partners, the project is developing an evaluation framework that shall help cities to assess the efficiency of urban transport system planning. Project partners are also working on different capacity building activities, such as transferable training materials.

All presentations from the webinar are available for dowload here.