Sustainable multi-modal inter-urban transport, regional mobility and spatial planning

A metropolitan area, "agglomeration" or "commuter belt" (with important cross-docking activities), is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, that is sharing industry, infrastructure and housing. An efficient multimodal transport network at different spatial levels is fundamental to allow a smooth functioning both in such areas and with their connected surrounding regions thus encouraging mobility and enhancing/preserving social inclusion. However, the transport infrastructure needed could cause important negative externalities and even induce unbridled suburbanization.

The introduction of new forms of people mobility and freight distribution, such as innovative soft mobility schemes, drive-sharing, ride-sharing, crowd shipping, crowd delivery, connected and automated vehicles, innovative flying vehicles, Mobility as a Service, could revolutionise transport demand with major consequences for the spatial organisation of cities and their local neighbourhoods. Mitigating the negative impacts of transport and substantially contribute to the achievement of the COP 22 goals must be pursued.

To address these challenges and in line with the guidelines to implement SUMP, a multi-dimensional approach is needed assessing new forms of mobility in all transport modes, their infrastructures, travel flux evolvement, spatial-economic development, environmental and quality-of-life issues, governance issues across spatial and institutional levels and user behavioural aspects. Development of vertical spatial planning can be included. Models should be proposed to support decision-makers in assessing evolution and potential rebound effects of their plans.

GNSS can contribute to boosting new forms of mobility and allow for a more efficient use of transport infrastructure. A large potential stemming from the combination and integration of GNSS with communication technology and telematics platforms remains so far untapped.


Proposals should address one or several of the following:

  • Address environmental, socio-cultural and spatial impacts of planning in large metropolitan regions, whilst also enhancing connectivity; governance and institutional issues should be included.
  • Identification of new forms of mobility (including trips not covered by metropolitan radial transport infrastructure) with the potential to have the greatest impact on spatial redesign of urban and low-density areas - improving the balance between city and rural development -, on urban space sharing (including pedestrians), on new public and private service allocation patterns, on investments in infrastructure, and new solutions for collective transport and transport planning. Identify ways to promote their implementation of the new forms of mobility both in passenger and freight transport.
  • Use of geolocalization data, including Galileo and EGNOS for cooperative mobility in combination with other communication and telematic data to foster a more efficient use of infrastructure and reduction of air pollution.
  • Suggest appropriate measures to ensure the lowest carbon and air pollutant level of transport with particular consideration for the interdependencies between different spatial patterns of production/consumption (i.e. localization of production sites and relevant schemes of distribution to final consumers) and the energy and carbon intensity of the related transport systems. Collection and analysis of comprehensive data to provide a sound basis for future planning.
  • Comprehensive planning for the entire functional area (defined as an area of intensive commuter movements and/or freight distribution), adapting, further developing and extending the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) concept, considering specific needs of metropolitan regions, new operating models in collective public and private transport, overcoming social segregation and inequalities, including gender inequalities, in access to education, jobs, health and leisure. Innovative planning concepts (e.g multi-state planning, performance-based planning, scenario techniques and community planning) should also be considered with the aim to ensuring accessibility, social justice and equity in the mobility of all citizens groups. Coordinated infrastructure development: balancing long-term environmental goals with other development aims (e.g. effective land use and preservation of natural zones), developing environmental high-performance infrastructure (e.g. light rail), upgrading/ repurposing existing infrastructure, improving connectivity to the TEN-T and overall resilience of the region.
  • Coordinated development of sustainable policies with proven environmental impact, e.g. air-quality and noise-sensitive traffic management, including "nowcasting" as well as long-term strategy, region-wide freight and logistics concepts, shared mobility and innovative collective mobility promotion and incentives/disincentives for access to urban centres.

Involvement of local authorities, transport operators in research is essential to ensure the appropriate implementation, in line with SUMP guidelines, as well as modelling and recording reactions of users to changes in infrastructure and mobility options (rebound effects) to support future decision-making and ensuring citizens' engagement. Users' involvement is encouraged, as it is important to reach effective changes in behaviour.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 5 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

In line with the Union's strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, international cooperation is encouraged. In particular, proposals should foresee twinning with entities participating in projects funded by US DOT to exchange knowledge and experience and exploit synergies.

Expected Impact

Research will provide cities, regional and national authorities and spatial planners with evidence of long term impacts of innovative transport technologies and business models. It will aid decision makers to better anticipate and plan necessary investments, adaptation and spatial re-design strategies in view of taking full advantage of the new forms of mobility for improving competitiveness, sustainability, social cohesion, equity, and citizen well-being. Research will also contribute to devising transport planning strategies that contribute to a balanced development between urban and rural areas.

The innovation processes and final impacts should be systematically evaluated in terms of their contribution to environmental health, to enhanced accessibility to the centre of the metropolitan region as well as to the TEN-T corridors, to regional economic performance, social cohesion and overall regional development potential.

To meet the challenge of reducing the environmental impact of commuting and inter-urban transport proposals must demonstrate their contribution towards the following objectives:

  • Reduced congestion, energy, emissions of air pollutants, carbon footprint, noise and land-use within the identified metropolitan regions.
  • Increased coordination between multimodal infrastructure mobility and spatial-economic development, including reduction of inequalities.
  • Increased inter-modality and higher resilience of the transport system between the metropolitan region and the neighbouring cities and rural areas.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • RRI
  • Gender
  • Clean Energy
  • Socio-economic science and humanities
  • International cooperation
Application date
Social sciences : Management and Public administration, Information and Communication Sciences, Demography, Economy, Environmental Sciences, Gender studies, Identities, gender and sexuality, Geography, Pedagogic & Education Research, Political science, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Sociology
Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology