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Monitoring transport behaviour in rural areas

Switzerland Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
Rural mobility 1
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport


Background & Policy context

Spatial structure in Switzerland changed extensively in the past decades. Population growth, increase of mobility behaviour as well as the structural transformation of the economy led to strong changes not only in urban but also in rural areas.

In order to illustrate this transformation and the correlations between the different areas, the Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE conducted two programmes: ‘Monitoring of urban areas‘ (since 2001) and ‘Monitoring of rural areas’ (since 2003).

About 15 research studies were worked out within the scope of the monitoring programme ‘Rural Areas’. These studies cover an analysis of rural areas as seen from two complementary perspectives:

  1. Comparisons with the urban area as well as between the different rural areas and
  2. Developments in the course of time.

One of these 15 research studies analysed mobility behaviour in rural areas. Rural areas differ significantly from urban regions with respect to transport issues. Job opportunities as well as accessibility of service facilities are better in cities and agglomerations than in less populated rural areas. This is affecting transport behaviour: Daily distances in rural areas are longer. The share of private transport on travelling distances is significantly higher than in urban areas. Rural areas are used for leisure and recreational activities. Workplaces and service facilities are easier to find in urban areas, which in turn affects transport and travelling behaviour and is also reflected in the high number of second homes in rural areas.


The aim of this study was to show spatial structural parameters and transport behaviour in Swiss rural areas and also the differences between rural and urban areas in transport issues. Moreover, important factors influencing transport behaviour should be identified.

In the scope of this study the following topics are addressed:

  • population and employment density in rural areas
  • supply of services and accessibility
  • accessibility by private transport and accessibility by public transport
  • provision of "mobility tools" and transport behaviour
  • provision with vehicles, driving licences and public transport passes
  • transport behaviour of the rural population
  • interaction between rural and urban areas
  • leisure, work and shopping behaviour
  • commuting between rural communities and agglomerations
  • travelling behaviour and second homes.

The study was based on evaluations and data analysis with data from the Swiss Micro-census with regard to transport behaviour 2005 and the Swiss Commuter Statistics 2000. The analyses were mainly made according to the problem and potential-oriented typology of rural spaces developed by the Federation (Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE).

The analyses focused on the following three relevant rural area types: 1) periurban rural areas, 2) peripheral rural areas, 3) alpine centres of tourism. The remaining communities belong to the agglomerations and individual cities (= urban space).


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
ARE - Federal Office for Spatial Development
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


In rural areas, especially in the peripheral rural areas, provision and accessibility of services is significantly worse than in urban areas. Additionally, there are fewer job opportunities in these areas. The nearest cities/small centres are usually easily accessible by individual motorised transport. Accessibility by public transport, however, is usually less good and travelling times are longer. Car ownership has the highest level in periurban areas, despite the fairly good level of public transport in these areas.

Transport behaviour in the rural population is characterised by different factors such as availability of service facilities, workplaces, etc.. The daily travelled distances and the share of trips made by car are significantly higher in rural areas than in urban areas. 

Analysing transport purposes proves that the interactions of these different areas are very much dependent upon their pattern of utilisation and functionality. The rural areas are more likely to be visited for leisure purposes and the urban areas rather for working and providing goods and services. The car is the dominant transport mode used for covering distances between rural and urban spaces, especially for leisure activities.

Commuter movements from rural to urban regions account for about 8% of all the commuter movements in Switzerland and mainly originate from periurban areas (for education and work purposes). The analyses shows that commuter movements in the opposite direction, i.e. from urban to rural regions, amount to 3% of the total commuting movements in Switzerland. The main stream of these movements goes towards periurban rural areas. Communting within rural areas accounts for 14% of all communting movements in Switzerland, whereas the largest part of all commuting activities (over 70%) take place within urban areas.

Travelling behaviour and property of second homes of Swiss residents show that 26% of all travels with overnight stays go into the rural areas (mainly to alpine tourism centres). Furthermore, 49% of all second homes are located in rural areas (only 29% in urban areas; the rest abroad). Second homes in rural spaces are mainly used for leisure and holiday activities, in urban spaces mainly for work and education.

Policy implications

The above-mentioned insights point out the kind of challenges rural areas are confronted with and where there is a need for a future call for action. Service facilities and infrastructures are to be maintained in rural spaces (if economically reasonable) and, if necessary, extended. A minimal provision of services in the remote valleys is to be guaranteed. Public transport offers (accessibility of rural spaces) have to be improved with innovative solutions such as buses on demand/call to avoid future problems with regard to the increasing aging of the population as well as to cope in a sustainable manner with the growth of leisure transport. Especially in alpine tourist centres efforts have to be made to make them even better accessible by public transport.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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