Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Spatial Effects of the urban railway system in Zurich

Switzerland Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Infrastructure Node
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Infrastructure (INF)
Transport mode
Rail icon
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The Zürcher S-Bahn study is one of three case studies in a joint project initiated by the Federal Office for Spatial Development OSD (in German: ARE) in collaboration with the Federal Office of Transport (FOT), the Federal Office for Roads (FEDRO), the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) as well as interested cantons (Zürich, Aargau, Schwyz).


The aim of this project is to analyse the spatial effects of transport infrastructures. Reliable hypotheses should be formulated and verified for local as well as national political actions. The present case focuses on the spatial effects of the urban railway system in Zurich. The major interest focuses on the significantly improved urban railway system in the intercantonal greater Zurich area.

The question is: Does it induce a trend reversal leading to settlement development towards the interior or will the urban railway actually promote even more peripheral residing because of its very efficient connections?

  • Ex-Post analysis as case study;
  • Tripod Analysis (Büro Güller Güller architecture urbanism, „Räumliche Auswirkungen der Verkehrsinfrastrukturen – Lernen aus der Vergangenheit – Methodologische Vorstudie“, Bundesamt für Raumentwicklung, Bern 2003); and
  • Interviews with important actors and experts.


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


Main findings:

- The Zurich urban railway system is - enhanced by various feeder systems - one big success story, especially when looking at the quality of accessibility, competitiveness to the road and economic efficiency.

- In the beginning, the urban railway system was meant to be a transport service provider, not an instrument of active spatial development policy.

- Presumably, interactions, resp. escalating effects, between railway and spatial development exist anyhow. Public transport is a guarantee for providing transport even if the chosen place of residence is in the countryside.

- The urban railway system turns out to be the dominant mode of transport, mainly due to quick commuter connections to and from the developed regional centers and therefore to the regional hubs.

- The urban railway system makes accessible above all areas with a large share of multiple family dwellings and in many cases areas with centre functions.

- Additonal jobs, service providers and residential buildings can be generated in the vicinity of urban railway stations only if earlier industrial areas are being vacated due to economic structural change.-

- The new economic development areas in the city of Zurich, in the Glattal and in the Limmattal have not been covered sufficiently by the urban railway system because of a dispersion of objectives. Additional urban railway systems seem promising in order to guarantee the accessibility of these widely overbuilt areas.

Policy implications

The results of the Zurich case study cannot be transferred as such to other agglomerations. Regional and local context of the location of the urban railway system are of such importance because of the many facettes having an impact on the spatial effects that generalisations cannot be made implicitely. The phase of the economic cycle in which a project happens has also to be taken into account.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


Contribute! Submit your project

Do you wish to submit a project or a programme? Head over to the Contribute page, login and follow the process!