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Sprawling Cities And Transport: from Evaluation to Recommendations

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects
Transport sectors
Passenger transport


Background & Policy context

SCATTER tackles the issue of urban sprawl, in particular in the context of cities implementing new suburban public transport services. Urban sprawl is one of the major challenges that European metropolitan areas are facing and will have to face in the next decades, together with congestion, emissions, and preserving or enhancing the quality of life of their inhabitants.

It lies at the crossing of highly topical issues:

  • urban governance,
  • environmental concerns (emissions, biodiversity, etc),
  • quality of life of the inhabitants of the urban areas.

The objectives of SCATTER were to analyse the mechanisms and effects of urban sprawl, to evaluate measures aiming to control or reduce sprawl, and to provide policy recommendations to cities, in particular in the context of cities implementing new suburban public transport services.


To reach its objectives, SCATTER has achieved various tasks: statistical analysis with original indicators, interviews of local authorities, interviews of US experts, review of policies in a dozen of cities, analysis of mechanisms of inter-institutional cooperation, simulations of policies and impact assessment.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Research (DG Research)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


This project has:

- performed a comprehensive review of the existing literature covering the topics of urban growth and urban sprawl. Maybe for the first time, a review about sprawl in both United States and Europe was achieved;

- developed an original framework of statistical analysis in order to identify and quantify urban sprawl. This framework has been applied to six case cities and highlighted the fact that they had different de-concentration patterns;

- performed a literature review and a qualitative analysis of 11 European case studies (including the 6 case cities of the project) to get insights into the theoretical and practical implications of the design and implementation of policy measures to control urban sprawl. The case studies have shown that policies targeting sprawl are inseparable from policies that deal with the problems of modern urban growth. There is a strong emphasis on integrated policies that tackle a series of related issues, and a focus on a regional approach. The other overarching concept is the promotion of the compact city or a form of decentralized concentration.

- simulated scenarios of policy measures in 3 case cities (Brussels, Helsinki and Stuttgart) to perform policy impact assessment, using integrated land use/transport models. Besides, a common evaluation framework was set up. The indicators of this evaluation framework mainly tackle concentration/de-concentration of population and employment, mobility pattern, and CO2 emissions. First, the simulation results confirmed that public transport investments indeed generate urban sprawl if they extend to the suburban or rural areas. Secondly, the simulation results led to select a package of measures, to be recommended as accompanying measures to new public transport services linking the urban centre and suburban areas.

- identified institutional barriers and new ways of cooperation between institutions through the analysis of 6 structures of inter-institutional cooperation existing in the 6 case cities. I

Policy implications

The message of SCATTER is that one cannot implement new transport services between suburban areas and urban centre without being aware that this will encourage the out-migration of the households and that therefore this requires an accompanying strategy.

The package of policies recommended by SCATTER combines fiscal measures on suburban residential developments and offices choosing inadequate locations (i.e. locations poorly served by public transport), and transport pricing: increase of car use cost and reduction of the fare of public transport, but in the urban centres only.

SCATTER also recommends to have more recourse to innovative housing design (intermediate between collective and individual housing) in order to meet simultaneously the individual household aspirations and the collective density criteria.

SCATTER also recommends soft measures. Further to the technical policy recommendations, the key success factors to tackle urban sprawl are: integrated strategies, coordination, and cooperation, between municipalities and between institutions and players in general. In this clearly multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary issue, each player holds a part of the solution. Soft measures like symbolic measures should contribute to create a common culture at a supra-municipal level, to enable consensus building, a consensus about the objectives and the ways to reach them. These points are key elements to achieve a more sustainable urban development.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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