Tackling the challenges of sustainable urban mobility planning

Posted: 11 September 2014 | | No comments yet

The development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans1 (SUMPs) in cities is high on the European agenda. The European Commission recognised the need for more sustainable and integrative planning processes in their Urban Mobility package, published in 2013 and numerous projects are supporting cities in developing their plans. Despite all effort, implementation of SUMPs is challenging for cities. The CH4LLENGE project starts from here to figure out and work on the most pressing challenges and barriers in sustainable urban mobility planning. Esther Kreutz-Hassinen – Project Coordinator for CH4LLENGE, explains more.


A Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) is a strategic plan, designed to meet the mobility needs of people and businesses in cities and their surroundings for a better quality of life. Based on existing planning practices, a SUMP needs to be integrated into other planning processes and allow for a high level of participation and evaluation. The key characteristics of a SUMP2 include:

  • Long-term vision and clear implementation plan
  • Participatory approach
  • Balanced and integrated development of all transport modes
  • Horizontal and vertical integration
  • Assessment of current and future performance
  • Regular monitoring, review and reporting
  • Consideration of external costs for all transport modes.

The ambitious EU climate and energy goals to reach by 2020 call for actions in all relevant fields. The contribution from urban transport to reach these goals is crucial as emissions from transport are one of the major contributors to climate change, air and noise pollution and inefficient energy use. The need for more sustainable and integrative planning processes – particularly also in sectors related to urban mobility has been widely politically recognised.

The success of the policies and recommendations depend on how the objectives are put into practice at the national, regional and local levels. Previous European and international SUMP initiatives identified a great number of obstacles that arise in the transition from ‘traditional’ transport planning to sustainable urban mobility planning. On their way to a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, cities frequently face major barriers and need to solve complex, often highly political, problems; This is exactly why the CH4LLENGE project was born.

Major challenges in SUMP

Raise your word – participation and involvement

Acceptance of plans and measures is a very important issue in cities’ transport planning, to prevent conflicts and aversion towards the planned actions. Involving citizens and stakeholders from the very beginning ensures a clear, transparent and inclusive planning process which much more likely leads to an approval of the plans and measures by the citizens. However, involvement of local actors and citizens can face barriers – for example, when the aim and purpose of participation is unclear to either side, citizens are reluctant to engage, or institutional barriers to participation occur, to name just a few.

Public authorities have to open up a highly specialised and complex subject area for debate and prepare for a participatory process – this is not yet an every-day task for all cities.

Nevertheless, in many places, there are already policies and mandatory processes in place on how the public should be involved in major construction projects. There is also a variety of examples of how to use participatory approaches to succeed with a project which can be shared with others.

Working with colleagues – institutional cooperation

Developing SUMPs require a cross-sector approach in the city administration to make sure that all relevant fields are involved and the plan is accepted and effective in practical and financial terms. Without institutional cooperation a SUMP will be partial and deliver fewer benefits. There will be a multiplicity and diversity of actors involved in developing and implementing a SUMP.

Key areas on which organisations may need to cooperate, include: objectives; strategy development and consistency; resource sharing; data sharing; and financing and budgeting.

Understanding barriers to institutional cooperation and taking action to improve cooperation can help with making the SUMP more efficient and effective, by using synergies, improving the acceptability of the SUMP by involving all relevant stakeholders, attracting external funding by aligning to the objectives of funding bodies and improving cooperation with transport operators and other service providers.

Getting practical – measure identification

Once a city has specified its objectives and identified the problems to be overcome, the next step is to identify possible policy measures. These need to be specified in more detail for application and then assessed in more detail. While individual measures may be implemented on their own, it is more common for a SUMP to result in a package of measures, in which individual measures reinforce the effectiveness, acceptability or value for money of one another.

A policy measure which more effectively meets a city’s objectives will be able to generate greater benefits. One that is more acceptable will stand a greater chance of being implemented and thus actually produce benefits. One which offers greater value for money will be able to realise those benefits while making less demand on limited budgets. An effective package can combine those policy measures, which are themselves most effective in ways which achieve synergy – by making the whole more effective than the sum of the parts – and increasing acceptability. The benefits of improved procedures for identifying effective measures and packages are thus in: making the process more efficient; making the policy content more acceptable and affordable; and, above all, in making the resulting policy more cost-effective.

Keeping track – monitoring and evaluation

One of the key elements in Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning is monitoring and evaluation – which can be applied as management tools both for individual measures and packages of measures and for the overall SUMP planning process. Monitoring and Evaluation are important tools in the development and implementation of SUMPs that serve the purpose of timely identification of problems, potential successes and the need for readjustment of a SUMP and its instruments. Providing regular information to decision-makers, potential funding bodies and local stakeholders can help to demonstrate that a SUMP has delivered benefits to the community, provides value for money and is worth continuing, or requires modifications to be successful.

Barriers include the lack of formalised monitoring and evaluation processes, as well as lack of money and capacity to carry out these steps.

CH4LLENGE: nine cities move forward

In the CH4LLENGE project, nine European cities (experienced and learning cities), are taking on the challenges to overcome the barriers in implementing their SUMPs. To address the four challenges in the project, the cities analyse their local mobility situation, develop new strategies on how to tackle their urban mobility problems and test solutions to overcome the barriers in the four challenges participation, cooperation, measure selection as well as monitoring and evaluation through their pilot actions. 

During the project life-time they prepare participation strategies for the participation process in urban transport planning. CH4LLENGE partner cities test, in so-called challenge pilots, different approaches how to prepare a participation process, how to identify relevant stakeholders and interest groups, what kind of interactive formats are useful to apply in which planning phase, and how should communication with the public be carried out.

To improve institutional cooperation, the CH4LLENGE cities emphasise to work on current institutional structures, rather than redesigning them. They are addressing organisational behaviours and barriers and develop methods for improved institutional cooperation and better SUMP decision-making and delivery. The CH4LLENGE cities will implement local pilot strategies and actions and have identified three topics of particular interest: structuring and formalising institutional cooperation; leadership roles; and practical competencies for cooperation.

To work on the challenges in measure identification, the CH4LLENGE project uses the option generation website KonSULT3 which is a useful tool for the measure selection process and is reviewed and improved throughout the project. The CH4LLENGE cities are testing the tool and use it to work on their own measure packages.

The CH4LLENGE cities are developing local monitoring and evaluation programmes, implementing pilot projects and work on clear hands-on guidance for decision-makers and practitioners in local authorities in the form of practical resource kits. The objective is to provide methodologies and feasible ways to assess change and to evaluate the effectiveness of a SUMP.

Based on the lessons learned from the pilot schemes in the project cities, on the experience from the Follower Cities and on the results from the training activities, four CH4LLENGE Kits will be developed as the main outputs of the project. Each kit will address one challenge and will consist of a comprehensive manual, a brochure, plus the relevant e-learning modules. The kits will be available in English, Czech, Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian.

Both cities with a lot of experience with integrated planning approaches and cities initiating the SUMP process will benefit from the results of CH4LLENGE.

Expand your horizons: training activities in CH4LLENGE

To share the knowledge gained in the project and also support the other European cities to implement such plans, CH4LLENGE offers a number of training activities. Four ‘Training Workshops’ on the challenges have offered a platform for the project cities and external cities invited to follow the project for exchange of experiences and mutual learning. To support the take-up of SUMP, especially in the recently joined EU Member states, CH4LLENGE organises National Seminars and CH4LLENGE University courses in cooperation with local institutions. To facilitate the discussion between different European projects and a SUMP Exchange Workshop will take place in 2015.  

Additional to all these face-to-face training activities, the project aims at developing an e-learning course consisting of several modules on each of the four challenges. 



CH4LLENGE – Addressing key challenges of sustainable urban mobility planning

Project duration:

March 2013 to March 2016

Funding Programme:

Intelligent Energy Europe

Project Coordinator:

Rupprecht Consult

Project partners:

The Association for Urban Transition (ATU), Romania; Austrian Mobility Research FGM-AMOR, Austria; Institute for Transport Studiies, University of Leeds, UK; POLIS – European Cities and Regions Networking for Innovative Solutions, Belgium; Politehnica University of Timisoara, Romania; Union of the Baltic Cities, Commission on Environment, Finland; Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, Slovenia.

CH4LLENGE cities:

Amiens (FR); Dresden (GER); Gent (BE); West Yorkshire (UK); Brno (CZ); Budapest (HU); Krakow (PL); Timisoara (RO); Zagreb (HR). Additionally, the project includes 30 ‘follower cities’ who receive tailor-made advice from the CH4LLENGE SUMP Expert Team.

The EU co-funded project addresses significant barriers for the wider take-up of SUMPs in Europe. In a joint undertaking together with research and resource institutions, the project will support European Cities at different stages of advancing the take-up of SUMPs. Building on previous experiences and lessons from earlier and on-going national and European SUMP initiatives, the consortium has identified common challenges which pose significant barriers in the wider take-up of SUMPs in Europe. The project will work on innovative and transferable solutions for four SUMP-challenges: Participation, Cooperation, Measure Selection and Monitoring and Evaluation.


  1. / Twitter: @SUMPChallenges
  2. According to: European Commission, DG Mobility and Transport (2013) Guidelines. Developing and Implementing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan.



Esther Kreutz-Hassinen is a Project Manager at the Union of the Baltic Cities, Commission on Environment in Turku, Finland. She is coordinating EU projects that concern sustainable mobility, integrated sustainability management and climate change. In the CH4LLENGE project, Esther is responsible for the dissemination and communication tasks within the project.

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