Determining Malmö's potential for a successful SUMP (Sweden)

By News Editor / Updated: 23 Mar 2017

In March 2016, Malmö city council adopted its first Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP), a crucial document that takes a holistic approach to the link between urban development and sustainable transport based on economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The first step in the process of drafting a SUMP – as outlined in the European Commission’s SUMP Guidelines - is to determine the potential to develop a successful SUMP. Malmö’s thorough work in this aspect helped it lay strong foundations upon which it could build an effective SUMP.


Determining the potential to develop a successful SUMP depends on many internal and external factors that provide an overall framework for the planning process and plan implementation. Key activities in this regard include committing to overall sustainable mobility principles, assessing the impact of regional and national frameworks and conducting a self-assessment.

A self-assessment at the beginning of the plan development process is needed to identify strengths and weaknesses of current planning practices and to understand potential to successfully prepare a SUMP. The assessment should identify the barriers and drivers that might influence the plan development process, and determine what the plan development process will look like in each city’s own local context.

In action 

In Malmö, the self-assessment mapped the municipality’s current strategic documents and how they affect its planning in general, specifically traffic planning. The city also had a missing link between its general plan and specific plans, such as cycling, and pollution action plan.

‘We mapped how decisions were made and how budgets were decided and distributed,’ said Andreas Nordin, Malmö’s project manager. ‘We gathered all basic data available to us about our city and the population, such as age, car-ownership, gender specific data, growth rate, city structure, income, accessibility, schools, shops, destinations. The data was shown on maps that were available throughout the process and became the basis for our area-specific goals.’

In collaboration with The University of Berlin, the city assessed which goals Malmö needed to become a sustainable growing city. The estimated sustainable car-share was set to no more than 25-30 per cent. After a political discussion and calculating the plausibility of achievement, the car-share goal was set to 30 per cent by 2030. The other modal-split goals for 2030 include a cycling share of 30 per cent, public transport 25 per cent and walking 15 percent. Nordin added: ‘These goals have been vital throughout the process and were the foundation of our vision. ‘

Measurable long-term goals were of big importance to induce action, according to the city. To ensure the ongoing development of the SUMP and to minimise risk, the city had two project managers working together. The starting point was dividing the challenges into six main issues given to different workgroups containing 4-5 co-workers with different knowledge related to the given tasks.

The workgroups’ reports laid the foundation of the SUMP. In total, the groups worked a combined 750 hours and then handed their reports to the project managers. The project managers worked for around 1500 hours combined to get the SUMP written and adopted. This included a chain of workshops, discussions and information meetings involving over 800 people.


Malmö’s self-assessment found the areas the city needed to focus on, like social sustainability, and made it include a more diverse group of experts in a more direct way than was originally planned. The city also calculated that it had to exclude the parking policy to save time since this turned out to be more complex than initially estimated.

The self-assessment also allowed Malmö to conclude that it had a unique opportunity to prevent traffic queues. The delays in peak-hour traffic, together with the expected growth in the city’s population, threaten to become a big problem unless it strengthens the sustainable means of travel.

‘Our evaluation shows that the process itself when developing the SUMP was a great source of information and discussion leading to a bigger commitment among all planners to the specific traffic-related topics,’ Nordin said.

‘It also shows that making the document and getting it adopted is by no means the end of the process. It is equally important that enough resources are reserved to implement the SUMP in order to reach set goals. Using the momentum of having the plan adopted recently can make a big difference in how the plan will influence mobility in the city.’

Malmö is currently working to implement the 20 actions pinpointed in the SUMP. The modal split goals set for the different parts of the city are now the basis for local plans. The model of working with diverse workgroups delivering answers to different issues has been adopted when making other strategic documents in the city. Even though the plan made for a hot political topic, its adaptation has made mobility planning easier and more available. 

Challenges, opportunities and transferability 

When planning for the SUMP,  Malmö  had ideas to make the strategy for car traffic and road usage much clearer. This proved to be too complicated to take in one document and the city is now planning on how to reach the set goals in a more detailed way, which was supposed to be one of the major elements of the SUMP. Malmö  also did not manage to find the clear goals for freight traffic for which it first aimed.

‘If we should do this process again, I would prepare politicians more in advance and try to involve them more in an early phase. Doing this gives insight to the decision makers and makes them more interested in the process,’ said Nordin.

‘It may take some time to get everyone on the same page, but it is worth a lot in the long run to have the document adopted in the highest instance and a part of a wider city-planning process. Connecting the SUMP to involve research and university studies also gives credibility to the result presented.’

To cities embarking on the first step, Malmo recommends setting clear targets that gives them a number to aim for when it comes to the different modes of traffic. Trying to mix work groups to involve different competences and have the work groups working with specific questions (e.g. ‘What factors influence how people commute to our city’) also gives good material for the final product. When the SUMP and the comprehensive plan point in the same direction, it is an easy action to take.

In Depth 
Urban mobility planning
Andreas Nordin
Andreas Nordin
23 Mar 2017
23 Mar 2017