ACTIVITY 2.1: Assess planning requirements and define geographic scope (based on ‘functional urban area’)


By Ash Oyofo / Updated: 28 Nov 2019


A Sustainable Urban Mobility Planinfo-icon is embedded in a wider regional and national planning framework. This includes for example regulations, funding streams or higher level strategies for spatial and transport development (e.g. a national transport plan, where one exists). It is crucial to assess the impact of the regional and national planning framework to exploit opportunities and avoid conflicts with higher level authorities at a later point.

A SUMP should cover the functional urban area (i.e. travel-to-work area), which in most cases goes beyond the administrative boundaries of a municipality. If no regional or national regulations for the geographic scope of a SUMP exist, the most suitable spatial coverage needs to be agreed by the stakeholders concerned and approved by the political body. On the one hand, this depends on the area for which the respective local or regional authorities are responsible. But on the other hand, it must follow the actual mobilityinfo-icon patterns as much as possible. A plan that covers the entire urban agglomeration will be much more effective than one that only covers parts of it.



  • Ensure that relevant regional, national and European legal requirements for the SUMP are identified.

  • Gain a clear perspective on how the regional, national and European framework will influence the planning process.

  • Define the geographic scope of your plan, usually covering the functional urban area of actual mobility patterns (e.g. travel-to-work area).

  • Identify the appropriate body/bodies to take leadershipinfo-icon in the planning process.

  • Obtain a political decision to approve the geographic scope and the lead organisation.

  • Ensure that the connection to long-distance transport corridors is considered.



Planning requirements
  • Identify, document and assess:

  • Legal regulations and guidance on how to develop a SUMP, including potential requirements for the geographic scope or the responsibilities of different types of planning authorities (if any).

  • Relevant regional and national funding criteria.

  • Higher-level plans, strategies, and objectives that might influence your SUMP. For example, the plans of a National Road Authorityinfo-icon for new or enlarged roads could work against the objectives of a SUMP by encouraging more car driving into the city.

  • Create a summary of the regional and national framework with suggestions on how to address it in your SUMP.

Geographic scope
  • Analyse transport patterns and administrative boundaries. Define your functional urban area (see toolinfo-icon section below for more guidance). Include also links to long-distance transport corridors (such as the Trans-European Transport Network, TEN-T, national railway network).

  • Involve key stakeholders and authorities within the envisaged planning area and strive for formal agreements on the geographic scope of planning activities.

  • Take an open and transparent approach, securing the involvement of the authorities concerned. Ensure regular communication and exchange between relevant authorities.

  • Negotiate overall responsibility for the plan.

  • If it is not possible to define a planning area that is fully consistent with the functional urban mobility area, at least strive for good cooperation with actors on challenges that can only be dealt with at the agglomeration level. This can build on existing cooperation or involve new practices (e.g. formal procedures, such as joint land-use plans, or informal procedures, such as working groups).

  • Ensure the representation of stakeholders from the entire planning area in the steering group.

  • Ensure the involvement of citizens from the entire planning area in participationinfo-icon activities.


Activities beyond essential requirements

  • Ensure coverage of areas linked to major socio-economic and environmental transport impacts.


Timing and coordination

  • Identify regulations and relevant planning requirements at the very beginning and consider these throughout the whole process.

  • Take these particularly into account when defining stakeholderinfo-icon and citizeninfo-icon involvement (see Activity 1.4), the geographic scope (this activity), links with other planning processes (see Activity 2.2) and the timing and work plan (see Activity 2.3).

  • Define geographic scope early so that it is taken into account when setting up the working and participation structures (see Step 1) – a clear agreement is required before initiating the official Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning Process (see Activity 2.3).



✔ Relevant national and regional documents reviewed and results summarised.
✔ Opportunities and impacts identified that might result from the regional and national framework.
✔ Geographic scopes defined (if possible, the functional urban area).
✔ Political agreement achieved on geographic scope, basic roles and responsibilities of authorities and politicians.
✔ Key authorities from the planning area included in the core team and/or steering group.
✔ Political agreement signed and adopted by municipal councils.

Functional urban areas in EU Member States

The OECD and the European Commission have jointly developed a methodology to define functional urban areas (FUAs) in a consistent way across countries. Using population density and travel-to-work flows as key information, a FUA consists of a densely inhabited city and of a surrounding area (commuting zone) whose labour market is highly integrated with the city.

  • The urban core consists of a population cluster with a density of at least 1,500 inhabitants per km².

  • A municipality is part of the urban core if at least 50% of its population lives in the cluster.

  • The ‘hinterland’ is identified as the ‘worker catchment area’ of the urban labour market, outside the densely inhabited core. All municipalities having at least 15% of their employed residents working in a certain urban core are defined to be part of the urban hinterland.

The ultimate aim of the OECD-EU approach to functional urban areas is to create a harmonised definition of cities and their areas of influence for international comparisons as well as for policyinfo-icon analysis on topics related to urban development.

The OECD offers profiles of the functional urban areas of each EU country. They include a map of the country with all functional urban areas (also available as a free shapefile), a list of the functional urban areas by population size and the population living in those functional urban areas. To access the profiles, please go to and search for ‘functional urban area’.

Source: OECD 2019


Based on the common OECD-EU methodology, metropolitan regions are defined as contiguous, dense and built-up functional urban areas with at least 250,000 inhabitants. They tend to have a high economic attractiveness, large commuter flows and complex multi-modal transport systems, while typically also being transport nodes of national and European importance. Metropolitan regions can be particularly challenging for Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning due to the many affected municipalities and other institutions.

The Topic Guide Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning in metropolitan regions provides guidance for SUMPs at the metropolitan scale. It identifies four types of metropolitan governanceinfo-icon (informal/soft coordination; inter-municipal authorities; supra-municipal authorities; special status metropolitan cities) and recommends examples and planning principles for the different institutional set-ups.


There are various types of functional urban areas with different needs for SUMP development. The Poly-SUMP Methodology offers guidance for polycentric regions with several municipalities or cities that are closely dependent on each other. It gives recommendations on how to initiate or develop regional transport cooperation in such complex areas. Based on the terminology of the Poly-SUMP guide, polycentric regions feature a capital city with a relatively low population (fewer than 200,000 in a larger region or fewer than 100,000 inhabitants in a smaller region) and a number of intermediate poles, smaller than the capital city, but greater than 5,000 inhabitants.


Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning can be as effective for small cities as for metropolitan regions, but small cities show different needs than larger ones and usually have very limited capacities for strategic planning. The Topic Guide on Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning in smaller cities (due for publication in 2020), adapts the SUMP process to the planning realities of smaller cities. It offers guidance both for cities that want to develop their own SUMP and for those who want to be part of a regional SUMP that was initiated by a nearby bigger city. In addition to planning tools and participation methods that have proven to work well in their context, the guide particularly focuses on measures that fit smaller cities with strong car-dependency and weak public transport.


The status of SUMP regulations in EU Member States

For more information on regional and national regulations on how to develop a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan in the EU Member States: CIVITAS SUMPs-Up & Prosperity: THE STATUS OF SUMPS IN EU MEMBER STATES.


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Cross-border planning cooperation for a tri-national agglomeration

The SUMP of the Canton of Basel-Stadt contains various cross- border measures (across Switzerland, France and Germany) to reduce car commuter traffic and limit congestion during peak hours. For example, the ‘Pendlerfonds’ is a fund that collects the revenue from parking management within the Canton. This fund is used to finance projects that have a proven positive effect on commuter traffic to and from Basel. Most of the financed projects are Bike&Ride and Park&Ride facilities at key stations of the regional railway network. Since the establishment of the fund in 2012, a total of 394 bicycle and 966 car parking spaces have been co-funded at various railway stations.

Author: Martin Dollesche, Canton of Basel-Stadt, collected by EUROCITIES


Synchronised development of municipal and regional SUMP

Due to the dense interweaving of the regional transport network of Kassel and the surrounding area, the “SUMP Kassel 2030” was complemented with a regional mobility development plan. While the SUMP places emphasis on inner-city transport and traffic flows, the regional mobility development plan focuses on regional transport and accessibility. Both plans were synchronised in terms of content and spatial dimensions and a regional traffic model has been established as the basis for both plans. The common target set guides the development of measures and actions in both plans and sets the standards for subsequent evaluation. Both integrated action concepts contain a coordinated programme of measures for implementation.

Author: Simone Fedderke, Centre of Competence for Sustainable Urban Mobility – State of Hessen and City of Kassel, collected by Rupprecht Consult


Metropolitan inter-municipal urban plan for housing and development

Grand Nancy is elaborating a metropolitan SUMP, which will integrate several sectoral plans into a single one. By pooling resources and skills at the agglomeration level, this unique document aims at harmonizing public policies on urban planning, housing, mobility, economic and commercial development, and the environment to achieve a shared, coherent and united territorial project. The elaboration of the plan is carried out by a transdisciplinary technical team, which gathers staff from the urban planning, housing, economic development, sustainable development and mobility departments of the Grand Nancy metropolitan authority, and supported by the regional agency for development and urban planning.

Author: Aurélie Dore-Speisser, Grand Nancy Metropole, collected by EUROCITIES