Post-Car(d) Urbanism

Om Projektet

Post-Car(d) Urbanism is a research project that explores the future of mobility and transport in Swedish cities. It uses crowdsourcing, scenario planning, and urban modelling to visualize several possible outcomes for urban mobility. The scenarios generated from you and others on this website will be tested, refined and then integrated into a set of quantitative urban transport models for further testing. These will in turn be used to create artist's impressions of specific Swedish cities in each scenario. Finally, these "postcards from the future" be used to create a public dialogue about the most desirable futures for the country, and the policy options necessary to achieve them.

Specific objectives

A variety of factors may contribute to a radically reduced automobile usage in the next 50-years. These range from increased fuel efficiencies and more attractive public transport technologies to spikes in fuel price and reduced petrochemical availability.

What are the critical factors affecting these changes? Which factors can planners and policy makers influence and which might be out of our control? Of the range of alternative futures, which is most in line with the positive social and economic goals of Swedish cities and how can research and design support a transition to this vision? Finally, how can the creative use of online and social media help communicate the findings of this research to the general public in an engaging, inspiring, and motivational way?

This project follows several, inter-related stages. First, it plans to uses a scenario planning approach to explore a range of possible outcomes and uncertainties for urban mobility. Second, it uses high resolution, evidence-based land use transport analysis to advance the state-of-the-art in urban modelling. It then uses creative and artistic approaches to communicate these findings to the public through “Post Car(d) from the Future.” Finally, it translates this evidence and conversation into policy and design recommendations to achieve a sustainable, car-free future for Swedish cities.

The study aims to:

  • Integrate advanced approaches from strategic planning, urban design, simulation and the creative arts to produce relevant policy insights
  • Generate new knowledge for sustainable urbanism with potential for public participation and motivation
  • Use creative arts to visualise future post-automobile environments for the general public, making “post cards from the future” to encourage public discussion and debate
  • Bridge gaps between the scientific fields of urban morphology, transport research, planning theory, urban economy and urban sociology
  • Explore plausible pathways towards car-independence, highlighting major relevant contextual factors and key policy levers
  • Formulate evidence-based policy and design objectives that will support proactive transitions towards a positive car free future
  • Add to the international body of research on sustainability and climate change and further develop ongoing research at KTH on urban sustainability and walkability


There are over 600 million cars and light vehicles, excluding heavy trucks and buses, in the world today and growing rapidly ( Whilst it is well known that automobile transport is essential to today’s global economy and contemporary urban lifestyle, there are also significant social, economical and environmental forces which are likely to alter this condition in the long term future. Schiller et al. (2010) have listed problems associated with automobile dependency.

  • Environmental problems include; urban sprawl, photochemical smog, acid rain, high green house gases, global warming and climate change, traffic problems, noise, visual intrusion and devastated public transit systems.
  • Economic problems include; oil vulnerability, congestion costs, urban infrastructure costs for sewers, water mains and roads, loss of productive rural land, loss of urban land to pavement, poor transit cost recovery, costs of transportation accident trauma and death, high proportion of city wealth spent on transportation, public health costs from pollution, health costs from growing obesity due to sedentary auto lifestyles.
  • Social problems include; traffic death and personal injuries, loss of street life, loss of community in neighbourhoods, loss of public safety, isolation in remote suburbs with few amenities, access problems for those without cars and disabilities, inequitable access for poor and women, road rage, enforced car ownership for lower-income household, health problems due to lack of physical activity

For these and other reasons, many cities and countries are investigating large scale solutions for car free, “ecocities” or “carbon neutral” settlements. These projects represent interesting urban laboratories to explore car-free solutions, but most are new developments with many untested, utopian characteristics. It is not yet clear how relevant these examples will be for the bulk of the rest of the world, where the vast majority of 20th Century urban fabric consists of already developed urban sprawl. How to transform and retrofit this enormous body of existing spatial morphology and associated social and economic patterns is a pressing challenge to which researchers have only just begun to devote their attention. (e.g. Batty 2009; Hillier 2006; Soja 2003; Calthorpe 2001).

Studies of existing fabric tend to focus on either quantitative risk assessment or more creative utopian visioning, with little effort connecting the two. One of the better risk assessments of automobile dependance comes from Australia, where Dodson & Sipe conducted a detailed, evidence-based GIS risk analysis of large Australian cities (2005). Dodson & Sipe mapped the vulnerability of various urban neighbourhoods to changes in petrol price and found marked differences in risk. Newman & Kenworthy’s work (1999) on petrol consumption and densities. is another excellent study linking urban form and transport expenditure at the aggregate urban level. Other studies from the US and UK (Holtzclaw et al 2002; The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, 2009) use multivariate non-linear regression models to explore the relative influence of urban form and social demographics on car ownership and travel distance. They find that moderate increases in the availability of local jobs and services, as well as adequate residential density and public transport provision, can produce a radical decrease in the need to own a car and in vehicle kilometers travelled (VKT). Finally, the PROPOLIS Project (2004) under the LUTR (Land Use and Transportation Research) cluster of the Fifth Framework Programme of the European Union used advanced transport-land use models to estimate the influence of various policy and design packages on reduced automobile usage in various European cities.

All of these studies represent the cutting-edge integrated risk assessments, yet all could be taken even further by integrating more granular measures of accessibility to public transport (European commission 2004), alternative vehicles (European commission 2000) and walkability (Lee & Moudon 2006). Each approach could also be improved by increasing the accessibility of the research findings to the general public and professional stake holder communities.

Project description

The project follows several, interrelated stages. First, it plans to uses a scenario planning approach to explore a range of possible outcomes and uncertainties for urban mobility. Second, it uses high resolution, evidence-based land use transport analysis to advance the state-of-the-art in urban modelling. It uses creative and artistic approaches to communicate these findings in a publicly accessible, engaging way. Finally, it translates this evidence and conversation into policy and design recommendations to achieve a sustainable, car-free future for Swedish cities.

Theory, method and performance

Planning for long-range change inevitably involves tremendous uncertainty and volatility. (Wack 1985; Van der Heijden 1997). The strength of qualitative scenarios is that they encapsulate a tremendous amount of detail in an easily accessible story, or narrative. This lends them particularly well to artistic visualisation and creative communication. The emerging field of “design fiction” (Sterling 2009) is a sub-genre of art which attempts to create present day artifacts and media that reflect future uses or possibilities. These include various forms of object and interface design, actual writing and narrative, and film and websites. “Objects from the future” can be extraordinarily effective for engaging members of the public, many of whom do not have the interest or time to read detailed analytical reports.

“Design fiction” objects such as the proposed “Post-car(d)s from the Future” will be used to represent different future neighbourhoods in Malmö and Stockholm. It is hoped that this will engender lively and active debate around the future of urban mobility in Sweden, providing vital inputs t the research phase. This conversation and stake holder preferences will then be used to choose a specific scenario to backcast against, thereby creating concrete policy and design recommendations for achieving the desired outcome.

This study expect to:

  • find key relations between urban design and car dependency in the context of contemporary urban morphologies and future urban growth
  • find urban design solutions concerning building blocks, densities, street networks and open spaces that can meet the demands from a low-car economy, walkable urban society and clean resilient environment.
  • find processes and concepts for local and regional planning and development towards sustainability and climate goals
  • find ways to visualize and communicate the importance of walkability and car transport to urban design and vice versa to urban researchers, planners and politicians, culminating in a public exhibition in the spaces to be analysed.

The research project aims publish its results in international scientific journals such as International Environment and Planning, Journal of Urban and Regional Research, International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, and Urban Design International.

Societal value of the research

Research show that with the current car traffic the sustainability of our cities is environmentally and socially deteriorating despite local plans designed to improve the situation. Only radical actions can maintain the current level of sustainability. The land use and transport subsystems must be viewed as a whole. The sustainability of this entire system can be improved by offering better public transport services while restricting car use and providing supportive land use policies.


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