Utrecht is the fastest-growing city in the Netherlands. Between 2025 and 2030, its population is expected to increase by 17% to 400,000. The number of jobs and visitors is expected to grow accordingly. The city has chosen to absorb this growth through urbanisation within the existing urban area.
The Merwede Canal area (Merwedekanaalzone) has been designated as an inner-urban development location for 6000 to 9000 new homes. This is intended to be a complete neighbourhood and a showpiece of healthy and sustainable living, with innovative applications of reuse, energy generation, climate adaptation, and mobility solutions. The area will not only become a pleasant place to live, but will also function as a new connecting link between the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Goudappel Coffeng, the founding father of Excellent Cities, has carried out two relevant mobility studies. The Merwede Canal Area Mobility study looked at what will happen as regards accessibility and quality of life around a centrally located road in the event of a complete transformation of the area, with 9000 homes in 2030. The analysis showed that the area would then result in so much car traffic that the accessibility of its surroundings would be jeopardised. In addition, cyclists and pedestrians would no longer be able to cross safely.
An increase in the number of residents, jobs, and visitors in Utrecht will be accompanied by an increase in the number of people moving around. Precisely in the case of inner-urban densification in the existing city, it is desirable for this growth in mobility to be absorbed without that being at the expense of the physical space within the city. This requires a shift from car use to walking, cycling, public transport, and shared mobility which goes beyond the city’s current aims. The total use of space for mobility results from the combination of the number of people in Utrecht, their distribution across the various modes of transport, and the use of space per person for each of those modes.
In order to keep the total use of space for mobility at the same level despite the increasing population, it is necessary for people to opt more for space-efficient forms of mobility (walking, cycling, and public transport). The City of Utrecht wants inner-city densification to contribute to a healthy future, in which economic vitality, tourist appeal, cultural vitality, quality of life, safety, and sustainability in districts and neighbourhoods are interlinked (“Healthy Urban Living”). Walking and cycling for shopping, commuting, and recreation will contribute to this.
In the second study, the concept of multimodal mobility hubs was worked out as an innovative solution for the Merwede Canal area and possibly for other inner city densification areas. Among other things, these hubs focus on: