GIS in Mobility Research and Planning

What can geographers contribute to mobility research and planning? What is the interplay of mobility and space? Which techniques and analytical tools can be employed by GIS experts in the broad field of mobility?

This week I gave a presentation for Master’s students in the “Applied Geoinformatics” programme internet at the University of Salzburg as part of a selected topics lecture series. Out of what I’m doing in my own research and with my background in urban and regional planning I tried to give an overview of the large variety of spatial aspects in the mobility domain. The focus was mainly on different modes of road-based mobility of people and goods.

Here are the main points I tried to pursue:

  • The mobility of people and goods is a spatial phenomenon by its very nature.
    Thus geographers with their integrated spatial perspective can and should contribute to advances in any mobility context.
  • Mobility per se has no value.
    Every trip has a certain purpose. Planning, managing or changing mobility, which generates traffic, requires an understanding of the underlying demands, necessities, spatio-temporal and functional configurations.
  • Geography decides on the necessity and mode of mobility.
    Mobility as a phenomenon that takes place in physical space and time is – among others – a function of space. Car-centric planning approaches (with roots in Le Corbusier’s urban utopia) have led to a spatial separation of functions and thus generates enormous amounts of traffic.
  • Mobility shapes geography.
    Transportation systems facilitate mobility. They require space and thus are significant competitors in the negotiation about how to use the limited resource of space.
  • GIS concepts, techniques and tools can be and are employed in nearly all mobility applications.
    Major contributions can be made to a) the reduction of the necessity to travel through integrated, spatial planning approaches, b) ensure efficient and sustainable mobility and c) to minimize the social and environmental impact of mobility.

For each of the hypothesis I gave lots of examples from around the world. All the pictures, figures and further details can be found in the slides:


If you have any comments or want to share your experience, expertise or latest news, feel free to leave a comment!

P.S.: While writing this blog post a tweet with the link to an excellent paper by Philipp Rode and Graham Floater popped up. You should definitely have a look at it: Accessibility in cities: Transport and Urban Form internet.


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