Mobility vision for Merwedekanaalzone (Utrecht, the Netherlands)

Project

Merwedekanaalzone

Utrecht is the fastest growing city in the Netherlands. Central government and the municipality of Utrecht expect the city to have more than 400,000 inhabitants between 2025 and 2030; a growth of approximately 17% compared to 2017. Next to that, the number of jobs and visitors is also expected to grow. The city of Utrecht chooses to absorb the growth with urbanisation within existing urban areas. As part of this strategy, we drew up a mobility vision for the Merwedekanaal zone (one of Utrecht's inner city development locations).

About the Merwedekanaal zone

The Merwedekanaal zone has been designated by Utrecht as one of the inner city development sites. There is room here for more than 6,000 to 9,000 new dwellings. The Merwedekanaal zone will be a complete city district that is a model of healthy and sustainable living: with innovative applications of reuse, energy generation, climate adaptation and innovative mobility solutions. The Merwedekanaal zone will not only be a place for pleasant living, but will also function as a new connecting link between the surrounding neighbourhoods.

In 2018, the Utrecht City Council adopted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Spatial Agenda for the Merwedekanaalzone Environmental Vision. This states that 6,000 homes may be built in this area. The Spatial Agenda also includes a request to investigate whether 10,000 homes can be built in a responsible and healthy manner. Part of these studies concerned mobility. Goudappel was involved in both studies.

What did we do?

Firstly, we studied future mobility in the Merwedekanaalzone, a study that examines the strategic mobility questions from the environmental vision for the Merwedekanaalzone. The Utrecht traffic model was used to study what would happen to accessibility and liveability around the area in the event of a complete transformation of the Merwedekanaal zone with 9,000 dwellings in 2030. The analysis looked at the limits of what is possible within the framework of current policy. This concerns, for example, an average parking standard of 0.7 parking spaces per dwelling.

The analysis showed that the Merwedekanaal zone would generate so much car traffic that the accessibility of the surroundings of the Merwedekanaal zone would be compromised. Also, cyclists and pedestrians would no longer be able to cross safely. An increase in the number of inhabitants, jobs and visitors in Utrecht will be accompanied by an increase in the number of people moving about. When inner-city densification takes place in the existing city, it is particularly desirable to accommodate this growth in mobility without sacrificing physical space in the city. This requires a shift from car use to walking, cycling, public transport and partial mobility, which goes beyond the city's current ambitions.

The total amount of space used for mobility is formed by the combination of the number of people in Utrecht, the distribution among the modes of transport and the use of space per person for each mode of transport. If the total amount of space used for mobility is to remain at the same level with increasing numbers of people, people will have to opt for more space-efficient forms of mobility (walking, cycling and public transport). The municipality of Utrecht wants inner-city densification to contribute to a healthy future, where economic vitality, tourist attraction, cultural vitality, liveability, safety and sustainability in districts and neighbourhoods are linked (Healthy Urban Living). Walking and cycling for shopping, commuting and recreation contribute to this.

Merwedekanaalzone hub

Development of the hub for the Merwedekanaal zone

Multimodal partial hubs

The second study was about the Mobility Concept for Merwede (on which Goudappel worked together with Rebel). In this plan, the concept of multimodal mobility HUBS is elaborated as an innovative solution for Merwede (the subarea between the Utrecht Wilhelminalaan and the Beneluxlaan), and possibly for other inner-city densification areas. This includes shared cars (spread throughout the area over the underground car parks), a HOV connection (along Merwede, a HOV connection with various stops, initially in the form of a high-quality bus connection), taxis on demand (and in time, even self-driving vehicles on demand), parcel walls (each car park will have an unmanned parcel wall), shared bicycles (every few hundred metres, residents can unlock a standard shared bicycle) and the presence of daily facilities such as a dry cleaner and coffee bar around the HUB (see also figure below). 

Merwedekanaalzone beelden

Illustration of what the Merwede district will look like (source: see image)

Mobility vision Merwedekanaalzone

The results of these mobility studies will be used to draw up part 2 of the Environmental Vision: the so-called Elaboration Plan. We were also involved in this development plan. With this plan, the municipality of Utrecht has opted for a phased development. The effects on traffic will also be monitored. The plan is one of the first developments in the Netherlands to focus on an ambitious mobility concept with the hub as its central element. 

Agreement

In October 2021, the Utrecht City Council approved the plans for the Merwede district. Merwede is one of the three districts of the Merwedekanaalzone and, with 6,000 homes, will be the largest of the three. More than half of these homes are in the affordable segment and there is a lot of attention for quiet areas and greenery such as squares, courtyard gardens and parks. All amenities such as schools, sports facilities and restaurants are within walking distance. There is also plenty of room for creative activity.

Merwede will be one of the largest inner-city and car-free districts in the Netherlands. Parking is only available at the edge of the district. As a result, the focus is on walking, cycling and public transport. In addition, walking and cycling bridges are an important part of the mobility concept of the Merwedekanaal zone to connect the area with other areas such as Park Transwijk. Development is expected to start in late 2022.

Client: Gemeente Utrecht
Year: 2017 - 2021

Involved in this project: Bas Govers | Christiaan Kwantes | Lucas van der Linde