SUMP: A Methodology for Sustainable Urban Development

Posted July 10, 2024 | Sustainability |
SUMP: A Methodology for Sustainable Urban Development

Cities often struggle to successfully develop strategies for implementing policy measures; reasons for this struggle include public and political acceptability, funding and legislative issues, administrative restrictions, and skills shortages. This is especially true for the transport sector as it works to meet the goals and targets set out in the European Green Deal. The concepts are quite different from the urban planning strategies of the last two decades and require city planners to use forecasting and backcasting models and to develop cross-sectoral master plans. These skills are not prevalent in smaller cities and disappear altogether in rural and peripheral areas.1

Recognizing this, the European Commission included two methodologies in its 2013 urban mobility package: sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs) and sustainable urban logistics plans (SULPs). A SUMP is a consolidated methodology to help local and regional authorities improve accessibility of urban areas by providing high-quality, sustainable transport to, through, and within the urban area. Essentially, it contains actionable guidelines for comprehensive and sustainable urban mobility planning.

The guidelines have gone through several evaluations, revisions, and targeted extensions since they were first published. The focus of SUMPs seems to be changing from an approach that would lead to the implementation of a transport system enabling sustainable mobility to a planning strategy leading to the decarbonization of the transport sectors. Today, the focus should be on specific SUMP measures or related policies, rather than on a comprehensive package of measures and interventions needed to deliver the zero-carbon target.

Starting in 2019, the CIVITAS SUMP-PLUS project helped towns and cities analyze their existing governance arrangements in an effort to bridge implementation gaps and break down the barriers preventing the development of effective strategies and policy actions. Most sites identified a lack of cooperation schemes and frameworks as a barrier, and these have now been substantially mitigated via a variety of engagement tools.

CIVITAS SUMP-PLUS also created six laboratories to equip “cities to develop the next generation of SUMPs and put mobility at the heart of sustainable urban transformation.” The labs are located in Antwerp, Belgium; Alba Iulia, Romania; Greater Manchester, UK; Klaipeda, Lithuania; Lucca, Italy; and Platanias, Greece.

The Manchester laboratory has clearly demonstrated the importance of stakeholder participation in achieving policy objectives. For example, a working group with members from both Transport for Greater Manchester and the National Health Service was a catalyst for the integration of cross-sector links into Greater Manchester’s transition pathway and the alignment of decarbonization strategies across health and transport sectors. It also drove an analysis of the alignment of healthcare and transport strategies and how these could be enhanced to form a joint, long-term transition pathway. The outcomes fed the development of Manchester’s Five-Year Environment Plan for health and transport decarbonization and harmonization of decision-making processes. Its health and transport decarbonization group is committed to delivering the Green Plan. In three years, stakeholders involved in this group will work together to monitor and update the plan.

Klaipeda successfully achieved the objectives laid out in its Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan on public transport renewal, in conjunction with the plan for the city development. Core and supporting measures for the redesign of the public transport network (particularly for the development of the planned bus rapid transit) have been identified, despite some initial difficulties due to the discussions on which core measure should be prioritized for the city’s future plans. Measures were accompanied by a specific financial strategy, including an estimate of implementation costs and related funding sources.

Platanias demonstrated that small and medium-sized cities can successfully develop a SUMP. The one created by the city helped it overcome mobility challenges, secure funding for sustainable mobility projects, and draft a plan that includes prioritization of actions and milestones to be achieved between now and 2035. Alba Iulia was also able to define a set of measures to be prioritized with related supporting measures.


1Lorenzini, Andrea, and Brendan Finn. “Developing Pan-European Capacity at Local Level for a New Era of Sustainable Rural Mobility.” SMARTA-NET/EU, forthcoming 2024.

[For more from the author on this topic, see: “Navigating the Long-Term Transition Toward Net Zero Cities.”]

About The Author
Andrea Lorenzini
Andrea Lorenzini is Senior Transport Engineer at MemEx. His areas of expertise include passenger and freight transport, transport accessibility, rural and shared mobility services, smart cities, and urban logistics. Mr. Lorenzini provides technical assistance to public authorities and transport and logistics operators mainly in urban mobility and public transport services planning. He has actively contributed to research endeavors focusing on… Read More