Planning for nodes, places and people in Flanders and Brussels: Developing an empirical railway station assessment model for strategic decision-making

  • Freke Caset Ghent University Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Filipe Marques Teixeira Ghent University
  • Ben Derudder
  • Kobe Boussauw
  • Frank Witlox
Keywords: Accessibility, railway stations, node-place model, integrated planning, planning support tool, Flanders


Against the backdrop of current policy discussions in Flanders dealing with differentiated urban development schemes for strategic railway stations, this paper develops an empirical railway station assessment tool. We build on the node-place modeling literature, and more specifically on the tradition of quantitative station assessment models which has emerged from it. First, a series of methodological contributions are proposed in which we suggest strategies to improve the analytical strength of some standard node-place parameters, we broaden the model with temporal variability in accessibility, and we complement the model with a user-based accessibility account. Second, the conceptual model is applied to the case of Flanders and Brussels (the north of Belgium). Drawing on factor and cluster analysis, two intelligible station typologies are produced for both node-place and user-based data. Both typologies are interpreted and complemented with station-specific rose diagrams summarizing a station’s accessibility profile. These diagrams reveal insightful and detailed knowledge about station-specific accessibility characteristics, some of which are not captured by standard node-place analyses. Lastly, a more in-depth discussion focusing on five exemplary cases reveals what the results of these analyses may mean for planning practice.


Balducci, A., & Bertolini, L. (2007). Reflecting on practice or reflecting with practice? Planning Theory & Practice, 8(4), 532–555.

Bertolini, L., & Spit, T. (1998). Cities on0 rails: The redevelopment of railway stations and their surroundings. London: Routledge.

Bertolini, L. (1999). Spatial development patterns and public transport: The application of an analytical model in the Netherlands. Planning Practice and Research, 14(2), 199–210.

Bertolini, L., Clercq, F., & Kapoen, L. (2005). Sustainable accessibility: A conceptual framework to integrate transport and land use plan-making. Two test-applications in the Netherlands and a reflection on the way forward. Transport Policy, 12(3), 207–220.

Bertolini, L. (2017). Planning the mobile metropolis. Transport for people, places and the planet. London: Palgrave and Macmillan Education.

Blondia, M. (2014). Een geïntegreerd regionaal openbaar vervoersproject voor de Nevelstad & strategieën voor de transformatie van het Vlaams openbaar vervoersnetwerk. Doctoral dissertation, Leuven University, Belgium.

Blondia, M., & De Deyn, E. (2012). Regional LRT as a backbone for the peri-urban landscape: Research by design on an intermodal public transport network. Paper presented at the 2012 AESOP Conference, Ankara, Turkey.

Boussauw, K., & Boelens, L. (2015). Fuzzy tales for hard blueprints: The selective coproduction of the Spatial Policy Plan for Flanders, Belgium. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 33, 1376–1393.

Boussauw, K., van Meeteren, M., Sansen, J., Meijers, E., Storme, T., Louw, E., … Witlox, F. (2018). Planning for agglomeration economies in a polycentric region: Envisioning an efficient metropolitan core area in Flanders. European Journal of Spatial Development, 69, 1–26.

Cardozo, O. D., García-Palomares, J. C., & Gutiérrez, J. (2012). Application of geographically weighted regression to the direct forecasting of transit ridership at station-level. Applied Geography, 34, 548–558.

Caset, F., Vale, S. D., & Viana, C. M. (2018). Measuring the accessibility of railway stations in the Brussels Regional Express Network: A node-place modeling approach. Networks and Spatial Economics. doi.10.1007/s11067-018-9409-y

Cervero R., & Kockelman, K. (1997). Travel demand and the 3Ds: Density, diversity, and design. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 2(3), 199–219.

Chorus, P., & Bertolini, L. (2011). An application of the node-place model to explore the spatial development dynamics of station areas in Tokyo. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 4(1), 45–58.

Chow, L.-F., Zhao, F., Liu, X., & Li, M.-T. (2006). Transit ridership model based on geographically weighted regression. Transportation Research Record, 1972(1), 105–114.

Curtis, C., & Scheurer, J. (2010). Planning for sustainable accessibility: Developing tools to aid discussion and decision-making. Progress in Planning, 74(2), 53–106.

Curtis, C., & Scheurer, J. (2016). Planning for sustainable accessibility: An international sourcebook. London: Routledge.

De Vos, J. & Witlox, F. (2013). Transportation policy as spatial planning tool: Reducing urban sprawl by increasing travel costs and clustering infrastructure and public transportation. Journal of Transport Geography, 33, 117–125.

Dovey, K., & Pafka, E. (2018a). Densities. In K. Dovey, A. Pafka, & M. Ristic (Eds.), Mapping urbanities: Morphology, flows, possibilities (pp. 62–81). London: Routledge.

Dovey, K., & Pafka, E. (2018b). Functional mix. In K. Dovey, A. Pafka, & M. Ristic (Eds.), Mapping urbanities: Morphology, flows, possibilities (pp. 19–40). London: Routledge.

Flemish Government. (2017). Working together on the space of tomorrow. Brochure to the White Paper on the Spatial Policy Plan for Flanders. Retrieved from

Flemish Government. (2018). Beleidsplan Ruimte Vlaanderen: Strategische Visie. Retrieved from

Fransen, K., Neutens, T., Farber, S., De Maeyer, P., Deruyter, G., Witlox, F. (2015). Identifying public transport gaps using time-dependent accessibility levels. Journal of Transport Geography 48, 176–187.

Geertman, S., & Stillwell, J. (Eds.) (2009). Planning support systems: Best practices and new methods. Heidelberg: Springer.

Geurs, K. T. (2006). Accessibility, land use and transport. Delft, NL: Eburon Academic Publishers.

Giannopoulos, G. A., & Boulougaris, G. A. (1989). Definition of accessibility for railway stations and its impact on railway passenger demand. Transportation Planning and Technology, 13(2), 111–120.

Gilliard, L., Wenner, F., Belahuski, G. B., Nagl, E., Rodewald, A., Schmid, F, … Thierstein, A. (2018). Using boundary objects to make students brokers across disciplines: A dialogue between students and their lecturers on Bertolini’s node-place model. Transactions of the Association of European Schools of Planning, 2, 81–98. doi.10. 24306/ TrAESOP. 2018.01.006

Groenendijk, L., Rezaei, J., & Homem de Almeida Correia, G. (2018). Incorporating the travelers’ experience value in assessing the quality of transit nodes: A Rotterdam case study. Case Studies on Transport Policy, 6(4), 564–576.

Hess, P., Moudon, A. V., & Logsdon, M. (2001). Measuring land-use patterns for transportation research. Transportation Research Record, 2512, 17–24.

Liu, J., Wu, D., Hidetosi, F., & Gao, W. (2015). Investigation and analysis of urban spatial structure around the train stations in Kitakyushu by using Space Syntax and GIS. Open Journal of Civil Engineering, 5, 97–108.

Marshall, S. (2005). Streets and patterns. London: Spon Press.

McGarigal, K., & Marks, B. J. (1995). FRAGSTATS: Spatial pattern analysis program for quantifying landscape structure. (Technical Report PNW-GTR-351). Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Nes, A., Berghauser P. M., & Mashhoodi, B. (2012). Combination of space syntax with spacematrix and the mixed use index. Paper presented at the 8th International Space Syntax Symposium, Santiago de Chile.

Nes, A., & Stolk, E. (2012). Degrees of sustainable location of railway stations: Integrating space syntax and node place value model on railway stations in the province of North Holland’s strategic plan for 2010-2040. Paper presented at the 8th International Space Syntax Symposium, Santiago de Chile.

Newman, M. E. J. (2010). Networks: An introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

NMBS. (2013). Modal split van de klanten in de Belgische stations: Resultaten & duiding. (Technical Report B-Mobility Holding). Brussels: NMBS Holding.

Pafka, E., & Dovey, K. (2018). Walkable access. In K. Dovey, A. Pafka, & M. Ristic (Eds.), Mapping urbanities: Morphology, flows, possibilities (pp. 41-61). London: Routledge.

Papa, E., Moccia, F. D., Angiello, G., & Inglese, P. (2013). An accessibility planning tool for network transit oriented development: SNAP. Planum, The Journal of Urbanism, 27(2), 1–9.

Papa, E., Coppola, P., Angiello, G., & Carpentieri, G. (2017). The learning process of accessibility instrument developers: Testing the tools in planning practice. Transportation Research Part A, 104, 108–120.

Papa, E., Silva, C., te Brömmelstroet, M., & Hull, A. (2016). Accessibility instruments for planning practice: A review of European experiences. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 9(3), 57–75.

Peek, G. J. (2006). Locatiesynergie: Een participatieve start van de herontwikkeling van binnenstedelijke stationslocaties. Delft, NL: Eburon Academic Press.

Pelzer, P., & Geertman, S. (2014). Planning support systems and interdisciplinary learning. Planning Theory & Practice, 15(4), 527–542.

Pelzer, P., Geertman, S., van der Heijden, R., & Rouwette, E. (2014) The added value of planning support systems: A practitioner’s perspective. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 48, 16–27.

Pelzer, P. (2017). Usefulness of planning support systems: A conceptual framework and an empirical illustration. Transportation Research Part A, 104, 84–95.

Province of North Holland and Deltametropolis Association. (2013). Maak plaats! Werken aan knooppuntontwikkeling in Noord-Holland. Haarlem, NL: Province of North Holland and Deltametropolis Assocation.

Ryan, S., & Frank, L. F. (2009). Pedestrian environments and transit ridership. Journal of Public Transportation, 12(1), 39–57.

Sevtsuk, A., & Mekonnen, M. (2012). Urban network analysis toolbox. International Journal of Geomatics and Spatial Analysis, 22(2), 287–305.

Silva, C., & Larsson, A. (2018). Challenges for accessibility planning and research in the context of sustainable mobility: Discussion paper. Paper presented at the International Transport Forum, Paris.

Singh, Y. J., Fard, P., Zuidgeest, M., Brussel, M., & van Maarseveen, M. (2014). Measuring transit-oriented development: A spatial multi criteria assessment approach for the City Region Arnhem and Nijmegen. Journal of Transport Geography, 35, 130–143.

Singh, Y. J., Lukman, A., Flacke, J., Zuidgeest, M., & van Maarseveen, M. F. A. M. (2017). Measuring TOD around transit nodes—Towards TOD policy. Transport Policy, 56, 96–111.

Stadsregio Arnhem Nijmegen (2011). Knooppunten! Bereikbaarheid en ruimtelijke ontwikkeling op knooppunten van openbaar vervoer. Arnhem: Stadsregio Arnhem-Nijmegen.

Straatemeier, T., Bertolini, L., te Brömmelstroet, M., & Hoetjes, P. (2010). An experiential approach to research in planning. Environment and Planning Part B, 37, 578–591.

Sun, G., Zacharias, J., Ma, B., & Oreskovic, N. M. (2016). How do metro stations integrate with walking environments? Results from walking access within three types of built environment in Beijing. Cities, 56, 91–98.

te Brömmelstroet, M. (2010). Making planning support systems matter: Improving the use of planning support systems for integrated land use and transport strategy-making. PhD dissertation, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Vale, D., Saraiva, M., & Pereira, M. (2016). Active accessibility: A review of operational measures of walking and cycling accessibility. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 9(1), 209–235.

Vale, D. S., Viana, C. M., & Pereira, M. (2018) The extended node-place model at the local scale: Evaluating the integration of land use and transport for Lisbon’s subway network. Journal of Transport Geography, 69, 282–293.

van den Hoek, J. (2008). The MXI (mixed-use index) as a tool for urban planning and analysis. Corporations and Cities (pp. 1–5). Delft, NL: Delft University of Technology.

van Meeteren, M., Boussauw, K., Sansen, J., Storme, T., Louw, E., Meijers, E., … Witlox, F. (2015) Kritische massa: Verdiepingsrapport. (Research Report). Brussels: Ruimte Vlaanderen.

Verachtert, E., Mayeres, I., Poelmans, L., van der Meulen, M., Vanhulsel, M., & Engelen, G. (2016). Ontwikkelingskansen op basis van knooppuntwaarde en nabijheid voorzieningen. Eindrapport. (Technical Report VITO 2016/RMA/0545). Mol, Belgium: VITO, Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek.

Zweedijk, A., & Serlie, Z. (1998). Een “knoop-plaats”-model voor stationslocaties. Geografie, 7(5), 35–37.

How to Cite
Caset, F., Teixeira, F. M., Derudder, B., Boussauw, K., & Witlox, F. (2019). Planning for nodes, places and people in Flanders and Brussels: Developing an empirical railway station assessment model for strategic decision-making. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 12(1), 811-837.