Sustainable Mobility in Ten Swedish Cities

Jeffrey R. Kenworthy, K2 Working paper 2020:8, May 2020

Urban transport is critical in shaping the form and function of cities, particularly the level

of automobile dependence and sustainability. This K2 Working Paper presents a detailed

study of the land use and urban transport characteristics of the ten largest urban regions

in Sweden Stockholm, Malmö, Göteborg, Linköping, Helsingborg, Uppsala, Örebro,

Västerås, Jönköping, and Umeå, the latter five of which are referred to as smaller Swedish

cities in this report. It also presents data on Freiburg im Breisgau in southern Germany

(population ca 225,000) as a benchmark case for sustainable transport against which to

compare Swedish cities especially the smaller ones. It compares these cities to those in

the USA, Australia, Canada, Europe and two large wealthy Asian cities (Singapore and

Hong Kong). It finds that while density is critical in determining many features of urban

mobility and particularly how much public transport, walking, and cycling are used, many

Swedish cities maintain reasonable levels of all these more sustainable modes and only

moderate levels of car use, while having less than half to one-third the density of other

European cities. The smaller cities do, however, perform worst on public transport, but a

little better on walking and cycling. Swedish settlement patterns and urban transport

policies mean they also enjoy, globally, the lowest level of transport emissions and

transport deaths per capita and similar levels of energy use in private passenger transport

as other European cities, and a fraction of that used in lower density North American and

Australian cities. Swedish urban public transport systems are generally well provided for

and form an integral part of the way their cities function, considering their lower densities,

though these systems are least well used in the smaller cities and urban rail use is very

poor compared to the larger Swedish cities, which are themselves significantly lower in

rail use than other European cities. Swedish cities’ use of walking and cycling is high,

though a fraction lower than in other European cities (but only about half the level in

Freiburg) and together with public transport cater for about 44% of the total daily trip

making, compared to auto-dependent regions with between about 15% and 25% of daily

trips by these sustainable modes. This working paper explores these data and many other

urban transport indicators in significant detail, distinguishing between patterns found in

the larger and smaller Swedish cities as well as comparisons to Freiburg and the other

groups of world cities. It provides a clear depiction of the strengths and weaknesses of

Swedish cities in urban transport and a summary of the key differences and similarities

between the larger and smaller Swedish cities. It also provides some key policy

implications from the data, suggestions for making transport more sustainable in Swedish

cities, while positing possible explanations for some of the unique patterns observed.