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Urban Sprawl and Travel Energy Consumption: the Case of the Walloon Region of Belgium

Publication Date
  • Urban Sprawl
  • Transport Energy Consumption
  • Spatial Structure
  • Energy Performance Index
  • Engineering
  • Computing & Technology :: Energy [C07]
  • Ingénierie
  • Informatique & Technologie :: Energie [C07]
  • Ecology
  • Geography


In the actual context of growing interests in environmental issues, reducing energy consumption in the transport sector, which represents 27% of final energy in the Walloon region of Belgium, appears as an important policy target. Although it is often argued that more compact urban forms would significantly reduce transport energy consumption, urban sprawl is a concern in a large part of the regional territory. Moreover, assessment tools dedicated to transport energy consumption are lacking. In this context, the paper first presents a quantitative method developed to assess the transport system in the Walloon region of Belgium. Statistical data available at the neighbourhood scale and characteristics of cars and public vehicles are used to predict transport needs and assess energy consumption as far as home-to-work and home-to-school travels are concerned. Three index are presented and mapped (the energy performance index, the modal share and the mean distance travelled) to investigate the interdependences between spatial planning, urban sprawl and travel energy consumption in the Walloon region of Belgium. Three complementary scales are used: the “municipality” scale allows to highlight the general structure of the territory whereas the “former municipality” and the “census block” scales (the smallest geographical unit in which data are available in Belgium) highlight more detailed phenomenon. The evolution of the performance index between 1991 and 2001 and the difference in energy performance between home-to-work and home-to-school travels are also presented. Our main findings are presented and highlight that urban planning acts upon travel energy consumption. We show particularly that main cities present low energy consumption. However, a local scale approach is useful to highlight the existence of secondary suburban and rural cores presenting low transport energy consumption. In this respect, distance from home to destination is paramount while the mode of transport used has a lower impact.

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