A systemic approach to the transformation of swiss railway stations: Mind the gap between the local, short-term and national, long-term worldviews

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, place - urban, mode - rail, planning - methods, planning - integration, planning - surveys, policy - sustainable, infrastructure - interchange/transfer, land use - planning, land use - impacts, land use - urban density, land use - transit oriented development


Multimodal transportation hubs (MMTHs), Integration of transportation modes, Problem structuring, Soft systems methodology (SSM), Sustainable transport, Switzerland


The continuing growth in passenger transport and the associated increase in CO2 emissions remain major challenges for our society. Shifting passenger transport to more sustainable modes of transportation contributes to addressing this challenge. Multimodal transportation hubs (MMTHs) coordinate and integrate different modes of transportation by improving transfers between them. In addition, MMTHs offer a high quality of stay with a wide range of services, as well as a compact, mixed-use urban development with a high density of uses around them. The transformation of railway stations and their environments into MMTHs is addressed in discussions of transit-oriented development (TOD) and the concept of “node and place.” However, there is a lack of a systemic approach that structures the problem involving the different worldviews of the actors. In addition, the necessary changes and measures are largely unknown. Based on the soft systems methodology (SSM), we conducted 20 SSM interviews and two SSM workshops (n = 10 each). Our results show that the problem can be structured into the three layers of “national long-term integrated optimization of the passenger transport sector and spatial development,” “local short-to medium-term planning and implementation,” and a “regional, bidirectional transfer by policy-making and planning.” The transfer layer between the national, long-term and local, short-term worldviews is key and must be strengthened. Furthermore, we present systemically desirable and culturally feasible measures for each layer to improve the current situation of the transformation—a national MMTH program, creating an overarching vision, a caretaker for local implementation to coordinate the interests of actors, and collaborative development of regional master plans and an explorative approach to ensure bidirectional exchanges between the national and local layers. Although the structuring of the problem and the measures were developed from a Swiss viewpoint, we expect that the results will also be useful for other decentralized states.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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