Journal article

Mapping accessibility to generic services in Europe: a market-potential based approach

Urban planning Population density Urbanisation Transport Precinct indicators Europe


  • A universal method to measure accessibility to ‘generic’ services using a detailed population distribution and a transport network.
  • Reproduces observed service accessibility patterns with reasonable accuracy.
  • Model results show that cities provide better opportunities in accessing services and more potential to access services by walking and cycling.
  • It has been estimated that four out of five people in Europe have at least one local or daily service within 5 km.
  • On the other hand, based on the model results, one out of four people in Europe lack a regional or high-order service within 40 km.


An important goal of land use and transport policies is improving accessibility to services. Access to services differs significantly between different territories, and regional development policies, including Cohesion Policy, are often used to improve accessibility where it is too low. Unfortunately, comprehensive data on facility locations is not available in Europe, making it difficult to evaluate, ex-ante, the direct or indirect effects of policies on service distribution and accessibility to services. This study proposes a novel approach to cope with this problem and maps generic service accessibility in Europe. First, it defines three types of generic services with different minimum number of users and characteristics: local, subregional and regional services. Next, it uses this to simulate the spatial distribution of services, and to assess probable accessibility to services across Europe. Based on the simulation results, the paper explores how per country accessibility to services differs between metro regions, and between urban and rural areas in terms of I) average distance to services and II) the share of population within a short enough distance that could be walked or cycled. It tests the proposed method by comparing actual service points with the modelled points in a selected number of countries.

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