SUMP uptake in the Porto Metropolitan Area

Impact StoriesELEVATE

Aerial image of Porto, featuring the sea and a number of mobility options (pedestrians, public transport, etc.)

Image by Area Metropolitana do Porto

Over the next several weeks, we will share stories from CIVITAS projects on-the-ground that implemented sustainable neighbourhood planning and SUMP solutions, both as news items, and later in a podcast episode, compilation publication and infographic.

We are now moving on to sharing stories from the sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMP) cluster. One project in this cluster, SUMPs-UP, assisted planning authorities to overcome the barriers that prevent or make it difficult to implement SUMPs, through capacity building, tailored information, and support during development and implementation phases to equip authorities with the necessary knowledge and skills.

Read all short stories as they are published at:




The Porto Metropolitan Area (AMP) is the second largest urban area in Portugal and comprises 17 municipalities, including the City of Porto. Its core is heavily urbanised, with areas becoming progressively more rural as one travels away from that core. These differences can make defining common development and mobility policies challenging.

Central to AMP’s public transport network is the Porto Metro, which connects its various areas. Despite public transport and walking accounting for modal shares of 10% and 18% respectively, private cars remain the dominant way of moving around AMP, representing a modal share of 69%. Their dominance, combined with significant commuter traffic from the suburbs, means congestion is an issue, particularly in the City of Porto.

As a regional planning authority, AMP plays a coordinating role for policy development and implementation. SUMP development has been crucial to provide a structured and systematic approach to coordinating transport development across AMP’s 17 municipalities. This helps ensure that transport services provide inhabitants across all municipalities with access to employment, education, and public services, and has helped secure political buy-in for sustainable mobility measures.

This work benefited from AMP being selected to be part of a small SUMPs-Up “SUMP Learning Programme Leadership Group”. Over two years, the regional authority joined a series of learning activities to equip planning authorities and mobility practitioners with skills and knowledge to develop and implement SUMPs.

History of SUMP development

AMP took its first steps in SUMP development in 2016, when it produced a SUMP Action Plan. Although this was not a full-fledged SUMP, it marked the first step towards AMP having its first regional SUMP. This ties into its ongoing work defining a metropolitan vision, and revising AMP’s urban master plan – the SUMP should integrate with and complement both.

AMP’s path towards its Action Plan began a few years prior to 2016. In 2011, a national strategy was produced that looked at accessibility, transport and mobility, and their relations to land-use planning. In the same year, a “guide” was released to support the technical development of a SUMP. Then, in 2012, it become mandatory for municipalities with over 50,000 inhabitants to have a SUMP in place.

Despite EU funding being devoted for projects and measures included in SUMPs, many regional authorities had limited time, capacity and expertise in SUMP development, which is what led AMP to opt to create an Action Plan, as opposed to a full-scale SUMP. For the same reasons, AMP and other metropolitan areas engaged external companies to help create their mobility planning documents. This prevented AMP from gaining its own SUMP development expertise and having full “ownership” of the Action Plan.

This lack of time, expertise and resources led the final Action Plan to be quite limited in scope. For example, there was no communication plan, there was only a small amount of public participation, and measures were neither prioritised nor packaged. Targets, indicators and an overall monitoring plan were also absent, and the document was not explicitly connected to a wider political programme.

On the other hand, the Action Plan successfully developed several important measures and a series of 15 strategic objectives. In total, over 250 municipal and nine metropolitan measures were set out. Nearly half of these focused on so-called “soft modes” (i.e. active mobility), as well as improved intermodality and enhanced public transport, including envisaging a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and more light rail services.

With close to half of all originally planned measures already implemented, AMP regards the implementation phase as generally successful. Furthermore, four AMP municipalities had developed their own SUMPs as of the end of 2019.

SUMPs-Up refines and bolsters the Action Plan 

From August 2017 to November 2019, AMP formed part of the SUMPs-Up Learning Programme Leadership Group alongside seven other cities from Finland, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, and the UK. As part of this Leadership Group, they had access to five SUMP Learning Programmes, which covered initiating, elaborating and implementing a locally-tailored and impactful SUMP.

AMP’s Action Plan helped raise awareness of sustainable mobility planning and has boosted cooperation between AMP’s 17 municipalities. Through the SUMP Learning Programme, AMP was able to build on the Action Plan’s successes, and implement new, participatory methods and Action Plan review processes to move towards a full-fledged SUMP.

All the municipalities approved the review of the Action Plan, which engaged a multidisciplinary internal working group consisting of staff from AMP and all municipalities. 

“As a metropolitan area, we are polycentric and heterogeneous, and need to reconcile objectives and expectations despite these differences. Applying the SUMP approach and creating transversal governance structures, such as our multidisciplinary and intermunicipality working group, is encouraging exchange and aligning mobility planning across the AMP. The SUMP Learning Programme taught us such participatory approaches and helped us take ownership of our SUMP process,” reflects Carla Oliveira, Mobility Department, Porto Metropolitan Area.

During periodic meetings, the group conducted a SWOT analysis (which identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of the Action Plan, developed a concept for strengthened public participation, and defined targets and indicators appropriate for each municipality. These relate to the common strategic objectives mentioned above, and an increased adherence to the SUMP approach, which is helping to align mobility planning at various governance levels across the region.

One result of this newly integrated, participatory approach was multimodal ticket integration. This integration had a huge and immediate impact. In April 2019, the intermodal ticket was extended to the entire metropolitan area, having previously only been valid in the central urban core. At the same time, a single monthly ticket was introduced that allows travellers to reach all AMP municipalities by bus, train and metro for a monthly price of €40. From its introduction in April 2019 until October 2019, there was an increase of 61,000 public transport ‘customers’. Furthermore, when comparing the period from January to October 2018 (before multimodal ticket integration), with the same period of January to October 2019, AMP saw an increase of 315,000 customers.

Overall, the SUMP Action Plan review process concluded in 2020, with AMP expressing its aim to have its own full-scale SUMP ready soon, which learns from and avoids the shortcomings experienced as part of the Action Plan process. AMP is also preparing a Mobility Strategy 2030, into which the SUMP will feed.

Future (SUMP) measures will be bundled in packages to maximise their impact. Connecting and creating bus, BRT and light rail transit corridors will be prioritised in the new SUMP, as will the provision of Demand Responsive Transport to serve more rural areas.

A clear monitoring plan and indicators linked to quantifiable and measurable targets will facilitate their and other measures’ evaluation. When combined with better data collection, it will allow the SUMP’s impact to be tracked in a more timely manner.

Citizen and stakeholder involvement and the dissemination of SUMP-related information will increase substantially. A permanent SUMP website is being developed, alongside several online tools to enable the collection of local feedback.

Following the definition of their visions and priorities, the 17 municipalities will select their own individual series of measures. These will then be packaged, and each will be assigned actions, responsibilities, and financing options. This will draw on the working group’s activities.

Further reading



Photo Credits

Area Metropolitana do Porto



Read all short stories as they are published at:

Authors: Richard Adams, TRT TRASPORTI E TERRITORIO, ICLEI Europe



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