Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics

Department of Regional Economics
Programme Leader: Professor E.T. Verhoef

The research programme on spatial, transport and environmental economics investigates four interrelated themes from an economic perspective: spatial dynamics, land use, transport and the environment.

  • Spatial dynamics. The research focuses on the role of knowledge creation and knowledge spill-overs in the development of regions. Also, institutional differences between regions and their contribution to regional and national growth and trade will be analysed. Of special relevance are the functioning of urban land labour and housing markets, and their interrelationships.
  • Land use. Spatial dynamics have immediate consequences for land use in urban and rural areas (and beyond). Issues such as the realisation of agglomeration benefits (positive externalities) and degradation of quality of landscapes by fragmentation and reduction of open space (negative externalities) will be addressed. Special attention will be paid to various operationalisations of ‘multifunctional land use' as a means to accommodate for these externalities.
  • Transport. Problems of congestion and reliability in transport networks imply negative externalities that lead to various sub-optimal outcomes. The contributions of pricing strategies, public or private supply of infrastructure and information provision to reduce congestion and uncertainty will be analyzed. Given various limitations also the relative performance of second best instruments will be investigated.
  • Environmental economics. This research theme addresses economic aspects of environmental problems, environmmental policy and sustainable development. The research on sustainable development concerns innovations for and transition to sustainable systems (notably energy and transport), construction of sustainability indicators, and use of non-renewable resources. Methods used include dynamic optimization, econometics and evolutionary
  • modelling.

Research area and mission

The programme addresses topics of high policy relevance such as spatial quality in urban and rural areas, congestion in transport networks, resource scarcity and spatial dimensions of climate change. To understand and analyze the issues, one has to establish the relationships between diverse phenomena such as urbanization, economics, migration, trade, infrastructure, location choice, accessibility, environment and safety. Spatial economics does exactly this. As a subfield of economics, its perspective is primarily economic, but it also involves a good understanding and appreciation of knowledge and methods from neighbouring disciplines such as geography, transportation sciences, environmental management and spatial planning.


The programme’s aim is to seek, maintain and further develop a (inter-)nationally recognized top position in academic and contract research on the economics of space, transport and the environment. This is done by performing innovative analyses of the economics of space, transport and the environment, seeking synergy between these where possible. The programme aims both at studies that lead to widely recognized and cited publications in internationally renowned top journals in field as well as general interest journals in the economics discipline, and at innovative project research.

The (interrelated) objectives that follow from this mission are to:

  • Perform innovative research at the international forefront in the programme’s fields, and to be among the world’s leading groups in a selected number of thematic spearheads;
  • Maintain high publication standards, in terms of quality and productivity;
  • Maintain a strong impact in the field, in terms of scientific influence and also as reflected in citations;
  • Secure sufficient external funding from diversified sources;
  • Maintain strong and productive ties with selected research groups from the international arena;
  • Be and remain visible not only as authors, but also in positions serving national and international associations and journals;
  • Translate empirical and theoretical research findings to practical policy questions at all levels from local to global and serve society by providing solid, economically founded based policy advice.