Algorithmic Studio

Safeguarding public values on mobility platforms

Digital platforms increasingly influence urban dynamics. Commercial and individual values typically prevail in this process. How can we ensure that these platforms contribute to public values in the city? In the transdisciplinary Algorithmic Studio project, researchers analyse public values such as autonomy and privacy, and translate these into requirements for the design of a mobility platform. The project is centered around the case of the urban neighbourhood Merwede in Utrecht. This is a project of the Tranforming Infrastructures for Sustainable Cities hub.

Platforms and mobility

New forms of mobility solutions, such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) applications, have the potential to decrease private car use and congestion and improve air quality, but also run the risk of increasing travel, or only being accessible to a privileged part of the population. With the development of an analytical framework, the research provides researchers and stakeholders with an overview of public values at stake.

Creating mobility scenarios

By creating several future scenarios, the researchers examine how future mobility arrangements have to prioritise certain values over others and how that shapes the platform. From ‘Travel Unlimited’ to ‘ECO’: each scenario leads to different trade-offs that affect the wellbeing of citizens and cities in a different way. How does for example the autonomy of citizens relate to achieving sustainability goals? How valuable is choice when picking a travel mode and route?

Artist's impression of Merwede, Utrecht. Credit: BURA urbanism

The case of Merwede

The researchers are involved as ‘connected critics’ to the project of Merwede in Utrecht. Merwede will become a dense urban neighbourhood, be home to around 12,000 residents, have a very low parking norm and include several mobility hubs where shared vehicles are made available to inhabitants. With its radically different perspective on urban mobility, Merwede has the potential to be a guiding principle for mobility solutions worldwide. The research team of the Algorithmic Studio is involved in developing scenarios and reflections for the digital mobility platform that will mediate access to mobility services.

Transdisciplinary team

Algorithmic Studio includes researchers from different disciplines. The project is initiated by Dr Peter Pelzer, led by Rianne Riemens (both Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University) and involves Dr Martijn van den Hurk, Carolin Nast (both Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University), Prof Albert Meijer (Utrecht University School of Governance), Dr Marjan van den Akker (Information and Computing Sciences, Utrecht University) and Anouk van Twist (until February 2020).


The Algorithmic Studio is a collaboration between Utrecht University, the municipality of Utrecht and the Rathenau Instituut. The project is funded by the NWO call VerDuS SURF Pop Up 2019.