363-1047-00L  Urban Systems and Transportation

SemesterAutumn Semester 2023
LecturersM. Köthenbürger, G. Loumeau
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


363-1047-00 GUrban Systems and Transportation
The lecture takes place online via Zoom (recorded), except on the following dates: 07. / 08.12.2023 (room tba).
2 hrs
Thu10:00-12:00ON LI NE »
07.12.14:15-18:00LFW B 1 »
08.12.08:15-12:00HG E 21 »
M. Köthenbürger, G. Loumeau

Catalogue data

AbstractThis course is an introduction to urban and regional economics. It focuses on the formation and development of urban systems, and highlight how transport infrastructure investments can affect the location, size and composition of such systems.
ObjectiveThe main objective of this course is to provide students with some basic tools to analyze the fundamental economic forces at play in urban systems (i.e., agglomeration and congestion forces), and the role of transport networks in shaping the structure of these systems. Why do urban areas grow or decline? How do transport networks affect the location of individuals and firms? Does the location of a firm determine its productivity? Can transport infrastructure investments reduce economic disparities? These are some of the questions that students should be able to answer after having completed the course.
ContentThe course is organized in four parts. I start with the key observation that economic activity (both in terms of population density and productivity) is unevenly distributed in space. For instance, the share of the population living in urban centers is increasing globally, from 16% in 1900 and 50% in 2000 to about 68% by the year 2050 (UN, World Economic Prospects, 2014). The goal of the first part is then to understand the economic forces at play behind these trends, looking at the effects within and across urban areas. I will also discuss how natural or man-made geographical characteristics (e.g., rivers, mountains, borders, etc.) affect the development of such urban systems.

In the second part, I discuss the planning and pricing of transport networks, moving from simple local models to more complex transport models at a global scale. The key aspects include: the first and second best road pricing, the public provision of transport networks and the demographic effects of transport networks.

In the third part, I combine the previous two parts and analyze the interaction between urban systems and transportation. Thereby, the main focus is to understand the economic mechanisms that can lead to a general equilibrium of all actors involved. However, as the study of the historical development of urban systems and transport networks provides interesting insights, I will discuss how their interaction in the past shapes today’s economic geography.

Finally, I broaden the scope of the course and explore related topics. There will be a particular emphasis on the relation between urban systems and fiscal federalism as well as environmental policies. Both aspects are important determinants of the contemporary developments of urban systems, and as such deserve our attention.

In general, this class focuses on the latest research developments in urban and regional economics, though it does not require prior knowledge in this field. It pays particular attention to economic approaches, which are based on theoretical frameworks with strong micro-foundations and allow for precise policy recommendations.
Lecture notesCourse slides will be made available to students prior to each class.
LiteratureCourse slides will be made available to students.
Subject-specific CompetenciesConcepts and Theoriesassessed
Method-specific CompetenciesAnalytical Competenciesassessed
Social CompetenciesCommunicationfostered
Personal CompetenciesCreative Thinkingfostered
Critical Thinkingfostered

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits3 credits
ExaminersG. Loumeau, M. Köthenbürger
Typegraded semester performance
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionRepetition only possible after re-enrolling for the course unit.
Additional information on mode of examinationpresentation and project (5-6 pages)

Learning materials

No public learning materials available.
Only public learning materials are listed.


No information on groups available.


There are no additional restrictions for the registration.

Offered in

Civil Engineering MasterMajor in Transport SystemsWInformation
Civil Engineering MasterRecommended Electives of Master ProgrammeWInformation
Management, Technology and Economics MasterEconomic DynamicsWInformation
Spatial Development and Infrastructure Systems MasterMajor in Transport Systems and BehaviourWInformation
Science, Technology, and Policy MasterUrbanization and PlanningWInformation
Science, Technology, and Policy MasterEnergy and MobilityWInformation