Placing your city in the European context: the Urban Data Platform

By Claudia Baranzelli, on March 28th, 2017

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A little background…

One of the main aims of the Urban Agenda for the EU is to improve the knowledge base and the collection of comparable and reliable data on urban development issues – this would in turn facilitate the monitoring and benchmarking of European cities, and foster the engagement of citizens in urban related debates.

In this frame, the European Commission has developed the Urban Data Platform which provides a single access point to common indicators on the status and trends of more than 800 cities in Europe.

The Urban Data Platform (UDP) is a joint initiative of the Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (DG-JRC) and of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG-REGIO). Launched during the European Week of Regions and Cities in October 2016, it has been further presented at the UN Habitat III Conference in Quito, as part of the EU contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and towards the global Urban Agenda.

What is the Urban Data Platform?

The web portal is an interactive interface that allows users to explore, visualize, compare and download data. It aims to give a complete and consistent picture of the state and trends (i.e. past and future) of European cities using interactive and visual tools to present and analyse the data. The platform collects open data derived from multiple sources, including the JRC, DG-REGIO and EUROSTAT. Several available indicators were used in the EC/UN-Habitat Cities’ Report.

Many indicators were computed using data processed by the LUISA Territorial Modelling Platform, which covers both the current state of urban areas, and allows projection of scenarios up to 2050. The available data (60 indicators, several of which show trends from the year 2010 to 2050) cover the following thematic:

  • Demography – including trends in population, population density, age structure and migration
  • Urban Development – this describes several aspects of urbanisation, including the proportion of built-up or artificial land per inhabitant, the urban proportion, and the rate of urbanisation
  • Economic Development – covering trends in GDP, employment, tertiary education and patents
  • Transport and Accessibility – various aspects, including average travel distances, accessibility to passenger flights length of road per inhabitant and road fatalities
  • Environment and Climate – several indicators on air quality, including NO2 and PM10 concentrations and emissions, flood risk and exposure to noise
  • Resource Efficiency – access to urban green areas and share of green infrastructure, urban form efficiency, and share of old and new buildings
  • Social Issues – a wide range of topics, mostly indicators provided by the Composite Indicator Research Group (COIN) at the JRC, relating to education, risk of poverty, material deprivation, physical security and crime, residential overcrowding and share of tenants, work intensity and social exclusion risk.

The data is visualized according to the EU-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) definition into data at city, functional urban area, and metro region level, including:

  • 807 Cities – Local administrative units (LAU) where the majority of the population lives in an urban centre of at least 50 000 inhabitants
  • 672 Functional Urban Area (FUA) – consisting of a city plus its commuting zone
  • 271 Metro RegionsNomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics level 3 (NUTS-3) regions or groupings of NUTS-3 regions representing all functional urban areas of more than 250 000 inhabitants, divided into capital city regions, second-tier metro regions and smaller metro regions

How does it work? The web interface

The available data can be visualized in the portal by selecting the desired indicator (from the thematic areas drop-down menu) and reporting unit. The indicator is then displayed on a pan and zoom-able map, as well as in the form of automatically generated charts. The diagram below gives the main functionalities available.

The data can also be compared (and ranked) at the city level in a list, which is searchable and also allows the selection or de-selection of cities. Capital cities can also be singled out. Both maps and charts can be downloaded and shared, and there is a tab giving further information on each indicator.


Maps of each indicator can be downloaded as they are presented on the web browser in either PNG (image) or PDF format. The legends are automatically generated, with the colour scale giving the range in values of the indicator, and the size of the icon increasing with total population within the urban area. An example is given below showing the GDP per capita for metro regions for the reference year 2010.


Three types of charts can be automatically generated, showing trends over time, representing the indicator by type of metro region, and finally displaying the data by degree of urbanization:

  • Trend – This chart shows the change in the selected indicator over time for the selected city or region. It also allows comparison with the trend in national and European average, and shows the cities/regions with the highest and lowest values of that indicator over time. For example, looking at NO2 concentration in cities, although both the Italian and European average concentrations are foreseen to remain quite stable and relatively low, the values for Milan are far higher already in 2010, and are expected to increase steadily by 2050. This would be a good indication of the need to further improve the effectiveness of local measures to reduce air pollution.


  • Metro regions – This chart gives indicator values for all types of metro regions (differentiating capital and other metro regions), as well as average values for non-metro regions, national and European averages. The different categories can be turned on and off, and the scale can be manually adjusted. The example given is for the amount of artificial area per inhabitant (m2/person) for the reference year 2010. A wide range of values are seen both across and within countries. The general trend is towards a lower amount of artificial area per inhabitant in larger and capital metro regions, whereas non metro regions have the highest amounts of artificial areas per capita, indicating a more sprawling type of urbanisation.


  • Degree of urbanisationHere, the selected indicator is shown graphically by degree of urbanisation i.e. comparing the data for densely populated areas, towns and suburbs, and rural areas. The example below gives the percentage of people renting (tenants) in 2014, which can be a good indication of several factors, including cultural aspects, and the state of the housing market e.g. affordability of property. The general trend is towards having the highest number of tenants in densely populated areas, with ownership of an own home in rural areas being much higher. There is also a huge variety of tenant shares per country, for example ranging from only 7% tenant share in Vilnius to 71% in Vienna.


How the Urban Data Platform can support URBACT

The UDF team is keen to see the platform being used by cities across the EU, to support integrated urban development. URBACT cities could potentially find the platform of great value in various ways. The data available helps cities to establish an evidence base for their action plan and delivery, and to look at future trends to inform future casting. Within URBACT networks the tool could be applied to compare and benchmark partner cities, both in Baseline Studies and in preparing for partner visits. The user-friendly downloadable graphics and charts are easy to insert into presentations to illustrate urban issues and practices. There is support to use the data platform by contacting the UDP team that would be happy to hear from URBACT cities about ways, in which they are using or could see additional potential for the tools.

Future developments and feedback from you

Development of the platform is continuing with the regular up-date, collection, validation and eventual inclusion of data and indicators from new sources as they become available. The functionalities are being further improved and especially the capacity for analysis extended, with the possible inclusion of historical data trends.

There will also be efforts to improve data comparability between EU-28 cities and those outside of the EU.

Any feedback and suggestions are more than welcome at this point as we strive to make the platform a reference access-point to urban data for Europe. Please let us know at: JRC-UDP[at][dot]eu

The platform is accessible via the following link:


Further links:

“One-stop shop” portal on EU urban policies

State of European Cities Report

LUISA Territorial Modelling Platform





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