The butterfly model proved to be a very powerful tool to assess the TOD-potential of urban nodes along Dutch railways. Backed by comprehensive research (‘Make Space!’) and additional tools like ‘Sprintcity’, butterfly planning inspires many professionals.


Prime domain(s)
Rail, Mobility, Planning


Prime theme(s)
Lifecycle efficiency, Urban mobility hubs


Additional theme(s)
Sustainability, Economics


Related showcases
Holland Metropolis, Rotterdam Centraal, Den Haag Centraal, Arnhem Station, Image of Rail (Spoorbeeld)


Lead partner
Deltametropolis Association


Second contact


Extended summary
The Deltametroplis Association and project partners has investigated more than 60 station areas
in Noord- Holland. The result of this collaboration is the publication Make Space! Working on the development of station areas in Noord-Holland which was presented at a conference in Amsterdam, Netheralnds, on the 27th of November 2013.
A new vision for spatial development in Noord Holland is presented in the book, including the butterfly model. The main focus is on making better use of the existing urban area and infrastructure. The publication brings together previous studies, combining existing knowledge and data to visualize and demonstrate the opportunities for public transport nodes in Noord-Holland. All station areas have been compared with each other using the butterfly model and positioned in the network of the province, which consists of several corridors.

Text by Deltametroplis Association (adapted by DRS)


Form (description)
The butterfly model represents all relevant transit oriented development related characteristics of urban nodes around railway stations.


Operation (usage)
The butterfly model is used to assess and to categorize the TOD-characteristics of urban nodes.


Performance (result)
So far the butterfly model proved successfully the TOD-potential of various nodes along a set of railways in the Netherlands.




The Butterfly Model explained (by Deltametropolis Association, adapted by DRS)
A node is a place where different modes of transportation meet and where a variety of urban
activities take place. Improving the integration between the network and the urban space in a node
can reap several benefits. To gain a better understanding of this, the so-called butterfly model has
been developed by the Deltametropolis Association in association with the province of Noord-Holland.
This model is based on three distinctive features for the node (network) and three distinctive features for the place (physical space). The butterfly model was first applied and developed for the publication Make Space! Working on the development of station areas in Noord-Holland, and has since been applied to projects for StedenbaanPlus (TOD project in Holland Metropolis ed. DRS), the City Region of Rotterdam (Netherlands) and the Ruhr area (Germany). The model provides an opportunity to work with the stakeholders (e.g. the province, municipalities, transport companies and developers) to discuss the direction of new projects, give a clear overview of the corridors and to compare station areas with each other.
The butterfly model positions six characteristics in relation to each other: with the ‘node value’ on
the left wing, and the ‘place value’ on the right wing. The position of the node in the public transportation network, the road network and the slow traffic network is decisive for the node value of the station in the butterfly model. The density of inhabitants, employees and visitors, the degree of functional diversity and its proximity (i.e. to what degree is the station itself a centre in its surroundings?) is decisive for the place value of the station.
The butterfly functions best when both wings are in balance with each other. For this, the centre
of the wings are particularly strongly related and directly proportional to each other. The position in the public transport network and the intensity of residents, workers and visitors should ideally all be in balance.
Twelve Station Typologies
The relationship between node and place offers different opportunities for new developments: a
Sprinter (local service) station, situated in the centre of a village, will offer different options than an Intercity (express service) station that lies close to a highway exit on the outskirts of a city.
A diverse variety of locations where the value of node and place are in balance, combined with the
desired market demand for residential and working environments will provide the types (taxonomy)
of ‘butterflies’ that have a real chance of success.
They demonstrate which developments will also fit in the Dutch context, and to the qualitative market demand in the region. Each type of butterfly represents a specific station typology: a place where living, working and services converge in a certain way.
The variation of typologies along a railway line or in a railway network can contribute to improving functionality because the nodes can develop alongside each other, ensuring that they complement, rather than compete with each other.
The twelve typologies reflect ideal situations. In reality, many station areas still have far to go
before they can achieve these promising typologies. The difference between the butterfly representing the current situation and the one representing the promising situation directly indicates the task that is at hand.


Make Space! Working on the development of station areas in Noord-Holland, Deltametropolis Association 2013
De mobiele stad (the mobile city), by Ton Venhoeven & Tijs van den Boomen, NAI010,
Rotterdam 2012
Station Centraal, 2010 – Link to Google books


Portland (Oregon, US), StedenbaanPlus (Netherlands), Toyama (Japan)


Foreign potentials
Metropolises and urban regions worldwide


Related projects and pilots
Linked to the Butterfly model the planning support tool SprintCity helps to understand new forms of coordination, planning and decision making that are necessary at TOD-corridors along railways in urban areas.
SprintCity has also attracted the interest of several foreign governments, organisations and universities. In 2013, demonstrations of the planning support tool took place in various countries. Some examples of where the tool is currently being considered for use in the development of public transport corridors are shown below.
Over the past year, SprintCity has been presented several times in Flanders, including at the Railway Congress in Turnhout, a TOD workshop in Leuven, a simulation session at the Artesis Graduate School in Antwerp and a demonstration on the Planning Day 2013 in Antwerp. A new collaboration project is now being started with Euro Immo Star (EIS), a subsidiary of the Belgian Railways that develops station areas.
This collaboration focuses on two specific transport corridors in Flanders and the Netherlands, where
balanced spatial development, frequency increase and different modes of transport are investigated
at the corridor level. The existing tools ReLive (EIS) and SprintCity are being further developed for this
In 2013, the SprintCity tool was also demonstrated and discussed at several international events, including the KTH university in Stockholm, the ISAGA 2013 conference, the regional planning agency of the State of São Paulo (which included several public transport companies); the Institute of Architects and Urban Planners in Rio de Janeiro and the Beijing Design Week in 2013 (page 22). The
contacts in São Paulo will soon be expanded via the municipal transport department and the University of São Paulo.
The first international SprintCity simulation session was held via Google+Hangouts in Bangalore, Delhi and Rotterdam in July 2013. A collaborative project with Fields of View and EMBARQ is currently also being set up to investigate a transport corridor in India, using the English version of the
software. Furthermore, SprintCity was tested and evaluated by international MSc Geomatics students at the Delft University of Technology.

Text by Deltametropolis Association (adapted by DRS)




Other media


Image credits
Deltametropolis Association, RVDB Urban Planning


Butterfly Planning