Maaike Snelder

The perpetual growth of cities is creating big challenges in terms of urban mobility. Developing urban mobility systems that are accessible, liveable, and resilient requires a balanced and innovative approach. Associate Professor of Transport & Planning at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Maaike Snelder’s focus on advancing future mobility systems provides a comprehensive view of how research can drive practical, real-world solutions.

As editor-in-chief of The European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research (EJTIR), published through TU Delft OPEN Publishing, Snelder hopes to broaden the reach of high-quality research in her field.

Models for the future

Through her work at TU Delft and as Principal Scientist at TNO, Snelder’s research focuses on the development of models and tools to design resilient future mobility systems to ensure that cities and regions remain accessible and liveable. “I develop traffic and transport models to see what the situation is like in the future and assess the impacts of transportation interventions,” she explains. These interventions range from traditional infrastructure enhancements, like increasing road or bike lane capacity, to more innovative solutions involving vehicle automation and shared mobility.

An important aspect for Snelder is combining fundamental research with practise. Developing and utilising advanced models enables the prediction of the outcomes of design innovations. This has many applications, such as helping policymakers to make informed decisions about urban planning and transportation investments.  “We look at what our mobility system should look like 20 or 30 years ahead and what it means for urban areas in terms of accessibility and liveability, because there’s a trade-off between these things,” she states. This forward-thinking approach ensures that the designed systems are not only theoretically sound but also practically viable and beneficial for urban residents.

Addressing challenges through innovation

With economic, demographic, and environmental developments pushing transport systems to the limits, there are many challenges to address. One of the main challenges that Snelder sees is the scarcity of space, especially in urban areas. “The number of people in cities is increasing, which means more trips, but there’s not enough space to keep facilitating cars,” she notes. This reality necessitates innovative solutions beyond simply adding more roads and parking spaces. Municipalities are particularly interested in these innovations, she says, but they also want to ensure that traditional modes of transport like walking and cycling receive adequate space. This balance is crucial for creating accessible and liveable urban environments.

Along with her other roles, Snelder is co-director of the Sustainable Urban Multimodal mobility Lab (SUM Lab). This group of researchers aims to help stakeholders with the development of sustainable, inclusive, and accessible urban regions. They believe that to achieve that, unimodal solutions are not sufficient so their work revolves around innovative multi-modal solutions, such as connected and electric/hybrid vehicles, shared vehicles, and micromobility.

The role of open publishing

Furthering her contributions to future mobility, Snelder is also the editor-in-chief of the European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research (EJTIR). This journal, first published in 2000, is one of the oldest journals in the TU Delft OPEN Publishing portfolio. As a diamond open access publication, neither authors nor readers have to pay to publish or access the papers. “It’s free, which means everyone can publish there and you’re not dependent on whether or not your organisation is willing to pay the open access fee,” Snelder points out.

The open access model democratises access to research, making it available to a global audience regardless of their institutional affiliations or financial capabilities. “Even in countries like the Netherlands, if ministries or knowledge institutes don’t have a license, they cannot access certain papers. Open access removes this barrier,” Snelder emphasises.

Vision for the journal

Having assumed editorial leadership in October 2023, Snelder’s vision for EJTIR now centres on sharpening its focus and broadening its reach. While the journal is based in Europe, its relevance extends globally. The goal is to attract high-quality papers by initiating special issues and clarifying the scope to cover various dimensions of transport and infrastructure. “We aim to publish high-quality papers on the behavioural, organisational, economic, and public policy dimensions of transport planning and operation,” she explains. By providing clearer examples and more detailed explanations of the journal’s scope, Snelder hopes to make it more accessible and appealing to a broader range of researchers, including PhD candidates. This approach not only enhances the quality of submissions but also ensures that the research published has practical implications for policymakers and decision-makers.

An essential aspect of maintaining the quality of the journal is the peer-review process. Snelder acknowledges the critical role reviewers play, often balancing this task with their existing workloads. “Reviewers get many requests from different journals, and we depend on their willingness to contribute,” she says. Recognising and thanking these reviewers is important to encourage continued support and maintain the journal’s high standards, which ultimately contributes to more sustainable, accessible, and liveable urban environments worldwide.