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MORE POWER FOR THE MOBILITY TURNAROUND

HOW MORE SPEED IN THE TRAFFIC TURNAROUND CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE ENERGY TURNAROUND

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„Quality of life and quality of stay, reduction of pollutant emissions, land conservation and CO2 savings cannot be had for free,“ says Hilmar von Lojewski from the German Association of Cities and Towns, explaining why he nevertheless sees the transport turnaround on a good path and where the market is challenged.

In conversation with Hilmar von Lojewski, Councillor for Urban Development, Construction, Housing and Transport at the German Association of Cities and Towns

© Michaela Spohr/German Association of Cities

© Michaela Spohr/German Association of Cities

Mr. von Lojewski, the German Association of Cities was not necessarily considered a big fan of the 9EuroTicket. How do you assess this popular measure today?

It's true that we weren't particularly convinced about the 9-EuroTicket at the beginning. And the actual bill won't be presented until 2024 - even though the federal government has promised full compensation. Now we are seeing the enthusiasm of passengers and a most welcome return to the public transport system. We must maintain this enthusiasm and motivation to ride buses and trains. A direct follow-up solution to the 9-euro ticket would have been better. This opportunity was missed. In addition, the federal and state governments must provide the right counter-financing so as not to place an additional burden on municipal transport companies and transport associations. The long-distance bus companies should not be forgotten either. So far, they have not benefited at all from the reduced ticket price - on the contrary, they have lost passengers as a result. And the municipalities fear that focusing on such a ticket could push other, much more important issues into the background.

What would these be?

The transport sector must make a significant contribution to climate change. So far, it has failed to do so. To this end, e-mobility must be expanded and heavy goods traffic shifted to the railways. Local public transport, which is operated by the municipalities, remains the centerpiece. It is a matter of expanding, renewing and operating local rail passenger transport in cities and regions and public transport. For an effective mobility turnaround, more livable cities and regions, and compliance with CO2 reduction targets, we need to double the number of public transport users by 2030. We want to get people out of their cars permanently. This can only be achieved with a triad of measures. First and foremost, we need to expand the systems and offer new, attractive services. To achieve this, it was first necessary to get the Municipal Transport Financing Act properly underway.
By proper, we mean: no longer just 330 million euros per year for everything, as was the case for decades, but significantly increasing funding. We simply need more money if we want to expand systems. Unfortunately, the legislature had agreed in the past to freeze funding, which was even stipulated in the Basic Law - about a year and a half later, this was changed again. It was recognized: We can't achieve anything without adequate financial support for the municipalities. The issue seems to be in the bag, with funding gradually increasing to two billion euros by 2025. That's good news in itself.

Mobility rethought: By means of a design study, the architecture studio 3deluxe shows the potential of the public space in Berlin's Friedrichstraße and how this would positively change the cityscape. Based on a model project, about one fifth of Friedrichstraße is now accessible only to cyclists and pedestrians.

Mobility rethought: By means of a design study, the architecture studio 3deluxe shows the potential of the public space in Berlin's Friedrichstraße and how this would positively change the cityscape. Based on a model project, about one fifth of Friedrichstraße is now accessible only to cyclists and pedestrians. © 3deluxe

You spoke of a triad - which two issues are still burning on the minds of the municipalities?

The second dimension is the rehabilitation of the existing systems, i.e. the rolling stock and the infrastructure such as stations, etc. There is still a lot to do here, but we are making good progress. There is still a lot to do here, but we are making good progress. In NRW, for example, federal and state funds are also being made available for corresponding maintenance and renewal measures. The eleven tramway cities on the Rhine and Ruhr will benefit from this because the rail networks, tunnels and stations can be renovated in the current decade. Another challenge, the third dimension so to speak, is the operation of local rail passenger services in cities and regions. Following the rail reform, this too must be guaranteed by the federal government under the Basic Law. To ensure sufficient funding, however, the Regionalization Act must also be amended once again. The sums paid so far are not sufficient to compensate for the increased costs of operation, let alone to expand the service.

What role does the current price explosion play in this?

With it, there is a fourth dimension. Of course, we also need to compensate for the increased personnel and energy costs. In addition, the municipal utilities can no longer easily rely on the so-called cross-utilization of funds between the previously adequate divisions. As a result, there is a lack of funds for public transport. And without massive support for local public transport from the federal and state governments, there will be no transport and energy turnaround.

© Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

© Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

Let's move on to the charging infrastructure: Allegedly, not a single public charging point can be found in half of the German municipalities ...

This claim is total nonsense in this abbreviated form. We are talking about around 10,800 municipalities in total, some of which are very small. So, in statistical theory, that may be true - but at the level of the independent cities and, for that matter, the counties, you will find charging points everywhere, even if the capacities are not yet sufficient. If there is no charging point in the marketplace in a small community, the next fast charger is probably on the highway in the immediate vicinity. After all, we are often in rural areas. But one thing is clear: Our member cities in the Association of Cities all have charging points. By the way: Bertha Benz got her gas at the pharmacy - and not at the municipality. The cities have taken up the issue and are promoting it wherever they can.

What do you think about the call for one million publicly accessible charging stations?

The figure is in the coalition agreement, but publicly accessible doesn't mean on publicly dedicated roads or on municipal land. We also need to get gas stations, retailers, housing companies, fleet operators to join in. They can all offer charging points on their properties. There is also potential for space-saving e-charging points in parking garages. The cities are counting on the federal and state governments to continue to provide committed support for the development of publicly accessible charging infrastructure. In the medium term, however, operators will have to operate and maintain the charging stations themselves without public subsidies. Full profitability is the goal. What's more, more than half of all charging takes place at home or at work.

Do you think the accessible infrastructure should consist exclusively of fast-charging points?

I'll leave that up to the market. But I do think it makes more sense for us to be able to charge quickly at gas stations and supermarkets. We should also set time limits on charging in public spaces: You can't confuse parking with charging. It needs a quick turnaround. The cost of a public parking lot with charging columns is high. "Hub charging" at stations that are only available for this purpose is certainly better and more efficient than individual "park charging".

You say that charging stations are not an original municipal task. So you are critical of the reform of the master plan for charging infrastructure in the cities and municipalities with the role assigned to them as basic suppliers?

Yes, we see things very differently and are in good company with the leading energy industry association bdew: supplying individual vehicles with energy is clearly not a task for municipal services of general interest. It remains a voluntary task that can at best be performed by the municipalities in a complementary manner. There will certainly be adjustments to the master plan.

But the municipalities already realize that it is a locational advantage for them if the local charging infrastructure is as well developed as possible.

Of course they do. And the cities undoubtedly have the necessary motivation and commitment. But touching public space, as any café operator with an outdoor area on public land knows, is not trivial. It takes the consent of many to use public space. But it's the cities' turn for expansion permits for charging infrastructure, and 15% in public space should be enough.

Basically, individual passenger transport is to be more or less banned from cities - doesn't that lead to massive resistance?

That's really an old chestnut. In Germany, the mental turnaround in traffic has long since taken place. There is a great deal of support for change: the car alone is no longer the right mode of transport for the inner city. This does not necessarily mean banning the car, but it does mean limiting it to unavoidable traffic needs. Through measures in the street space, effective parking space management and access restrictions, we gain spaces for other uses, for example for leisure and gastronomy, but of course also for multimodal means of transport such as bicycles, e-scooters - and for pedestrians.

At the first polisMOBILITY conference & trade fair in May of this year, you pointed out that the transformation would be comparatively easy in cities and towns - but in rural areas, things were completely different ...

As far as the mobility transformation in the inner cities is concerned, I am indeed optimistic. It won't happen overnight either, but we now have only two major cities in Germany with more than 50 % car share of the trips made. The share of pedestrians and cyclists is increasing significantly, and further work needs to be done on public transportation. In fact, regional transportation is where the real challenge lies. We need to spend more public funds to provide more services on the periphery of cities as well as in rural areas. One possibility is shuttles, i.e. "door-to-train" services. But they, too, will remain a subsidy business for the foreseeable future. All political levels must be aware of this - quality of life and quality of stay, reduction of pollutant emissions, land conservation and CO2 savings cannot be had for free. But they can be financed through taxes, through user fees for the public road network, which could be differentiated according to vehicle, route and time, and through the internalization of environmental and health costs caused by car and road freight traffic.

Thank you very much for the exciting interview.

HILMAR VON LOJEWSKI

© Michaela Spohr/German Association of Cities

© Michaela Spohr/German Association of Cities

has been an alderman for urban development, construction, housing and transport for the Association of Cities of North Rhine-Westphalia and the German Association of Cities since 2012. He studied spatial planning and urban and regional planning in Dortmund and Ankara until 1988, was a trainee urban planner in Frankfurt/Main until 1991, worked as a freelance planner in Dortmund and as a planning consultant for GTZ in Kathmandu, Nepal until 1994. Until 2000 he worked as a department head in the urban planning office in Dresden. In the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development, he was responsible for the departments of Urban Planning and Projects and Ministerial Affairs of Construction. From 2007 to 2010 he worked for the German Development Cooperation in the Sustainable Urban Development Program in Syria.

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Daniel Boss