22.–23.05.2024 #polismobility

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Digital planning for the mobility turnaround

Kiel gets a tram

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Nils Jänig describes how the company Ramboll is planning a new tram network for Kiel.

A shift away from individual transportation is urgently needed for a mobility turnaround, so urban planning must set the course for a switch to sustainable mobility concepts: Only an integrative approach to pedestrian and bicycle paths as well as public transport will ensure livable communities for all citizens. Since 2020, our experts have been developing an integrative public transport concept in Kiel, the capital of Schleswig-Holstein. State-of-the-art tools were used in the planning process.

Kiel gets a tram

© Landeshauptstadt Kiel

In the preceding decades, urban planning was geared towards motorized individual traffic - the car was the top priority. The results are visible today in all German inner cities, which hardly consider cyclists:inside or pedestrians:inside. In Kiel, the capital of Schleswig-Holstein, the last tram line was discontinued in 1985. The city of Kiel has now decided to take a different path and drive forward the mobility turnaround by expanding local public transport (LPT). Since 2020, our experts have been comparing local transport concepts as part of a feasibility study. The central task was to find a suitable means of transport for the expansion of public transport - the choices were a tram network and a bus rapid transit system (BRT) due to the geographical conditions. Possible routes, linkages with other modes, and an operating concept that included pedestrian and bicycle paths were compared. Different tools and software solutions were used to present the results. The entire planning process was accompanied by intensive use of the ArcGIS Pro program from Esri.

Tram connection through livable Kiel

We used over 46 criteria to evaluate the two options under consideration - BRT and tram - including ease of use, operating procedures, costs and environmental aspects with measurable impacts on the quality of life in the city. In developing the criteria, we also took into account feedback from citizen participation. All Kiel residents were called upon to express their wishes for future mobility. We accompanied this process with various online formats and on-site events.

At Ramboll, we work with an interdisciplinary team for traffic and landscape planning as well as citizen participation. Colleagues from Helsinki and Kiel's partner city Aarhus, who have contributed their expertise from similar projects in Finland and Denmark, complement the team. This allows us to implement holistic sustainable planning. This was done using AutoCAD to carry out the planning in terms of location and height. The urban integration of the project was initially done by our landscape architects as hand sketches using Photoshop. Finally, the results were created as high-quality visualizations. For this purpose, various tools such as SketchUp for model building, Lumion for rendering and Photoshop for the "atmosphere" were used. The planning process was accompanied by the ArcGIS Pro program. This tool is used for spatial planning to collect, manage the relevant information and data through an intelligent database management system, analyze and present. By intersecting all data (i.e., overlaying layers of different content), optimal results can be achieved for evaluation and assessment. The results can be made available to all project members at any time. This can be done in classic form as a thematic map in PDF format, as a multilayer PDF with the option of switching on/off the individual layers, and as an online geoinformation system (GIS) that allows independent interactive use of the thematic maps. Our customers thus have an always up-to-date information basis about all project parameters as well as the possibility of direct exchange with the GIS of the city of Kiel.

All criteria were evaluated qualitatively and quantitatively on the basis of a defined evaluation system. To make the systems comparable, points were awarded for all criteria on a scale from "not met" (0 points) to "fully met" (10 points). The light rail system scored particularly well in terms of performance, urban integration, operating costs and subsidy eligibility. The tram also scored higher in the environmental category, as it makes a better contribution to a streetscape design adapted to climate change: While large areas would have to be sealed for the BRT route, grassed tram tracks can be used in large parts. Above all, however, the tram performs more favorably in terms of long-term operating costs. For every euro that the public sector invests in the tram, an economic benefit of 1.47 euros is expected (only 1.10 euros for the BRT system). All in all, it was shown that the tram is clearly the more sustainable and future-proof transport system for the city of Kiel.

In November 2022, the Kiel City Council also formally voted in favor of the tram system. Further planning and construction work will now begin. Here, too, the city's good cooperation with Ramboll will continue. The first line is scheduled to go into operation between 2033 and 2034, integrating the existing bus system into the new network. The example of Kiel shows how the mobility revolution can succeed: A long-established means of transportation is integrated into modern urban planning, creating a high-quality transportation system for all. In this way, the city takes an equally big step toward climate neutrality.



© Ramboll

has spent most of his professional career working on technical light rail and regional rail projects. In the last 20 years, the graduate transport engineer has been active worldwide, e.g. in London, Utrecht, Copenhagen or Jerusalem. He worked there in the fields of rolling stock, operations, EMC, ITCS and economic evaluations.


is an international engineering, architecture and management consultancy founded in Denmark in 1945. The 17,000 Expert:in are the heart of Ramboll. They develop sustainable, independent and multidisciplinary solutions in the fields of Building Construction, Transportation & Infrastructure, Water, Architecture & Landscape Architecture, Energy, Environmental & Health and Management Consulting.


Nils Jänig