/ Reading: 7 min.

26. May 2023
/ Germany
Mobility Turn, now! Mobility of the Future in Hamburg
This time we're off to the far north, or more precisely to the Hanseatic City of Hamburg. The port metropolis on the Elbe is a pioneer in Germany for digital, climate-friendly and flexible mobility.
With its approximately 150 mobility projects, Hamburg is one of the leading cities in the mobility revolution and is often mentioned in the same breath as Barcelona, Vienna or Copenhagen. In close cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport, Hamburg is implementing projects that make getting around the city easier, more inclusive and more climate-friendly. The projects are focused particularly on autonomous means of transport by rail and road. Hamburg is serving as a Model Mobility Region – a model city for innovative mobility concepts that will gradually be introduced nationwide. Thanks to the reputation its transport projects have created, Hamburg plays regular host to international events where new ideas are born: in 2021, it hosted the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress, one of the most important events in the field of smart mobility. In 2025 and 2027, the Union Internationale des Transports Publics (UITP) World Congress for public transport will take place here.

Climate protection as a government objective: Hamburg is strengthening the environmental association

Some 5.5 million people live, work and move around in Hamburg and the surrounding area, a third of them in the city itself. This translates into huge demand for an efficient and climate-friendly transport strategy. Hamburg was the first federal state to make climate protection a government objective. Under the Hamburg Climate Plan, exhaust gases and other environmentally harmful emissions are to be reduced by 50 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, and Hamburg is to achieve complete climate neutrality by 2050.

Hamburg’s climate plan can already boast real success: an interim report in November 2022 confirmed that CO2 emissions in the urban area in 2020 were almost two million tonnes lower than in 2012. The city authorities see the combination of public transport (including DRT services), cycling and walking as the key to increasing mobility while lowering emissions. The Hamburg Authority for Traffic and Mobility Transition (BVM), established in 2020 and led by Senator Dr Anjes Tjarks, is tasked with implementing more sustainable transport that does not rely on private cars. The proportion of the population using buses, trains or bikes is growing steadily. Almost a third of people in Hamburg cover their daily journeys on foot. More and more of them are cycling, too, with the number of cyclists in Hamburg having risen by 33 percent between 2019 and 2020 alone. By 2030, the aim is for 80 percent of all journeys in Hamburg to be made on foot, by bicycle or by public transport. New cycle routes and cycle expressways are being built for this purpose. By 2022, the city had already completed 71 percent of the planned 250 kilometres of cycle routes.

Achieving the mobility turn with the “Hamburg-Takt”

A guiding initiative behind all the city’s transport measures is the “Hamburg-Takt”, which aims for all Hamburg residents to be able to access public transport within just five minutes from morning to evening. This will end reliance on private cars and give passengers more flexibility in their daily journeys. Innovative mobility apps from the Hamburg Public Transport Association (HVV) – “hvv switch” and “hvv Any” – are helping this shift. hvv switch brings together all the city’s transport offerings in one place. Here, travellers can purchase public transport tickets such as the Deutschland-Ticket or rent car-sharing vehicles or e-scooters. With hvv Any, passengers check in when they board public transport, and the app then automatically records their journey. Journeys are charged to the customer the next day, automatically selecting the cheapest fare. This saves passengers having to navigate the jungle of different fares and makes public transport more inclusive.

To achieve the Hamburg-Takt, rail links to and within Hamburg will also be modernised and extended. As one of the largest infrastructure projects in Germany, the U5 underground line will cross Hamburg from east to west and is projected to carry almost 270,000 passengers a day when completed. The extension of the U4 and the new S-Bahn line S4 will connect more districts of Hamburg to the surrounding area and the city centre. Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn’s Digital S-Bahn Hamburg project is showing how existing tracks can be used more efficiently. The highly automated trains on the Digital S-Bahn run autonomously under human supervision. This improves punctuality and improves the line’s capacity. Automated acceleration and braking also have a positive effect on the trains’ carbon footprint. The Digital S-Bahn already covers a 23-kilometre stretch in the east of the city, and all of Hamburg’s S-Bahn trains are set to be digitalised in the near future.

Another core element of the Hamburg-Takt is the on-demand service hvv hop, which was launched in 2018 under the name ioki Hamburg. ioki was Germany’s first on-demand service to be integrated into public transport. Carrying the name hvv hop, the shuttles are now even more clearly recognisable as an integral part of the city’s transport system. As an innovative mobility solution, the shuttle service won the German Mobility Award in 2019 and the Deutscher Verkehrswendepreis (German Mobility Turn Award) in 2022. In January 2023, hvv hop expanded to Harburg and is now available to around 113,000 people. As part of the Model Mobility Region initiative in the Hamburg area, hvv hop is to be expanded with 20 more autonomous shuttles. The project known as “Automation of Hamburg’s on-demand service with integration into public transport” (ahoi) will serve as a field study for the interaction of autonomous and manual vehicles in demand-responsive transport. The German government is providing ahoi with EUR 18 million of funding. By 2030, Hamburg plans to put 10,000 autonomous vehicles on its roads and digitalise transport ever further.

The mobility of the future in Germany’s smartest city

Not only Hamburg residents but everyone in Germany is set to benefit from the city’s transport innovations. That’s thanks to the “Reallabor Hamburg” (RealLabHH) project, for which the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport provided EUR 19.2 million of funding. The project was an opportunity to test digitalised mobility concepts over an almost two-year period using the city as a real-world laboratory. It involved 32 project partners, including ioki Hamburg. Using the results of the RealLabHH, guidance has been created to help and inspire other regions in revolutionising transport. The findings show that digitalising transport is an indispensable part of achieving a sustainable change in mobility.

The insights gained from RealLabHH were presented at the ITS World Congress 2021. Here, more than 400 exhibitors demonstrated innovative solutions for tomorrow’s transport under the motto “Experience Future Mobility Now”. In 2020, Hamburg was named Germany’s smartest city by the digital association Bitkom for its wealth of projects driving the mobility revolution. The city was recognised for its advanced digitalisation with innovations such as hvv switch, which is considered a prime example of multimodality in passenger transport.

Hand in hand for the environment

Social and environmental awareness is deeply rooted in Hamburg. That’s why its residents are committed to the mobility turn in their city. When it came to the major project to extend the U4, many took advantage of the operator HOCHBAHN’s invitation for the public to suggest their own ideas for the design of the stations. The public are also involved in the further development of the climate plan: in 2023, it will be updated for the second time and adapted to the current environment. For the first time, Hamburg’s Senate invited people to contribute their own ideas and wishes on an online platform. The initiative was a big success with over 2,500 contributions and 1,600 comments received. These are currently being examined and will soon be implemented. As all these projects show, the mobility turn in Hamburg is no longer just an aspiration. A low-emission, climate-neutral and inclusive Hamburg can soon become reality.

You can find out more about Hamburg’s measures for the mobility turn here (only in German).

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