“We need openness for innovation and the will to change”
Reading time: 8 minutes
Around the world, more and more people are moving to urban areas. This presents major challenges — not least when it comes to mobility. How can a growing number of people in conurbations get from A to B efficiently? Work on new mobility concepts is also under way in the Stuttgart metropolitan area.
New mobility concepts
Dr. Jürgen Wurmthaler, the director of economy and infrastructure at Verband Region Stuttgart (VRS), explains how people in the Stuttgart metropolitan area will get around in the future.
1. Mr. Wurmthaler, the Greater Stuttgart region — like many other similar regions worldwide — faces the challenge of making mobility more sustainable. What approach are you taking here?
Dr. Jürgen Wurmthaler: Verband Region Stuttgart is pursuing three approaches. We are strengthening public transportation. We are linking individual and public transportation, and we are promoting innovations for the mobility of tomorrow. With regard to the commuter train network, which is operated by VRS, this means: more trips, with the medium-term target of four trains an hour on every route throughout the day, and more conveniences, such as wi-fi. We also are adding new public transportation services by further expanding the commuter train network.
And then there is the new RELEX regional express bus, which went into service on three routes this month (December 2016), adding direct connections on routes that used to be somewhat hard to reach by public transportation. RELEX also stops at Bosch at Schillerhöhe, by the way. Beyond that, we are supporting a wide range of innovative approaches to mobility with our regional program. We’re talking about car sharing, whether with electric cars or on a private basis, and using GPS signals to create intelligent right-of-way systems for public transportation.
Transition to mobility region.
2. The automobile is of great importance in the Stuttgart region, both from an economic and a social perspective. People here drive 15 billion kilometers a year by car. How can the transition from automotive region to mobility region succeed?
J.W.: If everyone — companies and public administration — focuses on their strengths, builds on them, and remains open for new developments, whether new forms of cooperation, new technologies, or new services. The completion of the Stuttgart 21 rail project, for example, will open the door to new rail connections. Baden-Württemberg will create new cross-city regional lines that run twice an hour, taking some of the burden off the commuter train network. We believe that a new, electronic signaling system (ETCS) is needed on the main commuter artery between Mittnachtstraße and Schwabstraße. We hope it will give us more timetabling freedom and help us improve punctuality.
Where electronic support improves processes on the rails, we believe the same should apply to the roads. We intend to improve traffic flow through better traffic management and information. Verband Region Stuttgart is therefore tackling the topic of regional traffic management and creating a mobility platform.
Connectivity is the key.
3. So Stuttgart and its region are in the midst of a move to alternative mobility. What role does connectivity play in this?
J.W.: Connectivity is vital, the key to acceptance of these mobility services. On the information side alone, a great deal has happened here in recent years. If you ask Google Maps to plan a route, it automatically tells how to reach your destination by car and by public transportation. Verband Region Stuttgart is aiming for an even better dovetailing of individual and public transportation. The polygoCard helps us here. This card allows you to use everything: buses, trains, car sharing (including the Car2Go scheme), rental pedelecs, additional services, and soon also the park-and-ride facility at the Österfeld parking garage in Stuttgart, where we are cooperating with the city to test the “parking lot ticket = transport pass” principle.
We need to try to make it as attractive and simple as possible to switch modes of transportation. Internet and smartphones are essential here. This is also the focus of our joint pilot project with Robert Bosch GmbH. Along two commuter train lines, we are testing how real-time information about the availability of park-and-ride spaces impacts use. This is a promising approach, in terms of both better utilization of existing parking lots and reducing the amount of time spent looking for a parking space.
The urban mobility mix.
4. Multimodal mobility — where connections between existing mobility services are made as seamless as possible — is becoming increasingly important. In your opinion, which means of transport will play a particularly important role in the urban mobility mix?
J.W.: I don’t believe the mobility mix will change, either in the short or the long term. What will perhaps change is the powertrain, with more electromobility, and automated driving will make inroads. In the long-term, however, public and personal transportation will become more and more tightly intermeshed. Ideas and approaches from personal transportation should be transferred to public transportation, and vice versa.The region’s “mobility points” are its response to the idea of connecting the various available forms of mobility, conveniences, and information. With the support of the EU and Baden-Württemberg, we are promoting the transformation of train stations into mobility hubs that offer car sharing, taxis, buses, pedelec rentals, information, and options for rapid charging.
Mobility in ten years
Now I need a crystal ball. I don’t think the means of transportation will have changed fundamentally. That said, there will be a lot more alternative powertrains. People will also be less focused on a single form of transportation. It is important that people should be open for innovation and be willing to change: they need to be mentally mobile as well.
A brief outline: Verband Region Stuttgart
The Stuttgart metropolitan area is located in the center of Baden-Württemberg. Apart from Stuttgart, it includes the five surrounding administrative districts: Böblingen, Esslingen, Göppingen, Ludwigsburg, and Rems-Murr. Some 2.7 million people call the region’s 179 cities and local communities home. Since 1994, Verband Region Stuttgart, or VRS for short, has been the metropolitan area’s political and administrative authority, with a parliament that is elected for five years. Verband Region Stuttgart’s responsibilities include regional planning, business development, traffic planning, and public transportation.