Smart cities get traffic flowing
Whether you call them smart or wise, cities have a determining role to play in getting people and goods from A to B. Fleet Europe spoke with Thomas Vith of the city of Vienna and with Michael Glotz-Richter of the city of Bremen about how both cities do this.
Bremen: wise, not smart
Bremen, with just over half a million inhabitants, is a harbour city in the North West of Germany.
“I prefer being a wise city to a smart city,” stated Michael Glotz-Richter (pictured), Senior Advisor Sustainable Mobility for the City of Bremen. “Smart refers to using technologies and we want to think twice before we go for technology.”
He gives an example: a city can develop an app for cyclers to find the best route between A and B, but it can also build infrastructure that guides cyclists intuitively and safely.
Bremen must be doing something right. In October 2019, the city won the Civitas award in the Transformation category in recognition of its efforts to reduce car use through cycling, integrated public transport and by offering alternatives to car ownership through carsharing.
Bremen’s wise mobility policy centres around two goals: providing an alternative to using a car and providing an alternative to owning a car.
Using a car
Not only does Bremen have an extensive public transport network, it also has a very high share of cyclists on the road. “The infrastructure was improved significantly and cycling is fun. Almost every car driver is also a cyclist, so there’s more respect for each other. Everyone cycles: politicians, bankers, people of all ages and genders. It is common and cool,” said Mr Glotz-Richter.
This also means air quality is not an issue in Bremen. “We fulfil air quality requirements and we don’t need diesel bans,” confirmed Mr Glotz-Richter.
Owning a car
Bremen was one of the first cities where carsharing was launched. Today, there are three carsharing operators. So far, carsharing has predominantly been targeting private individuals but increasingly, the city is promoting its benefits for the private sector.
“Only rarely do companies have a full understanding of how much they spend on their cars, particularly if you take into consideration lost time when taking it to the dealer for maintenance, when washing it etc. Carsharing takes many of these hidden costs away.”
Bremen is working on the conversion of an old hospital in the inner city that should house 2,500 when completed. There will only be four parking spots for ten apartments and the entire area will be car-free.
Increasingly, developers are looking at ways to avoid providing underground car parking, which they can legally do by including mobility services like carsharing. Not only does this make new buildings more future-proof, it also saves up to 15% in construction costs.
Modular cargo bike
A survey by Bundesverband Logistik (BVL) shows a delivery that takes six hours in Stuttgart only takes five in Bremen – and that’s with conventional delivery methods. A new service offered by Rytle could speed up deliveries even more. Rytle offers electric cargo bikes with a twist: at a hub, delivery companies can quickly attach a small standard rolling container or pallet to the bike with consolidated goods for delivery on the last mile and even the last meter.
Vienna: social dimension of being smart
Vienna, the capital city of Austria and both a city and a federal state, has a population of roughly 1.8 million. With the exception of the Nazi period from 1934-1945, the city has been ruled by social-democrats since the first free elections in 1919. This has had a profound effect on how the city developed in the twentieth century, leading to the development of social housing, health services and other services for all inhabitants. It also included a focus on public transport and it can still be felt in Vienna’s smart city strategy today.
“I think it’s safe to say Vienna has one of the best public transport systems in the world,” asserts Thomas Vith, “both in terms of quality as in terms of reachability and price. For instance, a yearly pass for the full network is only €365 or €1 per day.”
Thomas Vith is Mobility Expert for the Energy Centre at Urban Innovation Vienna, a city-owned company that acts as a competence centre on a variety of issues.
“Having a good public transport network is already a smart approach,” said Mr Vith. But Vienna is doing much more.
Today, carsharing in Vienna is mostly in the hands of car2go and DriveNow, who are in the process of merging. A local start-up, Eloop, was launched a few months ago with a smaller but growing fleet.
“Even though carsharing can never be a huge business and it is hard to make money with carsharing, it is crucial in the development of cities in which people don’t need to own their own car,” said Mr Vith.
Wiener Linien, the Viennese public transport company, developed WienMobil, a multimodal mobility app that shows users where they can find metro stations, taxis, car parks, shared cars, bikes and scooters. Integration of these modes of transport is not yet complete, as the app can be used to locate each service but not to order or pay it.
Hubert is a project for an urban consolidation centre where parcels can be grouped together so they can be dispatched in fewer shipments. Another project in the same vein is City Hub.
Vienna is not a traditional cycling city, but you could mistake it for one when walking around in the historic centre. “The city is constantly rolling out cycling infrastructure,” said Mr Vith. Recently, Vienna reached the number 9 spot on the Copenhagenize Index, a list of the most bicycle friendly cities on this planet.
Vienna’s U-Bahn metro network started operations in the seventies, funded in part through companies that are required to pay a yearly tax for each employee. Although most funding comes from the federal government and other city budgets, this tax pays in part for a 10km extension to the U-Bahn that is currently being built.
Image: Rytle manufactures electric cargo bikes delivery companies can attach a rolling container to.