Higher, faster, further – Mobile amidst traffic chaos
Dialogue Forum on 21 February 2013
If we are to remain mobile in the future, our traffic system must change fundamentally. This will not only require a stop to the use of fossil fuels but also the development of new concepts that people will actually accept. The technological, economic, political and psychological obstacles to be overcome in reaching this objective were the object of discussion at the second session of the Dialogue Forum series entitled "The (im)mobile society – Ready for the future?" that took place on 21 February 2013.
Almost 51 million road vehicles were registered in 2011 in Germany. The global figure was roughly ten times as high. If the prognoses are correct, 1.5 billion vehicles will be on the roads throughout the world by the year 2030. But even now, we don't have enough space in the cities to accommodate them. In many of the metropolitan areas, traffic often stagnates more than it flows, and the rising emissions are threatening our climate. The search for solutions is proving difficult. Not only must technological hurdles be surmounted, but we all must part with old and comfortable habits to which we have grown used. "Many different instruments will be required to compel people to change their way of transportation," Dr. Susanne Böhler-Baedeker is convinced. The Research Group Co-Director at the Wuppertal Institute pictures an environmentally friendly system that assures people's mobility but remains payable at the same time.
Emissions must sink significantly
Michael Niedermeier, environmental expert for traffic issues with the ADAC Automobile Club of Germany, has a similar outlook. "If you offer an attractive local public transport system, the citizens will make use of it." In Munich, for example, a substantial proportion of the traffic increase over recent years has taken place in the public domain. The rigid distinction between the car and public transport is becoming increasingly blurred anyway. "More and more people are intermodal when moving around, using different means of transport and increasingly travelling by bike or by foot," the expert informed us. In his opinion, industrial countries such as Germany have a role model function to fulfil, so that people in developing countries don't make the same mistakes as we have. "It is therefore not only necessary to develop vehicles that are more efficient in consumption but also to look at alternative fuels." However, the trend in recent years has been going towards increasing numbers of larger cars, which cancels out the technological progress made in energy consumption.
New paths in drive concepts
National Platform for Electric Mobility
Steinle is decidedly affirmative in responding to the question of whether more should be done to promote mobility in view of the much-feared traffic chaos. Mobility, he says, allows participation in social life, guarantees the free exchange of goods in an internationally interwoven world and is the elementary prerequisite for growth and prosperity. As experts are anticipating a massive increase in traffic in the coming decades, efficient haulage networks and logistic systems must be promoted. "At the same time, the energy concept has prescribed that by 2050, energy consumption in transport must be reduced by 40% in comparison to 2005," says Steinle. In 40 years' time, urban traffic should even be able to get by almost completely without fossil fuels.
Consumer behaviour decisive
Not only automobile manufacturers will be faced by completely new challenges in the future but also urban planners. "The increasing use of intermodal transportation systems will require protracted urban restructuring in the cities," predicts Böhler-Baedeker. Strong town districts with small-scale supply infrastructures must be created or cycling paths leading into the city centres. A task that can certainly not be accomplished within the next few years. And the question of how such infrastructure measures should be financed still remains. Already today, there are massive remediation requirements. The Federal Government alone would need approximately three billion Euros just to refurbish all the derelict bridges in Germany. A sum that the budget of the Federal Ministry of Transport cannot accommodate at present, says Steinle.
The next Dialogue Forum will take place on 19 March 2013 under the title of "Will climate change get the better of us – Or can we beat it?".