Lessons in German Mobility Management - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Lessons in German Mobility Management


Germany has an extensive carshare program.

On Tuesday, May 13, I spoke at the Energy Efficient Transportation Systems conference, which was sponsored by the German-American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest. While speakers from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Chicago Transit Authority and Argonne Labs gave presentations on a variety of issues, I was most interested to hear what our German counterparts had to say.

Dr. Sandra Wappelhorst, senior export at  Innovation Centre for Mobility and Societal Change in Berlin, gave a presentation on “EcoMobility in the Intelligent City: Developments and Trends.” During her talk, she pointed out that while Germany and the United States both have relatively high rates of auto ownership, extensive highway networks and high incomes, there are some marked differences. While there are 43.9 million passenger cars in Germany, or nearly one for every two residents, Germans own 30 percent fewer cars per capita than Americans. They also drive less than half as many kilometers annually. In Germany, public transport, walking and cycling account for 43 percent of all trips while only accounting for 10 percent of trips in the United States.

As in the U.S., the percentage of people age 20 to 29 with driver’s licenses has declined, though equal numbers of German women (90 percent) and men (89 percent) in this age group have licenses. That’s surprising, given the low number of German women who drive. According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, over 50 percent of American drivers are female, as opposed to only 33.4 percent of German women.

In doing research for my presentation, I’ve learned that Germany has an extensive and well-coordinated transportation system on a regional and state level. Transportation information and services, such as signage and fare payment options, are good.

Transportation demand management programs, which attempt to reduce the number of people driving alone, often to work, exist in Germany, where they are referred to as “mobility management.” In my presentation, I gave a case study of the University of Freiburg Hospital, which encouraged employees to use alternative commuting modes, and reduced drive alone trips by 5 percent.

Programs such as bikesharing and carsharing are also available in Germany, with participation in carsharing growing dramatically since 2007. In Northern Germany, the City of Bremen’s carsharing  program has been in place since 2009. Bremen has 8,700 carsharing participants as of November 2013.  37 percent of participants have replaced their own cars with carshare vehicles. The use of electric vehicles for carsharing is growing in both urban and rural areas.

German federal, state and city planning efforts  coordinate transport planning across modes and jurisdictional boundaries. Integration of land-use, transport and environmental planning at all levels of government, as well as strict land use controls and encouragement of transit-oriented development around transport stops are standard practice.

We have much to learn from Germany on improving ways to provide information, fare media, and transportation services to commuters.  Through organizations like the German-American Chamber of Commerce, we have a method to keep the dialogue going.


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