By Roy L Hales
North American cities are primarily designed for automotive traffic. There has been more attention to bicycles, buses and trains, but most people still look upon them as a poor person’s transportation. There is a much different model in Europe. In Germany, public transit is often the preferred way to travel.
“If I want to drive a car, I rent one,” a young Berlin based executive told me.
The same sentiment was echoed by an executive in Hamburg.
In fact, a recently published survey showed that two third’s of Berlin’s population did not own cars in 2012. There were 1.38 billion BVG and S-Bahn trips that year and a 38% increase in bicycle traffic since 2001.
This has resulted in a 17% reduction in CO2 emissions, between 2005 and 2009.
Berlin has fewer traffic accidents and the number of fatalities has dropped from 56, in 2007, to 37 in 2013.*
Though getting from one place to another can involve one or two transfers, buses and trains run like clockwork. Waiting times are generally less than five minutes. The empty platform at the bottom of this page was probably crowded only minutes before.
As there is no gridlock on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn, they often move through Berlin faster than automotive traffic.
For those who prefer exercise, bicycle lanes run along the sidewalks of most cities. My Berlin contact usually pedals to work.
The Deutsche Bahn offers an InterCity Express (ICE) connecting most of Germany’s major cities with Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. The “slow” ICE, connecting Berlin and Hamburg, travels at up to 230 km/per hour. Faster trains can go as much as 320km/per hour.
“Why would I want to buy a car?” my Berlin contact asked.
Both he and my Hamburg contact admitted their answers would have been different had they lived in the rural parts of Germany where the transportation infrastructure is not as developed.
Photo at top of Page: Street scene viewed from 7th floor of the Hotel Domicil, in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin – Roy L Hales photo
*Footnote: Figures reported in BZ Berlin on September 24, 2014 from a Mobility Plan presented by Michael Müller, Berlin Senator for Urban Development and the Environment