How integrated spatial and mobility planning can reduce our need to travel
Munich, 16 March 2022
While mobility is an important enabler of inclusion, social interaction, personal freedom and prosperity, it is also often associated with traffic jams, stress, noise and environmental pollution. One way to address these problems is through more integrated urban and mobility planning. This approach is examined in a paper published recently by acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering. “Ankommen statt unterwegs sein – Raum und Mobilität zusammen denken” (German only) argues that the key is to create vibrant neighbourhoods where everything is close to hand. Attractive living spaces with a wide range of amenities reduce the distances people need to travel in their everyday lives and provide opportunities for social interaction. “We want to integrate urban and mobility planning in a way that benefits everyone. People should be able to find what they want in the place where they live, rather than spending all their time travelling”, says project leader and acatech Member Klaus J. Beckmann.
Leading academics and practitioners are investigating the interactions between space and mobility in the joint academy project Integrierte Stadtentwicklung und Mobilitätsplanung (Integrated Urban Development and Mobility Planning). The project’s first progress report was published in the shape of a discussion paper that provides an introduction to the topic and illustrates how the character of residential areas affects mobility behaviour and vice versa.
Thanks to technological innovations such as trains and cars, we can now travel longer distances much faster than in the past. This has led to the development of separate, extensive residential areas at some distance from the nearest civic amenities. As a result, traffic volumes are higher, people spend more money on transport, and land use for transport has increased. This causes ongoing damage to our quality of life and environment and is often at odds with efforts to promote sustainability and tackle climate change.
The experts agree that if we want more sustainable mobility and less traffic, we need to change the way we use public spaces. Every residential neighbourhood should have attractive places where people can meet and chat, and a wide range of amenities that are as accessible as possible. This would reduce the distances people need to travel in their everyday lives and mean they could walk or cycle to many of the places they need to get to. It would allow people to reclaim the streets and carry out a range of everyday activities in residential neighbourhoods, meaning that people with all kinds of different lifestyles could make their home in urban areas.
According to acatech Member and project management partner Helmut Holzapfel, “For ordinary people, mobility isn’t just about how long it takes to get from A to B. It’s about the places and amenities that we can easily access in our everyday lives. High-quality spaces are key to creating accessible living environments. We can travel less but actually have much more flexible mobility choices. By carrying out most of our day-to-day activities locally, we can save time, free up space, improve air quality and help to tackle climate change.”
In practice, however, the implementation of this integrated planning approach must comply with complex regulations and involves several different administrative levels and stakeholders. The remainder of the project, which will run until mid-2023, will focus on the role of municipalities in implementing this approach and the associated challenges. The aim is to formulate recommendations for how municipalities, regions, government, industry and the public can effectively implement integrated urban development and mobility planning. According to Klaus J. Beckmann, “We want to integrate future-proof, environmentally-friendly mobility into the living environment of our urban regions. A range of different stakeholders will need to work together if we are to make this happen. What we need is cooperation, a sustainable culture of open discussion and a goal-oriented regulatory framework.”
You can download the German publication here.