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Environmental tracks in Dusseldorf: free travel for carpools

Dusseldorf is one of the largest commuter cities in Germany. Every day 300,000 people head to the metropolis to work here. 70 percent of them take the car for this route. This corresponds to 210,000 vehicles, which push on the main roads towards the center. The roads are clogged accordingly and nitrogen oxide levels are high.

In order to avoid a judicial ban on diesel driving, Mayor Thomas Geisel (SPD) launched a pilot project in 2019: with the help of environmental traces the traffic on heavily traveled routes should be reduced. Only buses, taxis, bicycles and electric vehicles can be on the road and by train. Of & # 39 ;: when three or more people are in the car.

These car pooling lanes are mainly known from the United States, Canada or Scandinavia. In Dusseldorf, they are marked with a sign showing a car and the symbol "3+". It was specially developed and approved by the Federal Ministry of Transport. Previously, the German highway code did not produce a carpool sign.

It concerns the resource space and the air

The idea is not new, the motivation is already: in the past, carsharing was used mainly to save on fuel costs. Today it concerns the space of the resources and the air. The success of the experiment in Düsseldorf also depends on the fact that people can adapt their idea of ​​private transport.

"Passing by car is not very popular in Germany," says Andreas Knie, a mobility researcher and social scientist at the WZB Science Center in Berlin. Only for a few decades could someone drive to work by car. This is how the culture of solo driving was born. "As an expression of the modern lifestyle," says Knie.

With the ability to connect to the network digitally, this changes: "We're just learning that we can be mobile individually without having to own a car," says Knie. In addition to car sharing providers, start-ups like Uber, Flinc, Moia and Clevershuttle are being formed as travel services or platforms for organizing group travel. Thanks to smartphones and headphones, passengers can quickly create anonymity even in tight spaces.

A new business model?

There is still a lot of movement in the market. Recently, Clevershuttle announced his retirement from Hamburg. Mobility researcher Andreas Knie sees politics above all in duty. The passenger transport law currently protects the taxi industry so that alternative services can only operate with special permits. The model is no longer updated. Passages by car, for example the organization of community trips using an algorithm, must be able to establish themselves as digital activities. "So we can make a bus from every private car."

Düsseldorf Mayor Thomas Geisel has offered many frustrations since the first environmental traces were established in the spring of 2017. On roads, only one lane is partially canceled due to normal traffic. This produces stagnation.

"Of course, I can understand when motorists are annoyed when they spend more time reaching their destination," says Geisel. However, the environmental trace is not a measure intended to harass motorists, but one with which we want to prevent imminent driving bans.

Happy cyclists, frustrated drivers

The politician relies on long-term effects: "In other large cities, which have significantly restricted private motorized transport – for example, Stockholm, London, Tokyo, Oslo and Paris – the attractiveness, economic power and quality of life has increased due to lower car traffic ".

So far, other road users have noticed positive effects. The city of Düsseldorf interviewed cyclists in July on the Prinz-Georg-Straße, which has been equipped with an environmental track in both directions since the Easter holidays. Since then, around 65 percent have rated the situation as "significantly better".

It looks different to Frank H. The custodian drives the objects in and around Dusseldorf within a radius of 30 kilometers. Talk about another two and a half hours, which interrupts the traffic with his car every day. "It is more difficult to meet deadlines." Other service providers, such as nurses or artisans, feel strongly disadvantaged and write their anger in the social networks of the soul.

Less traffic through more home offices

Frank H. is a member of the Facebook group "Environmental Trail +3". Here and through portals such as the Nett plant or the commuter portal, the Dusseldorf network to form carpools. Even those who are anything but enthusiastic about the measure, but want to make the most of the situation by publishing their routes and times. However, group travel was more likely to be in exceptional situations, such as when public transport is on strike, according to Frank H.

Another way to curb traffic in metropolitan areas is to give fewer people a reason to travel. Experts who met in March 2019 on the national "Future of Mobility" platform at the invitation of Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) to find approaches for sustainable, economic and climate-friendly mobility. The goal is to reduce CO2-related transport emissions from 170 million tons today to a maximum of 98 million tons by 2030. One approach: work in the office at home.

Month of Destiny November

By 2030, 30 percent of appropriate employees subject to social security contributions should work from home to avoid traffic. In fact, according to mobility researcher Knie, a liberalization of hours and workplaces is a screw to be reckoned with: "Today we would have many more problems if we didn't already have the flexibility," says Knie.

However, this transport policy must do more than treat the symptoms, suggests in this context a study by the AOK-Krankenkassen Scientific Institute, according to which not all employees are created for the office of home. 2000 employees were interviewed. The result: those who work a lot from home often suffer from fatigue, difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbances compared to people who go to the office every day.

Whether and to what extent the pilot project will be further pursued in Düsseldorf will be decided at the next transport committee meeting on 27 November. A day later, during the Council meeting, a request by the CDU and the FDP to decide to terminate the project prematurely.