Hence, I loved the invitation to a clubhouse talk on the topic of 'How Munich is Shaping Future Mobility' with exciting guests on stage. In addition to Prof. Dr. Andreas Herrmann from the University of St.Gallen and the organizer of a CAS Smart Mobility Management course, Hans-Peter Kleebinder, the following three movers and shakers from Munich ensured a real female powerhouse on the virtual stage:
Kirstin Hegner heads the Digital Hub Mobility in Munich, Europe's largest mobility institute. The hub works together with citizens, scientists and companies to counteract the threat of gridlock in our cities with the help of intelligent mobility solutions. “My passion is to bring corporates, scientists and startups together to create sustainable solutions for today’s urban traffic problems,” introduced Kirstin herself on the night.
The second guest, Christine von Breitenbuch, is the Director of Messe München's recently awarded IAA Mobility. Not only is the name changing from IAA (Internationale Automobil Ausstellung) in Frankfurt to IAA Mobility in Munich, but the event is also taking a new approach by opening up to take residents and visitors into urban spaces downtown.
Finally, Kathrin Habenschaden, the Vice-Mayor of the City of Munich, was a guest in this conversation. She is responsible for the economics department for the City of Munich including all things mobility. Kathrin directly set the stage with her own conception: “I am intrinsically motivated by this topic, since I am frustrated by the mobility situation in Munich."
Various studies show that there is every reason to be so: Munich is currently not at the forefront of the mobility revolution. In 1972, the Olympic Games were held in Munich. This is considered the starting point of a real mobility boost thanks to the newly built subway, which now winds its way under the city as an architectural milestone. But what has Munich done after that mobility wise? Why does the city lag so significantly behind other German cities such as Hamburg or Berlin when it comes to infrastructure or smart solutions?
"Compared to Berlin or Hamburg, we haven't had a subway that long, but today new sections are being built all the time," explains the Vice-Mayor. For her, these are milestone steps, "because with the upcoming extensions of the subway, we will also get to the suburbs." The same applies to the extension of the tramway, she adds. But equally, she perceives the traffic situation as follows: in Munich, all road users are stressed, whether on foot, by bike or by car. She sees the elimination of traffic jams and the achievement of climate targets as two essential points for her work in Munich.
For Kirstin Hegner, it's all about improving collaboration in Munich. As Managing Director of the Digital Hub Mobility, her goal is to bring the players together, "because the problems of mobility can only be solved together. There will only be less congestion if we have fewer cars on the road and we manage the utilization of trips better, or if we make car sharing attractive, for example."
A closer look at typical projects the Mobility Hub is working on shows how this is to be done, partly thanks to the connection to the Technical University of Munich. At the same time, many projects involve collaboration with local large companies and mobility startups. "We have a digital product school, here we have for example, worked out a project with BMW on how to motivate employees to come to work more by bike." As another project, Kirstin brings up an example with logistics background: "We wanted to find out where and when delivery vehicles park in 2nd row in the city center. Based on data, we then built a project that captures these logistics issues and makes it possible to make meaningful decisions to address this (wrong and inconvenient) parking by delivery services."
"Urban mobility does not mean more mobility in one's own car," says Kathrin Habenschaden. Mobility experts cite one of the main problems being the inadequate pricing of public parking space. One example: while in Berlin a resident parking permit costs 18.40 euros per year, in Copenhagen more than 700 euros are charged for it. In Munich, the annual price averages 34 euros. At Munich's rental prices, this makes it worthwhile to park an old vehicle on the street as a storage space. 'Road pricing' is key - we are all used to the road costing nothing. However, it competes with many other options in the city. People can move around there - so are we creating space for mobility or are we creating space for the 'experience'?
Another problem for the mobility situation in Munich are approx. 400,000 commuters who travel into town every day. Here it is necessary to find a pricing model for these commuters without excluding them from access to the city. After all, mobility is a basic right for all residents; not least, it should also provide access to work and offerings (leisure, sports, culture) within the city. According to Katrin Habenschaden, municipal politicians have not touched this 'hot potato' in the past, it is now necessary to have this discussion. "One thing we don't have as Munich, unfortunately, is the ability to maneuver. As a municipality, we are not allowed to solve this issue, the increase of parking costs in Germany is at a federal level".
The final discussion was around the upcoming IAA Mobility, which, COVID-19 permitting, is scheduled to start early in September this year. Despite huge resistance from specific groups of residents in Munich, the mobility show aims to enter the city itself. The application process to host the show (running for the event were also Berlin and Hamburg) was very interesting - bringing together players who can drive change. Messe Munich (partly owned by the city of Munich) and the German Association of Car Manufacturers are transforming what used to be a show for the latest (and biggest) ICE-cars into a smart mobility event.
“We believe in the transformation of mobility, both from the city and the State of Bavaria. Open Space as an innovative concept brings mobility to the people and makes it tangible to all residents in the city. We are taking a joint step into the future together in Munich and for Munich,” explains Christine from IAA Mobility’s management.
It is crucial for all parties, what will remain as a legacy for the city of Munich after the IAA Mobility event. “We want to try out transport projects, we want to gain valuable experience in order to then make decisions effectively in the city and the state. We want to form a platform for change. I would like to be able to name Munich on par with Amsterdam or Copenhagen when it comes to smart cities. The IAA has a great media reach and I know what can be achieved with it.” Such innovative spirit from Christine and her organizing team will challenge the openness to change of the city’s decision makers. Asking her myself, I wanted to know whether Katrin Habenschaben really supports the IAA Mobility as a true innovation hub. She stated: “For sure, if we are able to deliver a true mobility event for everyone, not only the car owners, but all inhabitants and visitors to Munich alike, then I stand completely behind the IAA Mobility”. These were excellent final words for a super interesting talk with professionals driving the change of mobility in Munich and surrounds.
Photos courtesy of Daniel Schepers.