Anjes Tjarks has been Senator for Transport and Mobility Change in Hamburg for eight months. In an interview with Cellular, the Green politician reports on what has been achieved so far and how he wants to further develop Hamburg into a pioneer for modern and digital mobility.
It is a half-time of a kind for Anjes Tjarks: Eight months ago, the Green politician took office as Senator for Transport and Mobility Change. And in another eight months, the ITS World Mobility Congress will take place in Hamburg - where the city can consolidate its reputation as "Germany's smartest city in terms of mobility", as the NZZ puts it.
As a development partner of Hamburger Hochbahn AG for the "hvv switch" app, Cellular is close to the city's mobility issues. Panos Meyer, CEO of Cellular, had the opportunity to talk to Anjes Tjarks. We publish excerpts from the conversation:
Senator Tjarks, Covid-19 is still the predominant topic. Not so many people seem to be interested in the mobility transformation at the moment. Or is my impression deceptive?
Anjes Tjarks: The pandemic is having a very strong impact on all of our daily lives. I find it very reasonable that this is also the focus of public interest. But the past few months have shown how important it is for Hamburg's citizens to have reliable mobility services during the crisis. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have therefore continued to run the buses and trams of the public transport system at normal intervals, despite a significant drop in usage figures. We do this in order to equalise traffic and thus ensure the necessary protection against infection. With this idea of safe, reliable and sustainable public transport, we continue to advance the mobility turnaround every day.
From a mobility perspective, the bicycle is clearly the winner of the past year anyway. While all other modes of transport - including motor vehicle traffic - declined in 2020, cycling in Hamburg increased by 33 percent last year. For more and more people, a good cycle path infrastructure will therefore continue to be of great importance in the future. That is why we are currently massively expanding it. In 2020, for example, we set a new record with 62 kilometres of new and renovated cycle paths. Even in times of a pandemic, it remains enormously important to drive forward the mobility revolution - for individuals as well as for us as a society.
Dr Anjes Tjarks, 39, is a "Hamburger Jung". He was born in Hamburg, studied Education, English and Social Sciences and started his career as a teacher. Tjarks is a member of the Green party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). The father of three children became Senator for Transport and Mobility Change in Hamburg in June 2020.
It seems like you have an impossible job to do: on the one hand, you want to limit individual car traffic - on the other hand, it is your job to produce traffic. Doesn't that clash?
Tjarks: Our task is not to produce traffic, but to ensure and promote mobility. Traffic continues to increase in a growing city like Hamburg. So the question is rather how traffic will be organised in the future. That is why we want to increase the share of the environmental alliance (i.e. public transport, walking and cycling) in the modal split, i.e. total transport, from 64 percent to 80 percent before the end of this legislative period. More specifically, we want to increase the share of public transport in the modal split to 30 percent by 2030. We also want to increase cycling to 25 to 30 percent.
That's why we have to rethink the mobility mix: we're talking about new bus, rail and sharing services, and of course also about the bicycle. What we want to achieve is that Hamburgers can move through our city quickly, comfortably, easily and safely - and of course sustainably.
With the expansion of the subway U4 and the construction of the U5 and S4, we will also connect many neighbourhoods to the rapid transit network much better than is currently the case. We have a particular focus on neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city. In the next 20 years we will build 36 new stations.
Shaping the mobility turnaround and providing Hamburg's citizens with a variety of attractive transport options is therefore not only something that is desirable, but above all necessary to keep Hamburg mobile in the future and make it even more mobile.
Our topics at Cellular are digitalisation and innovation. That's why we ask ourselves: Isn't the mobility revolution about more than that? We need seven years for a cycle path along the Elbchaussee. Elon Musk is building tunnels through half a city centre at lightning speed. Why are we so slow?
First of all, we are not only building a cycle path on the Elbchaussee - the entire pipeline system, especially the main water pipe with a diameter of one metre, is being rehabilitated at this point. That is a slightly more complex matter. In addition, the redesign of the road space is also something we want to shape together with the people of Hamburg. Participation is an absolutely essential part of such infrastructure projects and also important for the acceptance of the mobility transition.
Nevertheless, you have a point, of course: time is pressing. Climate protection won't wait and people also want to switch in a big way. That's why we want to significantly increase the pace of the mobility transition. To return to the project you mentioned: By working in a cooperative project for the first time and perfectly coordinating the work of Hamburg Wasser, LSBG, Gasnetz Hamburg and Stromnetz Hamburg, we were able to shorten the construction time here by three years.
Since the introduction of the "hvv switch" mobility app, it has become somewhat easier for Hamburg residents to get around without a car. But why does it take so long to realise such innovations?
Tjarks: I think there is really great potential in the "hvv switch" app. Such an innovative concept will allow us to integrate more and more mobility providers into the app and make it easy for Hamburg residents to switch between different means of transport. For example, the current app has already created the basis for quickly introducing the check-in/be-out system in the future, in which the purchase of tickets on public transport is done individually and automatically via the smartphone.
This shows how we are forward-looking and quick to launch such innovative concepts. We can now see what projects we have initiated since the new establishment of the Authority for Transport and Mobility Change in the summer of 2020 and what successes we have already been able to achieve. The budget for 2021/22 paves the way for the mobility turnaround. Overall, we are spending more money than ever before in order to be able to make great progress in a short time.
In the past months, we have all learned to trust science. When it comes to mobility, however, politics is much about questions of faith. Don't we actually need a "Mobility Authority" to provide the facts for the right decisions?
Tjarks: The nice thing is that we already know the facts and have a great consensus on this, especially in our Red-Green government coalition. The climate crisis on the one hand and the growing city on the other simply make it necessary to rethink our mobility. Hamburg's citizens always want to reach their destination safely, comfortably and in an environmentally friendly manner. The mobility turnaround is already convincing so many of our city's citizens because we provide them with attractive offers. Above all, they also notice that we can significantly increase the quality of life in our city with innovative mobility. So it's less a question of belief and more a question of inspiring and convincing with our concepts. Communication is certainly an absolutely fundamental part of this.