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Smart Mobility as an element of sustainable urban development 

HafenCity offers a wide range of different mobility options. The aim is to satisfy the majority of mobility needs via local public transport, cycling and walking. Less motorized individual transport – especially private cars – is good for the climate, reduces air pollutants, lowers noise pollution, creates more space in public areas and increases the amenity value and quality of life in the city.

The urban structure makes a central contribution to this goal. The fine-grained mix of uses including activating the street level areas, the intensive density of uses, the fine-meshed network of public paths and promenades and the high-quality urban spaces in HafenCity contribute significantly to shortening a large number of individual journeys to work, shopping or leisure. This creates a “city of short distances”. The combination of excellent public transport connections, ideal conditions for active mobility, the reduction of private car parking provision and a station-based, cross-neighborhood car-sharing system are what go to make HafenCity’s sustainable mobility concept. 

Active mobility

Journeys on foot or by bicycle rather than with a private car are not only good for people’s health but also have positive effects on the climate. A central contribution to sustainable mobility behavior is made by the close-knit network of footpaths and cycle paths along the streets and through public spaces. The large number of bridge connections adds to the network. The urban design and layout of HafenCity offers a large number of shorter pedestrian connections in addition to the promenades and squares, which are designed to be barrier-free. The special challenges faced by people with visual impairments are taken into account on the basis of feedback during the design process.

In addition to cycle lanes, bicycle boulevards and cycle paths alongside streets, cyclists can also use the promenades with consideration for pedestrians. The Am Lohsepark bicycle boulevard has a low curb, creating a soft demarcation between slower pedestrians and faster cyclists. Other neighborhood streets are designed for mixed traffic of cyclists and cars. Here, the street design generally provides for slower travel.

Additionally, in March 2021, a pop-up bike lane was set up between Sandtorkai and Brooktorkai, increasing safety for cyclists along a heavily used street. Cyclists can also reach more distant destinations in the south of Hamburg via Veloroute 10 and the Elbe Cycle Path in the east of Hamburg.  In HafenCity itself, cyclists can already find more than 600 parking racks at over 100 locations. A higher level of security and weather protection is provided not only by the private parking facilities contained in the buildings, but also by the public Bike+Ride parking facility at Elbbrücken.  Similar facilities are being planned at the other subway stations. In southern Überseequartier alone, more than 3,000 cycle parking spaces are being created. Of these, 1,230 spaces are in a public bicycle parking garage.

HafenCity Hamburg GmbH is also encouraging active mobility through its new corporate headquarters. The zero-emissions building, with completion planned for 2024, with not have any car parking spaces but instead will offer parking for 150 bicycles.

Local public transport

Good public transport connections are provided primarily by the U4 subway line. In December 2012, the new direct connection between Jungfernstieg and the Überseequartier stop went into operation for the first time. In August 2013, the second stop at HafenCity University followed. Since December 2018, the line has been running across HafenCity all the way to the new Elbbrücken stop, which has also been served since December 2019 by the S3 and S31 rapid transit trains from the direction of Harburg.

Linking the subway and rapid transit not only improves access to eastern HafenCity, but also shifts some of the city-bound traffic from the south from the roads to rail. Elbbrücken station connects the whole of eastern HafenCity, the developing Elbtower, parts of Rothenburgsort neighborhood to the northwest as well as Billebogen and Grasbrook. The development of the new Grasbrook district will also see the U4 subway extended to cross the northern arm of the River Elbe. The planned Moldauhafen stop will then also be easily reachable from the adjoining Veddel neighborhood. The subway and rapid transit are supplemented by bus routes and ferry services, both of whose terminus points will shift further eastward in the course of development.

Cross-neighborhood car sharing

The stated goal of the smart mobility concept is a significant reduction in private car use. The parking spaces on private properties in HafenCity are exclusively underground, since the underground garages play a dual infrastructure role, also providing flood protection, and are thus required to be at least single-story. The underground parking also significantly improves the amenity value of the public areas. The car-minimizing approach in eastern HafenCity also includes the principle of reducing allocated private parking per residential unit: a maximum parking space ratio of 0.4 spaces per residential unit is planned. For commercial buildings in Elbbrücken neighborhood the share is 25-30% of the actual number of parking spaces to be provided for all uses with the exception of hoteliery businesses. This approach reduces investment costs for developers (building just one parking level instead of two) and reduces the consumption of gray energy through the elimination of underground parking levels during the construction of the buildings.

To make the switch to alternative mobility easier, a stationary car-sharing service, unique in Germany, has been conceived for the future 21,000 or so residents and workers in the Baakenhafen and Elbbrücken neighborhoods. The largely electric vehicle fleet, operated by cambio CarSharing, will be located in the underground parking garages of the residential and office buildings. cambio is already providing some vehicles in the garages that have already been completed. As eastern HafenCity develops until 2028, a car pool of around 100 car-sharing vehicles reaching into Elbbrücken neighborhood is envisaged depending on demand.

From small cars to compacts and commercial vehicles, various models will likely be available to meet different needs. Booking and provision of vehicles will be fully digital and based on mobile applications, which will also regulate area-wide access to the 30 digitally integrated private underground garages. To this end, a uniform access system will be installed that will permanently enable the entry and exit of car-sharing vehicles as well as pedestrian access to the underground garages by service-users from other buildings. Building owners will be responsible for the functional charging infrastructure as well as the Wi-Fi and mobile phone connectivity for the transmission of booking and billing data of the cars.

The sustainable mobility concept also includes the promotion of electromobility. While at the outset, electric cars will make up 60 percent of the fleet, this share is set to increase to at least 90 percent by 2025. The vehicles are charged with electricity 100 percent from certified renewable sources. Binding minimum requirements for pre-equipping and equipping underground parking garages with charging infrastructure were integrated into the HafenCity Ecolabel building certification system in 2017, which is also mandatory. In initial outfitting, at least 40 percent of all parking spaces for residential and office buildings in Elbbrücken and Baakenhafen neighborhoods will be equipped with charging points, and all other parking spaces will be pre-equipped (installation of charging infrastructure from the power distribution room to the parking space but not including the charging point). By 2027, about 1,500 underground parking spaces are expected to be fitted with a type 2 (load switching-compatible) charging point. This is intended to promote the use of alternative propulsion systems.

The prerequisite for implementing the smart mobility concept is also the creation of an appropriate institutional framework. HafenCity Hamburg GmbH and the property purchasers are therefore participating in a joint legal entity to implement the mobility concept – the Company for Coordinating Sustainable Mobility, or GKNM. GKNM brings together the interests oft he developers and coordinates the issuing of the contract to operate the car-sharing system to a suitable mobility company. In the EU-wide tendering process, cambio CarSharing was awarded the contract in June 2021 on the basis of the submitted concept and extensive experience in this area. With the start of operations, there will be a continuous expansion (in line with the construction completion of the buildings) and follow-up based on accumulated experience. 

Overall, the car-sharing system contributes to reducing both moving and stationary car traffic. In addition, the amount of construction work on large underground garages and parking spaces in public areas will be reduced, significantly increasing amenity value and reducing the ecological footprint of the buildings. Eastern HafenCity will thus become a test bed for trialing future-oriented, innovative mobility concepts. The concept was also an anchor project in the neighborhood mobility topic for the ITS World Congress that Hamburg hosted October 11–15, 2021.

Forward-looking ideas and projects

As the largest inner-city urban development initiative in Europe, HafenCity provides excellent conditions for trialing new mobility approaches on a district-wide basis. 

One of these approaches was HEAT (Hamburg Electric Autonomous Transportation). The project was among the first worldwide to realize driverless operation in public transport on a defined route with a vehicle assistant who doesn’t actually drive. Passengers were able to take a seat on board for the first time in October 2020 for an automated ride through the HafenCity at speeds up to 25 km/h. From summer 2021 up to the completion of the project, HEAT ran with passengers on the final route of 1.8 kilometres with five stops. The project was accompanied by a whole range of passenger surveys. These aimed to record accurately the needs people had when using a self-driving transport system, but also possible barriers to its acceptance.   

As one of the highlights of the project, HEAT was also presented to a global public at the ITS World Congress on smart mobility in Hamburg in October 2021.

The special feature of HEAT: a worldwide unique technology consisting of three subsystems operates in the background. Besides the vehicle’s own perception via cameras, radar and laser measurement, the electrically powered minibus also accessed other sources. Roadside masts with sensors along the route expanded the bus’s field of view, thus enabling anticipatory driving and higher speeds compared with other projects. In addition, the vehicle used a HD map provided by the City of Hamburg which is accurate to within a few centimetres.



Living, leisure and work between double waterfronts: an urban district is being created at HafenCity’s largest harbor basin.


Stationary car sharing

The goal of the HafenCity mobility concept is to reduce private car use. The cross-neighborhood car-sharing concept operated by cambio CarSharing contributes to this.

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