Karlsruhe: ensuring the success of future urban mobility

To ensure cities’ transportation networks can continue to grow and support the quickly increasing urban populations, Anke Karmann-Woessner, City of Karlsruhe, discusses what the Urban Agenda offers and how it must be adhered to if cities worldwide wish to tackle the mobility challenges the future holds…


In 2017, the City of Karlsruhe joined forces with the Czech Ministry for the launch of the ‘Urban Mobility Partnership’: one of 12 partnerships of the Urban Agenda for the EU.

The Urban Agenda

The Urban Agenda for the EU was established by the EU ministers responsible for urban matters in May 2016 and agreed upon in the Pact of Amsterdam, 2016.

The agenda recognises that increasing populations in urban areas are challenging local transport systems and aims to identify measures that will improve transport in our cities. Cities are places of integration and identification and therefore are the ideal sites to promote collaboration in new mobility.

Approximately 70 per cent of the requirements set by European law concerns municipalities and European policy has become municipal policy in many areas. Cities are therefore bringing European issues closer to their citizens.

The diversity of relations shows that most of the European Union’s political objectives cannot be achieved without local authorities. Municipalities must therefore be recognised as full partners in the European Union.    

The Urban Agenda for the EU is an integrated and coordinated approach to deal with the urban dimension of EU and national policies and legislation. By focusing on concrete priority themes within dedicated partnerships, the Urban Agenda seeks to improve the quality of life in urban areas.

Based on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, the Urban Agenda focuses on the three pillars of EU policy making: implementing better regulation, better funding and better knowledge. It is an important step towards the necessary partnership with local authorities.

The agenda aims to promote cooperation between member states, cities, the European Commission, European organisations and other stakeholders.

The 12 partnerships of the agenda

Twelve partnerships have been defined so far. Four were launched in 2016 on inclusion of migrants and refugees, air quality, housing, and urban poverty. Four others started work in February 2017 on circular economy, digital transition, urban mobility, and jobs and skills in the local economy. A further four more were launched before summer 2017, focusing on energy transition, climate adaptation, innovative and responsible public procurement, and sustainable use of land and nature-based solutions.

Each partnership involves a voluntary and equal basis city, Member States, the Commission and stakeholders such as NGOs or businesses. Together they work on developing and implementing concrete actions to successfully tackle the challenges within cities and to contribute to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

This new approach sets out a new way to work together in promoting the involvement of cities in a more urban friendly EU policy, ensuring better access to European funds and improving the European knowledge base for sharing best practice.

The German Association of Cities and Towns welcomes the European Commission’s initiative to pay greater attention to cities, and the City of Karlsruhe is implementing many strategies in terms of encouraging sustainable mobility.

Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities

The ‘Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities’ is a document of the Member States that has been drawn up with the broad and transparent participation of European stakeholders. With the knowledge of challenges and opportunities as well as the different historical, economic, social and environmental backgrounds of European cities, the Member States’ ministers responsible for urban development agreed upon common principles and strategies for urban development policy.

The ministers committed to:

  • Initiating political debates in their states on how to integrate the principles and strategies of the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities into national, regional and local development policies
  • Using the tool of integrated urban development and the related governance for its implementation to establish any necessary framework at national level
  • Promoting the establishment of balanced territorial organisations based on a European polycentric urban structure.

The German presidency prepared the report ‘Integrated urban development as a prerequisite for successful urban sustainability’ and various other studies, including:

  • Strategies for upgrading the physical environment in deprived urban areas
  • Strengthening the local economy and local labour market policy in deprived urban areas
  • Proactive education and training policies on children and young people in deprived urban areas
  • Sustainable urban transport and deprived urban areas.

These studies will help cities of all sizes in the effective implementation of the principles and strategies set out in the charter.

More people are now living and working in cities. With the current trend of urbanisation, the importance of cities and urban areas continues to grow. Due to this, cities are facing ever greater social challenges in respect of the environment, transport and social cohesion. The Urban Agenda and Leipzig Charter aim to address these challenges as well as ensuring the urban dimension is strongly embedded within EU policies.

Karlsruhe’s mobility expertise

As coordinator of the partnership, Karlsruhe brings long-standing expertise in international transport projects with a special strength in the development and coordination of cross-border transportation.

Karlsruhe also supplies expertise in developing sustainable and low-emission transport strategies. In this respect, various projects and concrete measures, which are currently implemented by Karlsruhe, meet the objectives and strategic visions laid down in the Urban Mobility Package (2013) and the White Paper on Transport (2011).

Some of the projects succeeded in obtaining EU funding and the successes are based on the active involvement of all relevant stakeholders: politics, regional and local authorities, economy, science and research institutions.

Today, Karlsruhe collaborates with a wide range of partners, across very different spatial scales, to deliver innovative mobility solutions.

‘Main line for Europe’

For several years, Karlsruhe has chaired the ‘Main line for Europe’ project, leading the way in promoting improvements to the Paris to Budapest rail link. The project is supported by 26 cities, regions and the Chambers of Trade and Industry in Germany, France, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

This Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) project will create a high-speed railway line between Paris and Bratislava, with a branch to Budapest, the overall length of the route being 1,592km. It was listed as TEN project no. 17 by the European Commission in 1995 and planned to be completed by 2020. It will link 34 million people in five European countries.


Karlsruhe pioneered entirely new forms of municipal and federal cooperation to develop the first TramTrain dual-mode transport network in 1992. It is a light-rail public transport system where trams run from an urban tramway network to main-line railway lines.

The TramTrain system’s success accelerated the construction of more lines (588km in 2015) and an increase of passenger numbers to 177 million in 2015.


Karlsruhe is an organiser of the trade fair IT-TRANS, a worldwide leading platform for networking and professional exchange of all relevant stakeholders in close cooperation with UITP.

Land Baden-Württemberg

Karlsruhe has been a test area for automated and connected driving of the Land Baden-Württemberg since July 2016. This includes testing future applications of automated shuttle and bus operations for the public transportation network, automated logistics and supply, automated car sharing and micro-mobility, implemented by a consortium of cities, businesses and research facilities.

Germany’s second bicycle capital

Since 2014, Karlsruhe has been Germany’s second bicycle capital after a decision to promote bicycle traffic. Gradually implementing a 20-point program, the percentage of bicycle traffic has increased from 16 to 25 per cent within 10 years.

Karlsruhe’s sustainable urban mobility plan

Since 2012, Karlsruhe has followed an ambitious and integrated transport development plan with a goal to develop sustainable and innovative mobility for the entire urban society. Through a continuous and extensive participation process, a consensus for the concept was reached between the administration, society and relatable businesses.

The plan is one of the strategies within the Urban Development Concept 2020 and shows how the city’s objectives for developing sustainable mobility can be implemented whilst also safeguarding economic development. It is a framework for developing Karlsruhe´s mobility system in the next 10 to 15 years and includes all transport modes as well as the urban structure and development, ensuring equal mobility opportunities for all population groups.

The sustainable urban mobility plan (SUMP) sets out objectives and specifies implementation measures for basic networks, pedestrian access, cycling infrastructure and public transport.

The plan can be viewed as a process: the content of each module was consulted and secured by a broad and varied approach using initiatives, environmental organisations and stakeholders, transport associations, transport users, major employers, economy, the city region and Land Baden-Württemberg.

The plan will be monitored every two years with each monitoring report reviewed by the City Council and published online.

The challenge for the future of urban mobility

Mobility patterns always depend on settlement layout and land use. The only way to work effectively is to forge a strong connection between urban development, mobility and environmental quality. The challenge lies in achieving a broader understanding of urban mobility.

Urban planning and mobility development must be seen as two sides of the same coin, with transport and mobility as variables dependent on settlement structures and land use.

Mobility must be viewed in social as well as technical terms, focusing on people’s mobility demands and taking their individual life situation into account. Different transport modes must be connected within an overall system.

Urban mobility is currently facing an environment of changing circumstances including climate change, the search for fossil fuel alternatives, the advancing urbanisation and the crisis of public budgets. These are all examples of what will determine the development of transport and mobility in Europe.

Using a wide range of interconnected measures and strategies, it is our challenge to both satisfy the increased demand for individual mobility and to develop a resilient system that meets said challenges. Urban mobility concepts must take particular account of connecting suburban areas, metropolitan areas and cross-border traffic. The cityscape, environmental and social compatibility are vital aspects which also need to be reflected.

The vast range of cultural and economic contexts present a very particular and certainly exciting challenge.

In response to these challenges, a draft action plan will be developed by the end of 2018 and will include:

  • Developing guidelines on infrastructure for active mobility supported by relevant funding
  • Promoting sustainable and active mobility behaviour
  • Reducing diversity of urban vehicle access regulations
  • Exploring the deployment of new mobility services
  • Setting up a European framework for fostering urban mobility innovation
  • Evaluating best practices in convenient access to public transport
  • Scaling up innovative clean buses
  • Reinforcing multi-level cooperation and governance
  • Reinforcing the uptake of sustainable urban mobility planning.

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One response to “Karlsruhe: ensuring the success of future urban mobility”

  1. The historic dual-mode approach (Tram Train) is one that is now, finally, being developed by several companies around the world. Unfortunately, few people know that they exist. However, one can find lots of information about these numerous companies at the innovative transportation Technologies website:

    Two good examples are the RUF system being developed in Denmark ( and the Tracked Electric VEhicle system being developed in Scotland and the USA ( And, there are many more that deserve consideration and evaluation. The basic idea is to solve the “first/last mile” that plagues so many conventional transit systems that are failing to provide high quality service within the many highly-dispersed, polycentric, urban regions around the world, most of which are continuing to expand rapidly.

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