“Investments in public transport infrastructure was not enough”

Part 1 of the Interview with Dr. Friedemann Kunst, former Head of the Transport Department, in Berlin.

Q: Berlin has been ranked among the most sustainable and liveable cities in the world in recent international indices. In terms of transportation and urban development what was the key to success during your time with the Berlin transport department?

A: The last 15 years I have been involved in transport planning in Germany’s capital. At first I was responsible for integrated transport planning within the State Senate of Berlin. The last seven years I became the head of the Department of Transport. When I started off with transport planning in Berlin we found ourselves in a difficult situation, 10 years after reunification. We spent a large amount of public funds in public transport but we missed most of our targets that were formulated in the 1990ies. This revelation led to a change of mind in the public administration. Focussing on investment in public transport infrastructure has simply not been enough to really make the city more sustainable and liveable. It was my task to draft an integrated strategy that considers a variety of urban development and traffic measures to make exactly that shift. To create a sense of ownership from different spheres of society and from different departments within the Senate’s administration was our main concern right from the start. We knew this was the only way through which the plan would be accepted and implemented. However, agreeing over these measures was a cumbersome task. Politicians, civil society and planners were in strong disagreement about which measures, instruments and goals to pursue. This is why we initiated a round table to inform and educate stakeholders. The integrated plan defines around 100 measures from infrastructure investments, land-use planning to sector organisation. Measures that have been formulated by urban planners in isolation before were included in the planning process for the first time. Handling the retail industry is a good example for issues that required joint urban and transport planning efforts. We saw a general increase in shop size and concentration of shops in the form of malls. Each mall created huge and very local demand for transport. Restricting their size and carefully deciding on their location was a key topic for urban and transport planners. This was the concept of central places which has been pursued jointly by transport and urban planning.

After approval by the Senate the plan has been regularly monitored through clearly defined indicators. For some areas such as non-motorised transport infrastructure we further developed more detailed subsequent plans. These were jointly developed with the district administration to ensure that local concerns and goals were integrated. In the end we could witness an increase of the modal share of cycling from 8% in 2008 to 15% nowadays. This represents an increase beyond the general trend in Germany.


Dr. Friedemann Kunst, former head of the Department of Transport, Berlin Senate for Urban Development, is a civil engineer and urban planner. Inside and outside the public service in Germany, in West-Africa and the United States he has been working on a wide range of projects, aiming at the integration of urban and transportation planning. After reunification of Berlin, Dr. Kunst has been in charge of preparing the new urban development plan for the unified city. Later, he took part in the programming and implementation of major urban development projects, like the well-known „city for science and media Adlershof“. In 2000 Dr. Kunst was commissioned to prepare a new integrated transportation strategy for Berlin. The strategy was adopted by the Berlin government in 2003 updated in 2011 and is being implemented since then.

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