September 16, 2021
Berlin's parliamentary elections are coming up - What politicians are planning for the coming legislature
Berlin’s parliamentary elections are coming up –
What are politicians planning for the upcoming legislature?
Read this article in German.
Just in time for the parliamentary elections in Berlin, we gave the spokespersons for transportation policy in the Berlin House of Representatives – Tino Schopf (Social Democratic Party, SPD), Oliver Friederici (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) and Harald Moritz (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen English: Alliance 90/The Greens) – the opportunity to assess the policies of the expiring legislative period, as well as provide an outlook for the coming years. Unfortunately, Henner Schmidt (Free Democratic Party, FDP) was unable to attend.
The legislative period is coming to an end. In less than two weeks there are elections for the House of Representatives. How do the three experts look at the current state of mobility? Where do they see the most urgent opportunities for improvement?
All three are in agreement: Some things have been achieved, but there is still more than enough room for improvement.
Public transportation must be expanded further and its frequency and range must be increased. For The Greens, this comes down to social and ecological reasons: “This way, the ecological change also becomes a social one and we are then offering the many commuters good opportunities to switch from private cars” (Harald Moritz, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). Bicycles and cycle paths also need to be pushed – it is especially clear for the SPD and Die Grünen that the combustion engine will have to “lose its exclusive position in road traffic” (Tino Schopf, SPD), particularly since car ownership among Berliners is far below the national average anyway (Harald Moritz, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). The CDU continues to call for the much-discussed expansion of the A100 highway.
The SPD specifically criticizes the speed with which transport policy projects are implemented in Berlin. “Berlin must get its transport projects implemented much faster than it currently does. The construction of cycle paths will start in two years at the earliest. This is also due to long planning phases, which are caused, among other things, by plans being repeatedly discarded, such as with the Panke Trail. These are delays that we cannot afford.” In addition, many responsibilities within transport policy lie with the federal government.
With the federal elections just around the corner, how do the CDU, SPD and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen plan to realize these potential improvements during the next legislative period?
For the CDU, one thing is clear: “There must be more funding for the maintenance and expansion of the transport infrastructure”. Tino Schopf (SPD) also criticizes the issue of financing. However, this was also partly self-made: Berlin had largely come away empty-handed in terms of federal funding because the state had not submitted any project applications “It is annoying when funds do not flow. In the case of the tramway, funds have not yet been used because the routes we had specified in the coalition agreement could not yet be realized.”
The SPD and the Greens also agree that the expansion of public transportation will be crucial within the next legislative period. To this end, the Greens are calling for a cycle for the entire public transport system in the capital, which would mean five-minute intervals in densely populated areas and ten-minute intervals in less densely populated areas. Additionally, the current government has increased the number of staff for bicycle planning from three to seventy. As a result, the construction of the first high-speed bicycle links is to begin within the next legislative period.
What transport policy demand must not be missing from the next coalition agreement?
For the Greens: “Local public transportation is the backbone of the transportation revolution. We must continue to expand it throughout Berlin and into the surrounding areas, and we are calling for intervals between five and maximum ten minutes throughout the city.”
Tino Schopf (SPD) also argues: “For us as the SPD and for me as a transport politician, it is particularly important to push ahead with the expansion and further development of Berlin’s rapid transit network. We cannot afford to have another legislative period without making any advances with planning when it comes to the subway.”
The CDU referred to the announced implementation of its “Berlin Plan”. As part of this plan, mobility is prioritised in second place after education, and the topics of strengthening public transportation, having a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly city, improving individual transportation and our initiative Smart City are in the foreground.
What political influence opportunities do you see as particularly useful with regard to the issue of reducing emissions?
For the SPD, the following applies: “Reduce CO2 emissions wherever possible. Concretely, this means that in the long term, the gasoline-powered car will no longer be able to enjoy the status it currently enjoys. We must prioritize the expansion of public transportation wherever possible. The future of mobility lies with subway trains, trams, and e-buses, paired with secondary forms of mobility for “the last mile”, such as e-scooter offerings and rental bikes at certain hubs. The car-sharing model can complement this mix, but not substitute it.”
The Greens go a step further by wanting combustion engines to disappear from the city center by 2030 and from all of Berlin by 2035. The remaining vehicles are to be operated with zero emissions. The Greens support the switch to electric vehicles and the development of charging infrastructure. Parking space management is also to be expanded throughout Berlin and fees are to be raised.
For the CDU, on the other hand, the motto is “transport options, instead of bans.” According to Friederici, this is only possible with cooperation between all modes of transport and mobility needs, rather than in opposition to each other, as has been the case in the last almost five years of Berlin transport policy under the SPD, the Greens and the Left.
A look at electromobility: Where should Berlin be at the end of the next legislative period in 2026?
According to Moritz (The Greens), Berlin should become a pioneer of electromobility - both in private and commercial transportation. “In order for people to use climate-friendly electromobility, there needs to be a comprehensive infrastructure.” If the Greens have their way, 1,000 additional publicly accessible charging points will be built annually in the city by 2030, further to the federally funded fast-charging hubs and publicly accessible private charging facilities. Also, the electrification of the so-called “last mile” in commercial transport to the front door or store via local hubs would be promoted, as well as the expansion of electric facilities for inland and passenger ferries.
The SPD takes a similar view and stresses that policymakers must create framework conditions to promote electromobility. According to Schopf (SPD), 20,000 new, public charging points are needed by 2030.
The CDU also believes that “the charging infrastructure must be significantly improved in Berlin (and Brandenburg).” It needs more parking spaces and, in the public sector, more efficient use of the charging points, according to Friederici (CDU).