Transport planning in times of crisis

Transport planning in times of crisis using the example of the Covid 19 pandemic

Kerstin Stark, Ariane Kehlbacher, Julia Schuppan and Laura Gebhardt, DLR Institute for Transport Research

Status July 2021

Background to the study

Under what conditions and to what degree does administrative action take place in times of crisis and what challenges and requirements arise for urban and transport planning? The Covid 19 pandemic tests the working capacity of the administration and its resilience. At the same time, the crisis is also perceived as an opportunity and innovative ways of dealing with the crisis are emerging. In this context, the DLR Institute of Transport Research is conducting a study on administrative action in times of crisis with a focus on urban and transport planning.
In qualitative guided interviews, a total of 34 experts from urban and transport planning, political decision-makers, civil society, private and public mobility providers in four German cities (Berlin, Bremen, Stuttgart, Leipzig) as well as national experts were interviewed in the fall of 2020. Factors for the (non-)implementation of temporary measures were identified and three ideal-typical forms of administrative action were developed: the opportunistic, the imitation and the non-action type. As overarching factors influencing the behavior of transport administrations with regard to the implementation of measures on the occasion of the pandemic, we identified work ability and culture, priorities and the need for action, capability and pressure.
Based on this, a survey of decision makers in municipalities in all federal states was conducted in spring 2021 (n=370). The results of the survey show that municipalities often had a need for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure even before the Covid 19 pandemic. It also shows that although the Covid 19 pandemic was perceived by many communities as a window of opportunity to implement temporary bikeways, the level of implementation ultimately tended to depend on whether there were appropriate plans to expand bikeways prior to the pandemic. At the same time, it is evident that the spatial conditions, financial and personnel requirements of the cities are very different and concepts from resource-rich municipalities are not well transferable to other areas. The interest of smaller and medium-sized municipalities in the survey was high, as measured by the response rate and spatial distribution of participants. Personal contacts on the part of the municipalities showed interest in transferring the findings to concepts of sustainable urban and transport development, which is not limited to transferring the experiences of pioneering cities such as Berlin, but uses local specifics to provide impulses for the development of their own concepts.

Consultation with practitioners: practice check

In order to reflect on and expand the findings from the successive surveys, a workshop is to be held together with practitioners and multipliers such as the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu). The workshop program will take into account the specific requirements of different types of municipalities. Based on the results of the surveys, which will be prepared in a target group-oriented manner and presented in the first part of the workshop, a structured discussion will take place. Possible guiding questions are as follows:

  • What measures in urban and transportation planning have been undertaken or at least considered? What kind of measures? How were these implemented, especially with regard to participation? What motivation and what goals were associated with implementation or non-implementation? What role did factors external to the pandemic play, such as public opinion, the political constellation, limiting spatial conditions, etc.? What are previously neglected factors considering different types of communities?
  • What are effects of the temporary measures for the long-term creation of bicycle infrastructure and how are they measured? Is subsequent permanence accelerated by what? Are unconventional measures subsequently combined with conventional ones?