First results

The transport transition affects metropolitan regions in particular. But how exactly socio-technical transformation processes of the transport system can occur here is still uncertain. Real experiments shall help to learn more about how the transport transition can also succeed in cities. More and more people are being drawn to urban areas, but the quality of life here is significantly reduced due to noise, air pollutants and lack of movement.  Public space, which is a scarce resource in cities and is associated with different demands for use, also plays a major role here. In the inner city of Berlin, for example, less than half of the households have a car and the majority of daily trips (82%) are made on foot, by bicycle or public transport (source: SrV 2013). At the same time, the inner-city image is dominated by cars in many places. This raises the question of how public space can be designed to benefit as many people as possible and promote active mobility.


In order to increase the urban quality of stay, create public spaces for city dwellers* and enable health-promoting movement, an intersection in Berlin Charlottenburg was transformed into a city square for five weeks in the fall of 2020 as part of EXPERI. Through participatory formats and joint design activities, the neighborhood was encouraged to contribute and implement their own ideas and design wishes. The temporary transformation of the public space was accompanied with the help of qualitative and quantitative methods. The results of the large-scale household survey are presented below.


In order to investigate the use and acceptance of the temporary town square, two household surveys were conducted. Before the intersection was transformed into a town square, information along with a questionnaire was distributed in the adjacent four blocks. In addition, households were surveyed again after the temporary town square was completed. In each case, 1,763 households in the surrounding streets were asked to participate in the written household survey. 204 people participated in the first wave of the survey and 263 people participated in the second wave, resulting in response rates of 12% and 15%, respectively. This result can be classified as expected leaning to good, given this was a written survey.

 

Figure 1: Study area of the household surveys of the temporary town square (google maps 2021).

Participant profiles

Based on the socio-demographic data, it can be seen that the respondents are composed of mostly one- and two-person households, have high educational qualifications and tend to be older. For example, just under a quarter of respondents are families, and age groups 40 and older are overrepresented compared to the population of the Schlossstrasse planning area, as shown in Figure 1.

 

Figure 2: Age distribution in the Schlossstraße planning area and in the second survey wave of the temporary city square (data: DLR 2020, Office for Statistics Berlin-Brandenburg).

More than two-thirds of respondents have at least one car in their household and 20% have their own car parking space. Compared to the average of households living in the inner city of Berlin (such as within the Berlin S-Bahn ring), the car ownership rate is thus somewhat higher, as here less than half of the households have a car (source: SrV 2013). Nevertheless, the mobility of the respondents is primarily characterized by walking and cycling.

Views on the temporary city square and the use of public space

In the first wave of the survey, the question was asked as to how the public space should be divided in general and which road users should get the most space. Here, respondents were relatively unanimous that pedestrians should be given most of the space. 79% wanted to attribute most of the space to pedestrian traffic, which for example  is also in line with a survey conducted by the ADAC in large cities.  Here, 42% of respondents fully agreed that space for traffic in the city should be redistributed in favor of pedestrians and cyclists (ADAC 2020). Another 34% partially agree with this statement.

When asked about their opinion on the temporary town square, 42% expressed a positive attitude and 13% a neutral attitude. At the same time, 43% of respondents have a negative view of the temporary town square and 2% have not (yet) formed an opinion (Figure 3). If at least one car is available in the household, the opinion on a temporary city square is less positive than among households without their own car. Nevertheless, it can be seen that just under half of the respondents with a car in the household still have a positive or neutral view of the city square. The gradation based on age groups is particularly interesting. The older the respondents are, the more the positive opinion of the town square decreases. In the 18 to 29 age group, more than two-thirds rate the town Squsre positively, whereas in the 75 and older age group, less than one-third have a positive opinion. Given that younger age groups are underrepresented in the survey (see Figure 2), if the age groups were more representative, positive opinions would be expressed even more strongly. For example, families' scarce time resources could lead to less frequent participation in the household survey (Source 1).   At the same time, the declining approval with increasing age makes it clear that, in the event of a redesign, the needs of older people in particular should also be taken into account in order to create spaces that can be used by a diversity of people as part of an intergenerational urban development.   

Source 1: Schnell, Rainer. Nonresponse in population surveys: extent, development and causes. Opladen 1997.Schnell, Rainer/Hill, Paul B./Esser, Elke. Methods of empirical social research. Munich 2013.Stoop, Ineke/Billiet, Jaak/Koch, Achim/Fitzgerald, Rory. Improving Survey Response: Lessons learned from the European Social Survey. Chichester 2010

 

Figure 3: Evaluation of the temporary town square (data: DLR 2020).