The future city: compact, mobile, urban
We need our car so that we can live and get our car where we can be alone with nature, undisturbed by our kind. And the regional structural policy promotes our striving with good roads, flat rates and allowances. However, a comparison with the cities in our neighboring countries shows that beautiful and livable living does not depend on the car. The desire to live in your own home in a green, quiet location is unbroken and understandable, since the city lacks quality of living in many areas and the escape to the outskirts of the city with your own car, good roads, "home ownership allowance", "mileage allowance" and other things facilitated and even encouraged. However, fleeing to the countryside destroys what you want to gain from it: the closeness to the great outdoors. The more the area around the city is built up with housing estates, the further one has to drive in order to be able to experience an intact landscape. Conversely, the immense disruptions and environmental pollution caused by car traffic in the city are predominantly a direct consequence of this urban exodus and equally lead to new urban exodus.
The counter-model of sustainable settlement and transport development - compact and mixed-function cities in which pedestrian and bicycle traffic as well as public transport and the necessary commercial traffic with motor vehicles have priority - is propagated, but has only just been implemented in practice partially implemented.
The German Institute for Urban Studies (Difu), Berlin, funded by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Berlin, has examined the interactions between settlement development and traffic in selected European cities.
The result of this study is that cities that have long followed the concept of compact cities and environmentally friendly mobility with concepts and strategies are demonstrably more successful than others. Compared to average West German cities, they were able to stabilize their population or even increase it again. The specific land use for settlement and transport purposes is lower. Urban and environmentally friendly mobility by train, bus, bicycle and on foot plays a greater role. The number of cars, car journeys and car kilometers traveled per inhabitant is lower and with it the environmental impact.
For example, the average settlement area (including traffic area) in the city region of Bern is 210 square meters per inhabitant compared to 260 to 300 square meters in comparable German cities. At around 390 per 1,000 inhabitants, the number of cars is also significantly smaller than in comparable German cities with 450 to 500 cars.
But there are also advantages of a "compact city structure and environmentally friendly mobility" strategy from an economic point of view: the city centers are more attractive, costs for the infrastructure (roads, supply lines, etc.) lower, public transport is better utilized and companies are offered good locations at public transport hubs. However, a compact urban structure does not have to mean dreary mass housing. On the contrary - there are many examples of old and new city quarters with medium to high building density, which are generally valued for their quality of life. Even houses with small gardens can be grouped into space-saving forms of development. Important accompanying measures are the upgrading of the living environment and the streets, green courtyards, street trees, playgrounds as well as a general traffic calming and reduction of the number of parking spaces. Settlement structural measures are particularly effective in connection with transport policy and organizational measures. If all of these measures work together, a long-term reduction in car traffic of around 20 to 30 percent could be achieved.
The trends in settlement development are still going in a direction that is definitely not sustainable. A trend reversal also requires the reform of overarching – state – framework conditions. Such framework conditions in need of reform include, for example, the promotion of housing construction and home ownership, economic development and regional structural policy, which usually tend to favor building in the countryside rather than promoting inner-city development. The construction of federal trunk roads, the obligation to build parking spaces, the mileage allowance and other tax benefits tend to stand in the way of a positive development. The most important framework-setting reform projects for better control of settlement and transport development also include a general tax on resource consumption, such as an appropriate tax on the use of land in previously undeveloped countryside and higher taxation on energy consumption.