Committed to the environment (3): How can mobility and nature conservation be reconciled?

Mobility needs and environmental concerns are not necessarily conflicting goals. The transport experts of PTV Transport Consult GmbH stand for concepts that take both aspects into account. Photo: Charly Ebel, Black Forest National Park

Environmental protection is playing a greater role than ever in traffic and transport planning. Of course, this applies especially to projects that have to deal with both transport-related needs and nature conservation, such as the Black Forest National Park Transport Study. This project was conducted by PTV Transport Consult together with local and regional actors as well as other experts. The recommendations are now being implemented gradually. We interviewed Dr. Wolfgang Schlund, who runs the Black Forest National Park jointly with Dr. Thomas Waldenspuhl.

Compass: Dr Schlund, you are the Director of the Black Forest National Park and, before taking up this role, you set up and developed the Ruhestein Nature Conservation Centre. Together with Dr. Waldenspuhl, you make key decisions regarding the development of the national park. Additionally, you have significantly contributed to the National Park Transport Study, which is also part of the overall National Park Plan. How important is the transport study for the national park and the region?

The Black Forest National Park is headed by Dr. Wolfgang Schlund and Dr. Thomas Waldenspuhl, who are responsible for all important decisions concerning the National Park.

Dr. Wolfgang Schlund: Great importance was attached to a well elaborated transport and travel concept as part of the National Park Plan. The popular Black Forest scenic route (Schwarzwaldhochstraße) has always been characterised by a lot of motorised private transport. Traffic conditions are critical along this route, particularly on busy days with a lot of visitors. Therefore, it is important to promote sustainable mobility throughout the entire national park region – to the benefit of both people visiting the park and those living next to it. Public transport must become more attractive so that more people use the bus instead of their own car.

Compass: So, automobile access to the National Park should be limited, while maintaining people’s mobility in the region – be it visitors or residents. Is it possible to reconcile mobility and environmental protection?

Dr. Wolfgang Schlund: There are various user groups that need to be taken into consideration: from freight transport operators, hikers, tourists and day visitors to residents and commuters. Their different needs must be aligned with the concerns of nature conservation and environmental protection. Both visitors and people living in this region want less traffic and less noise, but also good mobility. And this is also what we are aiming for.

Compass: The transport study serves as a basis for the implementation of all subsequent decisions. What are the current implementation measures?

Dr. Wolfgang Schlund: Project coordination and implementation are very time-consuming as there are multiple actors involved. Therefore, we are pleased that the administrative districts, one municipal district and the Department of Transport of the Federal State of Baden-Wuerttemberg recently issued a joint declaration of intent concerning the operation of four so-called Regiobuses. They will operate as soon as the National Park Centre opens its doors. The official opening ceremony is scheduled to take place in Autumn 2020. This will definitely improve our public transport services.

In addition, it is planned to provide more feeder lines in order to connect the valleys (scheduled for Spring 2021). At the same time, we are working on parking space management, digital traffic control and motorcycle noise displays. Another important step is to establish the position of a ‘caretaker’ for the implementation of the transport concept. The new concept affects three administrative districts, one municipal district, three transport associations and two regional councils, which makes project implementation quite challenging. Creating a full-time position for an implementation manager would be very helpful and would assist us in developing the region in a sustainable manner.

Photo: Charly Ebel, Black Forest National Park

Compass: The study was accompanied by a comprehensive participation concept. Not only specialists and political actors were involved, but also the local population. What were the most important findings?

Dr. Wolfgang Schlund: Traffic affects the lives of a large number of people and is therefore an important topic for public discussion. The expansion of public transport services and the reduction of traffic noise, especially motorcycle noise, were key topics of the public debate. The Schwarzwaldhochstraße is a popular route for motorcyclists. However, this popularity also has a negative effect, i.e. the people living in the valleys are exposed to environmental noise, which is mainly due to inappropriate behaviour of a few road users, who drive too fast for the prevailing conditions and often do not take this route in order to visit the National Park.

Compass: The expansion and further development of public transport in this region is a central element of sustainable mobility. Will it be possible to encourage the visitors to use public transport instead of their own vehicles, and thus contribute to promote sustainable mobility?

Dr. Wolfgang Schlund: The Ministry of Transport is currently focussing on the expansion of local public transport in order to increase access to and use of public transport while reducing private transport. That’s very helpful. Awareness-raising and a change in behaviour cannot be achieved by running an additional bus at the weekend.

In addition, it is required to offer incentives and set restrictions. For example, a bus ticket must be cheaper than local parking fees. So parking spaces at the new National Park Centre would then no longer be free of charge.

And a bus ride should be fun. If you have a great panoramic view during your journey, get interesting information about the national park and don’t have to worry about finding a parking space, it will be more attractive for visitors to take the bus instead of using their own vehicle. We also need clearly structured services.

The current service offerings are very confusing and complex. If you don’t know the area, you have to invest a lot of time to find your way around. The planned mobility information platform, which is tailored to meet the requirements of the visitors, will therefore be an ideal communication tool.

Black Forest National Park Transport Study

The aim of the study ‘Creation of a digitally based traffic & transport concept for a modern and sustainable mobility of the future covering the entire national park region, also serving as a model for other rural areas of Baden-Wuerttemberg’ is to ensure environmentally friendly and sustainable mobility. A central element is a joint information system which aims at enhancing public transport and controlling motorised private transport. The study was commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg and conducted by PTV together with its partners raumobil GmbH, Media Seven GmbH and PwC AG.

Find out more:
Committed to the environment (1): How ecological can transport planning be?
Committed to the environment (2): Is public transport always climate-friendly?