The three Hamburg students Johanna Ronsdorf, Ines Timm and Johanna Röhr are working intensively on the topic of work - especially on the future of work. And if you want to change your perspective, you have to move. This is why the three HAW Hamburg students recently travelled to New York for their blog "Schichtwechsel".
There is probably no better place for work than the city with its endless canyons of houses. The "capital of the world" is a place for trends and innovations: in 2019 there will be the highest minimum wage in the world, it is one of the top three cities to work in and is synonymous with diversity. The New York metropolitan region is home to around 21 million people who speak over 200 different languages. But for many, the city is also a place of longing where dreams can supposedly come true. At the same time, the hype surrounding New York is also a curse: rents are almost unaffordable, roads are congested and public transport is outdated.
Reason enough for us to ask the three Hamburg women what the mobility situation in New York is doing to them - and what they would like to see in Hamburg in the future and what not.
Johanna, Ines and Johanna - you were in New York for your "Schichtwechsel" project. How did you actually move from A to B within New York? What mobility services did you use?
Johanna Röhr: We actually used all the mobility services that were available to us: Subway, Bus, Uber, Lyft, Taxi, Ferry, City Bikes...
Johanna Ronsdorf: ...except helicopters and a small cable car leading from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island.
Ines Timm: We didn't use car sharing offers either. I once saw a Car2Go, but it seems that there aren't that many. But I didn't pay much attention because I wouldn't want to drive a car in New York myself. The streets are overcrowded and it seems to me as if everyone just drives and walks as they like.
Johanna Ronsdorf: We walked a lot through the city on foot, but that's exhausting in the long run because you have to be so careful: Footpaths and streets are partly in a very bad condition, kerbs are high, there are many potholes, the stairs in the subway are really steep. If you're physically handicapped or if you're travelling as a parent with a pram, it's very difficult here. Elevators and escalators are rare.
How did you perceive the traffic in New York? What impressed you and what fascinated you?
Johanna Ronsdorf: Definitely Uber und Lyft: Very nice drivers, it's easy to handle, very practical and I've only had good experiences so far.
Ines Timm: I think the ferry is great! It's just as expensive as the subway - only more beautiful, easier and less complicated. Besides, you are in the fresh air and have an incredibly beautiful view.
And what scares you off?
Ines Timm: I'm pretty scared that everyone in New York feels like they drive and walk whenever and however they want. Sometimes you think the car driver has red, but he drives anyway. Pedestrians don't even stick to traffic lights. And cyclists also drive over red as a matter of course.
Johanna Röhr: That's why there are often police officers who regulate traffic even when the traffic lights are working. Otherwise no one really follows the rules.
Johanna Ronsdorf: The reason why I only rode a bicycle once in New York. In addition, the cycle paths are poorly developed.
Johanna Röhr: The bikes aren't a bad idea at all - but they're really racing here and nobody has a helmet on. What I also think is really cool are these E-Longboards and E-Rollers. In Germany they are not allowed and clear, also not completely harmless. Especially because distances are hard to estimate. But they are very practical.
Ines Timm: Another real topic of discussion in New York is the subway. We're not the only ones trying to avoid them in rush hour. You can't imagine how crowded they are. In addition, the subways sometimes deviate spontaneously from the normal route and become express subways, skipping the stations.
Johanna Ronsdorf: What bothers me is that the subways are badly signposted. If you find them at all, they often look like normal house entrances. Same station name, but they are completely different lines and departure points. Sometimes you also go to a subway station and it is completely closed - without saying why somewhere.
You have had a lot of contact with people from the USA in the course of your project, especially through the co-living project "WeWork/WeLive". Can you say how the New Yorkers themselves perceive their transport system?
Johanna Röhr: The topic plays a pretty big role here. I'd say people are pretty annoyed overall and resigned at the same time because they can't change anything anyway. Sometimes you are even asked by New Yorkers where the train actually goes.
Johanna Ronsdorf: How you got somewhere or whether the journey was okay is a conspicuously frequent topic, because actually one person always arrives too late. If you can't rely on buses and subways, punctuality is of course difficult. We often called an Uber at the last minute.
Johanna Röhr: I also don't know how to move through this city without the Internet. You can't call yourself over without the net either.
Ines Timm: Many people explain the problems with the fact that the subway is simply already very old. That's also true, it's one of the oldest in the world. One of our interview partners, for example, said that developing countries are further along than New York.
Johanna Ronsdorf: We were also told that the issue plays a major role in the current governor election campaign: Everyone finally wants to make it better.
Now you're back in your home city of Hamburg. Is there anything the Hanseatic city can learn from New York's mobility concepts?
Johanna Röhr: To be honest, I don't think Hamburg can learn much from New York. Mobility is a very big problem in New York, everything is congested and everything is complicated and that puts an enormous strain on this city. We really appreciate Uber and Lyft because they really made life in New York easier for us. However, As far as I know, they aren’t allowed in Germany.
Johanna Ronsdorf: Self-driving cars are a big topic in the USA as a whole. You keep hearing about test programs, especially those that go wrong, like the fatal accident of a cyclist in Arizona. There are supposed to be some test runs in New York before the end of this year.
Ines Timm: My impression is that there are more electric cars on the streets here in New York than in Hamburg. They are very quiet and you have to be extremely careful. Often they are taxis, but we also noticed a lot of Tesla.
Last but not least: Would you do without your own car in Hamburg (or other cities) in the future? And if so, what would it take?
Johanna Röhr: I would do without it if I could spontaneously borrow a car for a day on a sunny Saturday for an affordable price: With a carrier for bicycles, maybe even extendable spontaneously, if you want to stay another night somewhere and it has to be near me. Riding the S-Bahn by bike is always exhausting for me.
Ines Timm: My husband and I don't need it in Hamburg. But in the city where my parents live, there isn't even a train station, so we already have to rely on a car. I used Car2Go for a while, but often we didn't have any available. Once I wanted to reserve a car, but that was only possible for 15 minutes, then I was too far away and it was snatched away. Another car was not nearby. Something like that is annoying then of course.
Johanna Röhr: Honestly, in the end it's not only about the transport, but also about the fun factor. I love to drive a car and above all I love to drive my own car. You always have to get used to new cars and you can leave something in your own car.
Johanna Ronsdorf: I like to drive a car, but it is not an option for me to buy one myself. So far I have always lived in big cities where the public transport was great and I am not dependent on my own car in everyday life. If there is something to transport, or a trip to the lake is planned, I use car sharing. Most of the time it's no time saver to change to a car instead of a bike or subway - after all, a parking asdlot space has to be found.