Transport turnaround in Hamburg: This is how mobility in the Hanseatic city is changing

Climate protection, accessibility, safety, liveable public space: there are plenty of good reasons for a transport turnaround. In this article we will show you how it’s going in Hamburg and what’s planned for the future.

Brief definition of the transport turnaround

The transport turnaround describes a major process of change. The aim is to make traffic and mobility generally more sustainable and safer for the environment and people. Social justice with regard to participation in mobility also plays a crucial role. Thus, the transport turnaround is not just a project to reduce the climatic impact of transport – it also has the goal of rethinking and redesigning social living space.

At its core, the transport turnaround is understood to be based on three fundamental principles: 

  • Avoid: One goal should be to increasingly shorten routes. Traffic routes can be planned in such a way that total journey length is shortened and traffic is thus reduced.
  • Shift: Routes that cannot be avoided should be shifted to means of transport that generate less CO2. For example, it makes more sense for more people to use public transport instead of cars.
  • Improve: Technological advances in existing modes of transport are also expected to drive change. The best example here is probably the increasing relevance of e-drives for passenger cars – a previously common technology is thus being replaced by a solution that generates less CO2.

The current situation in Hamburg

Traffic in Hamburg is currently still heavily dominated by cars. According to data from the MOIA accompanying research, in 2019 car traffic in the urban area accounted for 25.2 percent of domestic traffic. The share of public transport was 23.9 percent and cycling accounted for 14.5 percent. 26.5 percent of journeys are made on foot and 9.8 percent are made by other means of transport (e.g. taxi, sharing services or car passengers).

Public transport in Hamburg is supplemented by various sharing services for cars, bicycles and scooters. Operators are partly private companies but also include, for example, Deutsche Bahn. In addition, ridepooling-services, such as MOIA, are increasingly ensuring that the public transport network becomes even more efficient.

All in all, Hamburg already has a very diverse range of means of transport – yet, there is still a lot to be done for a mobility turnaround:

  • In 2019, the HVV carried a total of 796 million passengers (a record until the Corona pandemic). Nevertheless, Hamburg is still the German traffic jam champion. Drivers have to allow around 31 percent more time for their journeys.
  • The number of car registrations in the Hanseatic city is growing. In 2021 the number of motor vehicles amounted to 943,917. For comparison: In the whole of Schleswig-Holstein there were 2,096,039 at the same time, about twice as many.

These are the approaches to achieving a mobility turnaround in Hamburg

The city of Hamburg still has a lot to do to achieve a mobility turnaround, but many plans and measures have already been initiated to that end:

Plans for public transport

Public transport also plays a central role in shaping the transport transition in Hamburg. By 2030, its share of total transport use is to be 30 per cent – efforts to achieve this are summarised under the term “Hamburg rhythm”. There are several expansion and extension plans for existing city railway and underground lines. In addition, a completely new line is to be created with the U5, which will run from Bramfeld via the city centre to Volkspark.

Since 2020, the bus operators VHH and Hochbahn have been required to order exclusively zero-emission buses. As a result, the entire fleet of around 1,500 vehicles should be able to operate completely without pollutant emissions from 2033 onwards.

Hamburg wants to become a cycling city

Away from the car, to the bicycle. The Hanseatic city is following the example of metropoles such as Amsterdam and Stockholm. Cycling in Hamburg will be made even more attractive and safer in the future. Several hundred kilometres of new bike paths are to be built and existing ones repaired. Wide lanes and structural separations from car traffic, among other things, are intended to improve the situation.

Currently, the bicycle route network in Hamburg covers a total distance of around 280 kilometres, divided into 14 official routes. According to the city of Hamburg, “most routes are almost continuously passable”. In the future, these are to be more clearly signposted and equipped with suitable floor markings. Evidently, there is still room for improvement in the area of cycle traffic in the form of construction work.

Another major project are the cycle expressways. From 2018 to 2021, feasibility studies were carried out for a total of nine routes throughout the Hamburg metropolitan region. These have now been completed, so all that remains is the implementation. These traffic arteries should make it even easier and safer for cyclists to get from A to B. According to the plans, the expressways will be separated from car traffic and wide enough so that everyone can ride at their own pace and easily overtake when necessary.

Reduction of car traffic through residents' parking zones and traffic calming

One current measure to have fewer cars in the city, are resident parking zones. They have already been set up in several places. In Altona's old town this has already led to an improvement in parking space utilisation. In Ottensen the effects are not yet as marked. Nevertheless, the parking zones are also seen by residents as a good means of making residential areas more attractive again.

Furthermore, in 2020 the Senate ensured that Jungfernstieg will be largely car-free. The area is completely closed to private cars. This creates more space for pedestrians and cyclists, which will also increase the attractiveness of the city centre.

Promotion of further mobility services

Hamburg's streets are also increasingly home to new mobility services that provide a useful addition to public transport - our MOIAs are part of this. One positive factor is that politicians work closely with companies in this respect. This is meant to ensure that all modes of transport complement each other in a meaningful way, rather than competing with each other.

Our service is already very well received. An important building block for the future will be the autonomous driving of our fully electric MOIA vehicles . As the mobility transition progresses, automated vehicles will be one of the key technologies within the MOIA fleet. The great advantage here is scalability, which means we can gradually put more and more vehicles on the roads. This should help to improve the coverage of the public transport network by supplementing it and generally help create an efficient, cost-effective mobility offer.


Transport and traffic in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein:

According to the study, Hamburg remains the capital of traffic jams:

Passenger numbers in the Hamburg public transport system (HVV) until 2020:

Cycle expressway network. Getting to work or studies with a tailwind:

Resident parking zones in Hamburg's districts: Traffic is declining:,bewohnerparken110.html

Network expansion in the hvv:

For example, cycle expressways are to connect Hamburg with the surrounding countryside:,radschnellwege144.html

Hamburg's Jungfernstieg will be largely car-free: