“Anyone who wants to live in the city without a car, can do it!”…

An interview with Prof. Dr-Ing. Ulrike Reutter, Head of the Public Transport Systems and Mobility Management Department

…says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrike Reutter in a relaxed tone, adding that she has not owned a car since 1988. This apparently gives the lie to all those who don’t even want to consider living without a car. It’s all about careful planning and the will to change, one consequence of which is that when choosing a place to live one considers such things as the ability to get to everyday destinations on foot, by bike or with public transport. It’s also about taking the protection of the environment seriously and putting more thought into alternatives.

And it is in this respect that the spatial planning graduate has brought a plethora of ideas with her to Wuppertal.

She has been heading up the Public Transport Systems and Mobility Management Department since 2015 at the University of Wuppertal’s School of Architecture and Civil Engineering. Broadening the meaning of the term “mobility management” in relation to her own field of research is also the central theme of her current project BMM HOCH DREI (BMM to the power of three or BMM3), which stands for Operational Mobility Management in the Bergisch Tri-City Area. As her research associate Katharina Schmitt enthusiastically reports, the project involves carrying out bespoke analyses of local transportation systems in relation to staff mobility for selected regional enterprises. The results can be used to design and, if necessary, reorganise company transport systems along more efficient and sustainable lines involving, for example the use of local public transport, bicycles or car sharing.

Naturally enough, the university itself is among the organisations analysed during the project. The question is whether students and staff could benefit by modifying their mobility behaviour and whether the resulting changes could even lead to cost savings. In Reutter’s view, this is always possible if the consumers are provided with incentives to change their behaviour. It is at least conceivable that, for example, business trips by University of Wuppertal staff could be completed using public buses and trains or local car sharing schemes thus largely replacing the use of private cars. Car sharing schemes could be established and bicycle stations provided and equipped. There would be less demand for parking spaces and the university could make an appreciable contribution to conservation; one only has to think of the associated reduction in CO2 emissions.

Urban Cable Car

The university maintains friendly relations with the Wuppertal Municipal Utility Works on whose behalf, inter alia, proposals were developed for the improvement of the unique Wuppertal Suspension Railway (Schwebebahn). To this end, Dr. Volker Albrecht, another of Dr. Reutter’s team members, undertook an analysis of the suspension railway rush-hour traffic operations along with his Transport System Economics and Engineering students.

The department has been considering the subject of cable cars since 2014. Dr. Reutter advises a rational approach, particularly in relation to such a hotly debated subject. It is important to address the issues and to find the best possible solutions. For example: What is innovative and special about the new transport system? How would the introduction of a cable car system affect the existing bus network? How would the cable car affect residents and how can potential problems be averted or mitigated?

Among the potential benefits Dr. Reutter cites the high efficiency level of the system, reduced air and noise pollution, the image enhancement for the city as a whole and, of course, the contribution to climate protection.

Do you ride a bike?

And how is your own mobility management? Prof. Reutter is a keen Pedelec (a type of electric bicycle) rider. Whilst she considers the cycle paths in Wuppertal to be very much “worthy of improvement”, she finds Nordbahntrasse (a major road in Wuppertal) simply “fantastic”.

And she is also looking forward to the 21st German Environment and Traffic Convention, a road show which will be presented in Wuppertal for the first time in March 2017 (http://www.buvko.de). Many professors from the Centre of Expertise for Transport at the University of Wuppertal will be participating and the public is also invited to join in. The convention will include a special public engagement forum on the 11th of March at around 17:30 with the active support of the Municipal Department for Public Participation under the leadership Panagiotis Paschalis. And what kind of students are you looking for?

A total of ten professors at the University of Wuppertal are engaged in teaching and research in the core topics of mobility and transportation, Reutter explains. The faculty welcomes applications from young people interested in future-oriented mobility solutions, who wish to take an active part in protecting the environment and who would like to develop rational solutions to emotional problems (e.g., late trains and motorway traffic jams).

It didn’t take long for the mother of two to establish new professional contacts in Wuppertal, and she was quick to use them to benefit her students. She arranged a doctoral study project for her colleague Marko Sonder in collaboration with a car-sharing service provider in Mannheim and Heidelberg, where he is looking into the future of free-floating systems. These are intra-urban, non station dependent car sharing services. Sonder is carrying out research into their impact on consumer behaviour. Addressing the new challenges in her inaugural lecture in July 2016 Dr. Reutter said:

“We need to research, teach and take action!”

And, as this interview has clearly shown, she’s got the know-how!

(Talk from January 2017)

More infos about #uniwuppertal: