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“Urban and transport planning must go hand in hand for liveable cities.”

Theresa Ramisch

Reinhard Fitz is Head of International Business Development at Doppelmayr Seilbahnen Gmbh and heads up the development of multimodal mobility concepts with ropeways as an integrated transport mode. Photo: Doppelmayr

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The Austrian company Doppelmayr is committed to sustainable mobility worldwide. However, according to Reinhard Fitz, Head of International Business Development at Doppelmayr Seilbahnen GmbH, we are still miles away from the actual mobility revolution. We spoke to him about the liveable city of tomorrow and why we now urgently need leaders to lead the way.

Little capacity and a lot of persuasion

Reinhard Fitz, more than almost any other company, Doppelmayr stands for alternative mobility in a world characterised by motor vehicles. Where do we stand internationally in terms of the mobility revolution?

Internationally, there is still a lot to be done to enable the desired mobility transition. Many megacities do not have the time to develop an appropriate public transport infrastructure. Due to the daily influx into cities, there are major challenges in achieving a mobility transition and high-quality public transport. The pressure on the transport infrastructure, especially the road network, is enormous. The annual increase in traffic figures represents a real challenge for the infrastructure. In addition, the infrastructure is often in need of renovation. This results in a dilemma. On the one hand, traffic should flow, but on the other hand, the flow of traffic is disrupted. We have too little capacity on the roads. And public transport is not always optimised. So we have a lot of catching up to do. Especially in our western world, there is a lot of convincing to be done. Decision-makers in particular should address the issues and requirements of people who commute every day, for example. A new, multimodal, networked mobility world is missing. Developing and promoting this, but also utilising it, should be the goal of everyone. Getting used to the car must be reduced and switching to public transport must be made more attractive.

Optimise traffic flow

In your opinion, what is the greatest potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the mobility sector? Where do we need to take action?

Around a fifth of emissions are caused by mobility. We need to drive forward the expansion of local and long-distance public transport faster and more intelligently. Private transport, which is responsible for around 60 per cent of emissions in the European transport sector, must be significantly reduced. At the same time, efficient and well-connected means of transport such as trains, trams, buses and new transport solutions should be better coordinated. It is always worth investing in additional infrastructure and increasing its attractiveness. Of course, you have to ask yourself: How am I travelling? Do I take the diesel bus or do I go electric? Greenhouse gases don’t just start during the operating phase, but even before that. To cut a long story short: Every contribution counts. By that I also mean pedestrians and cyclists, and their smallest possible footprint. Journeys by bike or scooter and the final miles associated with them must be ensured by taking them on public transport. Concentrating on public transport would relieve the pressure on the roads. In this way, we can enhance the city as a living space. It would significantly increase the quality of life if there were attractive offers in the city. Another control lever is directly related to the price of energy and CO2 pricing. If the price of energy rises, mobility behaviour will change. People would no longer make every journey by car. At the same time, stricter emissions regulations would also mean that not every vehicle would be allowed to enter city centres. The use of intelligent traffic control systems that optimise the flow of traffic helps to reduce congestion and thus minimise CO2 emissions. It is this combination of regulatory, technological and infrastructural improvements that will certainly trigger changes in public perception and influence people’s behaviour.

The public must be interested

How courageous do you think political decision-makers are in the area of mobility?

Far too little. We’re all talking about the mobility transition, climate change and measures to combat climate change. How much longer do we want to wait? Or do we finally dare to take the first steps? We need to act now and create facts in order to get started. In Europe, political decision-making processes are longer due to democratic conditions. And that’s a good thing. But we need leaders who lead the way and say: “We are changing things for the better”. This should be possible through transparent and open communication with the population. I am convinced that if the public interest prevails, then enforceability must be achieved more quickly.

 

Biodiversity and high-quality ecology

Those who are committed to the mobility transition are also committed to climate adaptation measures. Doppelmayr is making a valuable contribution here in the world’s metropolises. At the same time, the company is implementing a large number of projects in ski resorts – and thus in natural areas in the high Alps that are worth protecting. Isn’t this where corporate social responsibility comes in?

At first glance, it may seem that way. At Doppelmayr, we are aware that any new infrastructure that is built in the countryside is an intervention. The regions of longing are there and they attract many people. In most cases, we already have well-developed tourist destinations there. In other words, they are prospering economic regions. The local population would certainly face a challenge if tourism were to disappear. I see the cable car as an infrastructure facility. And the function of the cable car as a means of accessing these Alpine regions for the utilisation of these Alpine regions. We are aware of our responsibility to leave a very small footprint in this sensitive area. And this is exactly what we are focussing on together with our customers. The aim is to have as little impact on nature as possible. When a project is built, it is required by nature conservation law not to worsen the current situation or to compensate for the use of land by means of impact-reducing replacement measures and to comply with previously agreed protection targets. This means that the landscape can recover very quickly after the intervention. High-quality ecology and biodiversity must be present and be in everyone’s interest.

 

Areas for mobility

Doppelmayr also builds automated people movers such as the Cable Liner®. The opening of a corresponding AirTrain in Newark New Jersey, USA, is planned for 2029. Let’s take another look at the USA. The country seems to be making very slow progress when it comes to alternative mobility solutions, but it emits the most greenhouse gases along with China and the EU. How do you rate the transport transition in the USA? Especially in comparison to China?

The USA is not a pioneer when it comes to public transport, but that is due to historical reasons. There are certainly endeavours in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. And changes are being brought about relatively quickly. This is also due to the pressure that they no longer have the necessary transport capacity. But the federal system and, to some extent, political differences in the USA are hindering this.
China has regulations that can be enforced very quickly and that is the differentiating factor. The USA is focussing on technological innovations and new mobility services. The roads are already overloaded. There will be no significant relief. The attractiveness will not increase, the congestion times will not decrease. Commuters will always choose the mode of transport that gets them from A to B the quickest. And China has already done a good job of this with its transport and urban planning, using the world’s fastest growing urban high-speed rail network to quickly realise intercity connections and reserve space for mobility – with no ifs or buts.

 

Unite goals

Between 2030 and 2050, around 250,000 people worldwide are expected to die every year as a result of climate change, including extreme heat. You travel a lot with Doppelmayr in the world’s metropolises. Which systems, innovations and strategies would you like to see more of in international cities?

I am in favour of more greenery and water than concreted areas. Green spaces and windbreaks are absolutely essential in the city. Wind corridors so that the wind can ventilate the city. The heat out and the cold in from the surrounding countryside. Above all, blowing out the smog is a very, very important point in order to achieve better air quality. But this also requires knowledge in the cities. Where are the heat hotspots? We need to loosen up the sealed surfaces and introduce green roofs and façades in order to improve heat build-up and air quality. Then I see opportunities in the strategic orientation of a city. Urban and transport planning go hand in hand. Until now, the two disciplines have been considered separately. This can no longer be the case in future. We need a joint approach in order to accelerate coherent and sustainable development in this area in particular. Dedicating land for different, even mixed uses is becoming increasingly important. How do I handle resources and land resources correctly? Who do I give what share to? Mobility is an important economic factor. The cable car can help with a small footprint on the ground. We can leave the green areas below the cable car in place and therefore have no soil sealing. The cable car route and track can also be designed and planned as a wind and cooling corridor. This combines several objectives.

 

Short vita

Reinhard Fitz
Reinhard Fitz is Head of International Business Development at Doppelmayr Seilbahnen GmbH and leads the development of multimodal mobility concepts with ropeways as an integrated mode of transport. He has over 25 years of experience in the Doppelmayr Group, ranging from project engineer to key account manager, and specialises in project development, project and communication management for urban infrastructure projects and projects with complex project requirements.

 

Doppelmayr Group
The Doppelmayr Group represents in particular quality, technology and market leadership in the construction of ropeway systems for passenger and material transport as well as high-tech intralogistics solutions. The company can look back on 130 years of history and a century of experience in the planning, development, design, production and construction of ropeways. This tried-and-tested technology and the reliability it has achieved have helped to make the ropeway a popular and efficient mobility solution – in ski and excursion areas as well as in cities around the world.

 

www.doppelmayr.com

 

This interview is part of the Beat the Heat initiative, which Doppelmayr supports. Find out more about Beat the Heat here.

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