Category Archives: CBD

Post card from Osnabruck

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Osnabruck is a city of 164,374 people, with an area of 120 km2, a population density of 1,400 people per km2 (ppkm2) and an elevation of 63m. Hamilton is a city of 169,300 people, with an area of 110 km2, a population density of 1,500 ppkm2, and an elevation of 40m.

Altstadt (Old Town) Osnabruck covers an area of 1.71 km2 and houses nearly 9,000 people in apartments or houses in the city centre, giving a density of just over 5,000 people per km². Compare this to what the Hamilton Central City Transformation Plan tells us: the Hamilton central area is 1.29 km2, and is home to 3,000 people, giving a density of 2,325 people per km2. So like Altstadt Dusseldorf, the safety benefit of a 24-hour ‘eyes on the street’ population in Hamilton central is half that of Altstadt Osnabruck.

Osnabruck has a university (opened in 1974) with a population of 11,000 students and 1,858 staff. Waikato University (established in 1964) has 9,900 Students and 1,480 staff. In Osnabruck the distance between the city centre campus and suburban campus is 2 km. Waikato University to Garden Place is 4 km. I counted 10 schools in Altstadt Osnabruck. Hamilton has 4 in the central city area if you count Hamilton West School. Altstadt Osnabruck is lively during the day and well into the evening and feels like the living/dining room of the city, rather than a business centre.

During the Second World War, the inner city was badly hit by aerial bombardments, and 94% of it was destroyed. The northern part of the Altstadt still offers a historic view, partly through restorations, but the rest is a mix of post-WW2 building styles. Point to note: where there was more bike parking there were more people.

What I did not see here in the city centre was fields of car parking like in Hamilton, even though motor vehicles are seen in the city centre in the morning. It appears to me they need to have a reason to be there. It is also clear that people have the right to dominate centre city streets, and we can see the benefits of this ‘people first’ approach by looking at their improving travel mode split: 2010 (2008) Car 53 (55), PT 16 (15), Bike 12 (11), Walk 19 (19).

What helps the improving mode shift to biking is the use of good width cycle lanes. Also, many of the intersections are similar to the Dutch ‘sustainable Safety’ thinking: ‘Obstacle-free zones are the most important in this respect’. The evidence that this is working can be seen by the fact that parents allow their children to bike to school.

Osnabruck has also increased the number of people using public transport. The Osnabruck bus network is 425 km long, divided into 24 lines, with 151 scheduled and special vehicles, has more than 800 stops and is used by about 36 million passengers. Hamilton’s urban bus network* has 26 routes (p22*) (5 Satellite routes) (p25*) and an urban patronage of 4.6m (p26*) (Regional patronage 1.7m). Interestingly, Osnabruck uses these bus trailers. I do not know what to think of these; I have ridden in many types of bus and I should of try this but didn’t. From my observations, people were using them.

Hamilton’s bus service is good but under-performing. If has the potential to move 5 times the current number of people when benchmarked against Osnabruck. We have a praiseworthy network and a nice bus fleet in place; the key here is frequency. As you can see, Osnabruck and Hamilton are very similar in many ways, but to me Osnabruck feels like it is ahead of us. We need to change faster.

Wuppertal Introduction

This city is both poly-centric and a linear city. Along its axis is the 13km-long suspension railway (Schwebebahn), with around 65,000 passengers each day using its 20 stations. Alongside this is the heavy rail line with 400 train journeys daily through 9 stations, and below these is the B7 German federal highway. Crossing all of them is the Sonnborner cross-motorway junction, which at the time of its opening in 1974 was considered the largest inner-city motorway intersection in Europe. This place is very well connected.

The city is said to have no clear centre. It has two major urban centres (Elberfeld and Barmen) and five other districts, which are predominantly small towns with their own centres. The city of Wuppertal was not actually governed by a single city council until 1929, when 5 smaller cities united, then in 1975 it divided into 9 municipalities or boroughs, which are further divided into 69 districts for statistical purposes. (Hamilton is divided into 44 areas by Census NZ).

Wuppertal claims to be the greenest city in Germany, and is said to have two-thirds green space in the total municipal area. From any part of the city, it is only a ten-minute walk to one of the public parks or woodland paths. Here is an explanation of how it is measured. In total, 29% (4858 hectares) of the urban area is forest and open spaces, 7.8% (1318 hectares) consists of parks and green space, and 21% (about 3500 hectares) is used for agriculture. In addition, there are about 8000 allotments on 380 hectares and 46 cemeteries on an area of ​​160 hectares. The Wupper River also now flows clean and is alive with wild life, unlike two decades ago when schools would need to close because of the bad smell coming from it. As a benchmark of how green Hamilton is: ‘Currently, Hamilton has around 2% indigenous habitat cover.(p28) … at least 10% (preferably 20%) of remnant habitat cover is needed across a landscape to protect biodiversity and maintain the functions of ecosystems (p44)’. From: Community, Services and Environment Committee 30 Oct 2018

A bit of history on the cities of Elberfeld and Barmen, which together boasted 189,489 inhabitants in 1880, then the conurbation was regarded as the sixth largest city in the German Empire after Berlin, Hamburg, Breslau, Munich and Dresden. Cologne (144,772 inhabitants), Dusseldorf (95,458) and all cities of the Ruhr were well down in the bottom rankings.

From 1874 a horse tramway served the local traffic needs of the valley. But the local traffic problems continued to increase. In June 1903, the suspension railway opened. Bench-mark this against the world’s first electric elevated railway, which started in 1893 in Chicago when its population  was over 1 million; in 2012, the average number of weekday boardings on the Chicago Green Line was 70,554.  The Chicago model was proposed for partner towns along the Wupper River, but there were protests from the horse tramway company and a public discussion on the possible disfigurement of the cityscape, so the Schwebebahn was built.

What we need to ask ourselves is can we take on a project like this? Hamilton city is moving toward the population that Elberfeld and Barmen had 100 years ago. The people of these cities allowed themselves to let their interests overlap into each other’s cities. Even more impressive is the fact at a regional level the ‘Verkhrsverbund* Rhein-Ruhr’ (VRR) rail and ticketing extends into neighbouring regions and a neighbouring country (The Netherlands). Now look at the Hamilton to Auckland link. Our leaders have been living in silos and only recently allowed themselves to think about the overlapping benefits public transport links give to the regions. They now need to be ambitious. In 1887, the Elberfeld and Barmen councillors chose a ‘commission for examining the project of an elevated railway.’ Sixteen years and 16 million gold marks later the Wuppertal Schwebebah begain providing Wuppertal a public transport service, which has now been in operation for over a hundred years. (*means ‘Transport network’)