Urban mobility: the city of many short-cuts

HafenCity is linked to a complex and efficient transport system. Particular challenges were the intensive user traffic and the district’s island situation; sustainable transport modes have priority

Photo shows the street Am Sandtorkai by night

A complete revamp of transport structures was needed for HafenCity; car drivers now approach the district from the west, via Am Sandtorkai (© ELBE&FLUT) Start slideshow

On foot, HafenCity can be reached from the existing city center in barely ten minutes. Despite the proximity of this new part of town, it requires a complex transport system to integrate it seamlessly into Hamburg’s wider transport structure. After all, in future, every day more than 100,000 people will be moving into and around HafenCity - the challenge is to cope with the resulting traffic volume.

HafenCity is actually an island in the Norderelbe River, which in itself presents particular hurdles to be overcome.  External and internal links have to be created, crossing a total of 25 renovated or newly built bridges. The road system was also reconceived from scratch. The reason: Of course, the former port area had its own functioning infrastructure before, however it was designed for completely different purposes. Originally the focus was on delivering and collecting shipped or produced goods, so that connecting roads did not run in the direction of the city center.  In other words, port and industrial operations were consciously separated from life in the city center. However, integration of HafenCity into the inner city now has top priority.

In fact, HafenCity’s urban location alone is is enough of an advantage to make leaving the car at home a frequent option.  The fine-grained and varied mix of residential and work, leisure and cultural uses, means that everything is close at hand in HafenCity, distances are short, even to the nearby current city center, and can often be covered quickly and easily by bicycle or on foot.Thus footpaths and cycling routes were given special consideration right from the start in transport planning. A very dense network of routes has been laid out, which will be successively expanded as buidings are completed and handed over: pedestrians have two and a half times more kilometers of path at their disposal than motorized users. Spaces in between the many stand-alone buildings often provide public or publicly accessible throughways; pedestrians therefore sometimes have a variety of routes to choose from to the same destination.

In some places, two paths at different levels run in parallel. Although HafenCity’s roads, like the buildings and many cycling and footpaths, are laid out on flood-protected bases between 7.5 and 8 meters above sea-level, quay promenades and some of the squares remain at the historically low level of 4 to 5.5 meters above sea-level. They offer particularly attractive perspectives to the water. The flood-protected bases also have another advantage: their basements provide a total 26,000 underground parking slots. This means that almost all stationary traffic disappears from the cityscape and under the buildings. Although 90,000 car journeys are expected in the district, at least the amount of surface space the stationary private motor vehicles need has been reduced to a minimum. Car drivers and pedestrians or cyclists do not come into contact very often even when they are out and about. Some 70 per cent of foot and cycling paths are separated from motorized traffic, many of them running beside the water. HafenCity is, nevertheless, not an area subject to any restriction on provision of parking spaces, which means that the requisite number have still to be built.

Public transport plays a major role in HafenCity’s infrastructure. The central transport artery is emerging with the new U4 rapid transit line and its links to the Central Station and Berliner Tor station. By fall 2012, the new U4 subway will boast two stations, Überseequartier and HafenCity University. As soon as operation begins, 23,000 people a day are expected to use the line between HafenCity University, Überseequartier and Jungfernstieg. On the new stretch of line it will take just three minutes to travel from Jungfernstieg to the Überseequartier stop. Two long-established underground stops on the U1 and U3 lines are immediately within reach on the northern edge of HafenCity. Another U4 station is to be built north of the Elbe bridges, where it could also join with the rapid transit (S-Bahn) rail line in the medium term.

Bus services operated by Hamburger Hochbahn AG offer particular advantages during the construction phase of the new district. Flexible routing means that bus services can regularly be adapted to the current state of development. Line 6 is already running climate-friendly fuel-cell buses through HafenCity. Meanwhile on the water, end of 2010, HADAG’s ferry line number 62 will be serving Dalmannkai, with further stops to come, for example at HafenCity University. Development of the transport system is therefore keeping pace with that of the district, with new projects getting under way mainly towards the east and south. For example, an additional bridge now links Versmannstrasse, via the Central Wholesale Market site with Amsinckstrasse, which will bring HafenCity considerable relief at transit points. A new tunnel will connect Oberhafenquartier and Am Lohsepark neighborhood, which are at present separated by railroad tracks. The tunnel, to run under the railway embankment from 2012, opens directly onto the north-east exit of the HafenCity University underground station. Thus the tunnel offers both a direct connection to the U4 and access to nearby Lohsepark, HafenCity’s "Central Park".