Opening Pik
 Rendering of Hamburg’s OlympiaCity. Source: Olympic Sustainability Concept 

Earlier this month, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg released its mobility plan for its bid for the 2024 Olympics. Competing against Paris, Rome, and Los Angeles, Hamburg, a city of “only” 1.8 million people might seem like the underdog. However, Hamburg is boasting its waterfront beauty, long summer days, and most of all, it is setting itself apart by stressing the sustainability of its Olympic plan.

It is generally recognized that sustainability has three spheres (or pillars, or legs of a stool): economic, social, and environmental. In the Declaration of Intent between the Naturschutzband Deutschland (Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union), the Zukunftsrat Hamburg (the Hamburg Future Council), the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, and the Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund (German Olympic Sports Confederation), aspects of the sustainability plan were outlined. Economically, Hamburg is ensuring that temporary structures not become a burden on the city coffers. Socially, the City will use its contracting leverage to promote social inclusion, equal opportunity, good working conditions and international solidarity. Environmentally, Hamburg would use the Olympic Games as a tool for sustainable city planning, mobility, climate change mitigation and adaptation, greenspace protection, reducing water and air pollution, resource efficiency, und sustainable consumption and production. Overall, the goal of the Hamburg Olympics is to be carbon-neutral and to retain green spaces.

Taking a deeper dive into the mobility plan, the base assumptions are that the players and spectators get to their games, that the City keeps running as usual, and that the Port, the second biggest in Europe, operates without disturbance. In addition, through traffic and mobility management and ITS, the goal is to actually decrease traffic by 10%.

With these goals in mind, how does a city develop a mobility plan for the Olympics at all? Starting with the numbers:

  • 7,500,000 tickets
  • 4,000,000 spectators (600,000 per day)
  • 200,000 employees and volunteers
  • 70,000 IOC, media, and support
  • 10,500 athletes

So, per day that means about 850,000 additional people to move. Because of the lack of hotel space in Hamburg, the City estimates that about 20% of these 850,000 will come from the city of Hamburg, another 20% from a large ring around Hamburg (stretching to the Baltic Sea), and 20% more from other locations within Northern Germany. Another 30% will come from the rest of Germany, and the other 10% will come from other European countries or from overseas.

Where Olympic-goers will be coming from. Source: Behörde für Wirtschaft, Verkehr und Innovation (BWVI)

Once in Hamburg, the goal is that 79% of spectators will use public transportation to reach their destinations. An additional 13% should arrive by bike or foot. That alone is extremely ambitious, but since most destinations are close to the urban rail system, it is not out of the question. And luckily, most of the 850,000 people per day are expected to travel outside the normal peak hour.

Modal Split for Olympic-goers within Hamburg. HVV = Public transportation, MIV = Private autos for persons with disabilities, Fußverkehr = Pedestrians, Radverkehr = Bicycle, Reisebusse = Tour busses. Source: BWVI

In order to be able to move this many people, Hamburg is preparing to invest in several kinds of improvements, including:

  • Temporary infrastructure, like airport and tourbus parking
  • New infrastructure for the Olympics that will remain permanent, such as extra entrances/exits to specific subway and train stations, ferry stations, and bridges; building out and expanding bicycle infrastructure and sidewalks, and extending a subway line
  • Speeding up capacity improvement projects that have already been planned for normal operations, for example extending urban rail lines, renovating and modernizing major train stations including accessibility improvements (making all stations ADA accessible, such as elevators)
  • Capacity-improving operations, such as more frequent buses and trains and larger vehicles
  • Transportation and Mobility Management, for example ITS
Non-comprehensive map of temporary improvements (purple), pre-planned capacity improvements (green), and improvements that will be built for the Olympics but will remain permanently (red). Source: BWVI

Hamburg released a list of specific improvements (in German). Because most of the locations are very close to the current rail systems, most of the improvements are rail-focused. However, 280 additional buses are to be used during the games, some bus transfer stations will be expanded, and there will be improvements to several Metrobus corridors (bus routes with a minimum 10 minute headway throughout most of the city). Some corridors would see up to 42,000 bus riders per direction between 5pm and 6pm alone, which will necessitate roadway management plans in addition to bus infrastructure improvements. There will also be an extension of one of the ferry lines with an increased frequency of 3-5 minute headways.

3 Zones
Because of the small number of hotels in Hamburg, Olympic-goers will most likely come from these 3 Potential “Transit Zones.” Source: BWVI

Because travelers will not only be coming from within Hamburg, but even from throughout Germany, the question of transit ticketing must come up. While there is no firm decision on this, options include a Kombi-Ticket (included with an Olympic ticket for spectators and employees/volunteers), a flat rate for all users, or something more akin to the standard HVV rates, which have been accused of being extremely complicated. Then it must be calculated how funds brought in would be distributed to the different transit provider companies.

Hamburg Veloroute Network – High priority corridor bicycle network. Source: BWVI

The Hamburg Senate has already set the goal of increasing the bicycle mode share to 25% by 2025 (from 12.8% in 2008) for all trips (not just commuting trips). The current plan is to construct a Veloroute network of uninterrupted bicycle paths throughout the city like a spider web. In addition, Hamburg is also planning on installing more bike racks at train stations and expanding its bikeshare system. Especially for the Olympics, the city has designated an Olympic bicycle network, which would include paving the sides of cobblestone streets and Olympic wayfinding. The bikesharing system would be temporarily expanded, and more bicycle parking will be installed.

Oly Bike network
Non-comprehensive maps of bicycle and pedestrian improvements for the Olympics. Purple = Temporary, pre-planned = green, permanent but planned for the Olympics = red. Source BWVI

The city is also planning on making most of the inner city (where most of the Olympic foot traffic would be) completely ADA accessible by 2024. According to the Olympic pedestrian network connecting various Olympic sites and the inner city, some sidewalks would be temporarily widened by moving bicycle traffic to the Olympic Lanes.

Private vehicle traffic and congestion would be optimized through specialized routes and lanes for the Olympic Special Transport (official Olympic business), mobility management, and identifying an Olympic Route System to prevent any construction or other delays. Additionally, a planned widening and burying of an Autobahn corridor would be realized.

Olympic Streets
Olympic Route Network and Olympic lanes. Source BWVI

With a non-motorized modeshare of 92%, Hamburg is eliminating a huge source of carbon emissions and road safety threats from its Olympic plans. Mostly relying on rail transit, the proposed improvements would lay the foundation for future sustainable city planning. The proposed Veloroute network would create long-distance bicycle infrastructure throughout the city. It can safely be argued that sustainability has been heavily incorporated into Hamburg’s Olympic mobility plan.

Hamburgers have until November 29 to vote via referendum whether or not the city should proceed with its Olympic bid. There are of course opponents to the bid, (and not without precedents from other cities). There is some evidence that even a failed bid may bring benefits. The City of Hamburg and others are touting many reasons to vote for the Olympics, which includes these very infrastructure improvements, and has answered some of questions raised by opponents. On November 30, we will see if this underdog will choose to compete.

Fire and Flame for Games in Hamburg. Official Logo for the Hamburg Bid.