Bonn The city of Bonn and the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis see opportunities to use the expansion of home office workplaces to relieve the streets. Could the effect be repeated against future traffic congestion problems?
The lockdown came, and the cars stayed in the garages: This is the common denominator of observations by the city council, the Rhein-Sieg district and the NRW Road Authority. In terms of figures, the state authority is the one that cites the highest volume of traffic on the roads, with a 70 percent drop in the usual traffic volume. With regard to local public transport, the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis puts the decline in passenger volume at 90 percent at the peak of the pandemic-related restrictions in March and April. There were almost no reports of traffic jams, and there were complaints about the thinning of the local transport timetable.
Virtually overnight, the IT departments of small and large companies set up home office workstations where this was previously considered difficult. At the same time, the significantly emptier streets have had an effect that has caused local authorities to ask themselves: Could it not be repeated without compulsory restrictions in order to alleviate future congestion problems through extensive construction projects such as the forthcoming new construction of the Tausendfüßler or the renovation of the Rhine bridges?
Robert Follmer, traffic researcher for the Infas Institute, came to the conclusion in a study published in mid-May: "After a low point before Easter, our everyday mobility is increasingly regaining its old level. The curves are still a little fickle, not least because of various holidays, but a return to the old patterns is clearly discernible.“
Leverage for better traffic control
However, the city council and the Rhein-Sieg district see the expansion of home office workplaces as a lever to better control the traffic volume in the city and surrounding area in the future. Bonn's Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan said: "There are three positive aspects we are taking away from the Corona crisis." In addition to the solidarity shown, he said, there are the home office jobs created and the more flexible working hours. In addition, video and telephone conferences were set up, which led to less travel. The city said, however, that the chances that this would lead to a reduction in traffic were not yet foreseeable. Companies and employee representatives must first evaluate the experiences of the past months.
Antonius Nolden of the press office of the Rhein-Sieg district announced that, according to estimates by the district, 25 percent of the working population had experience of home offices before Corona. The district assumes that another 25 percent have now had their first experiences. The district council's assessment: "The expansion of home office jobs can certainly reduce the number of commuters. Both the city and the district see the joint 'Jobwärts' project as an opportunity to capture the changes in mobility and work. The project, financed by federal funds for 'Lead City', is to work on better company mobility management.“
Bonn's business development manager Victoria Appelbe emphasises: "The basic prerequisite for fast and secure working from the home office is the availability of high network bandwidths, i.e. fiber optics, and protection against data theft on the way from the home computer to the company's server.“ The city places "a very high priority" on both the expansion of fiber optics and cyber security.
Original text: Philipp Königs
Translation: Mareike Graepel