One of the most impressive things the US Delegation on energy efficiency in public transit saw while on our visit was the Germans’ commitment to greening their cities and improving their public transit options. Again and again, our German American Chambers of Commerce delegation saw audacious infrastructure projects designed for sustainable, livable cities. Each project seemed destined to both improve the efficiency of public transit balanced with a commitment to creating more walkable and better use spaces.
One example was the Stuttgart 21 project. This project – while certainly plagued with its share of politics and protests – has a plan to transform the Stuttgart landscape by creating an underground “through rail station” to replace the current terminus design. A main feature of the project is to recover the industrial space used by the current above-ground tracks for multi-use, mixed purposes.
The project intends to relocate the majority of the train station underground, and to provide state-of-the art green and clean tech within the facility.
Interestingly, from the outside the value of this bold project for the community seems so high that one wonders at the protests from the Green party that would naturally support a project based on such livability goals. This is where the world economy begins to take its toll on grand vision – the costs of the project exceed €4.5 billion. Given all of the economic woe in Europe, this does seem an immense amount of money to which to commit. Corruption, dissension, and politics led to significant protests about this project, and even dramatic changes in the German political sphere as a result. However, at the end of the day, the region voted in favor of moving forward with the project.
As a sustainability professional, the Stuttgart 21 project has the potential to be a shining example of how a focus on livability can improve a city’s landscape. Hopefully the project architects and engineers will not abandon the sustainability principles that make this program so attractive as they settle into the realities of construction.