Berlin is doing something about public transportation, bicycling safety and housing.


Berlin is a special case; it’s a place near and dear to my heart, a capital city, and boasts a population of 3.5 million. By comparison, the entire Louisville metropolitan area has a population of 1.3 million. 

By the way, there no longer is a wall in Berlin. The 30th anniversary of its removal falls later this year.

Here are three reports from Berlin about the city’s efforts to improve the lives of its citizens over above cults of personality and “luxury” aquatic centers.

Berlin Will Spend €2 Billion Per Year to Improve Public Transit, by Feargus O’Sullivan (CityLab)

The German capital plans to make major investments to expand bus and rail networks, boost frequency, and get ahead of population growth. Are you jealous yet?

When it comes to public transit, you can’t accuse Berlin of holding back on cash.

This week, the city announced its transit masterplan for 2019 to 2023 (with a period of focus that actually extends to 2035), and a major overhaul of the city’s transit networks is in the cards. The funds allocated are generous, to say the least: Berlin is committing a remarkable €28.1 billion, or just under $32 billion, to transportation projects.

That huge investment won’t all come in one burst, of course, but will be spread out over the years between now and 2035. That still means a phenomenal €2 billion every year pumped into the system until 2035, a level of consistent investment that would make the average American public transit official weep with envy …

Berlin’s brave bikers: The German capital wants drivers to stop killing cyclists (The Economist)

If the streets are safer, more people will pedal

 … Berlin’s state government, a three-way Social-Democrat, Green and Left Party coalition, is promising a “transport revolution” to reduce the number of road deaths to zero. Last year 45 people died in traffic accidents in Berlin, 11 of them on bikes. (In London, a city nearly three times bigger, 10 cyclists were killed in 2017). In June Berlin passed a law to make driving less attractive. The aim is to turn the city into a sea of Lycra. “Privileging cars has to stop,” says Matthias Tang of Berlin’s department for transport and the environment.

Busy intersections are being redesigned for bikes. Some main roads are getting two-metre-wide cycle-paths that are separated from traffic by bollards, to stop motorists parking on bike-paths, a common outrage. Over 100km of bike-only highways into the city will be built, and secure bicycle storage set up at train stations. Officials say safer roads will encourage people to swap petrol for pedal-power, thereby reducing pollution and congestion …

 … Berlin’s population is growing and the economy is doing well. More workers mean that once-quiet streets are getting congested. Rising rents are pushing residents out of the centre, increasing the number of car-commuters and making trains and buses more crowded. More Berliners would no doubt like to get out and feel the breeze in their hair—if they were less worried about being mown down by motorists …

Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution, by Feargus O’Sullivan (CityLab)

The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.

As Berliners grow increasingly frustrated with rising rents, there’s a question making the rounds in local politics that could seriously shake things up: Should there be a limit to how much housing a landlord can own?

Following months of intense debate (and some action), the German capital is considering whether landlords with more than 3,000 units should be barred from operating in the city. Opinion polls show a majority of Berliners favor such a move, and activists are about to start preparations for a referendum on the subject. If voted through, the plan could give citizens the power to make Berlin’s biggest landlords break up their portfolios, in the hope that this could prevent galloping rent rises and provide tenants with better service