Local transport is being rethought!

Online conference ÖffiCON* opens up new perspectives on local transport

From March 19 to 21, 2021, the Bremen-based transport turnaround initiative Einfach Einsteigen hosted the conference “ÖffiCON* – rethinking local transport!”. With nearly 450 registrations and a colorful, international program, the event was a complete success. The central question of the conference was how to design socially-just and ecological innovations in local public transport, especially in the context of a reorientation after the Corona pandemic.

The ÖffiCON* program was thematically oriented around five thematic strands: “New ways of financing”, “Transport policy and realization”, “Environmental effects”, “Diversity and participation” and “Culture, philosophy and art”. In addition to the aspect of internationality, the program was thus as diverse as possible and the audience also gained insights into topics that many might have previously thought could not be linked at all to issues surrounding local public transport.

Motivating greetings came, among others, from high-profile guests such as Dr. Katrin Dziekan, head of the “Environment and Transport” department at the Federal Environment Agency, and Mirko Schulte, head of mobility at GLS Bank. Dr. Andreas Bovenschulte, Mayor of Bremen and President of the Senate, kicked off the event. For him, it is clear that in view of the challenges surrounding the climate crisis and the current problems posed by traffic, not only due to the Corona pandemic, the mobility of our society is a “mega issue.” However, he said, a central objective must without question be that local public transport in particular must become an even greater guarantor of socially just mobility than it already is.

There were a number of highlights over the course of the weekend: Under the title “Fewer cars, more life: The art of transforming cities into sustainable, vital urban spaces,” Anabel Gulías Torreiro (spokesperson for the city of Pontevedra, Spain) Elizabeth Deakin (professor of urban and regional planning at Berkeley) and John Niles (transportation expert from Vancouver) discussed how reducing the number of cars in cities could make them more sustainable and livable.

In addition, the panel discussion “New ways of financing public transport” addressed the question of how public transport could be financed as an alternative. In the panel discussion “How to continue with local transport & the transport turnaround in Bremen?” representatives of several parties in Bremen (Michael Jonitz for the CDU, Ralph Saxe for the Greens as well as Anja Schiemann for the SPD) together with Janin Schaffer (Alfred Wegener Institute) and Wolfgang Geißler (Einfach Einsteigen), discussed the future of transport in Bremen.

Dr. Alexandra Millonig, spatial planner and researcher at the Austrian Institute for Technology, gave a passionate speech with her keynote on the topic of gender equity in local transport as well as public space and how barriers in infrastructure together with societal barriers lead to privileged and underprivileged social groups when it comes to transport and the use of public space.

In a conversation that evening with Sara Ortiz Escalante of the University of British Columbia, she followed up on the morning’s question about when “mobility for all” will even be achieved. The conversation centered on the role of women, as well as accessibility and privilege in mass transit and public spaces discussed. Ultimately, he said, the transport turnaround not only makes sense for climate protection, but is also the only comprehensive means of achieving “mobility for all.”

The event was concluded by a final panel: there, the atmosphere within the ÖffiCON* team was assessed as “work-intensive and concentrated, but very cordial”. Initial thoughts of a follow-up event were expressed. In addition, it was praised that perspectives from outside the private sector were presented at ÖffiCON, which was unusual at public transport conferences. Annika Fuchs, head of the ÖffiCON team, gave insight into the organization and was pleased that the conference went well despite little experience with online conferences. Moreover, because of this little experience, there were even fewer limits to the imagination of the design of an online conference.

The participants concluded that the conference had lived up to expectations by offering new, fresh and more varied perspectives on the future of local public transport and thus providing an alternative to the usual specialist conferences in the public transport sector. One wish would be to further increase the diversity of speakers at a possible new edition of ÖffiCON*.

The ÖffiCON* team would like to thank its supporters: UBA, BMU, GLS Bank & GLS Treuhand and EWS. We are excited and looking forward to thinking the ÖffiCON* project further now and are looking forward to keep you and you further informed! More information about the event can be found in our documentation.