Where all paths converge

The Elbtower in the middle of Hamburg’s transport system

Imagine a building as big as a small city: when the Elbtower is completed in three years’ time, thousands of people will come and go every day – whether for work or to use the public facilities, or to go out and eat there, or they simply enjoy the view from the platform on the 55th floor with friends and family. The Elbtower will become a hub in Hamburg’s transport system.

Mobility means quality of life too

However, the Elbtower is being built at a time of change: people in Hamburg have developed a different awareness of how they want to move around the city. This also affects their transport choices: the classic car has not yet become obsolete in cities, but it is being supplemented by a wealth of alternative forms of mobility. Today, we get around just as easily and swiftly by bus and train as by bicycle or on foot. New services are constantly being added to suit Hamburg and the people who work and live here: self-driving minibuses, for example, shuttle services such as MOIA, car-sharing services and cargo bikes, e-scooters and e-bikes.

This has an impact on planning for the Elbtower in the urban environment. “Where the underground parking space used to be the norm, more and more employees are now switching to cycling or public transport. We are seeing, for example, that the company car is becoming increasingly less interesting and new forms of mobility are established as the new standard,” says Timo Herzberg, CEO of Signa Real Estate. “This changes the demands on buildings: spaces and their use must remain flexible and be able to adapt over time with regards to the level of development and users’ needs.”

Forward planning

The limited traffic areas in the urban space are used by a number of people choosing different means of transport. In order to be able to react to changes in the future, the Elbtower planners have to take into account a lot of different but equivalent access routes. Here, a building like the Elbtower has some advantages precisely because of its varied forms of use: the respective peak times are spread out over the course of the day. For example, company employees usually arrive at the Elbtower earlier than tourists and restaurant visitors do. 

The Elbtower planners have identified a number of user types, each with different mobility behaviour: people who consider themselves “lifestylers” display different travel behaviours from “pragmatists”, “car drivers without alternatives” or “fitness-oriented commuters” – according to four of a total of seven classifications. When it comes to getting from one place to another, each person sets their own priorities in terms of how long it will take, how comfortable it will be, what it costs and whether they are willing to change modes of transport. These priorities change again depending on whether it is a regular trip to the office or a weekend family outing. All of these different behavioural models had to be taken into account as much as the choice of transport mode.

Bike and car parking spaces

The result is an intelligent connection to a variety of transport systems. The car still plays an important role in individual mobility, even in the metropolis of Hamburg. At the Elbbrücken bridges, the Elbtower is located directly on one of the most important connections across the Norderelbe. The Bundesstraßen B75 and B4 as well as the Autobahn A1 are easily accessible. There are 470 parking spaces available in the Elbtower’s basement, 353 of which are equipped with electric charging devices, the rest are ready to be upgraded for charging use. With increasing electrification, the Elbtower will later be able to offer all its parking spaces with charging stations.  

The situation is similar for bikes: here, too, the Elbtower finds itself near two important cycle routes that connect this location to a network that Hamburg is bringing ever closer together. That is of course because the people of Hamburg love to cycle. Even a number of years ago, four-fifths of households had at least one bike. The Elbtower has more than 900 bike parking spaces accessible at ground level, many of them with charging facilities for e-bikes and cargo bikes. Sporty cycling on the way to work is also possible – thanks to the showers in the building.

Excellent rail connections

The public transport connections are excellent too: when you get off the overground railway ‘S-Bahn’, you are almost in the foyer. The S31 is one of Hamburg’s main lines, running from around 4am to midnight. Other important stations can be reached without changing trains: Altona, Dammtor or Hauptbahnhof (the main station) – once there, you can quickly walk to the shopping facilities, the state opera or simply carry on travelling. The U4 underground railway, on the other hand, connects the Elbtower with the new areas of the eastern HafenCity and Hamburg’s underground network. In the future, the line will be extended beyond the Norderelbe to the Grasbrook development area, where thousands of flats will soon be built. Visually, too, the light-flooded Elbbrücken station by architect firm Gerkan, Marg and Partners corresponds with the elegant curve of the Elbtower.

Mobility as a service

The Elbtower is also well integrated into HafenCity’s mobility concept, which aims above all to reduce car traffic. Sharing services across neighbourhoods, self-driving shuttle services and pick-up points are therefore just as much a part of this as sufficient charging options for electric vehicles – whether they’re for e-cars, e-bikes or e-scooters. Apps such as the current HVV Switch or the future Elbtower app will make it possible to use and combine these many different means of transport and services from the Elbtower.

In this way, networked mobility becomes a service that can be quickly planned and which is sustainable, cost-effective and highly flexible. “We are building the Elbtower at a time when the mobility industry is experiencing a strong push in innovation,” says Timo Herzberg. “We don’t yet know how exactly this world is going to turn out. But with a view to the needs of the end users, we can already formulate a range of services today that we will change over time and keep adapting.”