The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

Publication Inner city arterial roads

BMVBS-Online-Publikation 09/13, Ed.: BMVBS, May 2013

Series: BMVBS-Online-Publikationen Published: May 2013

empirica AG, Zweigniederlassung Bonn
Timo Heyn, Katrin Wilbert
ANP mbH, Kassel
Michael Bergholter, Markus Staedt
Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, Berlin
Prof. Dr. János Brenner

Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR), Bonn
Mathias Metzmacher


For some time the area of "inner city arterial roads" has been addressed by traffic and urban planning with various approaches by research and in practice. It now also appears to be important to look at the real estate side of this area. High vacancy rates and urban degeneration in some cities of East Germany (new Länder) designated for restructuring (Stadtumbaustädte) indicate the necessity. Due to these serious problems, the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) along with the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS) has taken this as reason set up an ExWoSt project to prepare and investigate this subject. The project objectives are the identification and systematization of urban and real estate solutions to economic problems alongside arterial roads. Five case studies were initiated simultaneously to add a (small) contribution towards their development and shall test instruments for upgrading and innovative strategies.

A literature review, an internet research, a written questioning of municipalities, a secondary data analysis of prices and vacancy rates, in-depth telephone interviews with municipalities, experiences and reports from the five case studies, as well as research and documentation of good practices serve as the empirical basis for the whole project.

The results of the municipal survey show that the development of arterial roads is a relevant issue in all 100 municipalities who filled out the questionnaire. However, the high importance of the subject is not yet reflected in the available data. Only a few details are available on a citywide level. The cities name road safety, amenity, attention to unique urban sites and towards emerged historic topologies as well as noise control as their key fields of action concerning major inner city roads. Nearly all questioned municipalities have already implemented projects for the development of arterial roads. All in all real estate management policies only play a minor role so far. Building culture aspects are being considered in redesigning the arterial roads in half of all municipalities.

The nationwide geostatistical price and vacancy rate analysis confirms the obvious assumption that the properties alongside inner city arterial roads are economically disadvantaged compared with the average of all other inner city locations. The locational disadvantages alongside arterial roads however impact the prices with differing degrees depending on the quality of the inner city location itself.

Within the case studies innovative and transferable approaches could already be tested in practice. Despite the comparatively small budgets, first achievements could be generated. Initially not integrated stakeholders could be made aware of the issues and the professional discussion of this cross-cutting topic could be spurred and deepened.

Based on the empirical data and the geostatistical analysis, five fields of action could be derived for arterial roads which - at the same time - indicate the five main problems:

  1. Mobility, Traffic and Amenity of Public Space (e.g. untidy public space, traffic congestion, road safety issues)
  2. Health and Environmental Quality (e.g. noise and particulate matter pollution)
  3. Urban Design and Building Culture (e.g. refurbishment backlog, deterioration of urban patterns and street lines, risk of and loss of architecturally significant buildings)
  4. Real Estate Market (e.g. residential and commercial vacancies, owners incapable of action, poor image)
  5. Socio-spatial Segregation (e.g. concentration of socially disadvantaged households)

The described problems on inner city arterial roads are caused by various parameters:

  • Housing market: Arterial roads in shrinking housing markets are more vulnerable than in growing markets. The city size though hardly affects the risk potential.
  • Inner city housing estates: Serious problems accumulate up to the point of vacancies primarily in poor residential areas of the city. Price deductions can also be observed at arterial roads in attractive neighbourhoods; however the demand is safeguarded by the attractive location itself.
  • Phase of urban planning and urban layout: Arterial roads with an urban layout which is less representative are more strained than those with representative functions.
  • Commitment and capability of real estate owners: With declining demand and falling rents there is growing tendency to low cost management strategies. The investment cuts become subsequently visible and evolve into a disincentive for investment activities of the adjacent owners. All in all the opportunities for the future decrease.
  • Traffic load: The burden of similar traffic loads are perceived differently. Depending on the design of the roads even low traffic volumes can be experienced as annoying as high volumes of traffic.

The complex problems of inner city arterial roads in stagnant or shrinking cities and the resulting diverse challenges require a new and deeper understanding in dealing with them. Medium and long-term improvement measures and the implementation of integrated strategies and concepts are needed. This applies to activities in favor of small-scale stabilization or improvement of the traffic, urban design and the real estate setting but also for complex conversion projects of entire roads or road sections. Based on the previous steps, six key practices for an integrated management of arterial roads can be identified:

  1. Monitoring and evaluation (including the development of observation and analysis tools in order to prioritize intervention sites on a citywide basis, monitoring of performance)
  2. Integration of the analysis outcomes for arterial roads into integrated urban development strategies
  3. Communication management (including the dissemination of integrated goals and strategies, interdepartmental coordination, adaptation of the speed of the process to the capabilities of the different players)
  4. Participation and activation strategies (including stronger integration of private property owners, administration has a coordinating and activating role, starting the process only if financial resources are available)
  5. Profiling and image building (including concentrating the measures visibly, temporary uses)
  6. Management of funds (including bundling of funds for customized solutions)

On the basis of the overall results of the study, recommendations will be made for federal, state and municipal levels.

The abstract is part of the German publication "Innerstädtische Hauptverkehrsstraßen - Visitenkarte und Problemzone für die Wohnungsmarktentwicklung" - BMVBS-Online-Publikation 09/13, Hrsg.: BMVBS, May 2013, Berlin
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