Closed borders and working from home: What is the future of cross-border projects on the European Campus during the Corona crisis? In this series we are asking researchers and teachers about the effects of the crisis on their bi- or trinational cooperation.

Dr. Kira Schumacher is project director for “SuMo-Rhine” at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The declared aim of the project is to promote sustainable cross-border mobility.

Ms. Schumacher, how is the corona crisis currently affecting your project?
Dr. Kira Schumacher: We talk a lot about the effects of the crisis because it has turned our work plan on its head. One part of the project, for example, consists of a survey of the population on their mobility behavior. But the crisis means that normal behavior, as we are used to, is currently not taking place. For example, people are now more likely to switch to the car instead of using public transport. There is a smaller range of train connections, and buses are sometimes cancelled altogether. But for our research we would like to represent the normal scenario. We are discussing how we can adapt our research to the new situation, and in some cases, we are adjusting our timetable. We simply have to watch as the situation unfolds.

Reduced mobility also means fewer emissions. Is the mobility turnaround profiting from the crisis?
Schumacher: Of course, we also see an opportunity in the crisis. We are learning to handle new formats and expanding our digital skills. Many people are working from home, personal meetings are being replaced by online conferences. That naturally reduces emissions. But sustainable systems are increasingly multidimensional and have economic and social aspects in addition to ecological ones. Direct, personal contact is simply not happening at present. But this is not always replaceable.

What does this mean for sustainability and in your case also for public participation in the project?
Schumacher: In our project we look at how we can improve mobility, not how we can reduce mobility. In our project, too, we need contact and encounters both internally with our project partners and externally with the various interest groups. The transfer of our results to civil society is more difficult because we need direct dialogue. Public workshops, gathering feedback from stakeholders, discussing new ideas – not everything works equally well digitally. Therefore, the aim is not simply to reduce mobility, but in our case to establish and expand cross-border sustainable transport systems.

Information about the project

“SuMo-Rhine – Promotion of Sustainable Mobility in the Upper Rhine Region” project, is being funded by the European Union within the framework of the Interreg-V Upper Rhine program.