The end of summer also heralded the end of Germany €9 public transport ticket – a tenth of the usual price. Unsurprisingly, it was popular with commuters, leaving people wondering what was coming next.
This week, the Berlin Senate announced its intention to secure funds for reduced BVG tickets.
According to Mayor Franziska Giffeya monthly ticket price of €29 for zones AC was agreed, with further discussions for the outer regions and the rest of Germany.
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But how did a €9 ticket impact the environment and lead to fewer car journeys?
Did the €9 ticket get people out of their cars?
A Berlin train. Image credit:Ansgar Scheffold
Yes and no. According to VDVaround 52 million tickets were sold nationwide in the three months. Another ten million annual subscribers automatically received discounted tickets.
A full one in five buyers had never used public transport.
However, as I had previously suspected, the main beneficiaries of the program were city dwellers with regular access to public transport. The research found that ticket purchases were twice as common in urban areas.
Around 10% of the users of the 9-euro ticket left their car at least once in favor of the bus or train. Excuse me if I find this a little overwhelming.
The research found that new ticket buyers save 15 kilometers per week on their car journey, while existing drivers save 8 km.
Quiet, research by the RWI-Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in Essen also showed that the car journeys of buyers of 9-euro tickets increased by an average of 18 kilometers per week in June compared to April – possibly as a result of the better summer weather.
So it’s an improvement, but I’d be more interested in seeing the numbers at other times of the year when people are vacationing less and bad weather makes waiting for public transport less appealing.
What was the environmental impact of the €9 ticket?
The average saving in greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalents) is around 600,000 tons of CO2 per month: around 1.8 million tons of CO2 in the campaign period. This matches with over 387,845 petrol-powered passenger vehicles drove a year.
An analysis by the traffic data company Tomtom for the German Press Agency shows that 23 of 26 German cities were affected a reduction in traffic congestionone of the main causes of air pollution during rush hour – up to 14% in cities like Hamburg and Wiesbaden.
Additional social benefits
The €9 ticket increased regional and weekend travel, particularly for people who typically cannot afford long-distance travel.
Also, one of the ticket’s biggest wins was a significant reduction in fare evasion, a problem that has plagued the city for decades. In 2008, Udo Plessow, Head of the Berlin-Ploetzensee Prison, said The place that:
At least 155 of our 480 inmates have been jailed for fare evasion in lieu of payment… Actually, we have more than that, but if the men are also convicted of another crime, they won’t be specifically registered for fare evasion.
That number only increased. According to the Senate Department of Justice, in 2018 around 330 people were imprisoned every year for non-payment of fines for fare evasion. Imprisonment for failure to pay a transportation fine is inherently problematic.
The activists are committed to free and inexpensive transport
The Complexity of a Ticket Machine (artist unknown)
Like all cities, Berlin has its share of fare dodgers. His reasons vary from intentional to accidental. We’re talking about a confusing transport system with a plethora of tickets making it easy for tourists to make mistakes and consequently face fines.
The German capital also has a long history of resistance when it comes to paying for public transport. An example is a campaign where people with annual tickets (which can bring someone with them for free after 8pm and on weekends) wear a pass that invites people without a ticket to stand with them when ticket inspectors board a train.
A fund for fare dodgers?
The day after the €9 ticket expired, a campaign for cheap transport surfaced in Germany. Called 9 euros fund, it invites people to pay a monthly fee of €9 into a common pot. Any fines will then be paid by the collective.
It is not the first initiative of this kind; similar schemes existed in France and Belgium in the late 1990s.
But the idea is dangerous. First of all, if the fund doesn’t get big enough to cover fines, you’re not entitled. In addition, violence by ticket inspectors is not uncommon at ticket inspection in Berlin, with BPoC and Asians being over-represented. Worse, a criminal record for fare evasion can serve as a black mark on applications for permanent German or European citizenship.
Will public transport of the future be free?
There are over 100 public transport schemes worldwide. These range from temporary when pollution or smog is high to free buses in Kansas and an entirely free bus in Luxembourg.
Ultimately, I’m not convinced that Germany will ever fully adopt one free public transport – the operating costs are way too high And that’s before we get into the costs of improving public transport.
It’s much more likely that we’ll see a carrot-and-stick ideology where owning a car becomes less desirable, let alone driving and parking, which inevitably makes public transport more attractive – alongside the possibilities of micro-mobility.