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Global Economy

No climate protection with a 9-euro ticket?

Relief for consumers, contribution to the traffic turnaround, image booster for buses and trains: the expectations of the 9-euro ticket in local public transport are huge. A little over two months after the launch of the nationwide ticket, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) already rates the project as a success. The scientific evaluation is still ongoing. And initial findings indicate that the special ticket has an effect, but can hardly fulfill all hopes and goals.

Thin data

“You have to be careful with a lot of the current data,” said the public transport project manager of the Agora Verkehrswende interest group, Philipp Kosok, of the dpa news agency. The data situation is still very thin. "What is available, however, is very alarming data. It indicates that the 9-euro ticket generates more traffic and, above all, hardly shifts it." The test therefore has no positive climate protection effect, possibly even a negative one, Kosok said. "There are indications that we have no clear climate advantage with this action."

Among other things, surveys by the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) and a survey in the Munich area recently revealed that only around three percent of those surveyed left their car in favor of local public transport.

"Additional trips, not replacement trips"

"The ticket leads to a higher use of public transport, but above all selectively on certain routes, even to the extent that traffic collapses there," says Christian Böttger, rail expert at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences (HTW). An evaluation of mobile phone data by the Federal Statistical Office showed at the beginning of July: "In June 2022, nationwide movements in rail traffic were on average 42 percent higher than in June 2019."

The problem: Around a quarter of the journeys made in public transport would not have been made without the ticket, the VDV determined. These are therefore additional journeys and not substitute journeys that would otherwise have been made by car. "From the previous studies, only a slight shift from the road to public transport of at best two to three percent can be seen," says HTW researcher Böttger.

"Certain dampening effect"

This coincides with the first results of the study from the greater Munich area, which, among other things, evaluates the movement data of hundreds of participants. She came to the conclusion that 35 percent of the test persons traveled more frequently by bus and train, but only three percent used their own vehicle less often.

However, the researchers found a certain dampening effect on traffic in Munich. Instead of rising slightly in June – as usual – it fell by three percent. An evaluation by the traffic data specialist TomTom for the dpa had indicated a decrease in traffic jams in large German cities in the first phase of the 9-euro ticket.

A radical change in daily behavior was not to be expected, said the head of the Munich study, Klaus Bogenberger from the Technical University of Munich, when it was presented in July. He draws a positive interim conclusion. "The important result is that many have integrated public transport into their everyday lives."

"System at the limit"

Researchers led by Jan Christian Schlueter from the TU Dresden, on the other hand, have primarily devoted themselves to the purchase decision and price sensitivity in the case of possible follow-up offers. The most important arguments for using the 9-euro ticket were the price and the simplicity of the offer. Many people would also have indicated that they wanted to try public transport. Here it will be exciting to see whether users will buy the ticket a second time, he said.

Many people can also imagine higher prices for a follow-up offer, as the Dresden survey shows. Most people named values between 60 and 90 euros.

But from the researchers' point of view, the price of a public transport ticket is not decisive for the long-term success of the traffic turnaround. "If we really want stable growth in public transport, then above all we have to expand capacities accordingly," says HTW expert Böttger. "What we've seen is that the system is really on the loose."

Böttger assumes that there will be an investment backlog of around 150 billion euros in new construction and expansion for rail transport alone – including the construction cost inflation of recent years. "The government is far, far away from providing these investments."

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