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.
"In fact, the data is still very sparse," says Philipp Kosok, a traffic researcher at the Agora Verkehrswende interest group. "So far we know very little." He is aware of a little more than a handful of studies that meet scientific standards.
The investigations attest to the success of the ticket in terms of its own marketing. "Almost 98 percent of those questioned know the 9-euro ticket, two-thirds even know it well," said the Association of German Transport Companies in July. He surveys around 6,000 consumers every week, with many special questions specifically for ticket users. In June alone, more than 30 million people owned the ticket - including the subscribers who did not have to buy the 9-euro ticket separately.
The high demand is also felt by travelers and employees in the buses and trains. "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."
Additional trips instead of replacement trips
This coincides with the first results of a 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 used the bus and train more often - but only 3 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 German Press Agency also 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 the results were presented in July. He draws a positive interim conclusion. "The important result is that many have integrated public transport into their everyday lives."
However, the Munich study examines an area with a relatively dense public transport service. And results from the University of Kassel show that this can make a big difference. The larger the cities were in which the participants in their survey live, the higher the proportion of those who said they bought it.
Price and simplicity as selling points
Researchers led by Jan Christian Schlueter from the TU Dresden 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."