At first glance, this is very good news for the climate: seven out of ten people in Germany are ready to change their personal mobility behavior in order to reduce CO₂ emissions. This is shown by the latest “Digital Auto Report” from PwC strategy consultants, which is available to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. 1000 people from all income groups were surveyed – along with many more in other European countries, the United States and China, with very different results elsewhere. In China, for example, almost all respondents (97%) want to make a personal contribution to CO₂ reduction, in the United States, however, only one in two.
In any case, Germany is at the forefront, at least in terms of demands. Almost half of those surveyed by PwC want to walk or cycle shorter distances more often, while a quarter plan to do without short-haul flights altogether. This is in line with the latest findings of the Federal Environment Agency, according to which, for one in two Germans, careful behavior has the highest priority in future traffic.
But what are these good intentions worth? Maybe not that much if you look at the other PwC survey responses. Because one of the most important alternatives to the 48 million cars in Germany, public transport, finds it extremely difficult: only seven percent of Germans increasingly want to switch to public transport, even after the corona pandemic. 53% want to use buses and trains less or don’t use them at all anyway.
Interest in electric cars is growing, but the majority would still vote against
In contrast, the number of Germans who want to buy a new car in the next two years has doubled compared to the previous year. One in four people want to drive more, but still few want to drive an electric car (18%). Nevertheless, the trend is clear: the acceptance of electric mobility is increasing, also because battery-powered vehicles already have an advantage in terms of overall costs. But even more electric cars will not solve the space and traffic problems in cities. The reluctance to switch to buses and trains is linked to the “status quo”, explains Jonas Seyfferth, author of the Digital Auto Report and mobility expert at PwC. The biggest obstacle to the use of local public transport, but also of cycling or carpooling, is above all the prices that are too high and the availability too low.
Making buses and trains attractive would cost the state a lot of money
Torben Greve, Managing Director of the Mobility Institute Berlin (MIB), emphasizes another crucial point: time. Using in-depth data analyzes, he and his team calculated the previous ‘commute time disadvantage’ in eleven major German cities: Everywhere, public transport users are so disadvantaged compared to motorists that major interventions are necessary, according to the scientist. Sometimes buses and trains are just as fast, but only if the departure and destination are conveniently located and have a rail vehicle connecting them. On average, however, city dwellers need twice as long to travel by bus and train compared to driving by car; if you’re unlucky, you need three times the time. Studies have shown that most people accept a 30% time disadvantage compared to the car, and that 50% is still acceptable for many as they often have to look for a parking space.
“But if it takes even longer, then almost only those who have no choice remain in the public space,” says Greve. The big downside to the weather is not so much the stops at bus stops, according to MIB researchers, but the winding paths, especially with buses and waiting at transfer points. One of the examples between Berlin-Pankow and Reinickendorf is only two kilometers away. But with the public, you have to travel eight kilometers. In order to be able to travel the distance more quickly, sometimes smaller and achievable solutions are sufficient: for example, crossings by express bus which advance with the green wave. Other things, for example more tracks and a five-minute cycle planned in Hamburg for example, which makes checking timetables superfluous, costs billions of euros and takes time. “More performance also means more subsidy, without a doubt,” says Greve. But it is a question of political status in the country as well as of benefit to society and the climate.
It is of course known to providers, the Federal Association of Public Transport (VDV) today presents a concept that shows very concretely how public transport should become more attractive – and what it costs. Traffic performance is expected to increase by almost a quarter compared to 2018 by 2030, which is expected to bring in a third of additional passengers. U-Bahns, S-Bahns and streetcars are expected to deliver 36% more performance. And bus offers are even expected to increase by 107%, calculated in vehicle-kilometers, according to the report, for which management consultancy Roland Berger also calculated and which the SZ has. In the less populated area in particular, many transport associations want to replace large buses with small vehicles of half a dozen seats and which come to passengers by phone or app. In densely populated centers, on the other hand, the trend is towards even larger vehicles. The association describes the project as ambitious, but achievable. If the funding works: So far, tickets cover around two-thirds of the costs of German public transport (25.5 billion euros), the rest is covered by the state, 120 euros per capita and by year. As the price of tickets remains more or less the same, the State’s financing need will rise to 296 euros in 2030.
In return, according to the VDV, the Germans would get more connections – and faster too. Buses, for example, are expected to be five percent faster on average by 2030. However, they also find that at VDV there is also a need for cost pressure: only if the use of its own car becomes noticeably more expensive – we are talking about 50% higher parking fees – that mobility behavior would change as hoped.