Data reveal that urban traffic congestion lessened in the weeks after Germany made public transportation practically free, indicating that Europe’s greatest economy’s effort to overcome its addiction to automobiles is having some effect.

Germany has been selling a monthly ticket for nine euros ($9.21) that is eligible for unlimited travels on a large portion of its public transportation network since the beginning of June. The program, which is valid until August, was created to alleviate the effects of rising inflation while also reducing car emissions.

It was a daring move for the home of manufacturers BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen, whose drivers are famed for having no speed limits on sections of highway.

Punks with mohawks from all across Germany flocked to the upscale vacation island of Sylt last month, taking advantage of the cheap tickets. However, it was uncertain if most visitors would abandon their beloved automobiles in favor of buses, trams, and trains.

While it is too early to draw conclusions, data collated by TomTom for Reuters suggests that the strategy is having an impact.

According to the statistics, rush-hour traffic congestion was lower in 23 of 26 cities during the week of June 20 compared to the week of May 16, before the new ticket was implemented. TomTom picked two weeks that were both free of holidays.

“This decline is related to the introduction of the nine-euro ticket,” said Ralf-Peter Schaefer, a traffic expert at TomTom to Reuters.

Other variables, such as increased gasoline expenses and pandemic-related work from home habits, may also contribute to the decrease.

However, TomTom statistics for the whole month of June indicate decreased congestion compared to both May this year and June 2019, prior to the pandemic: congestion was lower in 24 of 26 cities in June compared to May, and in 21 of 26 cities compared to June 2019.

The results may be of relevance to policymakers considering future steps for low-cost public transportation beyond August.

“If I were the government, I would really think hard now,” Schaefer remarked.

According to Germany’s statistics office, train use increased by 42 percent in June compared to the same month in 2019.

The increase has been especially noticeable on weekends, prompting some customers to complain about congestion.

Luxembourg became the first nation to make public transportation free in 2020. Officials have observed higher tram utilization, and TomTom statistics suggest that congestion has decreased in recent months compared to pre-pandemic levels.

However, weaning some Germans off their vehicles may be difficult. Schaefer, of TomTom, said that he still preferred to drive to his Berlin office to save time on his daily journey.

Source: Reuters

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