On May 1, Germany launched the Deutschlandticket (“Germany ticket”), a new public transport ticket that is universal for local and regional public transport in all Germany. The goals are for more people to switch from individual to public transportation and to support citizens at times of inflation. While Germany is not the first country to introduce a universal ticket, it is the most populous country in Europe and success of the ticket can potentially lead the way for other countries to follow.
“The €49 ticket is a significant relief for many passengers. You no longer have to worry about different fares, and it’s very cheap,” said Karl-Peter Naumann, representative of PRO BAHN e.V., an association that represents the interests of public transport passengers.
For €49 ($54) a month, subscribers can take the train in Hamburg, the tramway in Berlin or the bus in Munich – all with one ticket. Before the Deutschlandticket, passengers had to buy city- and region-specific tickets.
“For many people, this is also a hurdle that is being removed,” said Lena Jelinski from the Mobility Institute Berlin, a consultancy for the mobility turnaround. “It is much easier to move into the system as a customer than it was before, which will hopefully lead to more people using public transport in the long term.”
Whether a concept like the Deutschlandticket could work and contribute to climate action in other countries depends on the overall public transit infrastructure, as well as available government funding for transport companies.
“In Germany, this only works because the government compensates the revenue losses of the transport companies,” said Caroline von Stein from the Mobility Institute Berlin. “In a country where this is not the case, it would be a huge problem for the transport companies.”
Germany is not the first country to launch a universal public transit ticket. Luxembourg was the first country in the world to introduce free public transportation in 2020, followed by Malta in 2022. Similar to Germany, Austria launched a universal but not free public transit ticket in 2021, the KlimaTicket (“Climate Ticket”) for €1,095 a year (€91.25 per month).
“What is successful in the end can also vary from country to country,” Jelinski said. “But what the Deutschlandticket has definitely contributed internationally is more awareness about this topic.”
The Deutschlandticket is the successor of the Neun-Euro-Ticket (“Nine-Euro-Ticket”), a three-month offer from June to August 2022 to take any local and regional transport for nine euros a month. In comparison, a person would spend an average of €2.88 for a one-way trip. The offer aimed at reducing energy use amid the 2021–2022 global energy crisis and to ease the cost-of-living crisis. The Neun-Euro-Ticket was sold 52 million times and was highly popular among the German population. Every fifth person that purchased the ticket didn’t use public transit before and reducing car travel was the second most common reason for purchase, a survey by the Association of German Transport Companies and Deutsche Bahn AG shows. These findings illustrate the positive effects that a cheap public transit ticket can offer. As soon as the Neun-Euro-Ticket ended, Germans advocated for a new offer of this kind, resulting in the new Deutschlandticket.
Since sales began on April 3, seven million passengers purchased the Deutschlandticket, two million of them being new to a public transit subscription. Another 11 million passengers have already had a monthly subscription and are expected to switch to the cheaper Deutschlandticket. The price of a monthly subscription varied by city and region, but averaged €81 in 2021, data from Statista show.
“It really gives people the motivation to take the train and not take the car,” said Mona-Lisa Dubourg, who moved from France to Berlin and plans to use the ticket to explore Germany by train.
In terms of the use of public transport, measured in passenger-kilometers traveled by public transport compared to cars, Germany ranks 23rd out of all 27 European Union (EU) countries. In 2020, cars accounted for 89% of all motorized passenger transport in Germany, while public transport accounted for only 11%. This puts Germany slightly above the EU average of 86%. Austria is the front runner in terms of public transport. Buses, trains and tramways account for 26% of all motorized passenger transport and car traffic for 74%.
In Germany, transportation is the third largest source of CO2 emissions, as data from Statista, an online platform specialized in market and consumer data, show. Mobility experts project a slight positive climate effect of the Deutschlandticket. However, they emphasize that it is only one building block for more climate action. Cheaper ticket prices only incentivize people to use more public transportation if the services are reliable, well-developed and driving cars is less attractive.
In the current form of the ticket, German federal and state governments subsidize the ticket with €3 billion per year to compensate for the loss of revenue for public transport companies. Additional state funding for public transportation expansion has not yet been budgeted.
“There is the question of whether it makes sense to spend €3 to 4 billion a year on ticket subsidies when at the same time there is no money to expand and improve [public transit] services,” Naumann said.
“For the ticket to be truly successful, it would need to be expanded by significant investments in public transportation,” echoed Peter Kasten from Oekoinstitut e.V, a German environmental research institute.
Kasten suggests that raising parking fees or introducing a city toll on cars — measures that make driving less attractive — could generate revenue that can be invested in expanding public transportation.
“In Germany we can also talk about the weaknesses,” von Stein said. “But overall, the public transport offer is very good compared to other countries.”